A day in the life of a Seeing Eye Dogs puppy carer
Seeing Eye Dogs puppy carers are an essential part of developing the next generation of Seeing Eye Dogs, helping to socialise them and get them ready for more serious training when they’re a little older.
Lou is one of ROYAL CANIN®’s Pet Nutrition Advisors and she is a puppy carer – one of the many amazing volunteers who have devoted their time to caring for a future Seeing Eye Dog. Lou is currently looking after rambunctious little Hughie who will soon return to the Seeing Eye Dogs Puppy Training Centre to complete his training.
What is the role of a Seeing Eye Dogs puppy carer?
At just eight weeks of age, Seeing Eye Dogs puppies are placed with volunteer puppy carers. During this time puppies live at home with their carer as they learn basic obedience and become socialised in various environments.
“We are able to take him everywhere with us – on trains, to cafes, to work and even to watch the footy – and that helps to develop a strong bond and also helps to educate the public on the role of Seeing Eye Dogs,” says Lou.
What support do carers receive?
Volunteering to care for and train a puppy may seem like hard work, however, carers receive ongoing support from a Seeing Eye Dogs puppy trainer and all financial costs are covered by Seeing Eye Dogs.
ROYAL CANIN® has been the official nutrition provider for Vision Australia's Seeing Eye Dogs for over 10 years, proudly providing super premium nutrition to meet every puppy’s dietary requirements.
Each carer works alongside a puppy trainer who provides instructions, guidance and pays regular house visits to make sure each puppy is on the right track. The trainer will give professional advice about behaviour and socialisation throughout the process so puppies have a better chance at becoming qualified Seeing Eye Dogs.
“My puppy trainer, Kate has been fantastic! She visits us on a regular basis and is always available on the phone for advice,” says Lou.
“The basic training is done under the supervision of Kate, teaching skills such as toilet training and sit, drop and stay commands, as well as teaching the correct technique for walking with a lead. Socialisation is the most important role that the puppy carer can do. The work done at home by carers is essential to prepare puppies for the more advanced training taught by Seeing Eye Dogs.”
Why become a carer?
“Of course having a cute Labrador puppy to look after is great but it’s also been a positive experience to teach my kids about helping others,” says Lou.
Lou decided to become a puppy carer after her son’s Prep teacher, Sarah became blind following lifesaving surgery. Sarah was put on the long waiting list for an assistance dog, so Lou decided to help out by training a puppy to help others.
“Imagine the independence you are helping to provide someone who is vision impaired and how that small amount of time you put in will change a person’s life forever,” says Lou.
What is a day like with a dog in training?
“Every day is different for us, and Hughie,” says Lou.
“When I go into the city for work, we take a train for over an hour and walk to my office. Other days Hughie does the school drop off and pick up, and tags along to the kids’ afterschool activities. He also comes with us to the supermarket, shopping centres and generally anywhere we decide to go.”
Lou says she has a newfound respect for humanity from all the positive interactions with Hughie in public.
“People have been so compliant when I’ve had Hughie with me. There has not been one place he has been refused entry, even hospitals.”
Giving back your puppy
Carers train their puppies in their early years to enable dogs to be carers in their own right. When puppies are over a year old, they will leave their carer and go into an intensive training regime to prepare them for their vision impaired owner.
“Working at ROYAL CANIN® I have been able to see firsthand the valuable work Seeing Eye Dogs does,” says Lou.
“The most common thing people say to me is ‘I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t give them back’. I’m not going to lie; it’s not going to be easy. But my response to this is that if my four and seven year olds can do it, then so can you.”
Who can volunteer?
Want to give back to the community? Want a little companion to get active with? More importantly, do you love dogs? Becoming a Seeing Eye Dogs volunteer ticks all the boxes and makes for an incredibly rewarding experience that helps others.
- You must live in metro-Melbourne, Dandenong Ranges, Mornington Peninsula or Geelong for VICTORIA OR Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast for QLD
- You must be 18 years or older
- You need to be with your puppy and not leave them alone for more than 3 hours
- You need to be able to provide training and discipline
- You need a safe, secure home free from hazards such as toxic plants, etc.
- You need to have no more than one other dog
- You need to be available for visits with your puppy trainer during business hours
- You need to allow the puppy to sleep indoors
How do I become a carer?