When a Guide Dog Puppy is Withdrawn…
People ALWAYS ask Puppy Raisers how they could possibly give up their pup, and it certainly isn’t easy, but it is far harder for us to deal with our puppy being withdrawn from the programme, and not going on to become a Guide Dog or a Service Dog.
And we don’t refer to a pup as “failed” or “rejected” when they are withdrawn from the Guide Dog Puppy programme, we call them “career changed”. 🙂
A puppy can be pulled from the training programme for any one of a number of reasons, even though SA Guide-Dogs have an amazing breeding programme.
Just like humans, dogs have their own quirks and personalities, so a pup could have an anxious temperament, making them unsuitable for work even if they love their training.
A pup might experience something that frightens them while they are growing up, an experience like this could be repaired with gentle exposure and a Puppy Raising Supervisor’s assistance – but if it can’t be “fixed” it could lead to a pup being withdrawn because a dog can’t concentrate on work or training if it is afraid.
Labradors and Golden Retrievers also have breed issues like hip and elbow dysplasia, and whilst the pups are bred to exclude these issues as much as humanly possible, its not an exact science. If a pup presents with hip or elbow dysplasia (and they are all tested) they will be withdrawn as they can’t be a working dog if they are going to be in pain, or needing regular veterinary treatment.
Should a pup present with something like severe allergies, or eye problems, or epilepsy, they will also be withdrawn.
Around the world, the “success rate” for Guide Dog breeding programmes is around 60-65%. This means of course, that there are specially bred and trained puppies that do not become Guide Dogs or Service Dogs, and they become pets. Career-changed puppies are most often kept by their Puppy Raisers, but as you might imagine its not always possible. We may already have a house full of dogs and so not have the space. And taking on a pup that may need special veterinary care and diet in the future is a cost we can’t all afford.
Having to rehome a career changed puppy is a very careful process, and it is heart breaking for a Puppy Raiser.
There’s a very complicated set of emotions we go through as Puppy Raisers.
We work very hard to prepare our pups for their formal training and their career as a working dog. We get a manual, and we take classes, and we have a long list of things our pup must be gradually exposed to as they grow.
This takes time and dedication.
Throughout this process we are preparing ourselves, usually not even consciously thinking about it, for the day we will have to say goodbye to our puppy.
When your pup graduates, there’s an immense sense of pride for this gorgeous dog you helped to raise and train, and there’s sadness because you may not see the pup again.
If your pup is withdrawn, you will be thrilled be if you are able to keep the pup, but you will also be heart sore because all your hard work raising your pup has been in vain, and you might feel like you have let the pup down.
If your pup is withdrawn and you can’t keep it as your own, there’s only sadness.
Inside every Guide Dog and Service Dog beats the heart of a Puppy Raiser.