The Life of a Volunteer Puppy Raiser


There is one organization that’s made raising puppies as a volunteer possible and the cause is even greater. Canine Companions for Independence breeds, trains and raises dog that go on to help people with disabilities, as well as work in human services.

Canine Companions strictly breeds Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and a cross of the two. Volunteers nurture the dogs and newborn puppies for eight weeks. After that, the puppies spend 14-18 months with volunteer puppy raisers. Volunteers work with the dogs on obedience training and socialization. 

One local volunteer was born to teach and has mastered the life of a volunteer puppy raiser.

“I’m a teacher by trade, that’s what I do for a living, so seeing them learn and grow is the most rewarding part,” said Jen Keller, an eight-time puppy raiser, who also serves as President for Canine Companions Arizona

Keller has been working with the organization for nine years. She’s currently raising a puppy named Palmina.

“She’s 10-months-old and she’s just amazing,” Keller said.

Keller also raised Palmina’s mother.

“She’s wonderful. She’s calm, easily trainable. She wants to please. She’s a very happy dog,” Keller added.

It may seem like a lot of work, but Keller is fully acclimated with the lifestyle and takes Palmina with her everywhere she goes as part of the training process.

Keller enjoys the process, even though it is temporary.

“We get them at two months and we have them about a year and a half,” she explained. 

Once the puppy has completed time with the puppy raiser, they go to a professional Canine Companion instructor for six to nine months to master commands. 

From there, they undergo Team Training where they graduate, and are matched with the person they will be assisting. 

Keller admitted that the farewell is the most challenging part but finds joy in knowing the puppies go on to improve someone’s life. 

“At the same time, we’re saying ‘goodbye,’ there are dogs that have been there six months being paired with someone and you’re going to see how they’re going to change their life,” she said. 

You can find the qualifications to become a volunteer puppy raiser and more information on the Canine Companions website

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