College Puppy Raisers
NEADS World Class Service Dogs change lives every day, and you can be part of this life-changing story when you join NEADS as a college Puppy Raiser.
What is the NEADS College Puppy Raiser Program?
The College Puppy Raiser Program allows participating students to raise a future Service Dog for the fall or spring term. Students who join this program will gain valuable hands-on canine training experience and see how their efforts can positively impact people with disabilities.
College student puppy raisers receive a NEADS Service Dog in Training who is six to eight months old. At this age, the dog is housebroken and has learned some very basic skills.
The NEADS dog lives with the student raiser during a normal routine of attending classes and school activities. The student teaches the puppy manners and a set of basic commands under the guidance of NEADS Instructors.
At the end of the fall or spring term, the dog returns to NEADS for 6 to 12 months of finish training. Dogs who complete training are then matched with a client. We hold a graduation each fall to recognize our newest teams, and student puppy raisers are invited to attend. This allows them the opportunity to celebrate these partnerships and meet the teams they had a role in creating.
The NEADS College Puppy Raiser Program is structured to be a supportive system, consisting of student “Pods” that include puppy raisers, co-raisers, and puppy sitters who all work closely together to help raise the puppy for its future role as working Service Dog. These Pods are supported by the college liaison and NEADS Instructors.
What Does the NEADS College Puppy Raiser Program Look Like?
We understand that students have many responsibilities. To ensure that participants can balance their roles as students and puppy raisers, multiple support systems are in place.
Puppy Raiser Pods
College Puppy Raiser Program Pods are a self-contained group of 4 carefully selected students assigned to each Service Dog in Training.
- Pods are made up of a Primary Puppy Raiser with the support of a Co-Raiser. Two Puppy Sitters will be assigned to each set of Puppy Raisers.
- Sophomores, juniors, and seniors will be welcome to apply for the program.
- All participating students must meet the requirements set forth by the institution, including GPA.
- All participating students must take part in the NEADS application and volunteer Puppy Raising onboarding and attend all pre-puppy activities.
- College liaison: College staff member who offers on-campus support to the student raisers and communicates with NEADS Instructors.
- NEADS support: Weekly in-person classes with a qualified NEADS Instructor and one-on-one consultations and advice by phone or email as needed.
- Pawsible: NEADS is a member of Pawsible, a non-profit organization that provides support for student volunteer puppy raisers, including puppy raising resources and an online community for raisers to reach out to other raisers, to create friendships, and to learn from each other.
- NEADS is proud to be one of very few Service Dog organizations that provides all the necessary supplies for its puppy raisers, at an estimated cost of approximately $5,000:
- Crate & Puppy supply kit
- Dental care (toothbrush & toothpaste)
- Toys, chews
- Flea, tick & heartworm preventatives
- Pre-approved veterinary care
Steps to Becoming a College Puppy Raiser
- Submit an online application
- Students who have been approved for the program will be required to submit a NEADS Puppy Raiser application via the NEADS website.
- If it's a good fit, we'll schedule an interview with a member of our Raiser Operations team.
- Approved student applicants will take part in the onboarding process, which includes an in-depth orientation, a home visit, and the first Pre-Puppy Class.
- Receive the NEADS Service Dog in Training
The process that takes student puppy raisers from approval to placement is approximately one month.
Why a College Puppy Raiser Program?
A college puppy raising program has positive impacts for the student, the educational institution, and NEADS.
For the Student:
The opportunity to change a life – and have fun while doing so!
Puppy raising is a fun experience, and offers students other benefits, including:
- Personal Growth: Puppy raising can inspire responsibility and confidence. Students build key skills such as time management, patience, communication, self-confidence, and how to ask for help.
- Social Experience: Having a puppy is a great way to meet new people and to de-stress from school, work, or other responsibilities.
Learning Experience: Puppy raisers gain knowledge and experience with canine developmental stages, learning theory, medical care, the impact of early socialization, and record keeping and reporting.
- Community Service: NEADS Puppy raisers are engaged in meaningful community service. It takes time and effort to raise and care for a NEADS puppy, but it’s gratifying knowing the service the dog will eventually provide and the smiles they bring to students and the campus community during their time at school.
- Disability Awareness: Program participants will learn about disabilities through their work with NEADS and can share this knowledge and educate the student body about the disability community through the use of Service Dogs.
For the Educational Institution:
The opportunity to give back to the community
- Educational performance incentive: A campus puppy raising program can be a performance incentive. The student has something to strive for, as there is a GPA requirement to be a sitter or raiser. The student’s educational experience can also be broadened through service and reflection.
- Puppy raiser mental health & well-being: Being part of a campus puppy raising program helps the raisers build a community of support, which in turn helps them continue as successful, contributing members of the student body.
- Alignment with DEI mission: Taking part in programs with an organization like NEADS can highlight the institution’s commitment to people with disabilities. This focus on disabilities can guide policies and procedures, as well as attract more diverse students, faculty, and donors.
- Positive PR: Participating institutions will be able to use the NEADS Puppy Raiser program in public relations and social media to highlight a commitment to community service and disabled communities.
- Campus-wide benefit: Having dogs on campus brings positivity and inspires connection to the entire educational community - students, faculty, administration, and others.
- Ideal training environment: Offering a wide variety of people, places, and activities for a Service Dog in Training to experience, the college campus is a great place to socialize a puppy—new things happen every day. The college puppy raising program allows us to produce confident dogs that can adapt to any situation.
- Opportunity to train more Service Dogs: Placing puppies of similar age and training in one location will enable NEADS Instructors to efficiently train more Service Dogs.
Learn more about Raising a Puppy for NEADS
Raising Jettie – My Life as a College Student Raiser
By Jennifer Girardin, NEADS College Raiser Instructor and former NEADS College Puppy Raiser I started my puppy-raising journey as a college junior alongside Jettie, an adorable black lab and NEADS…
Meeting Benson, NEADS Service Dog in Training
If you’ve attended Sunday Services [at First Parish in Wayland, MA] recently in person, you may have met Benson, a handsome NEADS Service Dog in Training. He is accompanied by Luke Rubin, who, along with his wife, Megan, are Benson’s Puppy Raisers…
A Story about Parting Ways with the Dog You Just Raised
For Puppy Raiser Ed Nobrega, the hardest part early on (Fritz, weekend dog; Judy, weekend dog then full-time for 4 months (Phoenix beta)) when letting the dog go was not knowing whether the dog would make the cut after completing training and wondering what would happen to the dog….
More than Just Loving a Dog
Because we see ourselves as dog lovers, we fall in love with the NEADS dog instead of with the work we do. The secret to letting go of the dog is to fall in love with the work, fall in love with the reasons for raising the dog in the first place. Being a dog raiser asks you to rise above average, to turn that love of dogs into a gift that you give away instead of keeping it for yourself.
The Places They Go
One of the most important jobs a Puppy Raiser has is to help the NEADS dogs feel comfortable in many different situations, around many people. They do this by making sure they have plenty of real-world exposure to different sights, sounds, and people.
But what does that look like day to day? Dana, who has raised two puppies for NEADS and is currently raising her third puppy, shares a few highlights of her puppy raising experience with the two pups she’s raised. What a journey!