Puppy Love – NEADS Puppy Raisers

August 31, 2020

When you bring an eight-week-old puppy into your home, it quickly becomes part of your life. You love it, watch it grow, invest time in housebreaking and basic training. And then, when it is 12-20 months old, you give it back. Wait, what? Yes, give it back. That’s what NEADS Weekend Puppy Raisers and Full-Time Puppy Raisers do, and they often do it more than once. While giving back a puppy you’ve come to love may seem nearly impossible, knowing that it will change someone’s life makes it all worthwhile.


NEADS places fully trained Service Dogs with people with physical disabilities and hearing loss, veterans with PTSD, and children with autism and other developmental disabilities. NEADS could not raise and train these amazing dogs without the help of our volunteer Puppy Raisers. These dedicated Weekend and Full-Time Puppy Raisers help NEADS Service Dogs in Training on the path to becoming Service Dogs.


Many of our puppies are raised in correctional facilities through our Prison PUP Program. As part of this program, our volunteer Weekend Puppy Raisers take the puppies out of prison each weekend for about a year to work on house manners, socialization, and maintaining obedience work that is taught during the week in prison.

Full-Time Puppy Raisers take a young puppy into their homes and look after it 24/7 for 12 to 16 months, working on good manners, basic obedience, and critical socialization. Socialization means they expose the dog to everyday life in public, visiting libraries, malls, grocery stores, and restaurants; spending time on public transportation and in crowds; and meeting all different kinds of people. These experiences play a vital role in the future of the Service Dog by helping it become confident, relaxed, and well-mannered in all settings. The pups are returned to NEADS when they are between 12 and 16 months of age to complete their Service Dog training prior to being matched with a client.

All Puppy Raisers attend regular training sessions with NEADS staff. Classes take place in different locations, because the more experiences our puppies are exposed to, the better. NEADS staff members teach our Raisers everything they need to know and offer guidance and support throughout the process.


The ideal Puppy Raiser candidate is just about anyone who can devote the time, energy, and love necessary to successfully socialize and care for a NEADS Service Dog in Training – young families, couples, retirees, work-from-home professionals, college students, and individuals.


Most Puppy Raisers will tell you that saying goodbye to the pup when it has completed its training isn’t easy, but understanding that they have helped raise a dog who will provide independence and support for someone with a disability makes it possible to do. And many Puppy Raisers soften the blow by starting all over again with their next puppy.