Creating a service dog is a labor of love that begins even before a puppy is born – generations before, in fact. Some dogs in the Hero Dogs program are products of our own breeding program; others are donated to us by conscientious breeders whose priorities are the health, temperament, working ability, and longevity of their dogs. To learn more about what our requirements are to donate a special puppy to our program, please see the breeder information page.
A puppy transitions from its litter to a volunteer puppy raiser’s home at 8-10 weeks of age. The puppy raiser will raise, train, care for, and love the puppy for the next *14 – 16 months. Puppy raisers are responsible for teaching their puppies house manners, all of their basic commands, and numerous foundation skills for service dogs. To assist them in this important job, puppy raisers bring their puppies to training class at Hero Dogs once a week while they have the puppies. Puppy raisers take their puppies everywhere they go in the community so that the puppies are exposed to and comfortable in virtually any environment they may encounter later in life when working with their partners. If you think you would like to take on this most meaningful of all projects, please see the puppy raiser page for more detail.
Once the puppy reaches the age of approximately *16 – 18 months, the puppy’s health and temperament are further evaluated for suitability for service dog work. Qualified puppies then leave their puppy raiser homes and enter the second phase of training with professional trainers at our facility.
* As not all puppies mature at the same rate, these time frames are general guidelines that are considered prior to moving a puppy into the next phase of training.