Raising a Hero Dogs puppy is truly a labor of love and involves a tremendous commitment — of time, labor, and resources. If you think you might be interested in volunteering for our puppy program and you live in the greater Washington DC area, then please fill out our volunteer application.
Puppy Program Volunteer FAQs
How long does the puppy stay with us?
Most puppies will be placed with their raiser at around two months of age, and the puppy would live with you for 14-16 months. A few might be placed as older puppies, and would thus live with you for a shorter time. You can learn more about the various time periods for which it is possible to volunteer here.
What is the daily time commitment?
Expect to spend at least two hours a day working with your puppy.
First, there are the basics: potty trips, feeding, and grooming.
Next, there is exercise and training:
- daily walks, rain or shine (typically about an hour a day for an adult dog)
- daily play periods
- daily training sessions
- taking the puppy on socialization outings about three times per week
- attending training biweekly at our facility near Brookeville, MD.
- attending two structured local outings per month
Although this is a lot, many of these activities can be combined. The day you attend training class, you will accomplish all of your training, play, and socialization requirements in one session!
Finally, don’t forget to factor in:
- More vacuuming.
- Cleaning up the yard and the rare “oops!” in the house. Trips to the vet or pet store.
- Wiping up muddy paw prints on the floor and nose prints on the window.
- Lots of kissing and snuggling the puppy.
What is the financial commitment?
The puppy raiser is responsible for food, toys, miscellaneous supplies (e.g. clean-up supplies), replacement of lost or damaged items, and any incidental damage the puppy might cause — for example, if they mysteriously chewed one of your shoes. Any amounts that you spend on the puppy may be tax deductible (consult your tax advisor), so do save your receipts.
Hero Dogs and/or the puppy’s sponsor will provide the puppy and puppy raiser with:
- a crate
- basic puppy supplies kit
- basic grooming supplies kit
- any necessary specialized training equipment
- monthly flea/tick/heartworm medications
- veterinary care
What other commitments are required?
Puppy raisers are also required to:
- Attend quarterly puppy raiser meetings
- Participate in quarterly puppy swaps (you trade puppies with another raiser for a week), as organized by the Puppy Program Manager
- File electronic reports at designated intervals which provide the Hero Dogs staff with an overall status update on your puppy’s health and behavior.
- Participate in one-on-one check-ins with the Puppy Program Manager.
- Post regular photos and updates on the puppy’s social media (we will set this up for you). This allows sponsors, breeders, and eventually the dog’s partner to keep track of and learn about the puppy.
We also have occasional community outreach events which we would be grateful if you were willing to attend. This is not a requirement, but it provides great training for the puppy and good exposure for Hero Dogs.
Are there special rules I have to follow?
There are many things that you may allow your own dog to do which are perfectly acceptable for a pet dog, but not for a Hero Dog. For example, you may allow your pet dog on furniture. Hero Dogs puppies are not permitted on furniture.
Do I need to have experience training dogs to raise a puppy?
You do not! We will teach you. One of your commitments to the program is to attend a training class every other week while you have the puppy. All required classes are held in Brookeville, MD, and training outing are available throughout the DMV. Our training staff will be there to help you every step of the way.
Can I raise a puppy if I work full time?
Yes. However, you should have a discussion with your employer (if you work outside the home) about the logistics of bringing the puppy to work with you.
If everyone in your household is gone for a long period of time every day, puppy raising is not the best project for you. Perhaps you can help us by volunteering to be a puppy sitter.
We have other pets at home. Can we still raise a puppy?
Other adult pets are fine. However, they do need to be spayed or neutered, as well as current on all veterinary care. They can not be aggressive toward the puppy, and you need to agree to abide by our rules for your Hero Dogs puppy, even if your own pets have different rules.
Can a child be the primary raiser for a puppy?
Puppy raising can be a family project, and children can certainly be involved in raising your Hero Dog puppy. However, raising a puppy is fundamentally an adult responsibility. Therefore, there must be an adult in the household who is the primary raiser and who accepts responsibility for the project.
Do puppy program volunteers need to live in a specific area?
Puppy program volunteers are required to attend training regularly at our facility in Brookeville. Due to this, we find that it is best for puppy raisers to live within fifty miles of zip code 20833. Program volunteers are required to have a valid driver’s license and their own transportation.
How will I ever be able to let this puppy go?
We understand that it is difficult to give up a dog that you’ve cared for and loved. However, it does help to keep in mind your original goal – to raise an assistance dog that will improve the quality of life of our nation’s heroes. We will be here to support you through this part of the process. In our opinion, one of the best ways to deal with your puppy moving off to advanced training is to raise another one!
What do I do with the puppy if I am planning a trip or vacation?
If you can take the puppy with you, all the better! It would be a good socialization experience for them. If not, we will help you arrange to have an approved volunteer puppy sitter care for your puppy. If you would like to leave the puppy with a friend or relative, please be aware that the person would need to be approved as a volunteer puppy sitter first.
What does a puppy sitter do?
In the event that the puppy raiser is temporarily unable to care for the puppy due to illness, family emergency, or vacation plans which don’t allow for dogs, we arrange a puppy sitter.
A puppy sitter would typically watch a puppy for period of a few days to a few weeks. During that time, the puppy sitter will keep up with the puppy’s exercise, socialization, and training routines, as well as bring the puppy to class if they have a class scheduled. They follow Hero Dogs’ rules for the puppy’s safety and behavior. The puppy raiser will provide them with the necessary supplies (crate, food, etc.), as well as detailed care instructions and information about the puppy.
How do I apply to volunteer?
Please visit our volunteer page to learn the steps to volunteering.