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(Australian Associated Press)
Hundreds of homes are needed for Labrador puppies to help prepare them for their work as guide dogs.
Guide Dogs Australia is calling out for “puppy raisers” to provide loving homes and basic training for 200 dogs for a year.
“We rely very heavily on the generosity of the volunteer community to act as puppy raisers,” Guide Dogs Victoria chief executive Karen Hayes told AAP.
“Its’ a very important role in terms of laying the foundation for a successful career for our beautiful puppies as guide dogs.”
Guide Dogs Australia covers the cost of all equipment and food for the puppies, who are placed with puppy raisers when they are just eight weeks old.
Ideally, puppy raisers will have a fenced yard and are advised not to leave their dogs unattended for more than three hours at a time.
“You also have to be disciplined with the puppy, so no feeding under the table or sleeping on the bed,” Ms Hayes said.
With trainee puppies having the same legal rights as working guide dogs, puppy raisers can take their four-legged friends to work, restaurants, and on public transport.
“What we want them to do when they are out there with puppy raisers is for them to socialise themselves in lots of different environments,” Ms Hayes said.
After a year, the puppies return to Guide Dogs Australia for six months of formal training before they are matched with an owner who is vision impaired or blind.
And while it can be hard to say goodbye after a year, Ms Hayes has some advice.
“What we like to think is it’s not about giving them back, you are giving them forward and enabling them to go on and really change someone’s life, which is something the family should be very proud of,” she said.
“What a lot of people do is they bring the dog back and invariably they get another dog.”
There are about 800 working guide dogs across Australia.
Their working lives usually last between nine-and-11 years and in that time they cover about 9000km with their vision-impaired owner.
Potential puppy raisers can find out more at: www.guidedogsaustralia.com.au