The number of students volunteering for the Guiding Eyes for the Blind has grown significantly over the past few years, where it has become a hallmark characteristic of Alfred University.
“There’s no experience needed and anyone can raise,” puppy raiser and club advisor Shawn Carstens said.
Students on Alfred’s campus have been raising puppies for the organization for several years now. They do not formally train the dogs for guide work; instead they prepare the dogs for their futures by socializing them and building their confidence and exposure to new things.
“There is a daily time commitment,” Carstens said. “Having a puppy can be like having a toddler.”
Students who are interested in raising a puppy must successfully complete their own training regimen for about four months before they are eligible to raise a puppy. This includes twice-monthly puppy classes in Hornell, which are required attendance for all local puppy raisers.
They are instructed on proper techniques, such as how to teach puppies house manners and social skills, but they do not employ harness training.
When “puppy pre-placement” requirements are met, successful applicants are matched with a puppy. They must continue to attend classes with the puppy, and their progress is closely monitored.
People interested in raising puppies must be aware of the time commitments involved, and they must be self-motivated and have the initiative to learn about the training
“People need to use the resources for puppy raisers on the Guiding Eyes website and be willing to ask questions,” Carstens said.
One of the misconceptions Carstens hopes to dispel is that while the pups get plenty of play time, they are not pets.
“You wouldn’t just run up to a dog with a vest and pet them,” she said. “You wouldn’t want anyone to run up and bug you in class. It’s no different with a service dog in training.”
Students, faculty and staff at Alfred University are welcome to apply to raise dogs with Guiding Eyes for the Blind, but students living on campus must also be approved by AU Residence Life before they can raise a puppy.
Carstens recommends that students who are raising puppies check with their professors before they bring their dogs to class. Professors should know about the program and be comfortable with the puppies attending classes with their raisers.
Anyone interested in raising puppies can attend the Bergren Forum on Feb. 20 at 12:10 p.m., or can find more information at www.guidingeyes.org.