Cheryl Tradewell (left) with Blossom, Danielle Swanson with Aidan, and Sonja Seyfort with Sage. The volunteers will train the puppies for up to 18 months before they are transferred to advance training, and finally their forever home. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

WATCH: BC Guide Dogs needs puppy training volunteers

BC & Alberta Guide Dogs is looking to double the number of volunteers on the Island

A gymnasium in the District of Saanich was full of golden, yellow and chocolate Labradors retrievers this week. While the tiny puppies could get rambunctious, it wasn’t all tail wags and and games – it was also some serious business. They were training their hardest to be guide dogs, after all.

The BC & Alberta Guide Dogs service breeds and raises Labs for the use of its guide dog program, its autism support dog program and its Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) support dog program. The dogs are bred in Delta, and given to volunteer puppy trainers for 14 to 18 months for 24/7 hands-on training and acclimatization. The puppies then go to advanced training before being given to their forever home.

Now that the organization has amalgamated with the Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs to help veterans with PTSD, however, more dogs are being bred and more volunteers are needed to help raise the puppies.

“Right now we have about 20 volunteers on the Island,” said Samantha Jagt, puppy training supervisor. “We’re looking to almost double that number. … We have quite a few females expecting in October, and more will come after that.”

ALSO READ: B.C. Guide dogs is looking for volunteer puppy raisers

The puppies go everywhere with the volunteers to get them comfortable with many different environments, and to socialize them with other people and dogs. They also meet weekly with Jagt for important lessons on listening, restraining impulses and following commands.

“You need quite a bit of time to be involved in the puppy raising program,” Jagt said. “We have weekly obedience meetings, monthly one-on-one visits with myself, vet visits and special events.”

All medical costs and basic needs are paid for by the BC & Alberta Guide Dogs (though trainers are welcome to buy them lots of toys and are responsible for poop bags), and specific training is expected outside of the weekly lessons.

For Carla Williams, who has been a puppy trainer for five years and raised four dogs in the process, it is well worth it.

ALSO READ: Victoria veteran begs people to please not touch his service dog

“I came for the dogs and I was really surprised to find a community, and a lot of new friends,” Williams said. “I really enjoy the challenge, I’ve learned a lot about dogs, dog training and about myself, so we’ve really enjoyed it.”

MaryJo Duggan always wanted to help raise a puppy, but couldn’t do so until she recently retired.

“Now I can give back, and it’s great, I really enjoy it,” Duggan said. “Not only are you giving back to your community in B.C. and Alberta, but you’re also feeling the rewards of hard work, so there’s a lot of pride in that.”

While both Duggan and Williams knew that it would be sad to give the pups up when they were done their training, they both agreed it was a worthwhile endeavor.

“Speaking from experience it’s a totally worth it heartache,” said Jagt, who’s raised four puppies herself. “Because you really do change someone’s life.”

Anyone interested in learning more can visit bcandalbertaguidedogs.com

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

disabilitiesDogspuppiesvolunteers

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Seal pup and mom play and ‘kiss’ in Oak Bay Marina

BRNKL seal cam captures harbour seal growing up in busy harbour

Young deckhands backed out of Arctic Fox II fishing trip day before it sank

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

Oak Bay neighbourhoods rocked by blasting activity

Oak Bay seeks new rock blasting bylaw regarding ‘continuous’ noise

Greater Victoria hardly making a dent in greenhouse gas emissions target

One-per-cent drop from 2007 to 2018 a far cry from the 33-per-cent goal for 2020

Hearing begins into blind community’s complaint against BC Transit, City of Victoria

Complainant says bike lane infrastructure biased against blind pedestrians

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

We were a bit tone deaf: Hobo Cannabis renamed Dutch Love after backlash

Hobo Cannabis has various locations in Vancouver, Kelowna and Ottawa

Most Read