Most puppies go to the puppy raiser's home at about eight weeks old. Occasionally the puppies are older (up to a year old) when we first get them.
CHAMP puppy raisers are phenomenal! Patient, encouraging, kind, and generous (with a healthy sense of humor!)
Your puppy will live with you until he/she is about 4-6 months old (and has passed all preliminary health clearances), then off and on until approximately 15-18 months old. After passing preliminary health clearances, the puppy will start their formal training at our prison program at the Missouri Department of Corrections women's prison in Vandalia, Mo. They will live at the prison for 2-3 months then come back to you for 2-3 months. This cycle is repeated until they are 15-18 months old. Sometimes we will ask raisers to swap puppies for a short time to expose the puppy to a wider range of experiences. The older pups that are nearing placement are housed with our advanced trainers when they are on breaks from prison, before being placed at approximately 2 to 2 1/2 years of age.
For the safety of our dogs, we strongly encourage our puppy raiser homes to have a fenced yard. Growing puppies need lots of exercise every day to ensure healthy development, as well as to keep them good and tired - and out of trouble! Please note that we do not allow puppy raisers to use electric fences, nor do we want the assistance dogs-in-training at communal dog parks.
Active puppies need physical activity in the form of play or walking. Puppy raiser homes should expect to provide at least 25-40 minutes of exercise per day. This could be accomplished by brisk walking or playing in a safe, fenced area. Please understand that for young dogs under 1 year, bones are still forming. Exercise by running the dog along side you while you run, rollerblade jog, bike, etc. is not appropriate for young dogs.
Possibly. Many puppy raisers take their puppies with them to the office, and we encourage them to do so. Of course, you would need prior approval from your place of employment. Or, puppy raisers can arrange to have a responsible family member, neighbor, or friend stop by to exercise, feed, and play with the puppy while the caregiver is at work. The puppy's socialization needs must still be met, which means you must be diligent about scheduling outings in the evenings and on weekends. Raising a puppy when you work outside the home is certainly possible, just be sure you consider your energy level after a long day at work!
We encourage you to take the puppy with you (if the location/occasion is appropriate), but if you are unable, usually another puppy raiser home will take care of your dog while you are on vacation.
In general, yes. We like our puppies to become accustomed to new experiences and occasionally we will ask puppy raiser homes to exchange puppies for a week or two. Staff also will periodically take dogs-in-training for evaluations of their temperament or skills.
CHAMP will lend you a crate, harness, leash, collar, bowls, puppy toys, and a CHAMP puppy cape for outings. Puppy raisers pay for food, treats, additional toys, and routine veterinary care. You may submit a reimbursement form monthly to cover veterinary and food costs of the program dog, if needed. CHAMP is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, and expenses you incur to raise the service dog in training are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law (and greatly appreciated by CHAMP!) Please consult your tax advisor.
For more information or to receive a puppy raiser application, please contact CHAMP. Once we receive your completed application, we will schedule an interview in your home with a CHAMP representative. This interview gives you a chance to ask further questions about our puppy raiser program and gives us the opportunity to meet you personally. After you have completed these steps, we will review your application and notify you whether your application has been accepted. Puppy Raiser Applicants must live in either the Greater St. Louis, MO area, or Columbia, MO.