Raise a Puppy

photo puppyrasier holding baby golden retriever

Welcome! We appreciate your interest in raising a puppy for CHAMP! Our assistance dogs-in-training are very special puppies, and our puppy raisers are very special people. We depend on our puppy raisers to help get our puppies off on the right "paw." It's a lot of work, but immensely rewarding.

Raise a puppy, change a life.

No prior experience is necessary. Puppy raisers must be at least 18 years old. You MAY have other friendly animals in the household (other dogs should be at least 1 year old.)

Currently, our puppy-raising programs are based in the Greater St. Louis, MO area, and Columbia, MO. We like to see the puppies frequently to monitor development, so puppy raiser applicants should live near one of these two locations. Puppy raisers agree to:

photo puppy in crate

  • Provide a safe environment for the puppy

  • Supervise the puppy throughout the day

  • Provide financially for the puppy's food and normal medical expenses (see FAQ's)

  • Follow CHAMP Assistance Dogs' puppy-raising guidelines

  • Provide age-appropriate socialization experiences

  • Encourage good house manners

  • Attend CHAMP puppy socialization outings

  • Submit weekly reports to help us monitor the development of the puppy

What to Expect

photo puppy and pumpkins

Puppies typically go to the puppy raiser's home at about eight weeks old. You will get the puppy out and about in the community for LOTS of fun socialization experiences, and keep us informed about the puppy's reactions on these outings.

Puppy raisers are not expected to teach obedience skills (heeling, sit, down, etc.), in fact, we prefer they do not as our trainers at the prison will teach these skills in a structured and consistent manner. Our puppy raisers' primary responsibilities include socialization and good house manners.

The puppy will live with you until it passes it's first set of major health clearances at 4-6 months of age. At that time, the puppy will be scheduled to start his/her formal training at our prison program in Vandalia, MO. The puppy will stay at the prison for 2-3 months at a time, and come back to you for vacations and socialization outings. This cycle is repeated until the puppy is around 15-18 months old.

At that age, the puppies typically vacation at an advanced trainer's home for training outings and proofing of skills. The dogs are placed at around 2 to 2 ½ years of age.


photo puppy snuggling with big dog

Puppy raisers receive support and guidance from CHAMP staff, as well as experienced puppy raisers. Some of our volunteers have raised multiple puppies over the years, and are an invaluable resource to new puppy raisers! We encourage all puppy raisers to attend scheduled socialization outings and meetings.


Raising a future assistance dog requires a lot of time and effort, but our puppy raisers tell us it is one of the most rewarding experiences they have ever undertaken. If you'd like to know more, please fill out our Puppy Raiser Volunteer Application below. If you are in Columbia, MO, check out Puppies With Purpose for more information. We would love to hear from you!

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