Seeing eye puppies need foster parents

Ever wonder how a canine is chosen and trained to be a guide dog? They’re the elite of the doggy world, helping the blind, the visually impaired, the deaf, the hearing impaired and physically disabled Canadians live a more active life.

The number one requirement is that these extraordinary animals remain absolutely calm and collected in a variety of difficult situations. As part of the training to ‘bomb proof’ these dogs, the Lions Foundation of Canada in Oakville, Ontario, has a regular community fostering plan to socialize up to 150 pups each year. Oakville is the only breeding centre in Ontario.

Foster parents are encouraged to expose the dog to noise and confusion by taking it everywhere – in cars, buses and trains, on stairs, city streets, escalators and elevators, even into restaurants, stores and malls.

Fostering needed
The foundation is attempting to double its graduating classes and is actively seeking more foster families, as well as donations of breeding stock. The foundation, however, screens carefully. You must supply a letter stating why you want to foster, along with two character references from a veterinarian, obedice trainer, groomer, or other animal-aware professional.

The pups (Labrador and golden retrievers, poodles and border terriers) are placed with families at the age of six months for a period of a year to 18 months.

  • Approved vet bills are covered by the foundation
  • Food is provided courtesy of Ralston Purina Canada Inc.

A $100 returnable deposit covers a bright orange identification jacket, crate and training collar. Foster families pay for a regular collar, leash, food and water bowls, grooming equipment and toys. 

Graduation day
Dogs and their foster families return to Oakville every few months to assess the pup’s progress-whether it’s brave or timid, and how it deals with urban stress. Pups are ‘recalled’ for final training between the ages of 10 and 16 months. It’s a tough, demanding regimen, and only 60 per cent of the pups are both temperamentally and physically suited to graduate as ‘working dogs.’
‘Recall’ can be a wrenching, emotional time for the foster folks who have grown to love the dog. The heart-warming reward and final closure for foster families occurs when they attend the dog’s graduation from final training. There they see the dog embraced by its new owner – a person whose life is about to become freer and more independent.

For more information on the Lions Foundation of Canada’s fostering plan, contact Nicole Caron at (905) 842-2891.