VOLUNTEER PUPPY FOSTER FOR THE LION’S FOUNDATION OF CANADA DOG GUIDES
When asked how she became involved with the program Janice responds
I got into fostering future dog guides because I LOVE DOGS!
I met a jacketed pup and their foster when out walking my dog (Chico the cockapoo) a couple of years ago, at a time when I was also thinking about retiring and what I might want to do with my time.
The process involved going online to complete an application. Janice’s application was approved, and a home visit and interview were arranged. Says Janice:
A few months later, I was retired and picking up a puppy!
The Lion’s Foundation provides: crate (a deposit is required from the foster), jacket, halti, training guide, hands-on training, vet care, and dog food.
Fosters provide: leash, collar, toys and treats (and are responsible for grooming if you have a poodle)
My role is basic training and socialization, explains Janice. I receive a training manual and about an hour a month of hands-on training from Lion’s professional trainers. The pups are placed with their foster people at seven weeks of age until they are approximately a year old. At that time, the Lion’s Foundation decides which program the dog will enter, based on current need. The professional trainers teach the dogs program-specific tasks to best meet the needs of their future handlers. Once the dogs have successfully completed the specific, six to eight-month training program, they are matched with a handler, and the new pair is trained together for one to two weeks.
The Lion’s Foundation of Canada has six distinct training programs. To follow are examples of tasks the dogs will be taught to perform within their program:
Canine Vision: navigating obstacles, curbs, crowds
Hearing Ear: alert their handler to doorbells, fire alarms, alarm clocks
Service: retrieve objects, open and close doors
Seizure Response: activate an alert system, bark for help
Autism Assistance: physical affection, anchoring
Diabetic Alert: detect sugar drops, activate an alert system, bark for help
After completion of their training, dogs are placed wherever they are required, throughout Canada.
What breed(s) of dogs do you work with?
LFC breed their dogs, about 90% of them are labs, and 10% are poodles.
As I am allergic to labs but not poodles, I request poodles.
How many dogs do you work with at a time?
One. There is sometimes an overlap of a couple of months when an almost mature dog is recalled into a training program, and a new pup is placed in the home. (I requested an overlap with my second and third foster).
Do they live with you? Or, are they kenneled?
Our role is basic training and socialization, so the pup lives with us, and we are encouraged to take them with us to malls, our office, restaurants, theatres, on buses, subways, escalators, elevators, etc.
What does the ‘at home’ training involve?
We only promote services that practice positive training methods – Sadie
The role of the foster is socialization, and basic commands such as sit, down, stay, wait, off, heel, gentle.
The methods of training include repetition, redirection, and reward (voice, touch or treat).
How many dogs have you worked with so far?
I’m now on my third foster pup. All have been standard poodles. My first, Vincent (white male poodle), was placed into the Autism training program but was disqualified after three months as he was deemed to be too easily distracted by other dogs/cats/squirrels. My second, Gerry (black male poodle), was placed into the Canine Vision training program just this month.
Hopefully, Gerry (black male poodle), will succeed and in 6-8 months, I’ll be invited to the Graduation for him and his new handler.
My third, Vanya (apricot female poodle) is almost four months old, and she is with me now.
What do you love the most about your work?
It makes me feel good to be doing something that I love, and something that makes a BIG difference in someone else’s life; increasing their independence and safety.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like work at all, but enjoying and having fun with an adorable puppy!
What are the biggest challenges?
Bonding with the pup/dog for a year and then having to say goodbye.
Please share one of your favourite success stories
I haven’t personally had an official success story/graduate yet. The first was disqualified, the second is in training, and third is too young yet). I have learned A LOT over the past two years about raising and training puppies and am getting better and faster at teaching them what The Lion’s Foundation is looking for. All the while loving them and them loving me (you can’t beat that!)
A note re disqualified dogs: Throughout the training period, some dogs are deemed by LFC trainers to be unsuitable as dog guides. There is a wide range of reasons such as eyesight, hip conditions, allergies, behavioural issues (distractibility, aggression, fear, etc.). Janice believes the disqualification rate is approximately 25%.
When a dog is considered unsuitable for the program, the foster usually has first option to purchase the dog. If the foster declines, LFC has a long list of people (one can submit an application on their website) who would like to purchase dogs who have been disqualified.
Due to an increasing demand for dog guides, Lion’s Foundation of Canada is planning to increase their programs, and are looking for more fosters. If you love dogs and are looking for a new and meaningful way to volunteer to work with them, this could be the perfect opportunity. Click here to learn more.
Thank you, Janice, for sharing your story.