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Puppy Raising Program

Puppy Raising Program

Our mission is to provide professionally trained service dogs for residents of North & South Carolina. Finding suitable dogs for service work is one of the most challenging aspects of any service dog program. We need to find puppies with suitable temperaments as well as good health and conformation. Our puppy raising program is designed to raise puppies with proper training and socialization so that they can one day become service dogs. 

In order to properly raise a future service dog, we need volunteers that can help us with the general care, training and socialization of our puppies. We need individuals or families that can provide a loving home, continue practicing the puppy’s obedience commands that they learn through our program, and take the puppy out 3-5x per week to continue the socialization process. During a dog’s first year of life, they go through several phases of development. These critical periods will shape a dog’s behavior for the rest of its life. Since service dogs have to work in a variety of environments, we need to expose each puppy to a variety of places, people, sounds, smells, other animals, etc. Our goal is to raise happy, healthy, obedient and well socialized puppies so that these puppies can potentially become service dogs. 

Puppy Raising Options:

Primary Puppy Raiser:

These are individuals or families that can foster a dog from 3 months of age through 12 months of age. The total time commitment is 7-10 months. Healing Canines will provide all the necessary equipment to house and train the dog, and will cover all costs associated healthcare costs (vet care, food, toys, medication, etc). Boarding services are available if raisers aren't able to travel with they puppy in-training. 



Weekend Puppy Raiser:

These are individuals or families that can foster a puppy from Fridays-Mondays. Typically raisers pick up their puppy from our training center (in NW Charlotte) on Friday afternoons and bring them back to our training center Monday mornings. The puppy trains with our staff during the week so weekend raisers can focus primarily on their house behaviors/manners and socialization. Raisers should be able to commit to taking the puppy out into a public place at least once during their weekend stay. Healing Canines will provide all the necessary equipment to house and train the dog, and will cover all costs associated healthcare costs (vet care, food, toys, medication, etc).

Support & Responsibilities:

Healing Canines provides phone, email, and in-person support for all puppy raisers. We will be there to help if any problems should occur and we also board the puppy for short periods of time if the raisers are unable to care for the dog (i.e. raise goes on a vacation and can't take the puppy). 

We require puppy raisers to attend bi-monthly meetings with a Healing Canine’s trainer to ensure the puppy is on the right track. We require that puppy raisers fill out a formal volunteer contract and adhere to the rules and expectations of our puppy raising program. A detailed 150+ page puppy raising manual will be given to each puppy raiser. This manual has detailed information on puppy training, grooming, general care, socialization, and public access protocols. It is designed to provide valuable information and answer common questions relating to raising a future service dog puppy. We also ask that puppy raisers fill out a monthly report and take weekly photos of the puppy for the future owners and for social media purposes.

Application Process:

Volunteer puppy raisers must go through a screening process prior to being accepted into our puppy raising program. We require a formal application, phone consultation and in-home visit prior to taking one of our puppies. This is to ensure that the program is a good fit for the raiser’s lifestyle and that the home (and other pet animals) are safe for the puppy. Prior dog training or raising experience is not required, but those without any dog training or raising experience will need to participate in additional lessons with Healing Canines prior to bringing a puppy home. 

Waiting List:

As our program continues to grow, we will be in need of more volunteer puppy raisers. We have an open waitlist of prospective applicants that are interested in raising a puppy. As soon as puppies are available, prospective applicants will be contacted, and a drop-off/transfer session will be scheduled. If you would like to apply to be a volunteer puppy raiser, please click here

Frequently Asked Questions: 

  • How do I apply?
    If you are interested in being a volunteer puppy raiser or co-raiser, please contact us directly at for an application. Once your application is complete, we will contact you via email to schedule your phone consultation. Once the phone consultation is completed, we will arrange for a brief in-home visit. If your application is accepted, you will be added to the waitlist to receive a puppy.
  • What happens when the puppy comes home?
    We will bring the new puppy to your home, and spend 1.5-2 hours with you and your family to review the puppy’s general care (grooming, feeding, etc), training and socialization. We ask that you keep the puppy at home and take walks in your neighborhood for the first few days before taking the puppy out into public. This allows you and the puppy to bond and build rapport before taking the puppy into more challenging environments. A transition into a new home can be stressful for a dog, so we want to help set you and the new puppy up for success. We are always available via phone or email for additional support during this transitional phase.
  • What support is offered to raisers?
    Puppy raisers are asked to attend bi-monthly meetings. These will be done either at our facility, or at local parks or public places (lowes/home depot, malls, etc). These are designed as a check-in, to make sure the puppy’s are developing properly, and to help provide raisers with ongoing support. We are always available via phone or email as well. In-person private lessons can be scheduled if a raiser is struggling with an issue and needs more support.
  • What equipment comes with the puppy?
    Each puppy raiser will receive a crate, food/water bowl, chew toys, “place” cot/dog bed, collar and leash, remote collar (for 6+ month old dogs only), gentle leader, starmark puppy collar (puppies 4-6 months of age), training long line (for recall practice), service dog in-training vest, digital puppy raising manual, grooming supplies, flea/tick/heartworm medication, and a training bait bag. We will also supply the puppy/dog’s food.
  • Who do raisers contact in case of an emergency?
    Please contact Healing Canines at 704-561-1916
  • Will it cost me anything to raise a puppy?
    No. We supply all the necessary equipment and supplies for the puppy. Additional toys can be purchased by the raiser, but please make sure they are on the “approved” list of toys. The list of approved toys can be found in the puppy raising manual.
  • What types of things do I have to do with the puppy?
    *Provide a safe and loving home *Keep up with basic grooming and care-daily brushing, nail trimming, etc. *Practice obedience commands and continue the puppy’s house manners *Follow training and socialization protocols *Take the puppy for daily exercise walks and offer playtime *Take the puppy out to safe and appropriate public places at least 3x per week *Attend the bi-monthly puppy raiser meetings
  • Where does the puppy sleep?
    The puppy should sleep in the crate, and should be crated whenever it is unsupervised.
  • What do I do with the puppy when im at work?
    Many puppy raisers seek approval to bring the dog into work with them. If you would like to discuss the option of doing so, we will offer guidance on how to use a tie-down or crate in your office or work space. If you cannot take the puppy to work, then there needs to be a plan in place to make sure someone can stop in and check on the puppy during the day. Puppies nor adult dogs should not be left in a crate for more than 4 consecutive hours. Some puppy raisers have friends/family stop in midday to care for the puppy, or they take time during their lunch break to do it themselves. We can discuss the best way to manage the puppy during work hours.
  • What happens if I have a vacation or work related trip and can't take the puppy?
    Puppies are allowed to attend their raisers on vacations or work trips, but raisers must get pre-approval from Healing Canines. If the puppy cannot attend the vacation or work trip, co-raisers are allowed to puppy-sit, or the puppy can stay at Healing Canines during that time.
  • What happens when the puppy returns for training at 12 months of age?
    Once the dog is old enough to start Phase 3: Disability Task Training, it will be returned to Healing Canines for the start of their training. The dog will stay at Healing Canines for the next several months while they complete training. Once their training is complete, the puppy raisers will have an opportunity to visit and say “goodbye” before the dog leaves to be matched with its new owner/handler.
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