When a puppy is born into the CPL family, they have no idea how big and bright their future is! It takes A LOT of training to become the beautifully well-mannered service dogs you see in public and for some of our puppies that training begins at just a few weeks of age.
Most puppies come from our own in-house breeding program. These puppies are bred for the specific traits and qualities that we look for in a service dog. The puppies are whelped on our campus and are cared for by our staff and volunteers for their first eight weeks of life. When the puppies are just a few weeks old, we begin to socialize them with people and introduce them to different sounds, objects, and textures. Along with our in-house breeding program, we are members of the Assistance Dogs International Breeding Collaborative so we receive puppies from other accredited service and guide dog organizations around the country. We are also fortunate to receive donations from breeders who believe in our mission.
After the puppies reach eight weeks of age, they are placed in a volunteer community puppy home from 2 months until 5 months of age. This time period is critical in terms of socialization and the puppy raisers will focus on socialization as well as some basic obedience training. At 5 months of age, all puppies go to one of the 8 prisons participating in our Prison Puppy Raising program. For the next 6 months, inmate raisers focus on training new obedience commands. At 11 months of age, puppies will return to community homes until they are ready to start their formalized training at CPL, around 14 months of age. These time frames are only a guide and some puppies may remain in community or prison longer depending on their individual needs.
At any given time, we have approximately 50–60 puppies in their first year of training. We are incredibly grateful to all of the volunteers who make our puppy program possible!