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 Labrador 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 puppy home for their first year of life. Volunteers in the community take on the responsibility of raising and caring for our puppies until they are about 15 months old. The volunteers are responsible for teaching their puppy house manners, basic obedience, and socializing the puppy in public each day.
While our community puppy raisers do an excellent job, as CPL grew, we began having a hard time finding enough community volunteers to meet the demands of our program so we began our Prison Puppy Raising Program in 2001. Very similar to the community volunteers, the inmates are responsible for teaching the puppies’ basic obedience and socializing them throughout the facility. Now, almost 75% of our puppies are being raised in 10 prisons across Pennsylvania and Maryland (SCI Albion, SCI Cambridge Springs, SCI Greene, SCI Huntingdon, SCI Muncy, SCI Smithfield, SCI Somerset, SCI Laurel Highlands, MCIW, and MCIJ).
At any given time, we have approximately 60–70 puppies in their first year of training. We are incredibly grateful to all of the volunteers who make our puppy program possible!