The Puppy Pathway to service dog success

Milestone 3: Kindergarten

In this ongoing series, we’re exploring each milestone along the Puppy Pathway, a journey of growth, learning, and rewards for puppies in FSD’s assistance dog training program. This month, we’ll look at Milestone 3: Kindergarten (8 to 16 weeks old).  

When FSD puppies are 8 weeks old, they’re ready to have a vigorous socialization protocol added to their daily routine. Some pups—dubbed Tiny Tots—go to the homes of FSD volunteer puppy raisers who enjoy the extra challenge (and added cuteness!) of raising a pup starting at 8 weeks old. These pups are socialized through exposure to a real home and its inhabitants for the first time, and eventually, they start exploring new places, people, and things outside the home.

Most of our 8-week-old puppies enter the Colorado Department of Corrections Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program, in which inmates work under the direction of FSD training staff to help train and raise our puppies for this critical eight-week period. Specially trained handlers at Sterling Correctional Facility and Denver Women’s Correctional Facility help our puppies learn basic obedience, such as the Sit and Down cues and loose-leash walking, and expose them to new people and environments within the facility. These pups stay at prison until they are 16 weeks old, at which time they return to FSD and are placed in the home of a volunteer puppy raiser for approximately 10 months.

We are always in need of volunteer puppy raisers, especially for our 8-week-old Tiny Tots! To learn more about raising an FSD puppy, click here.

Up next: Learn how volunteer puppy raisers help our pups build a strong foundation for future service dog work in the April Pupdate e-newsletter. Subscribe to receive monthly Pupdates!

Contact Erin Conley at for all media inquiries.