The Puppy Pathway to service dog success

Milestone 4: Puppy-raising program

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 4: Puppy-raising program (16 weeks to 14 months old). 

To help us achieve our goal of graduating more successful service dogs for the approximately 90 clients on our waiting list, FSD launched a community-based Puppy-Raising Club in 2019. By having more control over puppies’ development, environment, training, and socialization from a very young age, we have significantly increased the success rate of assistance dogs graduating from our training program.

Our Puppy-Raising Club consists of dedicated volunteer puppy raisers who are helping to raise and train young service dog hopefuls to meet the needs of the clients with disabilities that we serve. While most of our puppy raisers are in the Denver metro area, we are expanding to form satellite puppy raising clubs throughout Colorado and in several other states.

What does a volunteer puppy raiser do?

  • Host a puppy in their home starting at either 8 or 16 weeks old until the pup is 14 months old.
  • Follow the curriculum provided by FSD to train the puppy in basic obedience and house manners.
  • Find socialization opportunities to expose the puppy to different people, animals, environments, and experiences.
  • Bring the puppy to FSD or an established satellite location once a month for additional training, evaluation, and feedback.
  • Participate in monthly socialization outings with other puppy raisers.
  • Return the puppy to FSD at the age of 14 months for advanced training and the potential for placement with one of our clients.

What kind of support do puppy raisers receive?

Volunteer puppy raisers must complete FSD’s volunteer orientation and foster training classes, followed by specialized training in raising puppies. FSD has created a comprehensive puppy-raising curriculum, including training requirements and milestones for volunteers to meet along the way. Volunteers receive continuous guidance and ongoing support from FSD staff and experienced puppy raisers. Additionally, volunteers receive dog food, veterinary care, and supplies for their FSD puppies free of charge.

We urgently need volunteer puppy raisers throughout Colorado and in Florida, Michigan, and Texas! To learn more about raising an FSD puppy, click here.

Up next: Learn how our pups return to FSD for matching with one of our clients and custom training in the May Pupdate e-newsletter. Subscribe to receive monthly Pupdates!

Contact Erin Conley at for all media inquiries.