Cheryl Tradewell (left) with Blossom, Danielle Swanson with Aidan, and Sonja Seyfort with Sage. The volunteers will train the puppies for up to 18 months before they are transferred to advance training, and finally their forever home. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

WATCH: BC Guide Dogs needs puppy training volunteers

BC & Alberta Guide Dogs is looking to double the number of volunteers on the Island

A gymnasium in the District of Saanich was full of golden, yellow and chocolate Labradors retrievers this week. While the tiny puppies could get rambunctious, it wasn’t all tail wags and and games – it was also some serious business. They were training their hardest to be guide dogs, after all.

The BC & Alberta Guide Dogs service breeds and raises Labs for the use of its guide dog program, its autism support dog program and its Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) support dog program. The dogs are bred in Delta, and given to volunteer puppy trainers for 14 to 18 months for 24/7 hands-on training and acclimatization. The puppies then go to advanced training before being given to their forever home.

Now that the organization has amalgamated with the Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs to help veterans with PTSD, however, more dogs are being bred and more volunteers are needed to help raise the puppies.

“Right now we have about 20 volunteers on the Island,” said Samantha Jagt, puppy training supervisor. “We’re looking to almost double that number. … We have quite a few females expecting in October, and more will come after that.”

ALSO READ: B.C. Guide dogs is looking for volunteer puppy raisers

The puppies go everywhere with the volunteers to get them comfortable with many different environments, and to socialize them with other people and dogs. They also meet weekly with Jagt for important lessons on listening, restraining impulses and following commands.

“You need quite a bit of time to be involved in the puppy raising program,” Jagt said. “We have weekly obedience meetings, monthly one-on-one visits with myself, vet visits and special events.”

All medical costs and basic needs are paid for by the BC & Alberta Guide Dogs (though trainers are welcome to buy them lots of toys and are responsible for poop bags), and specific training is expected outside of the weekly lessons.

For Carla Williams, who has been a puppy trainer for five years and raised four dogs in the process, it is well worth it.

ALSO READ: Victoria veteran begs people to please not touch his service dog

“I came for the dogs and I was really surprised to find a community, and a lot of new friends,” Williams said. “I really enjoy the challenge, I’ve learned a lot about dogs, dog training and about myself, so we’ve really enjoyed it.”

MaryJo Duggan always wanted to help raise a puppy, but couldn’t do so until she recently retired.

“Now I can give back, and it’s great, I really enjoy it,” Duggan said. “Not only are you giving back to your community in B.C. and Alberta, but you’re also feeling the rewards of hard work, so there’s a lot of pride in that.”

While both Duggan and Williams knew that it would be sad to give the pups up when they were done their training, they both agreed it was a worthwhile endeavor.

“Speaking from experience it’s a totally worth it heartache,” said Jagt, who’s raised four puppies herself. “Because you really do change someone’s life.”

Anyone interested in learning more can visit bcandalbertaguidedogs.com

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook Send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

Just Posted

Oak Bay’s parliamentary page returns to run toy drive

Toy drive benefits for Stan Hagen Centre for Families

Old Farm Market is new, and open, in Oak Bay

Store thrives on fresh produce and ready to serve hot dishes

UPDATED: Saanich structure fire sparked in child daycare

Motorists advised to avoid the area of the highway, Glanford Avenue, Royal Oak Drive and Quadra Street off ramp

Victoria restaurant gets one-year extension after facing renoviction

Pluto’s Restaurant set to stay at its Cook Street location until March 2021

Victoria Foundation’s community grants support 109 local non-profits

Foundation delivers $2.8 million in grant money to local organizations

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Dec. 10

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

Sooke’s École Poirier students win B.C. Hydro Power Smart contest

More than 100 schools compete in province-wide competition

Most Read