Sunday, March 8, 2009

CCI Puppy Workshop

The room was filled with the friendly chatter of people. And there were dogs. Lots of dogs.

Once a year trainers from CCI's (Canine Companions for Independence) Northeast Training Center in New York travel to Richmond to work with CCI puppy raisers. The six-hour workshop is part lecture, Q&A (how do I get my puppy to stop chewing on his leash?), and hands-on training.

So, about these dogs. What makes them special? CCI breeds Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and crosses of the two. Puppies are born in the homes of volunteer breeder caretakers who provide permanent homes to CCI’s breeder dogs in California. These folks nurture newborn pups until they are about eight weeks of age. The pups are then placed with volunteer puppy raisers nationwide for 13-18 months. While living with their puppy raisers, they receive lots of love and attention, learn basic obedience skills, and are socialized in a variety of environments.

As healthy, happy, confident young dogs, they are ready for their next step – training at one of five regional centers. CCI dogs complete a six- to nine-month training program. They are taught by professional trainers to respond to more than 50 commands, including retrieving items, pulling wheelchairs, turning light switches on and off, and opening and closing doors. After completing the training, the dogs enter two weeks of intensive team training with their new human partner. This is when individuals learn to work with their future service, hearing, or facility dog. Team training ends with a graduation ceremony, signaling the beginning of a new phase of life rich with promise for the new graduate team.

Learn more about CCI at And consider being a puppy raiser. It's one of the best volunteer jobs imaginable.

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