Worcester County residents can now sign up to volunteer with the puppy raiser program to train future service dogs as part of the Princeton-based nonprofit organization NEADS World Class Service Dogs.
The need for proper training is a result of the “ever-growing demand for service dogs,” the organization said in a statement on Monday.
“The need for Service Dogs will never go away and in fact continues to grow,” said Manager of Raiser Operations Heather Romanoff in the statement. “While we realize the commitment that we ask our full-time puppy raisers to make is a major one, we also cannot reinforce enough how meaningful this process is for the raisers.”
From Clinton, Romanoff was appointed as part of the program’s recruitment expansion.
“Our volunteers have the once-in-a-lifetime experience (or hopefully more) of preparing these amazing dogs for a career of helping others with disabilities, including those who are deaf or physically disabled, children who have autism, or veterans who have PTSD; or providing therapeutic assistance in a variety of professional settings,” Romanoff said in the statement.
Candidates for the volunteer positions can vary from young families to couples to retirees to individuals, the statement said. Those candidates “need to be able to devote time, energy and love to successfully socialize and work with a NEADS Service Dog in Training,” the statement goes on to say. Outlined field trips will help expose dogs to everyday life in public settings, such as malls, restaurants and grocery stores, as a way to help them socialize and to familiarize themselves with different sights, sounds and other people.
With the approval of NEADS staff, candidates are permitted to have other pets at home. NEADS dogs can also travel to work with their raisers as long as the raiser receives approval from their employer and NEADS.
Becker College student and puppy raiser Jennifer Girardin joined NEADS in early 2022, training a puppy named Jettie to become a service dog.
“I learned the reasons for the different commands that were used, and how they would benefit the person who would be matched with the dog once it completed training,” Girardin said in the statement. “Being a raiser was an amazing opportunity, and I am looking forward to working with future and current full-time raisers to help them just as much as I was helped while in the program.”
Interested candidates can fill out an application to volunteer here. A NEADS staff member will contact accepted candidates to schedule an orientation followed by a home visit with NEADS staff before service dog training begins. A “Service Dog in Training” vest will be provided, along with food, veterinary care, as well as flea, tick and heartworm medications, all at no cost.
Those who are interested can also attend a virtual information session on Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. Registration for this Zoom meeting is available at the link here.
NEADS considers candidates for the position who must be capable of doing the following:
- Take service dogs in training into their homes and look after them for 12 to 16 months, working on critical socialization and basic obedience.
- Physically manage a young and energetic dog.
- Attend weekly training sessions with a NEADS trainer. Classes are held virtually, at the NEADS campus, and at locations mutually convenient to the raisers and Instructors.
- Care for the NEADS dog 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing a safe, healthy and loving environment (NEADS dogs can only be left alone for a maximum of two hours at a time as puppies and no longer than three to four hours as they get older).
- Provide daily training, socialization, and physical exercise.
- Handle the puppy and teach them crate training, house training and other appropriate behaviors in the home.