Cal Poly’s Poly Pups club, in collaboration with Guide Dogs for the Blind, is making an impact on the lives of visually impaired individuals by raising and training guide dog puppies.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is a non-profit organization based out of San Rafael, California. They breed lab and golden retrievers with the purpose of becoming guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired.
Poly Pups receives young dogs and trains and socializes them, which helps them gain the skills needed to be successful as guide dogs. When the dogs reach about 15 months of age, they return to the guide dog campus where they begin harness training and learn further skills to become guide dogs. This process takes anywhere between two to 10 months depending on the dog.
Co-leader Jordan Fenton expressed the profound impact of working with these guide dog puppies.
“Getting to work with a Guide Dog for the Blind puppy in training is an amazing experience since you have an opportunity to potentially change someone’s life,” Fenton said. “A guide dog provides a person who is visually impaired a chance to have freedom. By working with the puppies in training, the person raising a puppy is able to see them grow and learn to be the eyes for someone who is visually impaired.”
This Black Labrador was a Guide Dog Puppy in Training during the time of the photo, but he recently went to formal training and made it through all eight phases. He is now perfecting his skills and waiting to be matched with someone who is visually impaired.
Moose is a four year old black lab who was a Guide Dog Puppy in Training but was “career changed” — meaning he did not make it through the program. He was a club ambassador for a few years until his owner, Jenna, moved to Oregon to work at the Guide Dog campus this past year. Moose is also a trained therapy dog.
Churro is a yellow lab who was also a Guide Dog Puppy in Training but was career changed. He was raised by Jenna, and is now a loving pet.
Malachi, raised by Grace, was a Guide Dog Puppy in Training at the time this photo was taken. He made it to formal training but unfortunately his career changed. He is now in a loving home living his life as a pet.
Tanis, a black lab, was a Guide Dog Puppy in Training, then became an official therapy dog. His owner also moved to Oregon to work on the Guide Dog for the Blind campus.
Poly Pups meets every Wednesday during the school year. During these meetings, members learn about the various aspects of how to raise and puppy sit the Guide Dog Puppies in Training, gaining valuable hands-on experience with the canines.