How do I become a puppy raiser? 

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Once we receive your completed application, we will schedule an interview in your home. This interview gives you a chance to ask further questions about our Puppy Raiser Program and gives us the opportunity to meet you personally. A fenced space with room for the dog to play and exercise is highly desirable, but Puppy Raisers without a fence who are willing to leash walk the dog on a regular basis will be considered on a case-by-case basis. At no time will Invisible Fencing be considered. Volunteers should also live within a reasonable distance to Portsmouth, or be willing to drive to attend the required classes.


How old are puppies when they are placed in puppy raiser homes? 
Puppies are placed in puppy raiser homes between 8 – 12 weeks of age. We strongly believe in early education and the puppy will begin its service dog training classes by 12 weeks of age.


How long do I have the puppy? 
Depending on the dog’s temperament and abilities they usually go to advanced training and come back to the program at around 18 to 20 months of age.


Where do potential service dog puppies come from and what breeds are used? 
Currently, the puppies we use are from reputable breeders who breed for genetic and temperamental soundness. These breeders have an established breeding program and test the parents for genetic conditions that are prevalent in the breed to ensure they are only passing along healthy traits to their puppies. Right now we are using Labrador Retrievers and several giant breeds for mobility..


Is the entire family involved? 
Yes, however there should be one family member who is the primary trainer of the dog. Raising a puppy is a commitment of time, energy, and love so the entire family needs to be in favor of raising a puppy.


Can we have other animals? 
Yes, please. We are highly in favor of our puppy raisers having other pets in the household. This is great exposure for the puppies and allows for more socialization and training opportunities. However, there is a caveat. If you have an older dog or other animal that is dog-aggressive we will not be able to place a puppy with you. This is in order to prevent harm to the puppy, your animal, and you. If you aren’t sure how your dog(s) or animals will react to a puppy we will gladly schedule an appointment with you for temperament testing.


What is involved in the training process? 
Our training methods are based balanced methods that utilize food rewards. You will attend weekly training classes at our Training Center, train the puppy at home in several short sessions throughout each day, and train the puppy in public as guided by MWAM and the weekly lessons. You do not need prior experience in training a dog to be a puppy raiser. We will guide you through the process every week, teaching you how to train your puppy.


Your pup should be gently exposed to household sights and sounds, as well as things in the community that they may come across in their working lives:

  • men, women, adults, infants, elderly, toddlers, people of all ethnicities

  • people using walkers, wheelchairs, pushing strollers and grocery carts

  • people wearing uniforms, hats, beards

  • city streets, honking cars, big trucks, public transportation

  • crowds, parades, sporting events, fairs, grocery stores, restaurants, malls, elevators

  • walking on all different surfaces plus all kinds of stairs

  • other nice animals including dogs, cats, and horses

  • Most of all, they need to be loved and cuddled, played with and enjoyed. Our puppy classes will show you how to guide the pups towards their full potential. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy please give us a call or email us at


Do I need a fenced yard? 
A fenced yard is highly desirable. We will, however, make exceptions on a case-by-case basis if you are willing and committed to leash walking the dog on a regular basis. Electric or invisible fences are not permitted.


How much exercise do the dogs require? 
Puppies need physical activity in the form of play or walking. Puppy Raisers should expect to provide at least 25-40 minutes of exercise per day. This could be accomplished by brisk walking or playing in a safe, fenced area (no dog parks), for example. Please understand that for young dogs under one year of age, bones and joints are still forming so exercise by running the dog along side you while you run, jog, bike, etc. is not appropriate.


What Supplies does Mutts with a Mission provide?

  • A collar, training leash, training vest and a crate for crate training

  • Food

  • Training classes and a training manual

  • All medications and medical treatment


What does the Puppy Raiser provide?

  • A fenced yard or commitment to leash walking on a regular basis (exercise)

  • Dog toys and treats

  • A warm, safe place to sleep

  • Plenty of love and attention


Who takes care of the dog if I go out of town? 
We will arrange for another volunteer to watch the puppy for you while you are away. Because it is important for the puppy to get used to many different situations we may have Puppy Raisers switch puppies for a week or two to get them accustomed to different environments, different people, and experiences.


Will I get to meet the individual who receives the dog I train? 
Yes, as a puppy raiser you will have the opportunity to meet the Veteran or Wounded Warrior who receives the dog you trained. Applicants for service dogs complete two weeks of team training with their potential service dog followed by a graduation ceremony. You will be recognized at the graduation as the puppy raiser of the dog.


What if the dog is not placed as a service dog? 
Sometimes dogs in training are removed from training as a service dog due to reasons such as health or temperament that don’t meet our qualifications for service dog work. In the event that a dog needs to be career changed, we evaluate dog and place it in the right situation.