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How are guide dogs bred?

Most guide dog schools operate their own breeding programs. From a pool of puppies bred to become guide dogs, some candidates are chosen to be used in the breeding program instead. Both actual guides and the dogs used to produce them are selected for specific characteristics of temperament, health, and structural soundness.

Most breeding programs have the dams (mother dogs) whelp (deliver puppies) on site in special environmentally controlled whelping rooms. Pups must be kept at a higher than normal temperature during their first weeks.

Neurological stimulation exercises and socialization are begun at birth. As the puppies grow, pathways form in their brains that will affect how they learn in the future. Early stimulation (handling and exposure to new experiences in sites, sounds, smells, and touch) helps to guide how those pathways form.

Once the pups are weaned at about eight weeks, they are placed in homes with families to raise them until they are approximately a year old when they are returned to the training program for advanced training and placement with a blind person.