Making a Lassie: The Art of Puppy Raising

Service dogs—assistance dogs trained specifically to help people with various disabilities—embody a modern canine ideal. Mellow, stoic, and highly trained, these contemporary Lassies help their humans open doors, answer phones, navigate traffic, or respond to smoke alarms. Coming across a service dog calmly steering through a busy downtown street or lying placidly under a chair at an outdoor restaurant amid tantalizing smells, it’s easy to think these dogs are made of special stuff, impervious as they seem to distractions. That’s true to an extent—many service dogs are bred from particularly good-natured and trainable parents—but it’s only part of the answer.


What else makes a service dog? Socialization. That’s where puppy raising enters the picture. Puppy raisers are volunteers who provide service dog puppies with a home for 12–18 months, usually starting when the pups are eight weeks old. They teach the dogs basic manners and, most importantly, socialize them. Consider the many experiences and situations a service dog must be comfortable with. Cars, buses, ferries, and airplanes; hotels, libraries, shops, supermarkets, and movie theaters; escalators, fountains, strollers, garage doors, and construction noise. Not to mention all manner of people and everything in a home, from the vacuum cleaner to the hair dryer.


With the support of the service organization, puppy raisers undertake the mammoth task of helping to create a dog that has, more or less, seen it all. Few things are left to chance in this carefully planned program of experiences. Day after day, the handler takes her canine charge out into the world to encounter enough things enough times that most of them become mundane. All that effort and time spent early in the dog’s life make the Lassie we see possible. And perhaps your dog doesn’t need to be quite that sophisticated. Perhaps less will do. But it’s worth remembering that, although some dogs are more naturally calm than others, no dog is born cosmopolitan. That takes training.


An exercised dog is a peaceful dog, give Peaceful Paws a call 508–451–6779 for all of your pet care, obedience training, and dog walking needs, or email us at or



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