In October 2010, Guide Dogs of Texas had great cause for celebration. After more than 20 years of raising and training guide dog puppies, the organization’s first brood, Poppy – who was part of GDTX’s pilot, in-house, breeding program – delivered a litter of eight, yellow Labrador puppies. These healthy Labs progressed well through the program, and this mating was redone, yielding four female Lab puppies in March 2012. At the same time, Poppy’s daughter, Ava, gave birth to a litter of 10 yellow and black Lab puppies.
The result of the puppies born at Guide Dogs of Texas – and the organization’s breeding program – has been a long process in the making. It began in 2007, when the board of directors established a goal in their 2007 Strategic Plan to develop a breeding school with the next three years.
A puppy program manager and a qualified volunteer, who was the initial brood bitch holder, were hosted for a week by the well-established Canine Development Center at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Patterson, N.Y. Breeding, whelping, and early pre-training and socialization methods were brought back to Guide Dogs of Texas.
Guide Dogs of Texas is particularly interested in Labradors and Labrador-Golden Retriever (Goldador) crosses with temperaments to suit clients on the waiting list. Dogs with slightly higher than normal sensitivities have a greater success and matching rate with these type of clients.
Formal puppy screening and evaluation occurs at 5 and 7 weeks, as well as 5 months and 1-year-old. These growth stages have been shown by research done by Guide Dogs for the Blind, UK , to be the most stable to analyze temperament. In addition, all dogs raised will be extensively followed at all ages for training and health issues and results tracked.
Volunteers assist the breeding program by being Brood and Stud Holder volunteers and Puppy Development volunteers. These volunteers are needed in the San Antonio and surrounding area. Brood or Stud Holder volunteers provide a loving forever home for a female or male dog that will be bred for future guide dogs.
For more information and to volunteer, contact the volunteer coordinator at (210) 366-4081.