The Seeing Eye & The Puppy Raising Project
The Seeing Eye was founded by Morris Frank and Dorothy Harrison Eustis in 1929. Morris Frank, a blind teenager, wrote a poorly punctuated letter to Eustis who was breeding
German Shepherds in Switzerland. Frank asked to be paired with a trained dog and promised to help bring the same independence to others in the U.S. He returned to America with Buddy and it became so publicized that the two were able to start The Seeing Eye, Inc. one year later, the very first Guide Dog School in America. Originally founded in Tennessee in 1929, The Seeing Eye, Inc. moved to Whippany, New Jersey in 1931, then to their current location in Morristown, New Jersey in 1963.
The Seeing Eye’s breeding station in Chester, New Jersey breeds German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador/Golden crosses. These puppies are placed with volunteer puppy raisers at 7 weeks of age and will stay with this person until around 15 months of age. The puppy raisers are responsible for potty training and socializing the puppies as well as teaching them basic commands, caring for them, and providing plenty of love.
The puppies are taught the following commands: sit, down, come, rest, and forward. They are also taught house manners and to walk on the left side of their handler. Throughout training, martingales, training collars and gentle leaders are used for correction. The puppies are trained using praise only and are not allowed to have any type of human or dog treats.
Once the puppies are around 15 months old, they are returned to The Seeing Eye for a medical evaluation and four months of formal training in harness. The raisers will receive letters from their dogs updating them on their progress. At the end of formal training, if the dogs have not been released from the program due to medical or behavioral issues, the dogs will have their Town Walk. This event represents the dog's graduation from the Puppy Raising Program and is the last time the raisers will see the dogs. The puppy raisers follow the dogs from a distance as the dogs guide the instructors and showcase all the new skills the dogs learned during formal training. The newly named Seeing Eye dogs then wait at The Seeing Eye to be paired with their "perfect match" and go home with their new owner.
The Rutgers University Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club
Our club began in 2000 and is located on Cook Campus. The club consists of puppy raisers, puppy sitters, and general club members who collectively work on the Puppy Raising Project.
Raisers are responsible for their puppy’s health care and training at all time. Puppy Sitters watch the puppies when the raisers cannot care for their puppies. General Club members attend our weekly club meetings and events as they please, but can only handle the puppies when the raisers are present.
Puppies in RUSEPRC attend weekly meetings where lectures are given to educate members on topics pertaining to the training of our club puppies. After lectures, the puppies are worked in several obedience circles to provide practice for them as well as give those members without a puppy a chance to work a dog.
Club events occur on any day during the week and are intended to expose puppies to situations they may encounter in the future and to educate the public about our club and The Seeing Eye, Inc. Events in the past have included trips to the movies, Liberty Science Center, school presentations, bowling, and many more. These events provide opportunities for our puppies to become accustom to situations they may encounter while guiding which makes their formal training at The Seeing Eye much easier.
Having the puppies on campus broadens their daily exposure. The puppies live on campus with their raisers at Rutgers in special housing apartments. They are allowed to enter all buildings owned and operated by The State University with the exception of dining halls, dorms, and laboratories. Puppies are allowed to attend classes with the permission from the professor and can ride on all university busses. Our puppies under six months wear a green bandana with the club name on it while the older puppies wear a Seeing Eye vest to identify them. The raisers have The Seeing Eye identification cards for the puppies at all times as well.
When the puppies are not working, they are allowed to be normal dogs. We have a fenced-in area called the Barkyard that is located by the apartments that the puppies live in where they can play together off-leash. The raisers take their dogs to the Barkyard several times a week to allow them to socialize with the other dogs as well as exercise and relieve stress from their busy days on campus.