Can Do Canines would like to recognize volunteers Tiffany Hendrickson and Dana Kittok and their families for completing the first successful co puppy-raising of a Can Do Canine! Jimi, a 2 ½-year-old Labrador mix, shows us that this can be a great option for some volunteers and dogs.
Typically, a single household commits to the puppy-raising journey, spending approximately two years teaching a dog good house manners, general obedience, and how to behave well in public. The Covid-19 pandemic led to many more Can Do Canine puppies requiring puppy raisers than normal due to a shortage of prison programs. This demand for homes created an opportunity for revisiting the traditional puppy-raising role.
Tiffany recounts, “When it was time to turn Jimi in at the end of his Great Start, it was about two months into Covid, so he would not be going on to the prison program. The staff in Puppy Program asked if I wanted to puppy-raise him, but I knew a full-time puppy-raising commitment was not feasible. Another volunteer suggested I ask about doing a co-puppy-raise, so I asked and was given the green light! I was told that one of the parameters would be that I needed to find my co-raising partner. Since Dana had whelped the J litter and we were friends, I asked her!”
Tiffany adds, “I think a co-puppy-raise has the same time and effort commitments as the full-time position, with the difference being that it’s not constant. Dana and I decided in the beginning that it made the most sense to trade off every month. So we each had four weeks as a full-time puppy-raiser family, with class and outing expectations, and then four weeks off.”
When asked about the positives of co-raising, Tiffany said, “I personally found the positives to far outweigh any negatives. We were each other’s foster when needed, thus lessening the burden on Puppy Program. We traded notes on his training every month, and it made for a more well-rounded training experience, both for Jimi and for myself. Jimi benefitted from a more fluid way of learning from two different training styles, as well as two different family structures.”
One environment included a cat and a newborn baby in a country setting (complete with many different kinds of wildlife) while the other environment included two teen boys and a family dog in the city (complete with all the noises of close neighbors).
Dana shares, “If I was struggling with teaching a command such as ‘Park,’ Tiffany took that command on while I worked on another skill. It was awesome to have another person who knew the dog so we could devise a plan to best handle Jimi. I worked harder on Jimi than on previous dogs because I didn’t want to fail Tiffany by being the weak link in the chain.”
Both Dana and Tiffany agree that communication between the families and consistency in training is extremely important. They created a Google Doc to share what they were working on, their concerns, and their accomplishments.
Tiffany reflects, “I think co-puppy-raising was very beneficial in an obvious way, and that was in how he transitions. We heard from his other fosters that he transitioned very well into new homes. I also saw how well he transitioned into the kennel when it came time for Final Training at Can Do Canines, while some of his siblings struggled in the beginning. I think it also showed in his training. Everybody trains in their own style, and he was able to flow between the two of us very well. I can’t speak for Dana, but I never saw him regress in his training after moving from Dana’s to my house. He was always equally excited to arrive at each other’s house, which was good for the heart. If Dana or I were ever sad about dropping him off, Jimi’s excitement to be at the next house certainly took care of that!”
Both Dana and Tiffany agree that it was a very positive experience for them. “I would do this again in a heartbeat,” Tiffany says. “I had such a positive experience co-puppy-raising Jimi during a time when dogs needed to stay in homes longer than usual. It was a perfect solution. I am so incredibly grateful to have had this journey with Dana and Jimi.”
The staff (and Jimi) sincerely thank the Hendickson and Kittok families for their dedication and love for our dogs and the organization.