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Become a Seeing Eye Dogs Puppy Carer!

Seeing Eye Dogs Australia (SEDA) is a national organisation which established its first school for training dog guides in Victoria in 1960.

SEDA was founded by Mrs P.M. Gration who was herself blind.  She believed strongly in providing independent travel and understood how a dog guide could provide independence to substantially improve the quality of life for people who are blind or have low vision. 

In 2008, SEDA merged with Vision Australia and is the only national provider of seeing eye dogs, especially bred and trained to act as dog guides for people who are blind or vision impaired.

These unique dogs provide the ‘gift of independence’ and freedom in day-to-day life by becoming the ‘eyes’ of a person who is blind or vision impaired. 

Only a very small number of Seeing Eye Dogs are funded through Government schemes so this work depends heavily on the goodwill and support of volunteers and donors.

It costs more than $50,000 and takes up to two years of intensive training for one Seeing Eye Dog to graduate. However, because these dogs need to have the highest capabilities in order to meet strict requirements, not all of them pass. Recipients need to have total confidence in their dog's training and abilities to completely trust that they will be guided safely. 

Sometimes it’s not known until the very end of training whether a dog will be suitable – even the most highly skilled dog may not meet all of the criteria!


With 180 puppies currently enrolled in training, the puppy caring program always requires more volunteers! 

Carers will look after a puppy in their home from the age of 8 weeks until they are 12-15 months of age.

Under the guidance of a puppy development officer, carers teach basic obedience, house manners, eating and toileting on command, socialisation in public places (restaurants, cinemas, cafes, shopping centres, supermarkets etc) as well as walking on lead in a relaxed manner.


All Puppy Carers receive the following items to help them on their journey:

  • A puppy pack, which includes collar, lead, bed, bowl, food and everything needed for when your puppy arrives home
  • You will receive free ROYAL CANIN® dry dog food 
  • Paid vet care at a SEDA approved clinic
  • Training Manual prior to placement of puppy outlining training methods and what they need to learn
  • Supervisor on call should you require assistance
  • Boarding facilities at SEDA should they be needed, e.g. if you are going on holidays
  • Regular visits from a supervisor to assist in all aspects of puppy training and development. Carers are visited regularly at home by their puppy development officer to provide guidance in training and caring for their puppy. SEDA holds a training day that the carer and puppy are required to attend to once a month.
We thought we'd have a chat with a regular Puppy Carer to find out why they volunteered and how rewarding an experience this has been for them over the years.


Q1: How did you find out about the SEDA Puppy Caring program?

"I discovered the program via an ad in our local newspaper stating that temporary carers were urgently required. We had lost our 16-year old pet dog only 6 months prior and whilst we really missed having a dog in the house, we didn’t want to commit to another pet dog just yet.

I run my copywriting and marketing business from home and really missed having a dog around the home. I called SEDA and their Puppy Development Supervisor came out to interview us. They checked our back garden and security, asked how long we would leave the dog alone (never longer than 3-4 hours) and during this initial interview I discovered there was an opportunity to become a permanent carer for puppies."

Q2: What was the Puppy Carer Application Process like?

"After my husband and I had the initial interview and the police check was cleared, the process went really quickly. SEDA was in contact with us every step of the way letting us know when we would have our first puppy!

Kylie Saunder with her latest puppy in training, Marley
Once we found out the arrival date of our first puppy we started preparing the house for him. We installed a ‘child friendly’ gate between upstairs and downstairs and made sure the garden was free from anything ‘tempting’ to puppies.

When he arrived we got the puppy training crate, toys, leash, and instructions on what to do in the first few days and a worming tablet. The SEDA Puppy Instructors are beyond helpful and any questions I had during this stage were immediately answered. Yes, we were nervous about 'doing the wrong thing’ with this first puppy. 

Because our pet dog had slept on the bed and had no strict food or toileting regime, it was challenging. But after a few days and with support of the puppy development supervisor, we set up a basic routine for the puppy.

We also made sure we tracked what time he ate, when he urinated and when he pooped. Because my husband and I share his care, this is really important when I take the puppies to a corporate environment. With this information we found out he peed, pooped and drank at regular times throughout the day. So when I dropped him off at my husband’s office and it was near his meal time, my husband knew he had to also take him out for poop!"

Q3: What do you get out of being a Puppy Carer?

"Our first SEDA puppy was a yellow Labrador called Jay and he is now working with a client who is blind or has low vision. We re-connected with him a couple of years ago when he was in Melbourne and he still remembered us!

Meeting Jay's new owner made us realise how important the volunteer work is that we do. We love dogs first and foremost but the training and socialisation we give them gives them the best head start for when they enter the formal training phase."

Q4: Why do you keep being a Puppy Carer?

"After our first puppy went into full-time training my heart broke open into a million pieces and I cried and cried... But through the SEDA Paw pal’s network I had become friendly with quite a few other puppy carers. I sent a text to one lovely lady (who has had over 10 puppies!) and said I was so very sad. She invited me to her coffee catch up with other puppy carers the next day.

Kylie Saunder with puppy Indigo
I turned up and through circumstances ended up coming home with my first puppy’s brother - Jimmy. He needed temporary care urgently for a few weeks before his assessment for training came through.

We put our hand up and Jimmy stayed with us for over 6 weeks. His presence in the home healed our loss with Jay - we knew Jay wasn’t our puppy from Day 1 but we are crazy dog people, who meet a dog and fall in love instantly!

Jimmy taught us that having a ‘transition' dog is okay…that every dog needs love, care, cuddles and kisses, training and of course - food! Which is why foster caring for ‘temporary dogs’ may be great for some people. Once Jimmy left, we got Lochie…then Sherman…then Indigo…and now Marley…. We call them ‘our boys’: the gorgeous, funny and sometimes challenging puppies that are with us from 8 weeks until 13-14 months."

A special mention about the Seeing Eye Dogs Staff

"When you’re looking at volunteering time to an organisation it’s important that they value you. From the puppy development supervisor who responds to a text on a weekend when you’re at the emergency vet with puppy to the kind-hearted kennel supervisors when you pick your puppy up after they’ve been desexed... At every single step of this journey every staff member has been there for us."

Puppy caring is a very rewarding experience and the organisation couldn’t run without all the volunteers that participate in this program.


#1. Yes, you can have other pets and be a puppy carer

Provided the other pets are of a suitable temperament, they are permitted and can be beneficial to a SEDA puppy by assisting with their socialisation. However, only one other pet dog in addition to the SEDA puppy is allowed per household. Pet dogs need to be assessed prior to placement of a puppy.

#2. You can take the puppy into shops and other public areas

So that a fully trained Seeing Eye Dog is comfortable travelling on public transport, entering shops and walking in crowded/noisy areas etc, it needs to experience these situations as a puppy.

Whilst out in public SEDA puppies wear a blue coat which identifies them as a Seeing Eye Dog in training. They do not have the same rights as a fully trained Seeing Eye Dog however most places welcome their presence and carers rarely experience problems taking SEDA puppies into shops etc.

#3. You can be a puppy carer and work

As long as your employer is happy for you to take the puppy to work with you and there is enough time to attend to its needs during the day. 

Some puppy carers work at schools, offices, pet shops or work from home. It really depends on the type of work you do whether or not a pup will fit in with your lifestyle. You don’t have to do much with them during the day except provide regular toilet breaks and ensure they don’t get up to mischief. Being puppies, they will generally sleep a lot.

#4. Can you play games with a SEDA puppy and take it running in the park?

Games can form part your puppy's training however they can't be chasing toys excessively or learning things that may be in conflict with their future role as a Seeing Eye Dog. Excessive running is not advised as this can cause joint problems as the puppy grows. 

A supervisor will advise what is appropriate when they visit a  prospective carer for an interview. In some ways, SEDA pups are less restrictive than normal pets as they can go with you almost anywhere and teaching a puppy to be well behaved and obedient should be a fun game for both puppy and carer.


If you are excited about the prospect of becoming a puppy carer and believe that you meet the criteria, please apply and find out more about the application process   

Seeing Eye Dogs Australia hold regular free puppy and foster carer online information evenings.
Seeing Eye Dogs have now re-opened puppy caring applications and need 50 puppy carers by June 30, 2021.
  • Friday 23rd April 2021 at 10.30am - Register here for the LIVE Behind the scenes look at the Seeing Eye Dogs puppy centre. 
  • Tuesday, 11 May 2021, Bendigo & Sunshine Coast: 10.30am - 11.30am AEST
  • Tuesday, 8 June 2021, Bendigo & Sunshine Coast: 10.30am - 11.30am AEST
  • Tuesday, 6 July 2021, All regions open: 10.30am - 11.30am AEST
  • Tuesday, 3 August 2021, All regions open: 10.30am - 11.30am AEST
  • Tuesday, 7 September 2021, All regions open: 10.30am - 11.30am AEST
  • Tuesday, 5 October 2021, All regions open: 10.30am - 11.30am AEDT; Sunshine Coast: 9.30am - 10.30am AEST
  • Tuesday, 9 November 2021, All regions open: 10.30am - 11.30am AEDT; Sunshine Coast: 9.30am - 10.30am AEST
To register your interest to attend a Puppy & Foster Carer Information session, click here 

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