More volunteers needed in Calgary to home and train guide dog puppies

An organization that breeds and trains service dogs says it desperately needs more volunteers to help raise and train them.

A litter of new pups arrives in the city later this month but volunteers are hard to find

A four-month-old puppy called Ella takes a break from training at the Chinook Centre in Calgary. BC & Alberta Guide Dogs needs more volunteers to help train future pups. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

An organization that breeds and trains service dogs says it desperately needs more volunteers in Calgary to help raise and train them.

BC & Alberta Guide Dogs relies on volunteers to raise puppies for up to two years with help and guidance from specialist puppy trainers.

They play a vital role in connecting dogs with the people who need them. But the organization says there aren't enough volunteers and more yellow lab puppies are due to arrive in Calgary by the end of the month.

"Without volunteers, we're not able to service clients, and we have a waiting list that's over two years long," said Sandra Cramer, puppy raising supervisor with the organization.

Cramer says time and patience are the two big skills they need in volunteers.

Sandra Cramer is a puppy training supervisor with BC & Alberta Guide Dogs. She says they urgently need more volunteers in Calgary to raise dogs in their homes. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We provide the training and we guide them all the way through the process. You get the puppy when they're around eight weeks old, and they live in your house with you for approximately a year and a half to two years, when they're ready to go to advanced training," said Cramer.

Volunteers don't need any experience and receive training and monthly assessments.

Cramer says being a volunteer is best suited to people with a flexible work schedule, part-timers and people who aren't working and are looking for more purpose in life.

"We are desperately looking for homes for the puppies arriving in about three weeks, so they can go on to help change someone's life," said Cramer.

Volunteer Carla Weber says anyone with a passion for dogs or volunteering should consider it.

"We all help each other, it's like a big community. It's all about the dog and what is going to be than what you know right now because you learn a lot," said Weber.

Ella and her volunteer trainer walk around the mall as part of the pup’s training, overseen by a puppy trainer from the organization. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"It's never easy to move because you do grow an attachment to them, they're with you for nearly two years. But for me and my family, it's about what the future holds for that puppy," said Weber.

"It's going to make a difference in someone's life and that's what's important to me," she said.


Dan McGarvey


Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, using only an iPhone and mobile tech. His work is used by mobile journalism (mojo) trainers and educators around the world. Dan is focused on sharing stories from under-reported communities and groups in Calgary, including the city’s diverse northeast quadrant. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at


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