Become a Volunteer Breeder Caretaker

Breeder Caretaker

Best of the Best.

Breeder dogs and their puppies are the foundation of our organization. We carefully select and breed Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and crosses of the two after an intensive evaluation process. Our breeding program staff checks each dog’s temperament, trainability, health, physical attributes, littermate trends and the production history of the dam and sire. Only then are the “best of the best” chosen as Canine Companions® breeder dogs.

A Unique Opportunity.

Volunteer breeder caretakers are a diverse group of people ranging from stay-at-home moms to working professionals to retirees, all of whom receive extensive support from Canine Companions staff, volunteers and the Breeder Caretaker Support Team. Upon retirement, our breeders are spayed or neutered and stay with the breeder caretaker as a loving pet.

Many volunteer breeder caretakers report immense feelings of pride and satisfaction in seeing Canine Companions breeders produce pups with a purpose.

Be a Breeder Caretaker.

As a volunteer breeder caretaker, you must agree to the following:

  • Live in proximity to Canine Companions Headquarters in Northern California.
  • Work closely with Canine Companions veterinary, breeding and canine care staff.
  • Caretakers for male breeders bring the breeder to the national headquarters in Santa Rosa, California for breeding dates, veterinary appointments as requested.
  • Caretakers for female breeders bring the breeder to headquarters each heat cycle, assist with whelping and delivery per Canine Companions guidelines.
  • Raise and socialize puppies per Canine Companion canine early care protocols.
  • Attend Canine Companions breeder educational workshops.

A volunteer who provides a loving home and excellent care for a Canine Companions active breeder dog throughout their breeding career. Breeder dogs are Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, or a cross of the two breeds. Once the breeder dog retires, the breeder caretaker has the option to adopt the retired breeder dog.

  • Male breeder caretaker – The frequency in which a male breeder is required for breeding varies immensely. A male breeder caretaker can potentially be called to come into Canine Companions headquarters in Santa Rosa, California, for breeding a few times a month.
  • Female breeder caretaker – The amount of time a whelp/litter requires varies on an individual basis. Each pregnancy involves multiple trips to our headquarters in Santa Rosa. If the caretaker is hosting a home whelp, having a flexible schedule and/or additional support is necessary to provide 24/7 litter care, especially during the first three weeks after birth. Litter support and care will be needed until the puppies return to Canine Companions to begin their journeys with their respective volunteer puppy raisers (between seven –nine weeks of age).

Breeders regularly come to headquarters, including for breeding and regular veterinary visits throughout the year. Travel can be significantly stressful for some dogs, especially when traveling long distances, so we want to minimize any additional exposure to stress for our breeder dogs. We have a very large local breeder caretaker community that helps by providing support, training and supplies to new breeder caretakers, so proximity to other breeding program volunteers is important. Lastly, having access to 24/7 emergency veterinary care is required.

No, you do not need to have whelping experience to become a breeder caretaker, though, if you have experience caring for a dog or raising a puppy would be helpful. We have several ways of educating and supporting you in this process. We will pair you with a “breeder buddy” who has experience with in-home whelps. The buddy will advise you on your home set-up, be present at your first whelp and support you throughout the entire process. In addition, we strive to provide our new breeder caretakers with an opportunity to attend another dog’s whelp before their breeder dog whelps their own litter. We also have a breeder caretaker whelping manual and blog for reference. In addition, we host breeder caretaker seminars throughout the year for educational touchpoints and a chance to meet fellow volunteers.

Many factors go into the evaluation of a breeder dog candidate. The breeder selection team evaluates the health, genetics and temperament of each dog, as well as their soundness for breeding. Through our rigorous breeder selection process, a very small percentage of candidates are selected as breeders in our program.

Absolutely! Puppy raisers need to go through the breeder caretaker application process once their puppy matriculates (goes into official service dog training) and starts professional training. If approved, the puppy raiser can become the dog’s breeder caretaker, if the dog is selected as a breeder. It should be noted there are differences in requirements between the puppy raising and breeder caretaker programs.

For example:

  • Fence height – a home for a male breeder caretaker needs to have a minimum of a six-foot fence, and a female breeder caretaker needs at least a five-foot fence.
  • Breeder dogs do not have public access and are only able to go where pet dogs are permitted.

Yes, there are opportunities to volunteer in both programs. There are some guidelines regarding caring for a breeder and puppy in the same household. For example, once the female breeder is pregnant, the puppy must be relocated to another approved puppy raiser’s home until the new litter is seven-nine weeks old (an average of three months total). The puppy program manager can assist you with relocating the puppy to another home or to one of the prison puppy raising programs, if appropriate. Further guidelines will be reviewed during the application process.

We do request breeder caretakers to have a local veterinarian identified for the breeder. It is also essential to have multiple 24-hour emergency veterinary hospitals identified in your area in case of an emergency. During the dog’s breeding career, most veterinary services are provided by Canine Companions. Additional details will be discussed during the application process.

When it comes to maintaining the health of a breeder, many services and some costs are covered by Canine Companions. There are additional expenses throughout the breeder dog’s career that are the responsibility of the volunteer breeder caretaker, including food and equipment (For example: leashes and grooming tools). More details will be discussed during the application process.

We never know when a natural disaster or a life event is going to strike, however, it is always important to be prepared. Canine Companions and the local breeder caretaker community are here to support you in case of an emergency, and we will assist you, if alternate placement options are needed.