Become a Volunteer Breeder Caretaker

Breeder Caretaker

Breeding for health and success

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 breeds, after an intensive evaluation process. Our breeding program evaluates each dog’s health, genetics, temperament, behavior, physical attributes, littermate trends and the success of the dam and sire lines. After evaluating all this information, the most appropriate candidates are selected as Canine Companions breeder dogs.

A Unique Opportunity

Volunteer breeder caretakers are a diverse group of people ranging from all lived experiences and backgrounds. You can take on this role as an individual or family unit, and you’ll receive extensive support from Canine Companions staff, other breeding program volunteers and the Breeder Caretaker Support Team. Upon retirement, breeder dogs are spayed or neutered, and you have the opportunity to adopt the breeder dog you cared for.

As a breeder caretaker, you’ll provide a safe, loving home and excellent care for a Canine Companions adult breeder dog throughout their breeding career. In this position, you’ll feel immense pride and satisfaction by playing an important role of helping Canine Companions bring puppies into the world–puppies who will ultimately provide greater independence for people with disabilities.

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.  
  • Bring the male breeder dog to the national headquarters in Santa Rosa, California for breeding dates and veterinary appointments, as requested.  
  • Bring the female breeder dog to headquarters each heat cycle and for veterinary appointments as needed; care for the dam during pregnancy and throughout her breeding career; and may assist with whelping and litter care, per Canine Companions guidelines.  
  • Follow Canine Companions early care protocols when raising and socializing puppies.  
  • Attend Canine Companions educational seminars and meetings.  

 There are many other volunteer opportunities to support breeder dogs and their puppies. To learn more about other positions within the breeder program, click here.

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 that a male breeder dog is required for breeding varies. A breeder caretaker for a male breeder dog can potentially be called to come to Canine Companions headquarters in Santa Rosa, California, for breeding a few times a month, as well as for veterinary exams, as needed. 
  • Female breeder caretaker – female breeder dogs will come in for veterinary exams, as needed. Breeder caretakers for female breeders have the option to host the whelps and litters in their own home. The amount of time a whelp/litter requires can vary on an individual basis. Each pregnancy involves several trips to our headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. If the caretaker is hosting a home whelp, having a flexible schedule and/or additional support is necessary to provide 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 volunteer puppy raisers (between  seven to eight weeks of age). 

Breeders regularly come to headquarters, including for breeding and veterinary visits throughout the year. Travel can be 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. 

Many factors go into the evaluation of a breeder dog candidate. The breeder selection team evaluates each dog’s health, genetics and temperament, 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. 

No, you don’t need to have whelping experience to become a breeder caretaker. However, prior experience caring for dogs or puppies is helpful, but not required. We have experienced volunteers and staff who will provide direct support throughout your journey as a breeder caretaker. In addition, we host breeder caretaker seminars throughout the year for educational touchpoints, and you’ll have opportunities to connect with fellow volunteers. 

When it comes to maintaining the health of a breeder dog, the majority of services and costs are covered by Canine Companions, including annual exams, vaccinations, health screenings, preventatives, etc. There are additional expenses throughout the breeder dog’s career that the volunteer breeder caretaker is responsible for, such as food for male breeder dogs and females (when they’re  not pregnant or with a litter) and some equipment (For example: leashes and grooming tools). More details will be discussed during the application process.

We ask breeder caretakers to identify a veterinarian for their breeder dog, if they need to seek care for them locally. It’s also essential to have 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. 

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

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 and a volunteer home is deemed safe and secure to house a breeder dog.

Yes, there are opportunities to volunteer in both programs! There are some guidelines regarding caring for a breeder dog and puppy in the same household. For example, once the female breeder dog is confirmed pregnant, the puppy will be relocated to another approved puppy raiser’s home until the new litter is seven to eight weeks old (a total average of three months). 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.

Yes, we have a variety of opportunities that range from fostering dogs to supporting some of our litters with enrichment and socialization. If you’d like to learn more about other volunteering opportunities within the breeding program, please click the request more information link below.