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. This role could be supported as an individual or family unit, all of whom 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 can stay with the breeder caretaker as a loving pet. 

As a breeder caretaker, you will provide a safe, loving home and excellent care for a Canine Companions adult breeder dog throughout their breeding career. Volunteer breeder caretakers report immense feelings of pride and satisfaction in seeing Canine Companions breeder dogs produce puppies with a purpose that go on to 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.  
  • Caretakers for male breeder dogs bring the breeder dog to the national headquarters in Santa Rosa, California for breeding dates and veterinary appointments, as requested.  
  • Caretakers for female breeder dogs bring the 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. If being a breeder caretaker volunteer is not the right fit, yet you have an interest in volunteering with the breeding program, please click the “learn more” link below. 

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 – 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 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.

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.

No, you don’t need to have whelping experience to become a breeder caretaker, though, having experience caring for a dog or puppies is helpful, but not required. We have experienced volunteers and staff that 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 a chance to meet fellow volunteers. 

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 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.

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.

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.

Yes, we have a variety of opportunities that range from fostering dogs to supporting some of our litters with enrichment and socialization. Please reach out if you would like more information about other volunteer opportunities within the breeding program.