What is a Guardian Home for a Dog?

Mother and daughter with older golden retriever dog

A guardian home for dogs is a home where the dog briefly visits before returning to their breeder. The guardian home takes responsibility for all of the dog’s needs and care while watching over the dog, but the dog remains the breeder’s property. After the dog provides a certain number of litters, the breeder may hand over legal ownership of the dog to the guardian family.

Keep reading to learn the details of how guardian homes work, why breeders use them, and what it means to be a guardian for a dog or puppy. 

How Does a Dog Guardian Home Work?

Think of a guardian home like a host home as the two terms are often interchangeable. It is an opportunity for a family to take in one of the breeder’s dogs for a little while with a deposit to ensure commitment that is reimbursed later after returning the dog to the breeder. This functions as part of the breeder and the guardian family contract. 

In most cases, the dog will provide a certain number of litters, as agreed in the contract, and when their breeding career is over, the breeder will hand over their ownership to the guardian family who cared for them. Usually, the dog is about six years old when they get their forever home, but ages can vary depending on the dog and the gender.

Why do Breeders use Guardian Homes?

Breeders use guardian homes to ensure that their breeding dogs are happy and taken care of by a loving family. It is a way of avoiding neglect and keeping many dogs in one place where they may not get the care and attention they need. Guardian homes allow each dog to be cared for like a family dog and live a happy life during and after breeding. 

What is a Guardian Home for Dog Breeders?

Using a guardian home means that a breeder can ensure that their dogs will be cared for and sheltered while they are still the breeder’s property. A guardian family helps socialize the dogs and adequately bond with them so that the breeder can guarantee that their dogs will find the best forever home after their breeding careers when the breeder gives ownership over to the family. 

What Does it Mean to be a Guardian Home?

Before becoming a guardian home, it’s essential to think about what it means to be the guardian family of one of these dogs. It isn’t temporarily caring for a dog for a little while but committing to being their permanent home.

Here are some things to consider before becoming a guardian family:

  • You are dealing with a female dog going into season. You will be getting a young dog which means going through the transition of puppy to a dog of breeding age. It includes dealing with blood, keeping undesexed dogs away, and canceling plans because your dog’s cycle is starting. 
  • Find the right breeder for you to work with. You will need to work closely with the breeder over several years, so make sure you are working with someone with whom you get along and who is easy to communicate.
  • Knowing you will need to work through the breeding process. There will be plenty of vet visits to schedule and attend and ‘honeymoons’ for your dog to go on, so be open to working through this process and have a conversation with the breeder before agreeing to be a guardian home. 
  • You are training the dog between yourself and the breeder. Another reason it’s crucial to have a good relationship with the breeder you’re working with is because you will need o work on training the dog together. It’s essential to have consistent rules in both your home and the breeder’s if you want to teach the dog properly. 
  • Knowing you will need to be separated from your dog for weeks at a time. Most dogs will return to the breeder for about nine weeks when ready to whelp their litter. If you have any, it can be a very emotional goodbye for both you and your children, so be prepared and talk through the process with your kids beforehand. 
  • You are planning to stay in one area for the next few years. You won’t be able to suddenly move across the country or to another country altogether once you start working with a breeder, so you will need to be prepared to stay put for at least two years as you go through the breeding process.

Becoming a dog owner brings a lot more responsibility into your life but adding the other duties of being a guardian home can be overwhelming. If you feel called to be a guardian family, then make sure you think about all involved and decide based on what you can consistently provide for your dog. 

How to Find and Work with a Breeder

Multiple organizations from different countries help you apply to be a guardian family and find the right breeder to work with. Working with a guardian home program is a lot safer than finding a breeder on your own because it ensures that you are finding someone who meets specific requirements and is certified. 

However, it also means that there are specific requirements you need as well, such as:

  • Previous experience with dogs.
  • Willingness to teach basic commands like “sit” and “leave it.”
  • Be willing to socialize puppies.
  • Must keep your dog as an indoor pet and never leave them outside unattended.
  • Feed your dog premium dog food.
  • Any other dogs in the house must be fixed if they are of the opposite sex.
  • Provide daily exercise.
  • Willing to let the breeder visit your home.
  • Contact the breeder immediately if there is any sign of illness or injury.
  • Provide veterinary care. 

These are only a few of the general requirements you will need to prove and agree to when you find your breeder, but they can vary depending on the specific breeder and the gender of the dog you are caring for. 

Can a Breeder Take a Dog Back?

Until the dog has fulfilled the contracted number of litters, the breeder is still the dog’s legal owner, so ownership falls on them. Since they still have ownership, they can take back the dog if the circumstances call for it. 

A guardian may agree to take care of a dog only to have their circumstances change and need to return the dog to their breeder. You should talk about this potential outcome with your breeder before agreeing to take a dog into your home so that there is some plan if this were to happen.

There may also be instances where the guardian family turns out not to be the best candidate for taking care of the dog, in which case the breeder should intervene and take the dog back to ensure that it is correctly cared for and has a healthy and happy life. 

Final Thoughts

A guardian home is where a dog lives while going through its breeding career where it can get the care and attention of a family dog. It places them with a family that will later become their forever home once they finish breeding so they don’t have too much chaos in their lives as they would if they were jumping from place to place.

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