Interview with Ann E. Coughlin, Breeder of Charm City Poms
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Ann Coughlin: I live in Baltimore County, Maryland. I got my first dog on my fourth birthday as a gift, in 1984. I named her Sandy; which was the obvious name choice for the mutt of a little girl named Annie. So, I have had dogs most of my life, but I was not “in dogs” until much later. I started my breeding program in 2015.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Ann Coughlin: My kennel name is Charm City Poms. Baltimore is known as Charm City, and I have the infamous Maryland pride and wanted to incorporate it into my kennel name. My program is relatively small; I keep three to four boys and four to five girls, with a few puppy hopefuls growing up in the wings. I am generally growing out puppies, and retiring girls once their puppies are of breeding age. But as the saying goes, there is always room for one more.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
“Drake” (BISS MRBIS GCHS Charm City’s Virginia Black DCAT GC) is probably my most noteworthy winner; he is currently a Top 10 Pomeranian. He has not sired many litters, since he has been out campaigning, but I am hopeful for the few puppies he has sired.
“Church” (CH KC’s Splash Of Grace) is also noteworthy, because of his color and his becoming the 12th merle Pomeranian Champion in the history of the breed. His mother was from my third litter, and I am very proud of the strides being made in my Pomeranians of color.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
“Cardi” (Fayrwynes Money Moves to Charm City) is a girl who did not love showing and never finished her championship; however, she is by far my best producer. She easily free whelps and is a lovely mother with a beautiful pedigree. She has consistently produced beautiful puppies, regardless of the sire.
“Cappie” (CH Pom Galaxy Cappuccino FCAT) was absolutely my most influential sire. He is the foundation to my chocolate program and is in most of my chocolates’ pedigrees. A Russian import and my first Champion, he was also the first finished Champion to earn his DCAT and FCAT titles in the breed. Sadly, I lost him earlier this year, but I am proud to carry on his legacy with his progeny. His first great-great-granddaughter just arrived in June.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Ann Coughlin: I am a small, in-home hobby breeder. All of my dogs live in my home with me and my teenage son. Puppies are whelped in my bedroom and stay in there for the first week or so. After that, they are moved across the hall into the nursery bedroom until they are 6 weeks old. During their time in the nursery, they are exposed to family members and mom only.
They are raised with ENS protocols and given lots of stimulating activities and snuggles from the human family. Once the puppies are starting to wean, they are moved into the living room so that they are surrounded by the day-to-day goings-on of a typical household and the other dogs. Each day we spend lots of time socializing and playing with the puppies, and they are introduced to the other Poms in the house. After the puppies have their clean bill of health and first vaccine, they are exposed to lots of new places. I love bringing them to shows, to my office, and out to various parks for socialization and desensitization.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Ann Coughlin: Pomeranians are not separated by show-line vs. performance-line. My puppies are temperament-tested at around 8 weeks of age. I find the results to be very helpful in determining which ones have a personality suited to performance/show or will be more apt to being a lazy lap warmer. My preference is always to have a naturally outgoing personality for show dogs. This is the first step.
I utilize Pat Hastings’ Puppy Puzzle to evaluate my puppies at 8 weeks and again at 12 weeks. I always try to have fellow exhibitors go over my puppies as well, and get their opinions. I never want to fall into kennel blindness, and I appreciate their time and honesty. I personally do not do many sports with my dogs (except for the occasional Fast CAT runs), but have successfully placed several puppies in Performance homes.
How important are Breed Specialties to me? How important are Group Shows?
Ann Coughlin: I think Specialties are very important. They are generally drawing a larger entry, so you get to see many more Pomeranians in the ring. Receiving ribbons at a Specialty is always a thrill. Group Shows are great too. Again, generally, a judge with an expertise in Toys is running the ring, so a win is pretty special.
What are my priorities when it comes to breeding? What are the drawbacks?
Ann Coughlin: The priority in my program is to improve the quality in less traditional-colored Pomeranians. My focus has been on chocolate and merle in my program. My goal has always been to have someone say, “That’s a beautiful Pomeranian” and leave out the usual “for a chocolate.”
The drawbacks are many. There simply are not that many quality breeders playing in color, so the pool of people to partner with to improve these colors is relatively small. Merle seems to still be a sore subject within the breed and in the show world. Very few are working with this gene, and many still turn their nose up at it.
Genetic testing has played a huge role in my color program, especially when planning breedings. I continually learn and study color genetics, including testing my merle’s SINE Lengths and understanding how specific genes impact the next generation. Every puppy born in my house is Embark tested, and while I do not make puppy picks based on color, it can often be a tie-breaker in two otherwise equal littermates.
In working with recessive genes, like chocolate or tan points, you are constantly making a choice. Do I go to the best stud for my bitch who will not produce the desired color but will improve overall type and quality? Or do I use the dog on my couch to create the desired color? Obviously, the prior is the correct answer. I am usually looking generations ahead for my longer-term color goals. I breed a girl to the most correct and complementary stud I can, yielding a litter of “carriers” so that I can then incorporate the color back in the following generation.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed? How important is coat care?
Ann Coughlin: Coat care is of utmost importance in Pomeranians, and that goes hand in hand with conditioning. Healthy coat comes from the inside out, so keeping your Poms in good weight and on a high-quality diet is crucial.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Ann Coughlin: Pomeranians are generally a healthy breed. Luxating patellas seem to be the most widely reported issue.
Pomeranians do not have any special nutritional needs; however, like many Toy Breeds, they can easily go into hypoglycemia if their blood sugar is allowed to drop. I keep Nutri-Cal on-hand for puppies, just in case.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Ann Coughlin: I do think Pomeranians have many passionate preservation breeders, but there is always room for a newcomer who is interested in preserving the breed in an ethical fashion.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Ann Coughlin: Pomeranians make excellent family pets, and I think they are often underrated as family dogs! Pomeranians really adapt to many lifestyles, from a lazy apartment life to running around the backyard with the family to being a weekend warrior Agility dog. Poms are terrific with children who know the difference between a toy and a toy-sized dog.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Ann Coughlin: The biggest misconception is that they are barky ankle biters. Poms are wonderful and biddable companions. They are wicked smart and eager to please! Pomeranians make excellent Performance Dogs and double as the best couch snugglers.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Ann Coughlin: From the Breed Standard: “Even though a Toy dog, the Pomeranian must be subject to the same requirements of soundness and structure prescribed for all breeds.” A Pomeranian should be structurally sound and be able to cover ground while maintaining head carriage.
A great Pomeranian is great, in any color. All colors and patterns should be judged on an equal basis.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Ann Coughlin: Come to a dog show, join your local club, volunteer! There is no age limit to becoming a preservation breeder. Find a great vet whose ethics align with yours. They will be your greatest asset and advocate, and hopefully, eventually your friend. Find a mentor, have fun, and don’t give up!
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Toy Dog?
Ann Coughlin: The MOST amusing… pretty hard to rank the daily antics and shenanigans, but I will share a recent one. I have a girl who has a new baby, and she races up the stairs to get back to her baby after potty time. By the time I get to my room, she is already back in the playpen—and it’s been a total mystery how she’s getting in the pen all by herself. So, I set up a camera. She is jumping onto her food container, precariously balancing herself, and then launching off into the pen!