Longtime enthusiast Justine Romano answers questions on the Coton De Tulear.
I live in New Jersey with my husband of 22 years, my daughter is a junior in high school, and I own and groom my eight Cotons, which is a full time job. My first career was in the fashion industry. After, I owned a grooming business and met my first Coton in 1998. In 2008, I began to show my dogs as a hobby.
1. Your opinion of the current quality of purebred dogs in general, and your breed in particular.
I am glad to see in the USA, most breeders are abiding and breeding to the AKC breed standard. As for my breed, I do like the AKC breed standard. However, I believe there is always room for improvement and it needs to be shorter.
2. The biggest concern you have about your breed, be it medical, structural, temperament-wise, or what.
What concerns me most is that some breeders are not doing the health testing we have available for our breed and some of the new breeders are not being mentored.
3. The biggest problem facing you as a breeder.As a breeder, I would have liked to create type in our breed while following the breed standard.
Due to health testing being my main priority, I will not line breed. Our gene pool is too small and doubling up on outstanding dogs can also double up on health issues. I choose to outcross to avoid the health issues that could occur. Also, I breed for temperament, a Coton de Tulear should be as happy in the show ring as they are at home.
4. Advice to a new breeder? Advice to a new judge of your breed?
The most important advice I have for a new breeder is to have a great mentor. An experienced breeder that will educate them about our breed and tell the background of dogs in the pedigree.A new breeder should take it slow and start with one well bred Coton and show the dog to its AKC Championship. This will help the new breeder develop an educated eye regarding strengths and faults of their dog. Also, this will serve them well when choosing a potential mate for their first litter. In my opinion the goal in breeding is to breed dogs better than the parents. I would like to share with Judges that our breed needs to be felt with their hands, not just looked at. The appearance can be deceiving due to the enormous coat. Judges must feel the dog to find the correct structure. Also, watch for movement as our standard reads, our breed should have free, flowing movement.Although our present AKC breed standard is very long, please read it. I am the chairperson of the breed education committee now, my goal is to summarize and shorten the breed standard next year.
5. Anything else you’d like to share—something you’ve learned as a breeder, exhibitor or judge or a particular point you’d like to make.
As I breeder, I have learned to investigate every dog in the pedigree, have a great software program that shows six generations of dogs in a pedigree or more and perform a co-efficiency percentage before breeding.What I find most interesting about our breed is the presence of the fading color gene. Puppies can have spots of color which should fade by adulthood to white or very light areas of beige or gray. As an exhibitor, I would advise to be most professional in behavior and appearance, never display negativity and always be positive regardless of the outcome of the Judges decision in the ring. Always show respect toward the Judges. It is not appropriate for any exhibitor to educate a Judge on our breed or ask about another dog while in the show ring. If you have a concern, approach a Judge outside the show ring and ask only about the faults or objections of your particular dog. Lastly, always present the Coton de Tulear in the show ring clean and free of matts.6. And for a bit of humor, what’s the funniest thing that you ever experienced at a dog show?Most of the funny moments in the show ring are embarrassing. At our first show in Miscellaneous in AKC, I brought three of my dogs. My female was young and frightened at the loud indoor show. As we entered the ring, she crawled on her elbows the entire way around the ring. The exhibitor behind me called her “the Swiffer mop”! Her call name is now Swiffer.