Interview with Brittany Phelps, Breeder of Adáko Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Brittany Phelps: I live in Granite Falls, North Carolina. I have been actively involved in the sport of dogs for 12 years, six years as an independent breeder.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Brittany Phelps: My kennel name is Adáko, pronounced (aa-duh-kow). I currently have nine dogs of my own, four males and five bitches.
Which breeders have provided the greatest influence on my decision to breed dogs?
Brittany Phelps: Immediately, three extremely influential breeders in my life come to mind who I’m fortunate to also call my mentors: Sonya Urquhart of Marquee Wheatens; Tracy Szaras of LuTra Kennel, and Arvind Debragnaca of House Passport. They all play a vital role in my successes. Each individual has encouraged me to be attentive to maintaining healthy dogs, studying pedigrees, and learning about dogs of the past. They have all also been extremely supportive and have shared a plethora of their knowledge on structure and how to plan pedigrees and breed “the dogs to the dogs.”
Can I talk a bit about my foundation dogs? How have they influenced my breeding program?
Brittany Phelps: I have two foundation dogs, really. My first “show dog” Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier was a dog bred by my mother, Cindy Phelps of Villanova Wheaten Terriers. His name is “Tyson” (GCH Villanova Blame it on the Bossanova) who was born in 2011. I was just 13 years old, and he went on to be my Juniors dog at the young age of 6 months.
I showed Tyson for about 4-1/2 years, and he achieved many firsts for me; our first Terrier Group win, our first Specialty win going Best of Breed from the classes at Hatboro Kennel Club to finish his championship; my first Breed win at the AKC National Championship; and many Best Junior awards. Tyson introduced me to both Tracy and Sonya along the way. Tracy took us under her wing to teach me how to trim Tyson properly and how to become a much better handler than I was.
Sonya Urquhart and I met at a show in Greenville, South Carolina. About a year later, she would be the breeder who entrusted her pick of the litter (GCH Marquees It Ain’t No Trick) to me when I was just 16 years old. “Trix” went on to be successful at the Group level. She finished her championship Montgomery weekend at Morris and Essex 2015. Trix is now a ROM with eight bred-by champions and two more currently waiting for the Bred-By Class at Montgomery.
I bred Tyson and Trix in 2016, which produced my first three bred-by champions, one of which also went on to win the breed at Hatboro Kennel Club. They are both behind every dog I exhibit to date under the Adáko prefix.
What about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Brittany Phelps: My puppies are whelped in my living room; they live their first 4 weeks of life there. At the 4-week mark, they graduate to the “Big Kid” pen in our dining room where they stay until they go to their new homes at 9 weeks. We have yards and a puppy pen for plenty of outside time when they are old enough to play in the kiddie pool and on the jungle gyms. I raise my puppies to understand human authority at a young age, and I also highly encourage them to be outgoing and extroverted as babies.
Do I have a “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Brittany Phelps: My process is very simple. I start at about 3-4 weeks of age by first paying attention to those puppies that have outgoing, stand-out temperaments. These puppies I watch closely, and at 8 weeks I have Tracy evaluate them. I’ve kept 2-3 until 4-5 months before trying to make our final choice. I only keep the best, male or female, and I never keep the lesser puppy for gender.
How do I choose the homes for my puppies? Is puppy placement important to me as a breeder?
Brittany Phelps: I honestly have always been very fortunate to have had the best homes contact us through the years. I keep a very “open concept” approach; first-time dog families, families with kids, single men and women, and families with elderly parents involved. You name it, we’ve placed a puppy along the road. We generally have the families start coming to visit at the 6-week mark, separating the ones for potential show homes out of the mix, and essentially let the puppies pick their families. It’s always worked to perfection.
Placement is my number goal. I never want a puppy to end up returned months/years later, or end up in an abusive situation or a neglectful situation. So, we spend a lot of time talking and communicating with our families, and we never ship dogs within the United States to companion homes. You must meet us in person once at our home, and then pick up your puppy in person. No exceptions. We’ve only had to decline puppies to a handful of families over the years.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Brittany Phelps: I believe our breed is presented extremely well, especially being a high maintenance and high grooming breed. Most all of our reputable breeders present their dogs in wonderful coat, with good grooming, and clean. As a whole, I find most all breeders are willing to share and help one another.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Brittany Phelps: This question excites me, as I’ve been a part of many breeds and I must say that our national club and our breeders have done an extraordinary job getting a hold on any and all breed-specific issues that they can. Two particular issues that have plagued the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier are PLN, Protein Losing Nephropathy, and PLE, Protein Losing Enteropathy. We currently have a quite reliable genetic test for PLN. We do not currently have a test for PLE, but it’s much more rare than PLN.
I keep all of our Wheatens on a low protein diet, 17-18%, as it’s believed in studies that a high protein diet can be one of the potential culprits in the development of PLN and renal failure. So, it’s a small addition in prevention of this fatal disease.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Brittany Phelps: Our breed is in good condition as a whole. We have square dogs, beautiful coats, and our temperaments have greatly improved over the years. Our breeders should be proud!
However, the one trend that I have been concerned about, that seems to be common among other breeds as well, is size. Wheatens have been gradually getting larger over the years since I’ve been involved, some reaching the “King of Terriers” size. This is a medium-sized dog. It’s important for a family seeking a medium-sized dog more than anything to keep the breed just that—medium in size.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Brittany Phelps: Yes, they are wonderful family pets. They do not get irritated with children’s antics—they actually get more involved and will add to it! But as quickly as they can hike a 10-mile hike, they can be couch potatoes with you all day and never move. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers can be high energy, in-your-face go-getters or the most gentle animal with those who are fragile. They truly are a ball of clay. They are what you make them, making them suitable for most all families. Young, old, small, big, active or relaxed, we’ve placed puppies with all varieties… and they thrive.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Brittany Phelps: Absolutely. We are fortunate to have as many as we do, with the continued influence and mentorship of some of our breed’s originals; Gay Dunlap, Cindy Vogel, and Emily Holden, to name a few who are still very active within the breed. I believe our breed is in good hands, with structure, temperament, and health being of high priority across the board.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with my breed?
Brittany Phelps: The biggest joy that this breed brings me is their desire to be the class clowns; watching my group of nine play in the yard, running through their tunnels, flipping into the kiddie pool and then hog-rolling in the dirt, jumping onto the outdoor furniture and “rootin” into the cushions with their faces until the cushions are all on the ground—all while barking—truly gives me a good giggle!
Are you looking for a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
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