Interview with Catherine McMillan, Breeder of Minuteman Miniature Schnauzers
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your breed? What is your kennel name? Do you have a website? How long have you been in dogs? How long have you been breeding dogs? Who are some of your best-known dogs?
Catherine McMillan: We are Minuteman Miniature Schnauzers, located in Delisle, Saskatchewan, Canada (5 hours north of Montana). My first litter was whelped in 1983, and we typically breed about two litters a year.
We’ve had quite a number of Top Sires and ranked dogs, but the best-known are GCHS Minuteman Goldikova, No. 1 Bitch and Best of Breed at Montgomery County in 2012; BIS GCHG Minuteman Justified, No. 1 Miniature Schnauzer All-Systems in 2017; and BIS GCH Minuteman Colder Weather, Best of Breed and Group Four at Montgomery County 2019.
As a Breeder, can you share your thoughts on your breed today? Is breed type strong? Are there things to be concerned about? Are there any health-related issues? Have you worked with breeders overseas? Are pet homes typically available for your breed?
Catherine McMillan: Breed type is all over the map, especially in the classes, but there are still good dogs to find out there—square, sound, robust, with the correct sloping topline and strong reach and drive.
I’ve worked with a few people overseas, though it’s not my preference. Pet homes can be found in most regions, but market demand does vary.
The breed has a number of health issues, for which we have a few DNA and other screening tests. Ours is a popular breed, so we perhaps learn more about what’s “swimming in our gene pool” than do rarer breeds.
As an Exhibitor, can you comment on recent entries in your breed? Are majors available in your area? Does your breed often participate in Companion and Performance events? How can newcomers in your breed be encouraged to join the sport of dogs?
Catherine McMillan: Entries have been dropping for several years and there seems no light at the end of the tunnel. As a Western Canadian, I must travel over 1,000 miles for any hope of majors.
In the regions that still enjoy some entries, the threshold is so low that we have seen a serious decline in the quality of Miniature Schnauzers finishing titles. Judges should withhold far more often, in my opinion.
We’re always trying to bring newcomers to our breed, but it’s a steep learning curve for those who have no prior grooming experience. Ultimately, that person must have internal drive to learn and compete; we can’t instill it in them.
What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole and how can we address them? And finally, what are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in your breed and in the dog show community as a whole over the past decade?
Catherine McMillan: I believe that our biggest challenge is how to counter the “giant sucking sound” of social media.
In decades past, one had to get in the ring and compete to earn wins in order to generate that chemical “high”—the hit of dopamine that carries an exhibitor on to the next weekend, the next litter, the next new puppy to develop.
Today, one can post a pretty darned ordinary photo of a dog to Facebook and receive 100 little dopamine hits from those who feel obligated to LIKE! LIKE! LOVE! It’s cheap and easy, mostly fake, but it’s replaced competition for a significant number of people.
If only we could pull each other out of the “Zuckerberg Quicksand” and back into the ring where positive feedback is generated the old fashioned way—by earning it!
As for positive changes, from my perspective living in a remote region, the potential of majors for Group placements has been a positive move by AKC, and may help those clubs in low population states to survive.