Interview with a Toy Group Breeder Sheila Wymore
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Sheila Wymore: I live in Cottonwood, which is located in the Verde Valley of central Arizona. I started with owning, showing, and breeding Dalmatians in 1972 and have been “doing” dogs ever since; Dalmatians since 1975, although we retired from breeding them in 2000. We fell in love with Affenpinschers while we were still showing/breeding Dalmatians and we have owned/shown at least one Affen at a time since 1990. So, it was easy to transition to Affens when we could no longer run around the ring with a Dalmatian.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Sheila Wymore: Coachlight (obviously a holdover from Dalmatian days) is my kennel name. Many of our Affens are registered as “Coachlight Aff-ter…” We now have seven, ranging in age from 6 months to 13 years.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Sheila Wymore: We are very proud of the second litter we produced, two males/two females, all champions. The female we kept, GCH CH Coachlight Aff-ter A Bad Hair Day (Fizzy), was BOS at the Affenpinscher National Specialty in 2011. Her sister, GCHB CH Coachlight’s Afternoon D’lite At Black Forest (Ella), was Select Bitch, and her brother, Coachlight SCF I’m Finally Ten (Digit), was RWD. The following day at the supported show, Digit finished his CH title by going WD, Fizzy was Select Bitch, and Ella received an AOM. It was a good weekend!
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Sheila Wymore: Fizzy was bred three times to three different sires with differing bloodlines, and consistently produced quality puppies. Her grandchildren are following in her footsteps genetically. Her son, GCH CH Coachlight Aff-ter The Man In Black (Cash), has been used selectively and produces lovely heads/expressions and good Affen coats.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Sheila Wymore: Next to the master bedroom we have an enclosed sunporch that was turned into an office/dog room, with dog doors to the outside exercise areas. Those Affens who do not share our bed sleep in crates in the sunporch, and the Affs also keep me company while I am at “work” on the computer. As I am still active in the national Dalmatian club (DCA), the Dalmatian Foundation, and the Affenpinscher Club of America, as well as volunteer treasurer for our local historical society, a lot of time is spent in that sunporch under Affen supervision. I try not to trip over the dog beds.
I have always felt that new mothers need to feel safe and secure, so we have them whelp their puppies in a size 200 or 300 covered airline crate, which gives them the “den” feeling that mother nature builds in. This crate sits smack dab in the middle of my couch/recliner, and I sleep with the mother and pups for the first two weeks after the whelping. An alarm gets set for every hour and a half to two hours so that I can keep a lookout for struggling puppies and prevent problems before they develop into life-threatening situations. You will also find me there during the day as I have the luxury of being retired and can spend extra time monitoring mother and babies.
During the ten days to two weeks prior to eyes opening, the pups are handled regularly according to ENS (early neurological stimulation) suggested movements, as well as having weights taken twice daily and toenails clipped weekly. Once the puppies are up on their legs and ready to leave the “den” to eliminate, we remove the top of the crate and move the bottom portion to a pen with a papered area on the floor that is right in the middle of a traffic area between the living room and the kitchen, so they are in the center of all family activities. We have the luxury of being able to section-off rooms so that the pups are able to get out and explore beyond the pen.
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make your decisions?
Sheila Wymore: We watch carefully from the start, looking first for that sparkling, go-get-’em attitude that makes a good show dog. We look for the pups who come to a “dead stop,” standing four-square. As they reach eight weeks, we look at coats, eye color, “lip,” and the square outline called for in the Breed Standard.
All the pups stay here until they reach 16 weeks and have received their third DHPP shot before releasing them to new homes. At that point, we have a good idea of the “keepers” vs. the “placers.”
How do I prepare my pups for the show ring?
Sheila Wymore: Does my breed require any special preparation? Because we have looked for attitude first, we don’t worry about developing it later on. All pups need socialization and they need to get out and explore their environment, to gain confidence by learning that new situations are not threats but opportunities for fun and attention. We try to provide this for all pups in a litter and continue on with the regimen for the one(s) we keep to show. They are already familiar with a grooming table as part of the socialization process, so we add the bite examination, toleration of body touching, and build the patience to hold a stack for longer and longer periods.
Many breeders believe in stripping out the puppy coat completely to encourage the growth of the adult coat. We strip the jacket completely down and begin slowly working on the head, the cape, and the furnishings.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Sheila Wymore: Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more of the scissor-sculpted look than the natural coat that has been patiently rolled by regular stripping. Some gait problems have been cropping up that are causing concern as well. The breed is to move with a light, free gait, but this comes from the shoulder and not the elbow as in a hackney-type gait seen in some Toy Breeds. In addition, we have enjoyed the ability to import Affens from countries outside the United States, but this has brought an unexpected consequence regarding gait. Many of these imports compete under FCI regulations in Group 2 that is comprised of large, working breeds as well as the smaller Affen. To be competitive with the large breeds, these Affens have developed a sweeping, ground-covering gait with the extra rear angulation required to produce that gait. Our Standard calls for rear angulation that is moderate, to match the front, and when viewed from the side, the hind legs are set under the body to maintain a square appearance. Excess angulation detracts from the square appearance called for in the Standard.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed?
Sheila Wymore: There are no consistently apparent single issues within the breed. However, being Toys, the Affens can be randomly afflicted with the same problems many Toy Breeds face; abnormal heart development, liver shunts, tooth/mouth problems, thyroid issues, and skeletal problems such as slipping patellas and hip dysplasia. This is why health testing for all breeding stock is highly recommended by the parent club and is so necessary to preserve and protect the breed. Coming from the larger breed, Dalmatians, we routinely health-tested our stock and have continued the practice with the Affens.
Any special nutritional needs?
Sheila Wymore: This is a whole “can of worms” that will remain unopened here. Every breeder has an opinion on the best type of food to raise a healthy Affen. My recommendation to puppy buyers is to purchase food of high quality from a reputable manufacturer that tests nutritional content of their food.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall?
Sheila Wymore: Any trends that warrant concern? More and more Affen breeders are realizing the value of testing and openly sharing the results of those tests. More tools are available now to breeders who are concerned with and dedicated to preserving the health of the breed, and this bodes well for Affens. I would encourage all breeders to get on board with testing and open reporting of results.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Sheila Wymore: Many of our puppies have been placed as “family” dogs, with children of various ages. We usually recommend the starting age for a child as school age, only because raising a toddler is a full-time job for any parent, which doesn’t leave much time for raising a puppy. Raising a puppy successfully takes a good deal of time that may not be available to parents of younger children.
Anyone who has fallen in love with this breed will make a good candidate. This breed is versatile, not particularly a “one man dog,” and enjoys being at the center of family activities. If you do not plan on integrating your Affen into all family activities, you will probably not be the best candidate to purchase one nor will you enjoy having one as much as those who do consider their pup as another member of the family.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Sheila Wymore: Affens are listed as a rare breed because we have fewer of them registered than most any other breed. This expands to the breeders as well—the fewer dogs registered, the fewer dogs owned, the fewer number of dedicated breeders. The Affenpinscher Club of America is looking forward to developing a successful Breeder Mentoring program that will support new breeders and relieve the fear that some feel regarding breeding “delicate” Toy Breeds. The Affen is definitely not delicate, and the club hopes to dispel this notion by supporting new breeders and being a resource for them.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Toy Dog?
Sheila Wymore: Our foundation bitch, “Poppit,” was extremely intelligent and made up her own games to play with us. She slept in our bed, of course, and one of her favorite games was to plop her furry little fanny smack dab on her “dad’s” face to wake him up in the morning. Got an immediate response, that’s for sure. She would also play hide and seek, and not come out until we called, “Where’s Poppit?” Hiding, by her definition, could also mean simply sticking her head under a pillow with her little fanny quite visible to all. Apparently, it qualified as hiding in her vocabulary.
The Affenpinscher Club of America is looking forward to developing a successful Breeder Mentoring program that will support new breeders and relieve the fear that some feel regarding breeding “delicate” Toy Breeds. The Affen is definitely not delicate, and the club hopes to dispel this notion by supporting new breeders and being a resource for them.