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Doug & Kay Belter | Majestic English Cocker Spaniels

Doug & Kay Belter | Majestic English Cocker Spaniels


Interview with Doug & Kay Belter – Breeders of Majestic English Cocker Spaniels

Where did each of you grow up?

Doug in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Kay in Grosse Ile, Michigan.

Do you come from doggie families? And if not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin?

Neither of us really grew up in “dog families.”

Doug: My grandparents were from Europe and England. They had working dogs, terriers, and Dachshunds for pest control and hunting. My first dog was an English Setter that did hunt and was a show dog.

Kay: I got started by tagging along with my older sister to 4H meetings/classes with our family’s hunting Golden Retrievers. Through my 4H leader, I started with AKC Conformation shows. I finished my first champion, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, at age 9.

Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their significance.

Doug: My first mentor was a Cocker Spaniel handler, Doug Smith, who ran the Edmonton Junior Kennel Club. After that I worked for Denis Springer who taught me to trim terriers, then Paul Booher who showed a lot of Sporting and Working breeds. Paul was great at conditioning and health in the dogs that he showed.

Kay: I have had many, but started out as a Junior Handler working for American Cocker handlers Barbara Gamache and Kyle Robinson. When I returned to the English Cocker world after finishing college, Jo Ann Davis of Canterbury English Cockers was my breeding mentor. From Jo Ann I was introduced to Robin Novack. Robin was just starting on her own as a handler, so we travelled together to shows and she taught me the finer points of grooming and handling my English Cockers.

Your English Cockers are widely known, highly successful, and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to?

Always stay true to type, good temperaments, and health! We are also very discriminating as to which dogs we will breed. Like others, we may finish dogs that we later place because they do not pan out to be strong enough to play a role in our breeding program. A good rule of thumb we also stick by is if a dog is not good enough to win at a specialty, it is likely not good enough to be a significant part of our future breeding program.

BISS CH Prydwen Canterbury’s Taffeta – the foundation of Majestic ECS

How many dogs do you typically house? Tell us about your current facilities and how the dogs are maintained.

We currently have seven English Cockers. With Doug’s client dogs, we usually have a total (including our Cockers) of 20 to 25 in our care. We have a couple of permanent housepets, and the rest of the dogs reside in the kennel. We built our house and kennel ourselves, so it is set up nicely to provide a great living/exercise space for the dogs. Our property is located on eight beautiful, private, wooded acres in western Michigan. We also have four employees who work regularly when we are home or on the road. They all help to manage the day-to-day care and conditioning of the dogs.

BIS NBISS GCH Majestic’s Keeping The Drama

How did you transition into professional handling? How are you able to balance the commitment to a breeding program with your professional handling obligations?

Doug: After a short break from shows as a Junior, I went to the US to work for the two handlers I mentioned earlier. I then returned to Canada and showed as a professional there before meeting Kay and moving to the States in 2003.

Kay: Actually, I am not a professional handler, just married to the best! I am currently a hospital floor Registered Nurse. For me, it is challenging to balance work with getting to shows. We share the responsibility of whelping and raising puppies. Doug and I are a great team. Often with puppies, Doug may be home to whelp the litter. I arrange my work schedule, so I can stay home to care for them while Doug travels to shows.

BISS CH Majestic’s Bring “It” On – a very significant sire for our line.

What is the key to maintaining a positive, successful relationship with your clients?

Doug: Be honest and communicate. I have sent dogs back when, in my opinion, they were not good enough to be kept for breeding, so why show them? Let them have a life as someone’s beloved pet. I have weekly calls with my major clients to let them know how the dogs are doing and to discuss their health and welfare.

MBISS GCHS Majestic She’s Got Whatever “It” Is

Please comment positively on the present condition of your breed and what trends might bear watching.

Over the last 5 to 10 years, the breeders of English Cockers have done a wonderful job of improving type! You will see far more moderate dogs in most parts of the country. We still need to keep focused on just that; the breed is moderate, not a racy/setter type of dog. As with most breeds, fronts are an area we all need to stay focused on improving. Our ECSCA Education team has done an incredible job putting together a wonderful seminar. Breeders and judges should all attend one in person!

BIS NBISS GCHG Majestic Sweet Apple Friends In Low Places

The sport has changed greatly since you first began as breeder/exhibitors. What are your thoughts on the current state of the fancy and the declining number of breeders? How do we encourage newcomers to join us and remain in the sport?

There seems to be a lot of friction at the shows. Issues used to be settled in private, face to face. Now it seems we need lawyers to resolve these issues. Facebook and other social media sites have emboldened the keyboard warriors to the point of absolute rudeness. Why would a newcomer want to be in the middle of these silly spats? They just want to show their dogs and have some fun. Breeders need to be welcoming, and all of us need to drop the elitist attitudes and help newcomers by sharing our passion for the sport.

BIS BISS GCHS Gallant Majestic Shaken Not Stirred ECM – pictured at 12 years old.

Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two?

We are both at a point where we would like to slow down a bit, as Doug transitions to judging. With that said, by no means could we stop breeding! We will continue to breed the very best of our current English Cockers, focusing on quality over quantity. We have frozen semen on some of our males that built the breeding program. Creating girls we can breed back to them will give us something exciting to focus on. In addition, Doug has been fortunate to co-breed with long-time clients Dawne Deeley of Tsar Shadow Norwegian Buhunds, Bill and Jennifer Ashburn of Foxheart Wire Fox Terriers, and Dr. Friend of Gwencalon Beagles. Doug will continue to co-breed litters of these breeds, which we are both very fond of.

Majestic Sweet Apple Standing Outside The Fire – Allie’s son, a significant part of the future