Interview with Gail Fleming, Breeder of Pursuit Vizslas
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Gail Fleming: There have been very few years without a dog in my life. I have shared my life with a Field Spaniel, Dachshunds, Samoyed, Golden Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, and Vizslas. I have been involved with the Vizsla breed since about 1997. I currently live on just under an acre of land on Bainbridge Island, Washington, which is a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Gail Fleming: My Kennel name is Pursuit Vizslas, with the name coming from my first dog involved with breeding. I currently have in my home four Vizslas, with the oldest being 11 and youngest, two.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Gail Fleming: “Jag” was the first Vizsla that I campaigned in shows. Andy Linton was hired at the recommendation of another Vizsla breeder. Andy took him to seventh place in Breed Standings in 2010. Previously, I usually handled the showing myself or hired someone locally. Jag had a well-respected pedigree. I have always said that his claim to fame is what he passed on to his get and grand-get, which includes a dual champion with hunting and show titles, a national club specialty winner, and “Trek” being last year’s Westminster winner in Vizslas. Trek has been doing well with Andy on the lead, with several Bests in Show and many Bests in Specialty Show.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Gail Fleming: After my experience with Jag and getting the “bug” to breed the best dog, I found it challenging to find a quality bitch that would produce well. It was not until I got “Rosie” that I felt confident and serious about breeding. I studied a lot of books and spoke to many mentor breeders to further learn about genetics, canine structure, and gain knowledge about the pedigrees of Vizslas, living and deceased. Sitting ringside looking at a lot of Vizslas, I started to train my eye. I have so much appreciation for those who took the time with me.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Gail Fleming: I have been blessed when I partnered with Amie Durbin, my co-breeder. She wanted to be involved in the whelping and raising of a litter in her home. Her family included middle school and high school children, and a husband who also shared the love of dogs. She studied about ways of raising a litter of puppies in her home, and with young children she offered a great deal of socialization. It was a perfect partnership in that I handled the business side of breeding with the decision about the dam and sire pairings, and Amie raised the litter.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies? Field Puppies?
Gail Fleming: I always ask a fellow breeder, judge, or other respected person to evaluate my puppies at around 8 weeks of age. I want them to comment on structure and personality of each puppy. It is so easy for a breeder to be kennel blind. There could be a trait that I did not observe and should have.
Do I compete in Companion Events? Performance Events?
Gail Fleming: Vizslas are the perfect versatility breed. Vizslas are capable of participating in so many events, with no need to breed to isolated traits. A well-rounded Vizsla is one exposed to many different dog sports. I believe they will tell you what interests them. At one point I was very active in Agility, which is a sport that dogs generally love to do.
With the physical abilities of the Vizsla and their willingness to learn and participate, they make great Agility dogs. I also have put Obedience and Rally titles on some dogs. Hunt titles were achieved with the help of Chuck Strong and Matt Nolan. I love watching a Vizsla work in the field. My problem is that I do not have enough time to do everything with my dogs.
Are Field Trials or parent club Hunt Tests important to me?
Gail Fleming: Regional breed clubs are so valuable in helping to support our dogs and owners in many ways. When I made the decision to focus on Vizslas, one of the first things I did was to search out a local club. I have gained so much knowledge and real friendships along the way. Please step forward and volunteer. Clubs need you. If you can’t work, then consider giving financially to them. Because of my career as an accountant, I usually stood in as Treasurer. For many years, I served as Treasurer for two regional clubs, eight years as Treasurer for Vizsla Club of America, and I’ve worked on many committees for Hunt Trials and Conformation shows. I am currently working on our National Specialty in Washington as Finance Chair.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Gail Fleming: It is so important that Vizslas stay lean for their overall health. At our home, our dogs have a very large yard to run in. My dogs are happiest when they can run hard in our yard—even our older dogs. Often, I find Vizsla owners who see the benefit of having several dogs so that the dogs can exercise themselves in a game of chase. Being retrievers, they will also chase balls or toys.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Gail Fleming: Health should be a factor when making breeding decisions. Research labs are working on finding genetic markers for all types of health issues. Our national club donates money and lab work to such labs to assist with discovery. Our club asks all breeders to test for various health concerns before breeding. Currently, we focus on hips, elbows, eyes, thyroid, and heart. People looking for a Vizsla should be asking for these results. These tests can be expensive, but they are necessary. These screenings separate quality breeders from those who are less responsible.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Gail Fleming: Our breed is very fortunate to have well-established breeders and newer breeders. Our national club has a mentorship program. At our nationals we encourage learning, with question-and-answer sessions or seminars on health and structure. We never know everything and should be open to learn more. Don’t always breed to the same dogs. Look for that male who might not have all the titles, yet has the pedigree with health, temperament, and structure that you need for your female.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Gail Fleming: Not every breed is for everyone. Vizslas are active dogs that need to run. They are also bred to be family dogs. Vizslas are nicknamed the human’s Velcro dog. They are not suited for living in a kennel all day long. With training and socialization they have so many capabilities, including being a loving pet. Vizslas will happily keep you warm at night in your bed. Vizslas work best with positive training methods.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Gail Fleming: I do not feel that a Vizsla is a hyper dog. By this I mean that Vizslas have “on and off switches.” If a Vizsla is exercised each day, they can also be lazy sleepers. Vizslas can be trained to be Therapy Dogs. It all comes back to training. They are very smart dogs. If they know what they are supposed to do, they are very willing to do it.
Vizslas do require early socialization. As a breeder, I spend a lot of time educating owners on the best way to be an owner because I want my puppies to be successful in their forever home. The time you invest early with your dog will give you great rewards. If a new Vizsla owner thinks they just bring a puppy home and they will be well trained for their home from day one, they are misinformed. It takes an investment of time. I encourage owners to enroll in classes, as much to train the owner as the dog.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Gail Fleming: The Breed Standard for the Vizsla is written with the word “moderate” in several places. When you look at the profile of a Vizsla, it is distinct. It is a muscular athlete that can run in the field without being overdone physically. It has a regal appearance. When gaiting, it is effortless and smooth; single-track, showing drive without pounding the ground. The tail does not curve over the back. There are specifics to height limits. Our breed remains with one Standard for show dog or hunting dog. Overall, I am finding that judges are doing a good job in knowing the Standard and judging to it.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Gail Fleming: Find breeders who can mentor you. Ask lots of questions. Look at a lot of Vizslas so that you can discern a dog to the Standard; what you would improve upon in your dog, etc. Educate your eye. Get involved with your breed club.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Sporting Dog?
Gail Fleming: I entered Trek in his first Agility Trial to test his knowledge of the sport. This was a CPE trial. It had obstacles called hops. Instead of stanchions with a bar between to create a jump, it had rubber tubing forming a rounded obstacle, with the top of the hoop measuring approximately 30 inches. Normally the dog runs under the tubing, but because Trek and I were training using a bar jump, this was new to him. I instructed him to go “through” the hoop, but instead, he jumped over the obstacle.
Everyone watching was gasping and then laughing that a dog would do this. Trek was surprised at how high it was too, although the obstacle stayed erect. After showing him the correct path that I wanted him to take, he got it and completed the course. At the end of the trial, he had the fastest time and received a title for this. I quickly learned that he is a pleaser and is willing to try anything for me if he can run fast.
Are you looking for a Vizsla 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 Vizsla 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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