Top Gun | Jacquelin DeAngelo

Top Gun | Jacquelin DeAngelo

Interview with Sporting Group Breeder Jacquelin DeAngelo

Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
For most of adult life, I’ve lived on Long Island, New York. After retiring from 35 rewarding years of teaching, I moved to Monteagle, Tennessee. I have been a breeder of Labrador Retrievers for over 35 years, and I’ve been a breeder of Boykin Spaniels for over 10 years. I have competed in AKC events, from Conformation to Obedience and Hunt Tests, for over 35 years. I am proud to be an Owner Handler and a Breeder of Merit.

What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I keep?
My kennel name is Top Gun. I am a small hobby kennel. My kennel has only six runs. This is “on purpose” as it keeps me in check while evaluating the dogs and allows me to keep only the best. I keep up to 10 dogs, ranging from puppies to the elderly. Many times, dogs are out being trained for the field, which frees up space.

Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
This is a difficult question for me. I have had many noteworthy winners. Each dog that makes it through the Hunt Test program and receives championship status is noteworthy to me. They say there’s a “HEART DOG.” Well, I have been fortunate enough to have had multiple heart dogs through the years: CH Romisty Grizzly Bear JH, “Grizz,” GCHB Top Gun Lone Wolf, “Luke,” GCHS Top Gun Keeping Faith, “Faith,” CH Kinnike True Colors, “Kodak” (English Pointer), CH Top Gun Toast to Maverick, “Maverick.”

Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
My most influential sires and dams have been: CH Romisty Grizzly Bear JH, “Grizz”, GCHB Top Gun Lone Wolf, “Luke,” GCHS Top Gun Keeping Faith, “Faith,” CH Kinnike True Colors “Kodak” (English Pointer).

Can I talk about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
For many years, I converted my garage into a kennel with radiant heat that was attached to the house and flowed into the den where we spent most of our time. Right now, in Tennessee, we have an outdoor building, although most dogs live in the house. Since we live in a remote area in Tennessee, we use the kennel when we need to go out for the day. Puppies are born in our bedroom. At four weeks old, they are moved to the den. We invite the neighbors over for socialization. If weather permits, they spend the day in a puppy-safe, enclosed, outdoor area. They come inside for the night. We walk them as a pack down to the creek to introduce them to water and to different textures and smells.

What is the “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decision?
I could talk forever about this 8-week process. The process begins at birth, and puppies wear colored collars to identify them. Notes are taken every day about their growth and development. Handling the puppies daily helps with the decision-making. Pups are also put on a grooming table to have their nails trimmed and their overall conformation evaluated. I have been to several clinics about selecting puppies, and I’ve read a lot of books on structure. Now I watch a lot of videos provided by the AKC on selecting pups. At about 8 weeks, we invite friends over for a “puppy party” and discuss each puppy for structure. Also, each pup gets time working with the field trainer with bird wings. I breed for a purpose. I select my best and then give prospective owners my opinion of each puppy. Again, I could talk forever on this topic.

How do I prepare my pups for the show ring?
Once pups are vaccinated, I start taking them to handling classes (pre-COVID). I take them to dog shows and walk them around. I bathe and groom them on a grooming table on a regular basis, and I use a show leash, stack them on the ground, and practice ring patterns with them. I use treats to encourage the behavior I’m looking for. If I did my job right in my selection, the pup will stand for examination with minimal handling, because the form will be present. I could talk forever on this topic as well. LOL!

Are Performance and Conformation titles important to me?
ABSOLUTELY!! I am a preservation breeder. I expect my dogs to have form and function. I believe my dogs must perform in the show ring and do the job they were bred to do.

In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
I have two breeds. Labrador Retriever: This is my opinion. I feel Labradors are in a good place. The revised standard many years ago really helped. The genetic testing improved healthy breeding programs. However, I am concerned about what I call “Flabby Labbys.” Labs were bred for the retrieving game. They should be fit to do the job they were bred for. Enough said.
Boykin Spaniels: Although the breed entered AKC in 2009, we have a long way to go with the structure of this breed. The parent club continues to educate breeders and judges about this breed. They are phenomenal hunting dogs; they flush and retrieve! We revised the standard to be clear about the form and function. We continue to use genetic testing, to use as a tool for the process of selection. I believe we are on the right track. My concern is that this breed is so biddable that it might get into the “wrong hands.” Our parent club works hard to preserve this breed.

Do I feel my breed has a promising future as a family companion?
Labradors and Boykins are excellent family companions. It is up to the breeders to sell their puppies to the right homes. Both breeds are active and need activity to feed their brain. Otherwise, they’ll make up their own games, get into trouble, and end up in rescue.

Do I have any thoughts I’d like to share about the sport of dogs in general?
I worry about the future of purebred dogs. Some people don’t understand why we breed litters of puppies when there are so many unwanted dogs in this world. We need to educate the public about our sport and about preservation. Next, I do see some effort to encourage our youngsters, but it is not enough. They are our future!!! Mentoring programs should be developed. Lastly, BE NICE! So many people are so rude at dog shows. (I’m referring to exhibiters, judges, club members, etc.)

For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing experience I’ve ever experienced with a Sporting Dog?
I have Labs and Boykins, and somehow, they always amuse me; like my Lab, jumping on me in the ring from sheer happiness, getting a foot caught in my skirt and pulling the skirt down to my knees.
One time, I fell in the mud. The leash broke, and my dog continued around the ring and stopped at the first-place sign. Amusing!
Then there was the time when I won Winner’s Bitch, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite with my Lab at a National Specialty. The trophies were huge, so I had to get my friends to help me carry them. We proceeded to the van, all giggly and wondering how we were going to fit these trophies in the van, when a tap on the shoulder from the show chairperson came. She wanted to know where we were going with the trophies. (Those were the trophies for the picture only.) She proceeded to take the trophies and hand us these mini trophies to take home. How embarrassing—and funny too!)
The stories could go on forever!
I have met so many people in this sport who have become my lifelong friends, and I get emails from others telling me how their puppy has changed their life forever and that they are so grateful. Sometimes I feel like a celebrity, but it really is a labor of love!

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  • For most of adult life, I’ve lived on Long Island, New York. After retiring from 35 rewarding years of teaching, I moved to Monteagle, Tennessee. I have been a breeder of Labrador Retrievers for over 35 years, and I’ve been a breeder of Boykin Spaniels for over 10 years. I have competed in AKC events, from Conformation to Obedience and Hunt Tests, for over 35 years. I am proud to be an Owner Handler and a Breeder of Merit. My kennel name is Top Gun. I am a small hobby kennel. My kennel has only six runs. This is “on purpose” as it keeps me in check while evaluating the dogs and allows me to keep only the best. I keep up to 10 dogs, ranging from puppies to the elderly. Many times, dogs are out being trained for the field, which frees up space.

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