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Jeri Kissling | Allante Keeshonden

Jeri Kissling

Interview with Jeri Kissling, Breeder of Allante Keeshonden

Where do I live? How many years in dogs?

Jeri Kissling: How many years as a breeder? My husband and I live in Indianapolis, Indiana, a great Midwest location for dog shows! I have shown dogs for 43 years, 40 years as a breeder. My husband has shown in Obedience, Agility, and Fast CAT, and helps me occasionally in the Conformation ring.

What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?

Jeri Kissling: Our kennel name is Allante. We currently have seven dogs; we try to stay at 10 or under.

Which have been my most influential sires and dams?

Jeri Kissling: CH Allante’s CrackerJack, HOF, ROMX is one of the Top 5 producers in the history of our breed. I have two bitches who definitely have stamped their mark on their puppies; CH Allante’s Easy On The Eyes and CH Allante’s Smartie Pants.

Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?

Jeri Kissling: Our dogs are housedogs, and we have always whelped our puppies in our great room. We recently tore down our sunporch and built a wonderful new “dog room addition” off our kitchen for whelping and raising puppies. I believe tons of exposure to noises, other dogs, and visitors make sounder temperaments.

What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? Performance puppies?

Jeri Kissling: I can usually tell who has structure I’m looking for at birth. Then, as they start moving, I watch for the puppies that naturally stand square and gait instead of just bouncing around. They usually come together at 8 weeks for final decisions. The curious puppies are those I look for when evaluating Performance puppies. We also have bred several dogs that are Service Dogs (including two Diabetic Alert Dogs) and two (with a couple more in training) that are in the Canine Crisis Response Unit. These dogs are those more attracted to pleasing people and are great at figuring things out on their own.

Does my breed require any special preparation for competing in Conformance? In Performance Events?

Jeri Kissling: Grooming is a big learning experience with Keeshonds. I always suggest a great mentor when learning to groom; it can make or break a dog. Keeshonds are such people pleasers and are so food motivated. They are easy to train for anything you want them to do. I know someone who actually trained a Keeshond in Schutzhund and another that got a Tracking title!

In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?

Jeri Kissling: I think we’re in decent shape. We will always have issues with size; lots are rather small now, especially bitches. Straight, forward fronts do not fall into our Breed Standard at all, but I’m seeing more and more. Judges often put them up because they have pretty silhouettes, but it is incorrect, period.

Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?

Jeri Kissling: You can’t find a better family dog than a Keeshond. They love children and other animals. They can adapt well to apartment living. They can be sensitive, so those who use harsh training methods would probably not like this breed. They can be “stinkers” until close to two years old, then again, most breeds fall into that category!

What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?

Jeri Kissling: They are rare! Preservation breeders have been great at placing puppies in good homes; you just have to wait on a breeder’s list. Best-kept secret? The coat! They don’t shed constantly like some breeds (they do shed) and are fairly easy to maintain if you are taught to brush properly.

As a Preservation Breeder, can I share my thoughts on the sport today? How’s the judging these days? What do I think about the number of shows?

Jeri Kissling: I think our sport is still thriving. Yes, it’s expensive, so people sometimes show at closer shows, maybe not entering as many dogs at each show. We travel in an RV, which saves us money, and we take all of our dogs with us. I’m very happy with the number of shows available, but living in the Midwest helps with that. Judging… ah, the question. I have mentored lots of judges over the years and am thrilled when these people go on to actually judge the dogs! There will always be political judges or those judges looking just for handlers, but there are still plenty of judges who are judging dogs fairly.

In my opinion, is social media good for the sport? Is it harmful?

Jeri Kissling: I love watching my dog show friends post their wins, and puppies and cute kids showing dogs on social media. I have also seen some awful bullying and very hurtful things said, even about kids in the sport. Yes, it can be harmful, but I hope we can all learn to use it positively.

What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole today and how can these be addressed?

Jeri Kissling: The lack of mentors or those not wanting to be mentored. Breeders selling lesser quality dogs to newcomers. The cost of entries and traveling is big too. I personally will help to mentor anyone, even if they don’t have a dog from me or are in a different breed. Encouraging friends to travel together helps with expenses.

What are some of the positive changes I’ve seen in my profession and in the dog show community over the past decade?

Jeri Kissling: Actually, social media has helped a lot if you don’t have a breed magazine. How else do you see dogs in other parts of the country? I love seeing the Pee Wee kids and Juniors being encouraged and mentored. They will be taking our spots in the future!

If I could share one suggestion with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them about my breed?

We ARE NOT a head breed! We have to have dogs that move correctly (not sidewinding or throwing their legs every which way). They do need correct structure to do Performance work! Goes the same for a dog with a silhouette but can’t take two steps correctly.

For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Non-Sporting Dog?

I had someone ask me what my Breed was bred for. I said, “Mostly companionship.” He responded, “They don’t hunt, they don’t guard?” I told him “No.” He said, “Those are good-for-nothing dogs.” I laughed and agreed. Most Non-Sporting Dogs aren’t bred for specific things, but they are great buddies, babysitters, lap hogs, and food tasters!