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Judy Chambers | Ghoststone Labrador Retrievers

Judy Chambers

Interview with Judy Chambers, Breeder of Ghoststone Labrador Retrievers

  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder? What is your kennel name?
  2. What is your “process” for selecting show puppies? Performance puppies?
  3. In your opinion, is your breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
  4. As a Preservation Breeder, can you share your thoughts on the sport today? How’s the judging these days? What do you think about the number of shows?
  5. In your opinion, is social media good for the sport? Is it harmful?
  6. What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole today and how can these be addressed?
  7. What are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in the sport over the past decade?

1. I live on a 40-acre farm in the Willamette Valley, about 30 minutes south of Portland, Oregon. My life in dogs actually started with horses. I was riding and training in England doing Three-Day Eventing in the 1980s. In the barns, I was around three breeds of dogs: Corgis, Jack Russell Terriers, and Labrador Retrievers. I chose a chocolate male Labrador puppy to bring home. He was out of a Lawnwoods Hot Chocolate daughter bred to a Sandylands Mark son. When I returned to the US, I continued my competitive riding, but as I got older, the ground was getting harder when I unexpectedly dismounted. My competitive side made the shift from competition with horses to competition with the dogs a natural transition. By then, there were several dogs in the family and because they were more loyal than my husband, the dogs stayed and he departed. I did make my kennel name from my last name at the time, which was “Geist.” Translated, it was “ghost” and Ghoststone Labradors was started. I bred my first litter in 1987, and in 1990 my first home-bred champion was born. My early dogs had Obedience titles as well as Field Working Certificates or JHs. I don’t know how I had the energy or time to do the training. I’m happy now if my puppies are leash-trained before their first show. I have produced champions in all three colors, and every dog I have bred that has finished its championship has been either WD/WB or BOB at a Labrador Specialty.

2. My process starts with careful selection of stud dogs for my girls, then lots of hope and prayers that the puppies will get the best of both parents, not the things I am hoping to improve on. As close to seven weeks as possible, I host a “Puppy Party.” Several breeder-friends and my handler are invited and we look at and grade the litter followed by dinner and wine. I only breed when I plan on keeping a puppy for myself. Sometimes this means I don’t keep a puppy if my hopes for the breeding were dashed, and sometimes it means I will run on 2-3 puppies if the litter has great depth.

3. Labrador breeders are lucky to have a large and diverse gene pool. The development of DNA tests for numerous diseases has enabled us to keep varied genetics in our breeding program and not produce puppies that are affected for the things we can test for. One occurrence that I feel is detrimental to the breed is the division not only between the Conformation breeders and the Performance (Field) breeders but between Conformation breeders who only attend Specialties and the breeders who exhibit not only at Specialties but also in the All-Breed venues.

4. Judging depends on the individual judge and I hate to make generalizations. There are excellent judges, both Breeder and All-Breed, who understand the conformation required to make a Sporting dog while exhibiting the traits that define the Labrador breed “type.” Good judging requires good education. I would encourage anyone interested in learning about the Labrador to attend the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac Specialty held in Frederick, Maryland, in April. Usually, there is an entry of 1,000 Labradors from all over the world. The national club provides judges education and there are dozens of excellent breeders there to mentor those interested in learning. There are a lot of shows these days, and many have formed multiple-day clusters to attract exhibitors. Even with these clusters, entries are down, and costs are high for the clubs, and I foresee a time when the number of shows is self-limited as clubs go out of business due to costs and the difficulties in finding locations to hold shows. Entry costs for clusters will also limit some exhibitors’ entries.

5. Personally, I don’t think social media is much good for anything or anyone. While it’s a great way to showcase your dogs and advertise wins that you are proud of, it also leads to horrible behavior on the part of some. People feel they can say hurtful things behind the cover of social media that they would never say in person.

6. We need to bring young people into the sport. Breeders are ageing, judges are ageing, clubs and show committees are ageing. Who will carry the sport of purebred dogs forward for the next several decades? I would like to see the Junior Handlers better acknowledged and supported.

7. Advances in veterinary medicine through semen freezing, DNA testing and reproduction have helped to preserve the health of purebred dogs. Better food and nutrition help the longevity of our breeds. The development and acknowledgement of the Breeder/Owner-Handler by AKC encourages the people who dedicate and sacrifice so much in their life and lifestyle for purebred dogs.