Interview with a Toy Group Breeder Susan Thibodeaux
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Susan Thibodeaux: I live in Cocoa, Florida. I have been in dogs for 41 years and breeding for 38 years. I have been in Toys now for 10 of those years.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Susan Thibodeaux: My kennel name is Kallmee.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Susan Thibodeaux: I was blessed to have several Cockers and Vizslas with lovely show careers both here and in Europe. My most noteworthy Toys are my Toy Fox Terriers, GCHG Barbary’s Gold N Jewels, “Sparkles,” and her son, my current special, GCHS Kallmee The Aerialist, “Flyer.” Both have won BOB at the AKC National Championship show, and Flyer has won our National Specialty—and we’re top-ranked in the breed. I also have a Toy Manchester, GCHS Darkside’s Walker Stalker FCAT HOF, who had a wonderful show career.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Susan Thibodeaux: Sparkles earned her ROM with the ATFTC. She and my bitch, GCHS Juslyn StarFox Shimmer N Shine, “Shimmer,” are the foundation of my Toy Foxes. Shimmer was BOS at two Nationals and at Royal Canin, and she has produced lovely champions. Both are primarily of Barbary Toy Foxes bloodlines, and Denise Monette of Barbary has been a great mentor as I moved to Toys from the Sporting Breeds.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Susan Thibodeaux: Puppies are whelped and raised in my house. We have a “dog room,” but mostly they’re always underfoot, on the sofa or on our bed. We have almost three acres and we’ve made a spacious dog yard off the patio for outside play.
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Susan Thibodeaux: I watch them constantly from birth, but begin to finalize decisions on which will stay and grow-out or move to pet homes at 8-10 weeks. Usually by 4-6 months, I make my final decision on who is showing.
How do I prepare my pups for the show ring? Does my breed require any special preparation?
Susan Thibodeaux: I take them places, practice learning to stand for string cheese, and occasionally take them to handling class as they approach six months. My husband and I really do take them everywhere so that they will be bold and unafraid. Special preparation includes table training—TFT puppies notoriously don’t like tables at first.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Susan Thibodeaux: It’s getting more competitive as everyone keeps “upping their game.” There is no “one way” to show a TFT. I firmly believe in whatever works for that dog.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Susan Thibodeaux: Yes, see the health page on the ATFTC website for tests the club recommends before breeding. Also, as puppies, these fearless, tiny Terriers climb and leap, sometimes resulting in broken legs. Teeth must be maintained, and it’s easy to have a fat TFT; measure food carefully. There are no special nutritional needs; just don’t associate love with food—don’t overfeed!
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Susan Thibodeaux: The breed is improving. Many judges have commented on the changes for the better that they’ve seen. Watch for hackney gait and remember to look for good breed type. Smaller isn’t better than bigger; ideal is 9 inches to 11 inches, with ½ inch outside of that on either end before disqualification. The breed is balanced and square.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Susan Thibodeaux: Yes, although I would only recommend for families with toddlers if it’s a very dog-savvy family. The best candidates to own a TFT include all ages, although it seems that most folks looking are older because they remember the breed from their youth. I am trying to change that by being on social media a lot, as I think younger and active people are missing a great little dog that they can have so much fun with.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Susan Thibodeaux: No, we need new people in the breed, as a number have retired or passed on.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Toy Dog?
Susan Thibodeaux: Watching my water-hating Sparkles jump in the bay when she saw fish, as her prey drive overcame her dislike of being wet. Her face was so funny!