Interview with Kari Hill, Breeder of Charthill Scottish Terriers
This year at Montgomery County Kennel Club, I’ve been awarded the honor to judge the Scottish Terrier Classes. We consider this show our National Specialty. I am so flattered that my peers chose me to judge. Also this year, at the annual awards banquet, I will be receiving the Scottish Terrier Club of America Stud Dog and Brood Bitch awards. We had six champions in 2021. I will also be retiring the Owner Handler award, as I have had the No. 1 Owner-Handled Scottie for three consecutive years.
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Kari Hill: I grew up with Scottish Terriers. My parents began showing their first dog in 1981. In 1990, I was given my first Scottie to show and put all the points on her. In 1995, I moved to Greenville, South Carolina, where my parents lived. Since then, my mother, Charla Hill, and I have become partners. My father stays home and takes care of all the dogs.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Kari Hill: Charthill Kennels is AKC registered. The name is derived from both my mother’s and father’s names; Charla and Tom Hill. Charthill Kennels has 270 Scottish Terrier champions—with five more 5-month-old puppies waiting their turn. In the early 2000s, we kept approximately 25-plus dogs. Now that my parents’ health is declining and I do all the grooming and handling, our numbers are down to about eight dogs.
Which breeders have provided the greatest influence on my decision to breed dogs?
Kari Hill: I am so lucky to have my mother’s guidance over all these years. When she started showing dogs, she listened to everyone and read everything. She had a talent for putting pedigrees together and breeding beautiful dogs. She also paid it forward by selling many people their first show dog—and then maintaining a mentorship with them. I remember being in a Bred-By Class at a large specialty. The class had 14 dogs in it. Since it was large, we had a lot of wait time as the judge went over the dogs. Looking around, I counted… my mother started and mentored 12 of the 14 people in the ring. I try every day to continue her legacy.
Can I talk a bit about my foundation dogs? How have they influenced my breeding program?
Kari Hill: Since we have been breeding and showing dogs for 40 years, we have had several important foundation dogs. Early on, we bred a litter that had a singleton; Ch. Charthill Worthy of Colwick (Bozworth). Ginny Luken is Colwick and was one of my mother’s first mentors. Since it was a singleton pup, she didn’t take him as her puppy back. So, we named him in honor of their kennel. While he didn’t get bred many times, he did produce some amazing offspring.
His daughter, “Tiger Rose,” was Best of Winners at Montgomery. She ultimately became my first special. She taught me how to handle. (I was new at it.) When I would stack her, she would look up at me—with a bit of disappointment—and then fix herself, like she was saying, “Here, let me show you again.”
“Bozworth” then had a grandson who was pivotal in our breeding program, Ch. Charthill Victory at Sea (Casey). In 1999, Terrier Type magazine awarded him the top-producing Terrier of All Terriers. We are lucky to have frozen semen on him. He sired 67 champions while he was alive, and that number is now up to 73.
What about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Kari Hill: I think I could say my dogs allow me to live with them. In the early 2000s when we had a lot of dogs, we had a daylight basement, as the house was on a slope. The entire downstairs was converted to the dog area. Puppies were always born in the bedroom, and then raised in the kitchen. It wasn’t until they were close to 6 months old that they would go in with the other dogs. Now, I live in a house where my eight dogs just follow me around all day. The 5-month-old puppies have taken over my formal living room, so now the house is 100 percent dog-friendly.
Do I have a “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Kari Hill: I use the Puppy Puzzle method, where you evaluate and score all the various points of the standard. We do this at 8 weeks. We find that our Scotties look the most like miniature adults at that age. After that time, all of their different parts grow at various rates.
How do I choose the homes for your puppies? Is puppy placement important to me as a breeder?
Kari Hill: On occasion I will place a dog. Since our litters are not that large, I usually keep the entire litter until they are 6 months old and all their teeth have changed out. When I do decide to place a dog, I have a questionnaire, and that prospective buyer must meet all my criteria. There is a huge demand for Scotties, and not enough puppies to fill that need. So, I am fairly picky where they go.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Kari Hill: Back in the day, everyone got down to stack their dogs. Now, it appears that it is becoming a free-baiting competition. Seems like the dogs that are winning are standing like statues and never twitching a muscle. Scotties are full of energy, they look best when they are moving. Many times, a dog with a novice handler who hasn’t done the training, or a young dog, will drop its tail when it stands for too long. When you make the dogs stand there too long, sometimes a nice one can get overlooked if it isn’t flashy and free-baited.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Kari Hill: Overall, the Scottish Terrier is a healthy breed, and ethical breeders have done a good job at breeding out some of our health issues from the past. The Scottish Terrier Club of America Health Trust has been a leader in getting genetic testing done so that we can work toward eliminating some of these problems.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Kari Hill: The typical Scottie that is in the ring today is in great condition. Breeders have been improving their grooming and dogs are showing in beautiful, shiny coats. Overall, the quality is decent. There has been a big focus in the last years on fronts and heads. If anything is weak, it is the rears. There are many Scotties that at are sickle-hocked and do not stand with their feet out behind. Thus, when they move, they don’t have the piston action of the pads coming back at you.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Kari Hill: Scottish Terriers are gamers and are feisty. As they are supersmart as well as stubborn, they are not for everyone. They are not great with small children; when a child squeals and runs, the Scottie thinks it is “game on.” They also must have a fenced yard as they are masters of the game “keep away.” If they get out, they do not come back on recall. They want to be chased.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Kari Hill: Yes. While the breed numbers in the show ring are getting smaller and smaller, the quality is good. I think breeders are having fewer litters (I recently had my first litter in four years). Also, it is getting more difficult to bring new people into the breed who are willing to breed and show. Most just want to have a companion, and thus, the dogs end up spayed or neutered.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with my breed?
Kari Hill: One of my most favorite competitions at shows is the Brace Class. I’ve been blessed over the years to be able to have a Brace entry. I’ve kept multiple littermates, thus often having a Brace. Last year, in 2021, I won Best in Show Brace at Montgomery County Kennel Club Terrier Show. This has been a highlight of all my years of showing.
Are you looking for a Scottish Terrier 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 Scottish Terrier 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.
Scottish Terrier Dog Breed Magazine
Read and learn more about the clever Scottish Terrier dog breed with articles and information in our Scottish Terrier Dog Breed Magazine.
Scottish Terrier Breed Magazine - Showsight