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Katie Eaton | G4K Boykin Spaniels

Katie Eaton

Interview with Katie Eaton, Breeder of G4K Boykin Spaniels

  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. My name is Katie Eaton and I am from Franklin, Texas. My husband, Gary, and I own G4K Boykin Spaniels and we have been involved in Working and Sporting dogs since 1997. Gary and I own/operate a security company that utilizes canines for drug and bomb detection, and that is what led us down the path to finding the most amazing breed, “the Boykin.” Since we travel all over the country and work our dogs in extreme environments, we were looking for a very specific set of qualifications. Although most people in our industry are utilizing Labrador Retrievers and Belgian Malinois, we were looking for a smaller dog that still possessed all the drive for detection work and the temperament to go into any environment and work and be social. We fell in love with the Boykin, and the rest is history. Now we strive to produce Boykins that can compete in Conformation, Hunting, and other AKC performance events and can work for us as Detection Canines. We strongly believe in form follows function and weigh heavily that producing a dog with correct structure brings longevity. We only breed dogs that possess outstanding temperament, correct structure, and all the working drive that makes up a Boykin Spaniel.

2. We spend a lot of time with our pups and watch them as they mature. We watch to see how they carry themselves, how they look as they run around the yard. Are they balanced? We start evaluating drive as early as six weeks, with retrieving and general toy play. We stack them several times and take lots of video and photos to see which pups seem to possess all the qualities we are looking for to make the best all-around show dog. When we are looking for a detection prospect, we look for a puppy that goes straight to nose when they are seeking out their toy. When you throw your toy, some pups try to search with their eyes first, and some pups already trust their nose and will search with that first—and then their eyes. Both pups may easily still be trained as a Detection Dog; however, we will generally always choose the pup that goes straight to nose and the pup that trusts that the toy will be there. The pup that uses its eyes a lot of time will make a very nice retriever dog and will generally follow a line nicely.

3. The Boykin is a fairly new breed, so there is a limited gene pool. But, in the last few years, I have seen that the breed is really starting to tighten up and a lot of the problems in conformation that we saw just a few years ago are starting to phase out. I have heard from so many judges lately that our breed is really starting to come together.

4. As a preservation breeder, I really only breed dogs that meet all the criteria I stated above, and although I enjoy showing my dogs in Conformation, I do not weigh heavily on making any breeding choices on dogs that may win a lot of shows or a dog that doesn’t. Rather, we make choices based on our years of experience in working, showing, and breeding, and how we have interpreted the Breed Standard. We try to never be kennel blind and we are always researching and learning to try and get better with each breeding. I think judges are having to judge a lot of dogs, and a lot of different Groups, all at the same time and that can make for judges picking dogs that have an all-around structural soundness; however, they may lack “type” and that can be frustrating. But overall, I think judges are trying to make the best choice as they see it.

5. I think social media is good for the sport. We can share our wins easier and can keep up with the different shows and clusters. Exhibitors can keep up with clubs and can be in contact with the people running the shows instead of having to do everything through the mail or email. I have been able to connect with so many groups that help with show techniques or breeding information. Social media has allowed our sport to be able to stay connected with each other and create pages for building majors within our breed, which has the most dogs on the East Coast and in Texas. I think with anything, social media can be harsh, and sometimes people can be downright mean. Overall, the good outweighs the bad.

6. I think that probably the biggest challenges are the costs and keeping young people engaged in our sport or getting more young people involved. I think keeping the owners/breeders involved in showing their own dogs (judges choosing breeders/owners in Breed and Group, offering NOHS and Bred-By shows), and clubs trying to make things affordable will help exhibitors keep the costs down. And I think keeping a strong Juniors program and offering as many scholarships or incentives as we can would be the best way to keep kids involved.

7. I think AKC has done a great job at recognizing that without breeders and owners involved in the sport, there is no sport. They have done a good job at trying to keep us all involved.