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Laura Heidrich | Laurent Cocker Spaniels, Pointers & Irish Setters

Laura Heidrich

Interview with Laura Heidrich, Breeder of Laurent Cocker Spaniels, Pointers & Irish Setters

  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’m Laura Heidrich of Laurent Cocker Spaniels, Pointers, and Irish Setters. I have a 10-acre home/kennel/grooming shop in the country outside of Manhattan, Illinois. Cockers are my first breed and I’ve bred over 250 champions. I started in Cockers in 1988, Pointers in 1996, and Irish Setters in 1999.

2. For me, I still believe that dog shows are a proving ground for breeding stock. I try not to really start evaluating them until at least 6 weeks, usually more like 8-10 weeks. I stack them daily, watch them play in the front pasture on their own, and see who catches my eye. About that time, I meet up with my good friend and sometime co-breeder, Genea Jones, at a gas station partway between our homes, and stack and watch them walk on a lead. We call it the “Pet Parade.” It is good to evaluate them away from the comfort of home. I almost always keep the top two picks until their bites come in and try to make my final decision then.

3. I think that Cocker Spaniels are not as well-structured as they were in the past. We need to work on improving with every breeding, and that means knowing where each dog could be better. There are no perfect dogs, but we need to do a better job breeding to a stud dog that will ADD to our bitches, not just who wins the most or has the prettiest pictures. We need better front construction, better layback of shoulder, and the better reach that comes from these.

4. As a Preservation Breeder, I have been very successful in using frozen semen from the past, when there were many more good dogs to choose from. I think the sport has gotten more “commercial” in that it takes more money to campaign a dog than it used to in the past. If you do the National Owner-Handled Series, it’s a little less that way, but I personally show my dogs to prove them, not for the glitz and glory. Now, if I had more $$$$ it may have been a little different. I think we need more and better educated judges in the sport. I actually think that AKC puts too much emphasis on the procedural exams and not as much on the true hallmarks of each breed. The dog with the best overall type, movement, and soundness should be the winner. It shouldn’t be that hard. Judges should be mentored by BREEDERS, not handlers also. I think that’s important.

5. I think that social media is a good tool for meeting people, but I see too many people who put their mediocre dog’s picture on there and so many people make “nice” comments just to be nice. If they are truly nice examples of the breed, I will comment. If not, I usually scroll on by. So, my advice to the newer people in the breed is to get a mentor and get THEIR opinion. They will tell you the truth, as hard as that can be to listen to, so take their advice! That’s how you improve, not just get “likes.”

6. The biggest challenge for the dog show community is to remember that we all came to the show to prove our dogs, not to BEAT other dogs. It is a gentlemanly sport. Be civil, be NICE, and show your dogs!!! You get to take them home!

7. I think, in the past decade, AKC has tried to implement new rules to facilitate the championships, like majors for Reserves in large entries, majors for some Group placements if the numbers are high enough, and the NOHS dog show. I’m not sure that the whole Grand Champion title is really a great idea. Some people keep showing dogs that are not really happy to show, just to get the Grand or Bronze, Silver, Gold, etc. What I would like to see is a “Breeders Certification” where dogs can be evaluated by, say, five “Breeder Judges” with a minimum of 20 years and 50 champions. Their stamp of approval is worth more than a Grand, etc., which just means you kept on showing your dog. We need to breed better dogs, not breed to dogs just because they are big winners.