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Laura Reeves | The Scotia Kennel German Wirehaired Pointers

Laura Reeves

Interview with Laura Reeves, Breeder of  The Scotia Kennel German Wirehaired Pointers

  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 in beautiful Southern Oregon. I started in purebred dogs with my family in the late 1970s. The first puppies whelped in our house were Field Trial Labs, followed by Clumber Spaniels and German Wirehaired Pointers. My parents were both very active in Clumber Spaniels until their passing. My father was an avid hunter and judged both Retriever and Spaniel Hunt Tests. I spent an inordinate amount of my childhood hunting with or training bird dogs. My after school “job” when I was in high school was teaching blind retrieves to the Labs, teaching the Clumbers how to swim and the Wirehairs to retrieve to hand. I continued breeding GWP under The Scotia Kennel banner starting in 1996. I have served the GWPCA as President, Vice President, Judges Education Coordinator, National Events Coordinator, AKC Gazette Columnist, newsletter editor, and more. I was a professional handler for 25 years, retiring as a Zone Rep for PHA. In 2016, I started as host of the Pure Dog Talk podcast. In 2018, I retired from handling and embarked on the path to judging. I’m currently approved for two-thirds of the Sporting Group, along with a few Hound, Working, Toy, and Terrier breeds.

2. In my breed, and in my breeding program particularly, “show” and “performance” are often the same puppy. And they share the same attributes of confidence, boldness in and out of the litter, desire to explore independently along with a nearly equal desire to interact with humans as well as smoothly trotting rather than galloping everywhere (which indicates balanced structure to me). The “show” prospects are then selected from that group by stacking and photographing them to identify the structural components that are difficult to isolate in the perpetual motion chaos that is Wirehair puppies. Coat quality, proper and balanced angles, proportion, substance, head and eye shape and color are all part of the final decision as to which puppies fit the vision I have for the breed. Every breeding is planned in essence several steps ahead, and each planned breeding is designed to improve or strengthen a given virtue. The final decision is always based on “keep the puppy you did the breeding to get.”

3. I was honored to judge the 2023 GWPCA National Specialty in October. I was very pleased with the dogs I found there. Overall, the dogs shown to me exhibited correct coats, per the Breed Standard, better than average front assemblies, primarily solid temperaments, and mostly adequate movement. The dogs I awarded excelled in these virtues. I would strongly encourage judges, and frankly, breeders, to review the Standard as regards coat. This is not a terrier breed that should be “trimmed into Standard.” The GWP Standard is VERY specific and a few of the details are incredibly important to understanding the “correct” coat. In the following quotes from the Standard, the emphasis is mine and represents the items that are very difficult to acquire and maintain, and therefore, should be highly rewarded.

  1. Coat: The functional wiry coat is the breed’s most distinctive feature. A dog must have a correct coat to be of correct type.
  2. The distinctive outer coat is straight, harsh, wiry and flat lying, and is from one to two inches in length. The outer coat is long enough to protect against the punishment of rough cover, but not so long as to hide the outline of the dog.
  3. On the skull the coat is naturally short and close fitting.
  4. Coats may be neatly groomed to present a dog natural in appearance. Extreme
    and excessive grooming to present a dog artificial in appearance should be
    severely penalized.

Taken together, the item that defines the “essence of the breed” is the coat. It is the German WIREhaired Pointer. Similar breed characters defined in the name include the SOFT Coated WHEATEN Terrier. The Kerry BLUE Terrier. The West Highland WHITE Terrier. Prohibitions on excessive trimming in other breeds are respected. I would humbly request that mine be no different. Too often in my breed, one that is still largely used as a versatile hunting dog by the VAST majority of its enthusiasts, the most important part of the breed is ignored and the WORST traits are rewarded in the ring. Think about a dog with its leg, chest, and belly hair blowing in the wind, where skin is visible inside the back legs and at the forechest, barging through blackberry brambles, thorns, sticks, and swamps after game. For that is primarily their job to this day. The “show dog-ification” of my breed pains me. These dogs were created to do all the jobs. They represent a people, a place, and a time in history in which the uber dog, the dog that could retrieve on land and in water, track wounded game, hunt fur and feather, dispatch small predators up to and including a fox, and guard hearth and home, was the only dog the average “joe” could own. We owe it to those creators and the people who, today, use these dogs for the same jobs for the same reasons, to not accept the fluffy, flowing tresses of a “show dog” on what is, rightly, a serious, versatile, hunting dog.

4. The “show dog scene” today is not what it once was. On the other hand, the only thing that remains the same is that “nothing” remains the same… I believe our sport would benefit from fewer dog shows, larger shows that have the budget to hire breed specialists, exhibitors who are respectful of our venues and one another, breeders who are willing to pass on their breeding programs as they age out, and mentees who are willing to gratefully accept the largesse this entails.

5. Social media has irrevocably changed the sport as it has all of society. Like any tool, in the right hands it is a tremendous asset. In the wrong hands it is deadly. Bottom line is this: If you wouldn’t walk up to a random stranger and scream in their face whatever it is you want to type… don’t do it. Following that simple rule would reduce the harm inflicted by 100 percent.

6. The challenges are vast and multifaceted, both from within and without. There are not enough words allotted me to solve these problems in this brief review. My simple recommendations are these: Be kind. Period. Be respectful. Period. Be thoughtful. Period. Be honest. Pay forward the trust you are given. It is ALL about the dogs. In every decision, make the one that puts the dog first.

7. It is perhaps not a popular opinion, but I find that NOHS has, in MANY instances, raised the bar for the owner-handler enthusiast. I judge a lot of NOHS Groups. It is not uncommon for the quality to be as good as, or even better than, what can be found in the regular variety Groups. Not as well-presented, sometimes, but refer to the last point above. It is ALL about the dogs. We can all learn to see a quality dog through less than spectacular handling. And, conversely, to see a less than quality dog through spectacular handling.