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BREEDER INTERVIEW BY ALLAN REZNIK

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Scandinavian subculture consists of good-hearted, honest, direct people, who tend to keep an emotional distance.

Did you come from a doggy family? If not, how did the interest in breeding and showing purebred dogs begin? I was the oldest of three children, and we did have a Dachshund (Standard Smooth) as a family pet, but mine was not at all a show-doggy family. After graduating from college I ended up in Aspen, Colorado, for five or six years, and it was there that I first saw an Irish Wolfhound, which captured my attention immediately. I started reading whatever I could find about purebred dogs. I acquired a pet Irish Wolfhound puppy in Aspen. I heard about and went to a dog show in Denver, and there was an entry of Scottish Deerhounds at that show. I had not been interested in Deerhounds at that point, but seeing them in the flesh, well, it was love at first sight! So light on their feet, so elegant and graceful—I was captivated. I remained interested in owning both breeds for a time, and acquired a show prospect Irish Wolfhound puppy from another state. Very sadly, that puppy came down with distemper within a couple weeks of arrival, and ultimately died. I still love this breed, but have never owned another after those two. I got my first Deerhound from Frieda and Paul Pilat (Shanid Kennels in Cali – fornia) in 1972. He was Reserve at his first show, Winners Dog at his second show, and took a major (with combined sexes—how many people remember that?) and a Group 4th at his third show. It is safe to say that did nothing to discourage my interest in shows. I was absolutely determined to breed, from the start. I soon had a bitch from Rusty Kingery in Washington, then another bitch from the Pilats. There was also a beautiful bitch named Ch. Shanid’s Germaine G in Colorado, owned by a Saluki man who didn’t plan to breed her. He agreed to allow me to lease her for a litter, and she produced my first litter in 1976. By this time I was living near Rochester, New York. Every Deerhound I have today descends from that first litter. I have bred a total of 29 litters as of 2019, spanning 43 years.

Who were your mentors in the sport? Please elaborate on their influence. I never really had a mentor, in terms of an individual who had been in my breed longer than I, and who provided advice and education. I had a lot of peers, and I think we learned from each other. There was a lot of regular mail correspondence between us. This was, of course, long before the Inter – net and cell phones! Today it is a wonder to remember waiting for the AKC Gazette to come, with show results that were two months old, but were news to the reader! I know we all read ravenously in those days, and lived for the dog magazines—the photos and articles were fuel for the fire that burned within me. I’d have to say printed material—books and magazines—brought the thoughts and wisdom of so many people to me, and those people were my true men – tors. Many of them were in other breeds.

The Lehigh Deerhounds are widely known, highly successful and well respected. What breeding philosophies do you adhere to? This is a topic that is still evolving for me, after 40-plus years. I think about breed – ing ideas constantly. I don’t have any rules about what per – centage of coefficient of inbreeding I must have or cannot have, or any particular for – mulas for success based on pedigrees. Early on I bred much more closely related dogs than I do these days. I found it easier to get excellent conformation with tight linebreed – ing. However, in my breed, with a very lim – ited gene pool and lots of skeletons in the closet, it also seemed to result in bringing out health problems, which I didn’t realize for quite a while. In all fairness, I have also had quite a few weird health and genetic problems from complete outcrosses! Mine is a very difficult breed to work with because of the small population. In modern times the breed has devel – oped different sub-populations in differ – ent parts of the world, and this can be very useful—I don’t think we could find dogs that were barely related for, say, ten gen – erations back when I got started, and this is possible now. We also now can use frozen semen (which in my experience, and in my breed, doesn’t work as often as we’d like) and chilled semen, with excellent methods of artificial insemination—technology that we didn’t have even 30 years ago. I have been able to incorporate current dogs from Great Britain into my plans in the last ten years or so, bringing in very unrelated pedi – grees. At this writing I am thinking about doing a rather close breeding once again, using two very outcrossed parents.

I breed using the fault-offset approach— that is, I look for a mate that excels in areas where I feel my bitch could be improved, and whose shortcomings are in areas where my bitch is strong. I consider three areas of great importance in breeding: conforma – tion, temperament and health. Ideally, I want all shortcomings, or concerns, in all areas to be offset in the mate. However, it is virtually impossible to find a dog who answers in every area, and compromises are inevitable. We can all list particu – lar qualities in which we are not willing to compromise. There are faults in each area that I cannot live with, and virtues that are very important to me. That doesn’t mean I won’t use a dog who is deficient in one (or more) of those areas, however. If the dog (and ideally, his close family) is strong where I want to improve my bitch, and vice versa, I will do that kind of combination—using a dog who has a fault that I couldn’t person – ally live with. It is a compromise for me to combine dogs with the same shortcoming, but again, in my breed, it is very rare to find a dog who appears to complement a given bitch in all areas of conformation, never mind going on to offset traits of tempera – ment and concerns of health. It’s very com – plicated, and occupies a huge portion of my mind and thoughts. And the more I know, the more complicated it becomes—I always feel I am stepping through a minefield. (This is all fodder for a book, not an article!) I am fortunate to have Pam Smithson as my friend and co-breeder. It is helpful to bounce ideas off her and discuss these things with her, as I also do with a few other valued Deerhound friends.

How many dogs do you currently house? Tell us about your facilities and how the dogs are maintained. I currently have only six dogs—I have lost five veterans in the past year. I live in the country, on a dirt road with a crop field across the street. The dogs are all house pets, to a greater or lesser degree. I have no kennels. One room of the house is “the dog room,” and it is separated into two sections, each of which has dog-door access to a sepa – rate fenced outdoor area. I keep males and youngsters in that room much of the time. The dogs in this room are, of course, given house privileges as well, unless there is a bitch in season in the house. Adult bitches live in the house full time. They are turned out with the boys, in different combina – tions, for exercise in the largest fenced area. I have a separate “puppy yard” where litters grow up from a month or so of age, until they start going off to new homes, or gradu – ate to youngster status in my own pack.

Who were/are some of your most significant Deerhounds, both in the whelping box and in the show ring? My dogs of significance would have to be headed by the seven different hounds who have won the SDCA National Special – ty, as well as my four all-breed BIS winners. Ch. Lehigh Keitha was my first National winner, in 1986, followed the next year by Jaraluv’s Freya of Lehigh, who won from the classes. She was my stud fee puppy from an exceptional litter bred by Ray and Jana Brinlee. In 1988 the National went to my veteran, Ch. Lehigh Halona. Ch. Lehigh Noreen (a daughter of Freya) won in 1991, and followed it up with my first-ever all- breed BIS a few weeks later. In 1997 Ch. Lehigh Urquhart (a son of Noreen) won the National with the largest-ever entry of over 200 Deerhounds. After a hiatus from the top spot, GCh. Lehigh-Darkwynd Enella won in 2011, followed by her litter brother, GCh. Lehigh Ennis Carmichael, winning in 2012. Ennis won again in 2013! Ennis and Enella each won an all- breed BIS as well. My hounds have also taken every other major award at the national multiple times. Certainly one of my best-ever conformation hounds was GCh. Lehigh-Dark – wynd Caragh, winner of four all-breed BIS. Caragh came close a couple times but never won the National, though she was a multiple regional specialty winner. I must also mention her regional specialty- and Group-winning daughter, GCh. Lehigh-Darkwynd Flora. I am very proud to say all these Deerhounds were exclusively owner-handled, by me or by my husband, Grant Winchell. The Lehigh Deerhounds have also been very well represented in Sweden. Ray Lindholm has had three dogs from me over the years: Ch. Lehigh Renn, Ch. Lehigh Fortune at Champhurst, and Ch. Lehigh Impresario For Champhurst. All three of them were breed show (specialty) winners and all-breed BIS winners. Most recently Impresario rose to No.3 all breeds in Sweden in 2018. Each of these dogs also contributed well as sires to the breed in Sweden. As producers, a top sire back in the 1970s and ‘80s was Ch. Lehigh Hollister. Ch. Lehigh Kincaid followed in the ‘80s and produced some important hounds. Ch. Lehigh Ross, a son of Noreen, sired very well in the ‘90s, as did his son, Ch. Lehigh Urquhart. In the early 2000s Ch. Lehigh Yuill had an impact, as did Laura Studer’s GCh. Lehigh Darrowby and GCh. Lehigh Eilig of Dunsmuir in the 20-teens. More recently, Ch. Lehigh Glendon has produced extremely well. Most of my dams have produced some very good offspring, though most of them had only one litter. Caragh produced wonderful hounds in two litters, and I consider her to be my top dam. GCh. Lehigh-Darkwynd Hallie also produced an exceptional litter in 2016.

Please comment positively on your breed’s current condition and what trends might bear watching. I feel it is not difficult to currently find Deerhounds that excel in bone and substance, with the desired combination of strength and elegance. Good, hard coats are not rare, though correct coat length is somewhat elusive. The typical soft expression is seen more often than not. Toplines vary, but the well-arched loin is still not hard to find. One laudable thing about Deerhounds today is that they are not greatly different in overall type and look from those of 100 years ago. How many breeds can that be said about?

The sport has changed greatly since you first began participating. What are your thoughts on the state of the fancy and the declining number of breeders? How do we encourage newcomers to join us and remain in the sport? The huge question about the change in the dog fancy is the cause of tremen – dous concern among all thinking veteran breeders and fanciers. I wish I knew what it would take to get the youngest generation in our sport as interested in breeding dogs as was common when I was among the youngest generation. I think things today are more virtual and less literal. The Internet has been a big influence in that direction. Kids grow up playing video games more than real, physical games. This transfers over into occupations and interests. Many people work, and play, online. On the Internet everything is instant, and if you are clever, you can make very rewarding things happen from behind the scenes in cyberspace. In contrast, things don’t happen in an instant in breeding dogs. In addition to the mental compo – nent, it is real-world hands-on labor-intensive, and time consuming. Working with living beings adds an enormous dimension. I hope and believe there are more good and seri – ous breeders among the younger population in other countries, and I hope we see an upsurge in this interest among younger Americans. There are some wonder – ful young handlers, and hopefully their interest in the sport will develop into the passion for breeding that was not uncommon decades ago.

Where do you see your breeding program in the next decade or two? I do not have decades of breeding ahead of me, at my age. I am not ready to throw out the whelping box yet, however. I hope to be able to share some excellent puppies with younger breeders from what litters I have coming. I plan to continue to focus on dogs I know intimately, weaving in dogs from other good families.

Finally, tell us a little about Paula outside of dogs… your profession, your hobbies. My life outside of dogs is not complex—dogs have been my main focus for all of my adult life. I have worked for several different dog publications over the years. I married a dog person, and I have no children. I treasure my friends and family. I love to read, and I love to shop, though neither of those are hobbies. I enjoy travel and hope to do a bit more of that—maybe even a bit that isn’t centered on the dog world. I love my life in dogs, with its many rewards. I have great friends, I have living works of art that are also loving companions, and I have many times enjoyed the thrills of showing dogs. The satisfaction gained from a job well done, in the face of so many potential complications, is immense. All of it has made for a rich and satisfying life

  • Allan Reznik

    Although Allan Reznik has worn many hats in the dog show world over the past 50 years, he is probably best known as an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. He was the Editor-in-Chief ofDogs in Canada, Dog World, Dog FancyandDogs in Reviewmagazines. All four publications received national honors from the Dog Writers Association of America while under his stewardship.Reznik appears regularly on national TV and radio to discuss the dog show sport as well as all aspects of responsible animal ownership.He has bred and shown champion Afghan Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Tibetan Spaniels. He is currently an approved AKC judge of all three breeds, as well as a provisional/permit judge of 11 additional breeds.

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