Interview with Linda Vinson, Breeder of Rockhill Dobermans
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Linda Vinson: I live in Southeast Minnesota. I have been in dogs all my adult life. I had bred Labrador Retrievers decades ago, but have been a Doberman Pinscher breeder for just four years.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Linda Vinson: My kennel name is Rockhill Dobermans. I currently keep six at home.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Linda Vinson: I am really just getting started. My current Top 20 special, “Iceman,” is a serious contender that I hope people will remember.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Linda Vinson: I am still developing my “line,” if you will. I am riding on the coattails of some very successful kennels like Foxfire, Cambria, and Lyndobe, to name a few.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Linda Vinson: I am a small hobby breeder. I do not currently have any independent buildings for my dogs. They all live in my home. Younger dogs are crated while the older ones have free run of the house. My whelping box is within my office so that I can more easily access my dam and litters, and regulate the temperature of the space. I use many of the Puppy Culture protocols in raising my litters. I live and sleep in that room for the first two weeks. Once puppies are older and weaning, I move them to an expanded space in my basement. My entire basement is 80 percent dog/puppy space. I have some kennels, mini kitchen, bathroom, and training space in my basement. Puppies are introduced to new sounds and textures daily/weekly.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Linda Vinson: I follow recommendations by Pat Hastings and do my main evaluations at 8 weeks, give or take 3 days. I do, however, start putting them on a table and looking at 5 weeks, just for curiosity. Watching puppies move and stop naturally is a big part and an ongoing process. I often pick my front runners at 5-6 weeks.
For Performance puppies, structural soundness is key and I do not put Conformation homes before Performance picks. The only difference in selecting Performance puppies is temperament. I watch and look for how outgoing they are. How confident they are around objects/sounds. The ones that have a stronger human connection make good Performance prospects.
Do I compete in Performance Events? In Parent Club Tests & Trials?
Linda Vinson: Yes, I started in Obedience and Rally. I still enjoy the Performance venue even though I spend less time doing it than I would prefer. I also volunteer for my parent club and local breed club.
Is “performance” part of my decision-making when it comes to breeding?
Linda Vinson: The all-around Doberman is my goal. If I have homes looking for Performance, it may influence who I use for a stud.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Linda Vinson: A conditioned Doberman should have good muscling. They should be of proper weight. I find good yard exercise on hilly areas to be excellent for general conditioning.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Linda Vinson: Dobermans have plenty of health-related issues that we battle. DCM of the heart is our biggest concern, but we have issues with thyroid, kidney/liver health, and cancer, like most breeds. VWD, hips, and elbows are less of an issue due to health testing of breeding stock and we hope to find some deeper answers with a new project launched at the University of Minnesota called The Disappearing Doberman Project. Due to some Dobes having coat issues and, of course, with heart issues, I may feed meat/fish or supplements for healthy coats as well as general heart health.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Linda Vinson: No. Of course, I myself know plenty, but the general public does not. The public is likely to go where puppies are “fast and easy,” which is the complete opposite of how it is finding a quality Doberman puppy from a preservation breeder. We need to be better at being accessible to the public. I think social media is helping in some ways with that.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Linda Vinson: Yes, Dobermans are great family dogs as long as they have strong leadership, directions, and boundaries. Outgoing people or families would do well with a Doberman. The breed requires a lot of mental and/or physical exercise to be fulfilled. They are not kennel dogs and are not suitable for people who leave their dogs alone a lot. People who are idle or who want a quiet couch potato dog should look elsewhere, unless they want a senior.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Linda Vinson: Many people are still scared of Dobermans, thinking they are aggressive because of how they look or the fact that they may bark. The best-kept secret is they are the most loyal and loving dogs. They are not the dog you see in the movies, out just guarding property… they would choose to be with you!
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Linda Vinson: Bad movement can be hidden by faster speed. Don’t be fooled. Great handlers do not automatically equate to great dogs.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Linda Vinson: Watch, listen, and learn. Do not be afraid to talk to established breeders/owners/handlers. I found Doberman people to be very serious and intimidating, but when you talk to them you find they are much like their dogs… hard-looking on the outside but very kind-hearted on the inside.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Working Dog?
Linda Vinson: One night, I was walking my girl “Kenzie” out behind a hotel where an event was going on. A bunch of loud, drunk people, who did not see us, came stomping fast in our direction and she went into work mode, end of the leash, barking to warn them. They stopped dead in their tracks and changed direction, and she went back to sniffing around like nothing happened. Honestly, I still get a tickle when I travel with my Dobermans and people react by crossing the street.