Interview with Lisa Leffingwell, Breeder of Liswyn Belgian Sheepdogs
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What is your breed? What is your kennel name? Do you have a website? How long have you been in dogs? How long have you been breeding dogs? Who are some of your best-known dogs?
Lisa Leffingwell: I’m Lisa Leffingwell and I live in Dallas, Texas. My kennel name is Liswyn Belgian Sheepdogs. I’ve been breeding for 35 years, owning for almost 50 years. I don’t have a website.
My best-known dogs are “Brinker” and “Meredith.” Multiple BIS BISS Group-Winning GCH Liswyn’s Kosmopolitan, HOF (Brinker) was a moderate, powerful mover, who took over a ring with his presence. CH Liswyn’s Firefly Of Geka UD, ROM (Meredith) was a beautiful, smart girl who was also a wonderful producer. I believe she is behind all the Liswyn dogs of today, last I looked. I had a lot of fun with both of them.
As a Breeder, can you share your thoughts on your breed today? Is breed type strong? Are there things to be concerned about? Are there any health-related issues? Have you worked with breeders overseas? Are pet homes typically available for your breed?
Lisa Leffingwell: Breed type is stronger than ever. The concerns are always health, fronts, and temperaments, which have improved. However, we do not want to regress, so it is always good to be mindful of it along with physical attributes. Sadly, I find that the best movers still aren’t the prettier ones in our breed. Breeders are not as eager to use these structurally sound dogs, as the emphasis is now on a more stylish type. I wish this dichotomy wasn’t as prevalent in the breed.
Sometimes when a breeder wakes up to realize movement is needed in their line, the dog they need is out of the breeding program for whatever reason. I have been guilty of this through the years. Also, being too dismissive of a dog after I see it on a bad day or before it is ready. I need to be more open-minded. We all strive for the perfect specimen that has it all. I hope I am not kennel blind. I can sometimes be more critical of my own dogs than they deserve.
Cancer, seizures, elbows, eyes, and hips challenges continue to be present. Other than cancer, I have found the other health issues to be extremely low in percentage. Hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, and gastric cancers seem to be the consistent cancers in the Liswyn Belgians. While dogs never live as long as we would prefer, I believe most breeders do their best in all areas and would like to increase the lifespan.
I have worked with breeders overseas in the past on a limited basis. And yes, it is harder to find a great performance/show home than a great companion home.
As an Exhibitor, can you comment on recent entries in your breed? Are majors available in your area? Does your breed often participate in Companion and Performance events? How can newcomers in your breed be encouraged to join the sport of dogs?
Lisa Leffingwell: I am fortunate that I live in an area where there are many Belgian Sheepdog fanciers who are also good friends and not just “dog friends.” So, we have big-entry weekends periodically and more so than in other parts of the country. We also travel to large specialties with large entries; a wonderful opportunity to see dogs in other parts of the country, see good friends, and meet new exhibitors. I hope that new exhibitors find our established breeders to be friendly, encouraging, and a positive resource.
Our breed does compete in both companion and performance events, although most people have time challenges (family, work, and other life commitments) which impact the time for performance venues. I miss spending time with my dogs in the performance venues for these reasons.
Newcomers can be encouraged by positive inclusion, encouragement, and experiences.
What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole and how can we address them? And finally, what are some of the positive changes you’ve seen in your breed and in the dog show community as a whole over the past decade?
Lisa Leffingwell: The biggest challenge is the rhetoric against purebred dogs and breeders; to promote adoption and rescue instead. The money spent by the rescue and adoption lobby is great in proportion to the money being spent on education and the promulgation of information by the purebred fanciers to fight the imbalance. Finding venues is a challenge, as is being respectful of persons, property, and dogs while at the shows. And the great effort, time, and expense to become an AKC judge is a challenge; it is quite a challenge/prohibitive to many who have expertise and vision to share.
The breed finally seems to be getting more recognition in the Group rings, and more performance exhibitors are getting their feet wet in herding arenas, excelling in this venue. In the dog show community as a whole over the past decade, the number of new judges seems to be increasing—rather than diminishing. Also, dogs in the performance venues seem to be happier and there are more team performances, a result of better training techniques and most handlers having respect for their dog.