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Lynn Miller | Kofuku Tibetan Spaniels

Lynn Miller Kofuku Tibetan Spaniels

Interview with Lynn Miller, Breeder of Kofuku Tibetian Spaniels

Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?

Lynn Miller: I’m a Jersey Girl who has lived in Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin, and now Georgia. I started in dogs in 1982 when my Mom was concerned I was spending too much time with my Standardbred Pacers, so she told me she would buy me a Toy show dog. Well, I went to a puppy fun match in New Jersey and fell in love with an Akita puppy. I told Mom that I found a great breed and that the puppy looked like a teddy bear—I just forgot to mention that they grow into the size of a small bear. I bred my first Akita when she was just about two years old and learned about breeding and showing from a renowned Akita breeder in Northern New Jersey.Around 1987, I met Jeanne Holesapple, a Tibetan Spaniel breeder who had brought several of her dogs to NJ for an AKC filming of the Breed Standard. Well, the little girl she was showing me stood on her hind legs looking to be picked up, and when I did, she proceeded to snuggle into my neck and held on. My concern was how she would get along with the Akitas, so I said I would meet back with my house Akita, “Arashi,” the next day to see how it went. Well, it was best friends at first sight between “Flash” and Arashi, so Tibbies joined my Akitas and my love of showing and breeding grew. I lost my last Akita several years ago but continue showing and breeding my Tibetan Spaniels. The showing is now with the help of Angela Chase who is a great partner in my showing and breeding program.

What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?

Lynn Miller: My kennel name stemmed from my time with Pacing race horses. The most prolific stallion of that time was Most Happy Fella, so I wanted to use the name Most Happy—but in Japanese—so the name I took was Kofuku (pronounced KO-foo-koo). It later grew to Kofuku Akitas and Tibbies too. Currently I just use Kofuku Tibs.I have six house Tibbies and three more traveling and showing with Angela. “Maverick,” our Special, ended 2023 as the No. 2 Tibetan in his first year of showing. The two class Tibbies are “Olaf” and “Puzzle” who just went Winners Dog and Bitch at the 2023 National Specialty. Olaf also went Best of Winners and Best Bred-By at the Regional Specialty in Orlando the day before. Their Mom, “Magic,” just had her second litter on Jan 29, 2024 with five boys and one bitch. So things are a little hectic on the home front, but very happy.

Which have been my most influential sires and dams?

Lynn Miller: I’m actually a pretty low-key breeder in that I only breed when I have something that I feel will help to promote the breed and the Standard. My girls are generally used infrequently, but all I’ve used, including some co-ownerships, have at least been eligible for ROM and ROMX status. Some standouts in breeding have included “Johnny,” GCHS Kofuku Tamara Failte Gu Clann Domhnall, ROMX and GCHB Kofuku Adds A Sparkle At Gembox Too, ROMX. I have great hopes for my current girl in the breeding box, GCH Kofuku Chatawa Fairy Tail Magic, as she has three strong contenders with her breeding to Opie, GCHS Kofuku Gembox Dream Date, and her current pups out of the frozen semen breeding to “Marco.”

Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?

Lynn Miller: I have a home on 10 acres in North Georgia. My pups are born in my home and the whelping pen is right next to my bed. They are raised very hands-on and we are using the Puppy Culture guidelines to help give us well-rounded and secure pups. I have a Bernese Mountain Dog, “Sophie,” who, while she is convinced she’s a Tibetan Spaniel, is great with all the Tibbies and is wonderful with the puppies. This also gives all the puppies exposure to a big dog. Angela will take the show pups with her on the road for more experiences once they are old enough.

What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? Performance puppies?

Lynn Miller: When selecting pups for show, I look for type, attitude, and a kind of gut instinct. I will also allow pups to go to the “right” homes over a possible show career, as the pup always comes first. Angela and others in the Tibbie community have also been very supportive in helping with “standout” pups. Performance pups are more of a challenge in the Tibbie breed, but you can see potential in how they respond to activities being introduced. Patience is the greatest attribute of a Tibbie breeder. The breed has a serious “ugly” stage that can crop up and you have to wait it out to see how they mature. I kept telling my current special the story of the Ugly Duckling turning into a beautiful swan. Thank the Lord he not only listened but has outdone all expectations. There are certain aspects of the breed that need to be prioritized: head, balance, topline, tail set, feet, and coat. So, a potential pup that is too long, or otherwise unbalanced, can end up in a pet home.

Does my breed require any special preparation for competing in Conformance? In Performance Events?

Lynn Miller: The breed needs a lot of socialization and handling along with a lot of ring exposure to get ready for showing—even then some are going to be very particular on who gets to handle and show them. You are pretty lucky when you have a Tibetan Spaniel that can be “handed off” for being shown in the ring. Performance is a challenge, as they all feel the world revolves around them. So, you need to work as though it’s all about them to get them to want to follow your lead.

In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?

Lynn Miller: Overall, the Tibetan Spaniel is a hardy little dog that is a wash-and-go breed. The balance calls for a male with a lion mane, with a head small in proportion to the body, and an even topline with a tail that sits on the back or breaks the plane of the back. The feet are trademarks for the breed and are HARE feet, meaning, like a rabbit foot. There is generally hair that comes from between the toes and forms a “slipper” foot. That hair should not be trimmed but can break if the dog is kept on concrete or rocks. The eyes are dark and almond-shaped. A stressed Tibbie can give you a more rounded eye look until they relax. The coat is a double coat with a silky undercoat and a more textured overcoat. Any color is acceptable. They have a slightly bowed front. In the heat, the Tibetan Spaniel may drop its tail when at rest but should always bring it up when moving. Again, nerves can cause the dog to drop its tail. While the ratio of a male is, in percentage, 9 in height to give you 10 in length, the female is a little longer with a ratio of 9 in height to 11 in length. The female also has a shawl and not the full mane of the male. Otherwise, she is the same in features. The Tibetan Spaniel should never be long and low. We did have a problem with toplines for a while, but that appears to be correcting itself.

Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?

Lynn Miller: The Tibetan Spaniel is a long-lived, healthy family dog. They love to sit on the back of furniture to look out windows or at the patio door to see what’s going on. Because of their size, they should not be left alone with a larger dog that could (intentionally or not) injure the smaller dog. For the same reason, “untrained” small children should not be allowed to manhandle the pups. They are wonderful with older owners, but a will or agreement should be used to make preparations for a dog that cannot be kept by the owner because of an accident or injury to the owner. Tibbies need a fenced-in yard as they will likely treat a recall command as optional for a response.

What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?

Lynn Miller: The Tibetan can be aloof with strangers and will not come to just anyone. Some are horrible escape artists and really need controls in place so they don’t head off on an unwanted walkabout. They have gotten more vocal about their likes and dislikes, and patience is needed to correct the issue.

As a Preservation Breeder, can I share my thoughts on the sport today? How’s the judging these days? What do I think about the number of shows?

Lynn Miller: I love the sport of showing and doing performance work with dogs. It’s a great family sport and even great for an individual. People need to be involved with their national and regional breed and all-breed clubs to ensure the preservation of breeds and the sport. There are, unfortunately, a number of people who are trying to destroy the sport and dog ownership for not only pet owners but breeders as well. Legislation, well-intentioned, needs to be looked at closely so that it does not end up painting people into over-prohibitive environments, preventing them from working with their dogs. Recently, counties in Georgia have called for the spaying and neutering of all dogs, but thankfully, with the support of AKC and local clubs, we have been able to battle back for maintaining some of our rights. But it is a very real issue. As far as judging of the breed, some are better than others and judges need to work with breeders for mentoring and to address any questions they may have about aspects of the Breed Standard. Breeders need to be showing their “best” in the ring so they don’t confuse judges with what we are looking for in our Standard. A huge item to understand is that the Tibetan Spaniel is a natural breed and should never be scissored, with the only thing being permissible is to take coat off the very bottom of the feet to expose the pads—the hair between the toes in the front of the paw should be left alone. It should be noted that Finnish and Swedish imports have been a wonderful addition to American breeding programs.

In my opinion, is social media good for the sport? Is it harmful?

Lynn Miller: I personally stay out of chat rooms, but showing wins and accomplishments is good for supporting the breed and the sport.

What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole today and how can these be addressed?

Lynn Miller: The health of our dogs is always a primary concern when showing our dogs. New strains of viruses always present a challenge and it is imperative that anyone with an animal that may be ill should stay away from the show grounds. Everyone is generally very good in their consideration of others and it is important that the clubs help those who may forget. Judges need to be qualified for the breeds they are evaluating, so it is always helpful when clubs take the time to offer judges breed seminars on breeds that have made changes to their Standard or are not as familiar to judges in a particular area. Clubs also need human resources to meet the needs of running the show, and no one is getting any younger. It is imperative that clubs work to attract more youthful club members and work at piquing the interest of younger club members and future handlers and performers. The experience of established club members is essential in mentoring the future of our sport. Finally, attracting the public to any event helps to promote a better understanding of working with your dog and participation in competitive events. Included in the public should be local veterinary students, so they are given a positive exposure to the events and to purebred dog breeders.

What are some of the positive changes I’ve seen in my profession and in the dog show community over the past decade?

Lynn Miller: The advent of health testing is a critical development and ongoing practice for breeders. The information gained from a cheek swab is invaluable in knowing what the genetics of your dog can add to (or needs to be addressed in) a breeding program. The DNA portion of the information is still in need of refinement. Other health tests as dictated by the national clubs help breeders to move forward in not only meeting standards but also in providing healthy dogs that can perform the duties for which they are bred. Having clubs establish databases as a resource, and tools for common issues for dogs and specific breeds, will go a long way in helping the breeding of long-lived and
healthy animals.

If I could share one suggestion with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them about my breed?

Lynn Miller: As mentioned earlier, the Tibetan Spaniel is a natural breed and should never look or be scissored. The trademark characteristics of the breed include a head that is small in proportion to the body, hare (rabbit-like) feet, and an even topline with a tail that sits on or breaks the plain of the back. They have a slightly bowed front and should have a clean rear movement. The male is slightly longer than he is tall and the female is only slightly longer than the male; proportionally 9 height to 10 length on the male and 9 to 11 on the female. (Note that these are not inches but proportional balances.)

For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Non-Sporting Dog?

Lynn Miller: In the performance ring, the Tibetan Spaniel can be a joy to watch as the dogs rule their owners and take time to visit with others instead of staying on point. I have seen recalls where the Tibbie takes time to visit someone’s lap before finishing the recall to their owner.

Where do you live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?

Lynn Miller: My family and I currently live in a small town in Connecticut, just about 10 miles from the town that my husband and I grew up in.