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Margaret Bissell | Keepsake Keeshonden

Margaret Bissell

Interview with Margaret Bissell, Breeder of Keepsake Keeshonden

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

Margaret Bissell: I live in Winchester, Virginia. I got my first Keeshond in 1995 to go to horse shows with me. She had her first litter in 2000.

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

Margaret Bissell: My first Keeshond was named Nightwind Keepsake Treasure. I picked Keepsake as my kennel name. I have “a bunch” of dogs.

Which have been my most influential sires and dams?

Margaret Bissell: I kept “Nikkee” from my first litter. We had many “firsts” together; my first home-bred puppy, first Champion, my first OTCH and MACH. She was the first Keeshond to earn CH OTCH MACH titles! Nikkee produced an amazing litter; most of the puppies went on to earn multiple Obedience and Agility titles. Nikkee was CH OTCH MACH2 Keepsake Moonlight Serenade UDX5 OM2 MXB2 MJB2.

Nikkee’s daughter, “Icey,” became the second CH OTCH MACH2 Keeshond. Icey was also the first OGM Keeshond. That’s 10 Obedience Master titles. I jokingly called that the “Oh My Gosh” title because, Oh My Gosh, that was A LOT of Obedience Trials. Oh My Gosh, that was A LOT of money spent. Oh My Gosh, that was A LOT of miles driven. And most of all, Oh My Gosh, what a thrill to have such a great partner to play the Obedience game with! Icey was CH OTCH MACH2 Keepsake Giving Me Chills UDX8 OGM

Icey’s son, “Frosty,” was my first male Keeshond. He came from a litter of ALL BOYS. I insisted for weeks that I was NOT keeping a boy, but he was too handsome not to keep! He finished his champion title at 10 months with four majors, two were from Specialties. Then Frosty and I did Agility and Obedience. He was the first intact male Keeshond to earn an OTCH. Frosty sired multiple litters that produced an array of Breed, Obedience, and Agility stars. After several of Frosty’s offspring had finished the CH titles, I was challenged with getting Frosty’s GCH title. I had taught him to heel with focused attention on me for Obedience. To show him in Breed again, I had to re-teach him to NOT look at me. Once he “got it,” he could switch back and forth between Breed and Obedience rings—on the same day. At least twice, he went High in Trial, High Combined, Best of Breed, and a Group Placement, all on the same day! Frosty was GCH CH OTCH Keepsake Ice On Fire UDX4 OM6 MX MXJ OF. All of my current dogs go back to Nikkee, Icey, and Frosty.

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

Margaret Bissell: I have a small horse farm. My dogs all live in the house with me. Puppies are raised in the house. I expose my puppies to all sorts of sights, sounds, and surfaces, so they are adaptable to anything new. I put various puppy-safe play things out there for them. Their first big adventure is to take a lap all the way around the house, following me and their mother. They get to meet the other grown-up dogs, my cats, and even the horses.

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

Margaret Bissell: I like to evaluate my puppies at about 9 weeks of age for show potential. Typically, Keeshond puppies will have the same proportions at 9 weeks as they will have when they are grown up. I tend to like the most outgoing, bold, naughty puppies for both Breed and Performance!

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

Margaret Bissell: Yes, there is a good bit of grooming to do to get a Keeshond ready for the Breed ring. I really dislike it when we have ring times of 8:00 AM for that reason! For training, I go to breed handling class almost every week.

For Performance event training, I am a member of Blue Ridge Dog Training Club. We have a nice facility and a nice selection of classes, from beginner puppy to
advanced competition.

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

Margaret Bissell: Keeshonden are one of the healthier breeds. They tend to live into their teens.

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

Margaret Bissell: Keeshonden are excellent family dogs. They love people and want to be with them. They are a medium-activity dog that can be running around the yard, going for a nice walk, or doing some other fun activity. Once they burn off some energy, they are happy to relax with you.

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

Margaret Bissell: I think a lot of people are intimidated by the coat. They think it would be too much work to take care of. They do shed, of course, but not as much as a Labrador or a Corgi! When a Keeshond has a correct coat, it is weather-resistant and doesn’t take a lot of care. I bathe and blow dry my dogs about once a month. The rest of the time, they run around the farm, dig holes outside, get rained on or snowed on, wrestle with each other, etc. Once dry, the dirt falls off. A quick brush a couple times a week will keep them looking nice between baths.

As a Preservation Breeder, can I share my thoughts on the sport today? How’s the judging these days? What do you think about the number of shows? With Keeshonden, judges need to remember that it’s NOT all about the hair. The judge needs to feel the structure of the dog that is under the coat. Some judges just seem to pick the one with the biggest hair, no matter how badly they move.

As for the number of shows, we have the same shows we have always had, but the number of Keeshonden showing has dropped off in our area. Points in the classes have been harder to find in the last year.

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

Margaret Bissell: I use social media to brag about the FUN things my dogs and I do! Some people do abuse the use of social media.

What are the biggest challenges facing the dog show community as a whole today and how can these be addressed? Dog show people are THE WORST for NOT cleaning up after their dogs! Many people just don’t seem to care. I have taken crates to ringside, gone in to show my dog, and when I’ve come back, someone has let their dog pee on my crate. Really?

What are some of the positive changes I’ve seen in the dog show community over the past decade? There is much more health testing going on now. Those people looking for companion dogs now know to ask about health testing. OFA makes results available to view on line. Genetic tests have become available and affordable. While none of the testing is a guarantee about health, it gives breeders a better idea of issues that may not otherwise be apparent.

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

Margaret Bissell: Don’t just pick the one with the biggest hair! Watch how the dog moves.

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

Margaret Bissell: Well, it’s hard to pick just ONE! I entered a seven-month-old bitch at three days of dog shows, with Specialties. We had big entries. There was a mix-up with her registration number. (The superintendent had added an extra “0.”) When I asked the superintendent about fixing it, I was told I would have to contact AKC after the show. Then the guy said, “Oh, she’s just a puppy, so you aren’t going to win anything that would need to be fixed anyway.” Oh, really? She went Winners Bitch all three days, earning 14 points and three majors! I had to go back to the guy who commented and purposely ask AGAIN what I needed to do to make sure her points were recorded correctly!

I had a Special entered that same weekend. I handed off my youngster to others to take back in for BOB. She was happy to go with anyone who had cookies, but when it came to the waiting part she got bored. When she got bored, she would flop on the ground, roll over, and point all four feet straight up in the air! Any time I looked over at her, there she was, upside down. Thank goodness the judges laughed at her too!