Interview with Marissa Hendrix, Breeder of Arkgold Golden Retrievers
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Marissa Hendrix: Our home is in Dardanelle, Arkansas. I have been a breeder of Golden Retrievers for 13 years and an AKC Bronze Breeder of Merit. We are so grateful to the amazing breeders who have shared their great pedigrees and knowledge with us. We really love our professional handlers and trainers who believe in our dogs. I have served as one of the founding members and president of the Natural State Golden Retriever Club, which is the first AKC licensed, GRCA affiliated Golden Retriever Club in Arkansas.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Marissa Hendrix: My kennel name is Arkgold. We have 11 adult dogs, which keeps us plenty busy along with our eight-year-old daughter. Thankfully, my husband has a great job so I get to stay at home full-time, living this “dog life.” It is a ton of work every single day to raise Golden Retrievers, to select along the way the best in temperament, structure, and health. We have Conformation lines and Field lines as well as offshore pedigrees that we are working with towards our goals.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Marissa Hendrix: I am very proud of the teamwork and dream behind GCHB Arkgold Trademark Got My Name In Lights DN SDHF (Boujie) who was in the breed’s Top 20 in both Breed and All-Breed points and in Show Dog Hall of Fame, among other great achievements, all because of the passion of her owners, Marlo and Claudie Grayson, and the dedication of her handler, Rebecca Heimann. Boujie’s sire is “Merit,” who is a great dog bred by Beth Johnson.
BOSS CH Arkgold Eeveelution CD DS CGC TKN (Eevee) was shown exclusively owner-handled to her AKC championship! Her wins were big ones too! Eevee is owned by Maegan and Bryceson Nunley who also have great teamwork in Obedience. Eevee’s sire is “Berkley,” owned by David Loos and bred by Marianne Miller.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
GCH Trademark’s Laughing On The Inside With Arkgold CA (Chuckles), bred by Theresa Zeise and Beth Johnson, has had some puppies I am very proud to have watched grow. Chuckles was handled by professional Carrie Owens who has helped to teach, inspire, and guide me in the sport.
Another great dam is Amica She Gives Me Butterflies CCA (Butter), bred by Mia Neiman. Although never finished, Butter has produced some amazing puppies, including MBISS GCH Arkgold Amica the Missing Piece CCA (Puzzle), owned by Maura Roxby and Courtney Roxby. Puzzle is sired by BIS BISS GCHB GoldRox SunnyDreams Fire Starter MBISS SDHF OS (Arson). She is currently ranked No. 6 in Breed Points and is being presented by Carrie Owens and Madeline Buehler.
Brassfire’s Dashing Darling @ Arkgold SH JH WC CCA (Dash), bred by Chris Braswell, is a very fun, athletic dog. We are excited for her youngsters in Hunt Tests and Derby work. Dash has also produced a number of working Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Marissa Hendrix: My husband has given me a custom kennel/training space in addition to a great house tailored to our dogs. We moved during COVID to a home with 20 acres, and the first thing we started to do was fence it all in and build a technical pond for our dogs. We also have a pool for them. My entire day, I am here with my dogs in an amazing space made just for them.
Our puppies are whelped in our home. I sleep beside the whelping box for weeks as they grow. Every week they reach different milestones in their development and we do different things like early neurological stimulation. They have activity gyms that clang as we feed them and we play storm sounds for them, for example, to desensitize them to new things. We have a great space for them to go explore outside as well. Once they are old enough, they are microchipped and evaluated on their structure and movement in addition to doing a Volhard temperament test on them.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies? Field Puppies?
Marissa Hendrix: For Show Puppies, we analyze their movement and structure as they change and mature. We feel the puppies’ structure and evaluate the pieces based on how close they measure up to the Breed Standard. Then we watch them gait… again and again… until decisions are made.
Selecting Performance Puppies is more about drive, intelligence, and biddability. Selecting for Field is centered around the natural marking ability, prey drive, confidence, scent/tracking ability, and instinctual love of the retrieval game. I think, with all puppies, we watch them grow, then guess, then second guess, and then obsess to a point of finally making a decision.
Do I compete in Companion Events? Performance Events?
Marissa Hendrix: My dogs really enjoy Companion Events like Dock Diving and Fast CAT. In Performance Events, we have enjoyed Hunt Tests and Lure Coursing Ability tests as well. Several puppies that we have bred compete in Performance Sports like Obedience, Rally, and Agility.
Are Field Trials or parent club Hunt Tests important to me?
Marissa Hendrix: Golden Retrievers have a history and purpose founded on being a hunting dog. Preserving these characteristics and having events to be able to test and challenge these talents in our Golden Retrievers is paramount.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Marissa Hendrix: Golden Retrievers are to be shown in hard, working condition. Our breed should have the fitness to be worked a day in the field. You should be able to feel good muscle tone as you are going over the dog. Our dogs enjoy running, retrieving, and swimming for conditioning.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed?
Marissa Hendrix: What is great about purebred dogs is that the parent clubs work very hard to set guidelines as to what we need to test for to make each generation the healthiest possible. These generations of health screenings allow predictability in pedigrees and guide the future of health in our dogs. OFA reporting is important as well as incorporating DNA testing into breeding decisions.
Being a retriever, many studies through the Golden Retriever Foundation, the Morris Animal Foundation, and projects like Shine On Study are paving the way for the future of cancer detection, prevention, and treatment for our breed. These research efforts will be able to not only benefit our Golden Retrievers and their health, but also reveal important connections to carcinogens to help humans too.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Marissa Hendrix: The Golden Retriever breed has outstanding preservation breeders and even family generations of them dedicating their life’s work to their dogs. However, this is a very popular dog breed, so preservation breeders are in the minority. Therefore, the more outreach we can do to educate and inspire others to learn about the Breed Standard and try Field Events with their dogs, the better.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Marissa Hendrix: One of the staples of our breed is what great companions they make because of their gentle nature and sweet character. Owners with an active lifestyle, wanting a great house companion of a larger size, make good general fits for the breed. Anyone considering a breed for the first time should go somewhere to interact with the breed to gauge if it is a fit for you.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Marissa Hendrix: The biggest public misconception in general right now is that breeding ANY other breed to a Poodle (other than a Poodle) is an okay idea. A Golden Retriever’s best-kept secret is that they have “magic.” These dogs are so insightful, empathetic, and loving. They really are great “free therapists,” even if you think you don’t need one. So, maybe the secret to them being able to magically make any day better isn’t much of a secret at all.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Marissa Hendrix: Make sure to select for temperament as well when evaluating the whole dog. Don’t fault judge.
The best judges will always be those who are welcoming to newcomers, patient with young puppies, and supportive of Juniors.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Marissa Hendrix: Don’t be afraid to reach out to experienced breeders for mentors. Take time to sit ringside with your mentors and watch the judging at shows to learn. Train with and throw birds for experienced handlers in the field, and also, plop your chair in the gallery at field events—and watch.
As a breeder, you will be making a difference through your puppies in the lives of their families. It is your responsibility to be there for the lifetime of your puppies as support, as well as working to make sure your lines are the best possible. Breeding dogs is incredibly hard and having a supportive circle of people you trust to cry on when things are difficult will help you to survive it.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Sporting Dog?
Marissa Hendrix: I have to say I’m impressed with the ability and athleticism of some Sporting Dogs to tread water. It’s neat to see them working in the field, hit the water, swim, then stop to a whistle, turn, tread water, and then take a cast to a mark. What’s amusing is seeing a dog tread water just because of the bliss of being a water-loving dog. In all cases, it’s just cool to watch a dog having fun.
Are you looking for a Golden Retriever puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder?
Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Golden Retriever dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
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