Interview with Paula Johnson, Breeder of Rocky Creek Danes
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Paula Johnson: I live in Tucson, Arizona. Our first family Great Dane was in 1971 out of Champion lines from the Lindamoods and Hopps of Southern Arizona. My first litter was in 1976, and since then, there have been three litters plus two co-owned litters.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Paula Johnson: My kennel name is Rocky Creek Danes. I have five Danes and co-own a couple of others.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Paula Johnson: My first Champion was “Gibbs” (CH Burk SpecAgent Of Pluto V RkyCrk-Lera-Brier Shwst – 2010). First Grand Champion was “Maddie” (GCH JV RkyCrk’s Splash V ShorelineWest, AOM – who is now 11 years, 5 months), her son “Killian” was Best Junior and RWD at the 2017 GDCA, BISS GCH RkyCrkN Shalako’s Once Upon A Time’s CPT Hook, AOM.
My first Grand Champion Gold dog is “Rebel” (MBISS GCHG Olympian-Neet N RkyCrk’s Freedoms Rebel Mo Cridhe, AOM). He was Top 20 in 2020 & 2021, and sire of 11 Champions to date, including his son “MacKenzie” who is currently ranked No. 3 in 2023, MBISS GCHS Shalako N RkyCrk’s Mo Cridhe’s Outlander v Oly-Pac.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Paula Johnson: Influential dam is Maddie, GCH JV RkyCrk’s Splash V ShorelineWest, AOM. Influential sire is Rebel, MBISS GCHG Olympian-Neet N RkyCrk’s Freedoms Rebel Mo Cridhe, AOM.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Paula Johnson: My facilities are my home where my dining room has been repurposed for an indoor/outdoor style kennel. Puppies have been raised hands-on with 24/7 care the first three weeks. I have cameras to watch both inside and outside to keep an eye on everyone after that.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Paula Johnson: Our process of selecting show puppies has been to wait till at least 5 weeks or older to evaluate, based on head, topline, angles, and personality. This has been, and always will be done, with the input and guidance of fellow Dane enthusiasts—they know who they are! It takes a village.
Do I compete in Performance Events? In Parent Club tests & Trials?
Paula Johnson: Unfortunately, I do not yet compete in Performance Events. I belong to the Great Dane Club of America and strongly support health testing.
Is “performance” part of my decision-making when it comes to breeding?
Paula Johnson: Absolutely! Performance is movement, and form and function (movement) are tightly bound, so this is important when evaluating a potential breeding.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Paula Johnson: No matter if it is walks, runs, or swims, keeping a Great Dane in good condition is key to a healthy and happy animal, as well as a dog ready for the show ring.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Paula Johnson: Because the Great Dane is a fast-growing breed, nutrition is critical, especially as a puppy. Too much growth too fast can lead to bone and health difficulties. We feed a lower protein, large/giant breed puppy food with the addition of a buffered Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C) to help mobilize the calcium necessary to keep the bones growing strong, but at a slow pace. Bigger is not always better.
As for health concerns, cardiomyopathy and gastric dilated volvulus (bloat) are the biggest issues. We test for hips, elbows, eyes, thyroid, and heart, so if there are issues found they are not bred, thus reducing the potential for continuing those health issues.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Paula Johnson: I do. There are many in the breed who are dedicated to the betterment of the breed; to meet the Breed Standard and produce healthy puppies. It is unfortunate that there are “AKC” breeders who breed for other reasons and do not follow the Standard. The “rainbow” of designer colors is an example.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Paula Johnson: Great Danes make a wonderful family dog. They love people and generally get along great with other animals if they have the appropriate attention to training when they are growing up. They are a giant breed, so when they are teething it is on “big things.” So, patience is key, as well as consistency and calmness. They do not tend to respond well to nervous or loud outbursts. The best candidates to own this breed are those who want a loving, loyal companion but those who are willing to recognize the challenges of a giant breed.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Paula Johnson: The biggest misconception is they need a lot of room to run. They do need to exercise, but that can be accomplished with walks, runs, and swims. The best-kept secret is they are couch potatoes and love to just hang out.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Paula Johnson: Remember that form and function are closely tied. The Standard is written to reflect this. If a dog has correct movement (good drive and reach), then the form should also be good.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Paula Johnson: Research the appropriate nutrition for giant breeds from established breeders; research organizations, not the Internet. Be patient and consistent with puppies and you’ll be making great dogs for their new owners.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Working Dog?
Paula Johnson: A couple of our males love to parade around with a toy in their mouth, but this is especially evident when there are visitors. Danes are clowns at heart!