Interview with Hound Group Breeder Corey Rigoni – Renaissance Basset Hounds
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Corey Rigoni: I live in Parma, Michigan, between Detroit and Chicago. I’ve had dogs of varying breeds and mixes my entire life, including Basset Hounds as pets before getting the “dog show bug” in 1994 when I bred my first litter.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Corey Rigoni: My three apprentices (Michael Meckler, Novia Staviski, and Holly Hook) and I have all bred and shown under the “Renaissance” prefix. I have about 12 dogs at the house, with many more parked on sofas with my wonderful group of owners, as well as with the apprentices, where the dogs can move in and out of the show and breeding program and still be family pets.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Corey Rigoni: I was fortunate to co-own CH. Stoneybluff Montgomery with the legendary Virginia Kovalic, and I got my first taste of what campaigning was like—and its demands, financially and otherwise. In the early years of Renaissance, we focused on building an ethical breeding and showing program based on the guidance and foundations of Stoneybluff and LynMar (Margaret Walton), first with GCH Renaissance Flying Fortress, and now with GCHB Renaissance Versailles and our up-and-coming dog, CH Renaissance Golden Emperor. We didn’t campaign back then as we do now.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Corey Rigoni: Renaissance was built on the Stoneybluff and LynMar lines and on type—athletic, field-functional Bassets. The words “elegant” and “Basset” are not mutually exclusive. Stoneybluff Vertigo ROM was my foundation bitch, and CH Hobnail Stoneybluff Beecham was my foundation sire as he carried a pedigree made up of LynMar legends. Renaissance Mona Lisa ROM helped to hone the “tweaks” that I felt were needed to improve on that underpinning.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Corey Rigoni: The dogs occupy a huge portion of the house, which has been converted to be dog-friendly with an automatic watering system, air purification system, and access to over an acre to romp and play. My dogs live as a pack at home, not in runs. A spare bedroom was converted to a puppy room with Jonart whelping boxes and a neonatal incubator. I’m very much of a “less is more” kind of breeder. Fussing with puppies for its own sake seems to interrupt the bitch’s rhythm and flow with her puppies, so I only step in when a puppy is struggling. I let my girls decide when they’re going to wean their puppies, feeling that it makes for less drama/trauma and wailing than to force weaning at a set time or date. As a result, I find that puppies are on better emotional footing going forward.
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Corey Rigoni: I try VERY hard not to even start “looking” at puppies with any thought to evaluation until about 10 weeks. My process isn’t very scientific… I put them in the puppy yard and watch them. Sooner or later, my eye begins to be drawn to a puppy or puppies, and then it’s about determining what drew my attention—good or “bad.” No deadline ever exists for how long that process may take, but usually, I have most decisions made by about 12 or 13 weeks.
How do I prepare my pups for the show ring? Does my breed require any special preparation?
Corey Rigoni: I start hauling puppies to shows at about 10 weeks for socializing, and this also helps to reveal which puppies love the hustle and bustle of travel and shows—and which do not. We do very little “work” stacking or lead-breaking until we know which ones are staying in the program, preferring to let them “just be puppies.” I find this helps them to develop and project personality in the ring. Few things sadden me more than seeing a Basset in the ring that is robotic, with no “life” behind the eyes.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Corey Rigoni: Unfortunately, I’m seeing too many Bassets with jacked-up heads while moving (which isn’t how a Basset moves naturally) in a bid to cater to all-rounder judges who are used to seeing this in other Groups. Showing Bassets requires a lot of up-and-down on the floor, so it’s hard on the knees and we are now a “ramp required” breed. I do wish that stewards and some judges would stop acting like bringing in the ramp is an inconvenience. It’s a requirement. Period. Just do it.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Corey Rigoni: We have several genetic disorders in Basset Hounds: Von Willebrands Disease, Thrombopathia, and the newly identified MPS1; the latter two have reliable tests available at low cost. There is ZERO excuse not to test for these, and my personal feeling is that anyone not testing is neither responsible nor reputable. There is also some “buzz” in Bassets about Lafora as it is being talked about, especially in European lines; however, the research data supporting the test being used in Bassets has no mention of Bassets whatsoever, and the Czech lab that offers this test has refused to respond to my repeated inquiries about their test’s research background that is Basset-specific. Nutritionally, Bassets should eat a high-quality food, approximately 26% protein, 16% fat… no corn, ever.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Corey Rigoni: To be honest, the overall condition of Bassets is the worst I’ve seen in the nearly 30 years I’ve been active in breeding and showing. I take no pleasure in saying this.
BASSETS ARE A FIELD DOG! They are not meant to be the sloppy, gloppy, ground-pounding caricatures that are being bred, shown, and awarded. Proper mechanics have seemingly gone out the window in favor of breeding something that is too big, too exaggerated, and resembles a stuffed animal rather than a slow but agile field hunter able to navigate thickets, tall grasses, and downed logs. Too many judges want to turn us into a “head breed,” awarding a big ol’ houndy head while letting the rest of the dog’s form/function/structure/condition be damned. Bassets should be able to hunt all day; most of what I see wouldn’t last ten minutes in a field. They barely last ten minutes in a ring. Frankly, it’s appalling.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Corey Rigoni: We have Bassets in homes ranging from young singles and active families to senior citizens. While this isn’t a breed to get if you’re looking for a jogging partner, it also isn’t a glorified door stop.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Corey Rigoni: Sadly, our number of “preservation breeders” is dwindling. Not enough of the breeders around during the last portion of the last century made the time or effort to cultivate another generation to come after them. Instead, they used the few novices that came along as cannon fodder to make points for themselves. Those novices rarely stuck around. I can now list the number of preservation breeders under 50 years of age in the US on about two hands. Young people need a lot more support, outreach, and encouragement from the national breed club.
At the most recent Basset Nationals, Renaissance had the largest number of first-time exhibitors and owners, and the largest number under 40 years old. We are very proud of this. We have a reverence for the past and a responsibility to the future, and we intend to stay true to both.