Interview with Robin Rhoden, Breeder of Aspen Norwegian Elkhounds
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Robin Rhoden: I live in Colorado. I have been in dogs for 30 years. I have bred BIS, RBIS, many Top All-Breed and Breed point dogs, National Specialty WD, Select, and many AOM, and many Regional Specialty Winners. I have been breeding for 27 years and have bred 47 champions to date.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Robin Rhoden: My kennel name is Aspen. I currently keep a dozen dogs.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Noteworthy winners include:
- BIS BISS GCHB Aspen’s A Hard Act To Follow,
- RBIS MBISS GCHG Aspen’s It Takes A Thief,
- MBISS CH AspenRepulik Into The Wind (No. 1 Elkhound, All-Breed).
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Robin Rhoden: CH Aspen’s Class Act was bred twice, only had four girls, but all four were Multiple Group Winners. Her daughter, CH Aspen’s Playin’ To Win, is the dam of 12 champions. Her other daughter, BIS BISS GCHB Aspen’s A Hard Act To Follow, is the dam of eight champions. BISS GCHS Aspen’s The Wild Wild West is the sire to BIS and BISS get.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Robin Rhoden: I have a heated/air-conditioned, indoor/outdoor kennel building and have converted the walk-out basement into three indoor/outdoor dog runs and a grooming and bathing area. Puppies are whelped in the house and are raised in a puppy pen in the house; we have a fenced front yard where they spend their outdoor time.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Robin Rhoden: I spend many hours watching the puppies in the yard. I pick by how they handle themselves, set themselves, and use themselves. I put more emphasis on these things than evaluating them stacked on a table.
Performance puppies are selected in the puppy yard. I include tunnels, wobble boards, flat slides, etc. The fearless puppies that explore and enjoy these activities, hopefully, will continue to do so.
Do I compete in Companion Events? Performance Events?
Robin Rhoden: I have titled multiple Obedience dogs and have titled multiple Agility dogs.
Is “performance” part of my decision-making when it comes to breeding?
Robin Rhoden: In a good breeding, you should have dogs that are able to do both if they fit the Standard and have good temperaments.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Robin Rhoden: If Elkhounds have another dog friend and a large yard to run in, they should be able to condition themselves. Occasionally, I have road-worked a special. Even at the age of 10, Elkhounds are used to hunt moose in Norway and should hold together well enough to do so.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Robin Rhoden: Elkhounds are a pretty healthy breed, overall. There are not really any special nutrional needs, other than many are overfed and are fat (especially in the pet population). The metabolism of spayed/neutered and older dogs slows down and they don’t need a lot of food.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Robin Rhoden: Definitely NOT. Our breeder population is older and many of the great breeders have passed away, and not many new, younger breeders have stepped in. We went from a breed that had 300-400 at our National Specialties to less than 100 now.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Robin Rhoden: Yes, actually, Elkhounds are pretty adaptable. They are great family dogs.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Robin Rhoden: Well, probably the biggest misconception is that they are confused with other breeds. The public tends to think they are Akitas, Keeshounds, or wolves. The best-kept secret is that they easily adapt from being couch potatoes to being a hardy Northern hunter that can hunt moose for hours on end.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Robin Rhoden: I would like to say, think of the function of this breed. They have to be able to hunt for up to 35 miles a day in the snow and over deadfall, trailing a moose. Then they have to hold that behemoth at bay while the hunters catch up. Right now, there are two major issues in the breed that would put that ability at risk. An Elkhound is supposed to appear square, but the length of the back should be in the ribs, and the dog should be short-coupled. Right now, we have a lot of square dogs that are short-ribbed. These dogs would not have the lung capacity for a long hunt, and if the longer loin is too long, the dog will have to expend excess energy trying to keep the back level while moving.
The second issue that is putting the breed at risk of being able to do its job is that many dogs in the ring have rear ends that are out of proportion. The second thighs are too long. This causes the dogs to stand either “hocked under” or way too far behind, which causes an unstable rear. These rears will break down and not be able to hold up on the hunt over uneven ground and multiple surfaces.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Robin Rhoden: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t just listen to one person. Ask as many questions as you can. Read everything you can. Then, after you do all of that, format your own opinion.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Hound?
Robin Rhoden: One of my first dogs, “Bear,” had a great sense of humor. He would actually prank other dogs and people, and then wander off and wag his tail with a smile on his face.
Are you looking for a Norwegian Elkhound 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 Norwegian Elkhound 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.
Norwegian Elkhound Breed Magazine
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