Interview with a Toy Group Breeder Karen Hansen
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Karen Hansen: My family and I live on a ranch at the San Juan National Forrest in Colorado. I got my first dog when I was about eight years old from a shelter in Berlin, Germany. I had picked out a young Cocker Spaniel, but my parents brought home a young Münsterlander mix. I remember going to the library, reading about dog breeds, their origin, purpose, and breed standards. Dogs have always been in my life and I bred my first litter of Austrian Black and Tan Hound puppies about 20 years later. My husband and I started our Biewer Terrier breeding program in Colorado with carefully selected European imports in 2015.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Karen Hansen: Our kennel name with the American Kennel Club is Rocky Mountain Biewer Terriers and we use the Rocky Mountain prefix for the puppies we breed. Rocky Mountain Farm is our ranch name. The dogs get to spend plenty of time outdoors and are familiar with the working dogs, cats, goats, sheep, horses, and cows. We maintain three separate Biewer breeding lines to ensure genetic diversity and genetic availability for breeding decisions.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Karen Hansen: Rocky Mountain’s Sir Remington was our first pup in the show ring. He was handled by Lynn Meyer and finished in just a few FSS Open Shows. “Milo” was a constant winner in the show ring and came home to become one of our most influential sires. The breed moved into the AKC Toy Group just last year. We can now compete with a lot more dogs in the Group ring. Last month, we sent Rocky Mountain’s Sir Felix into the show ring. He finished his championship in one week, shown by Pat Fernandes. Our latest rising star is Rocky Mountain’s Adios Colorado who will start her debut in the show ring with Gabriel & Yvonne Rangel.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Karen Hansen: Since 2020, Bright Bering CM3, “Milo,” has been our most popular and influential sire in our breeding program. Milo is true to the Standard, with classic Biewer type, a stunning coat, balanced front and rear, firm, level topline, and outstanding disposition. He has produced his outstanding conformation and his happy, stable temperament in his puppies, with multiple dams. All of our foundation dogs were carefully selected imports from around the world with good health, conformation, solid temperament, and breed type being critical to their selection.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Karen Hansen: We are fortunate to have a home with nine bedrooms that have allowed us to set up areas to meet the needs of all lifestages for our dogs. We use waterproof flooring and epoxy on hardwood floors as well as vinyl on the walls in the puppy rooms. These materials make it easier to clean up and sanitize and it also still feels like a family home. Each room is equipped to meet the needs of the dogs. The nursery has many extra electrical outlets to support the heating pads needed to keep everyone warm and thriving. The expecting and nursing moms have a separate outdoor potty area and get a different diet than the general Biewer pack. The ambient temperature in the whole house is 78 degrees Fahrenheit and the nursery and puppy rooms are kept at a steady 80-85 degrees. Rocky Mountain Biewer Terriers is a family kennel. Having all the dogs live with us inside the house, we do things a little differently. It requires a lot of multi-tasking and endless cleaning. The only downtime is after lunch when most of the dogs are napping. We find that it is very difficult to find staff that respects our ways and that we can trust with our animals. Rocky Mountain Biewer Terriers would not be possible without the hard work the whole family is putting into it. Also, since COVID, you can’t send puppies on planes anymore. So, we have our own Puppy Delivery Plane and my husband is the pilot!
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Karen Hansen: Selecting show puppies is an ongoing process of observation and evaluation. I have a “special chair” in my puppy room. I like to sit and watch them play with toys, interact with each other, watch their movement, their little tails and ears, and their attitude. I compare them to the AKC Breed Standard and evaluate the pros and cons of each puppy. I like to see how they learn and discover things, and how they make decisions and problem-solve. It is really satisfying and fun to do, and I think it is a good way to find the “special puppy” in the litter that could be a potential show puppy for a customer or myself. Common faults in the Biewer Terrier are color faults; for example, too much color below the knee or elbow. I also have a personal preference for ear shape and size. I don’t like tulip ears that have a round tip. I prefer a pointed ear tip. I also prefer longer legs. A Biewer Terrier with long legs can grow a long coat and it looks very elegant when the dog gaits in the ring. I begin making selection decisions at 8 weeks of age, and puppies that I feel have potential (keepers) are further evaluated at 12 weeks and again at 16 weeks. I am fortunate that I have the space to keep any puppies that I believe may have the potential for the show ring until they have developed.
How do I prepare my pups for the show ring? Does my breed require any special preparation?
Karen Hansen: Our puppies are socialized continually from the time of their birth. They are exposed to lots of noises, people, smells, toys, a variety of surfaces, mental stimulation, and interactive play with people and other dogs. Once I have selected a puppy with show potential, we add stacking practice on a stacking box and learn to make eye contact. All of our puppies get a complete groom every week, and it becomes more frequent for show puppies. Biewers are a coated breed and the longer their coats grow, the more care they require. High-quality shampoos and conditioners, along with frequent brushing and combing to keep the coat clean,
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Karen Hansen: Biewers are new to the regular show ring and their presentation is currently centered on the coat, color, and attitude. They are active, smart little dogs and a focus on their movement and structure is growing.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Karen Hansen: The Biewer breed as a whole is healthy. With the current DNA and health tests available, many of the common health issues in Toy Breeds can be controlled or eliminated from the Biewer Terrier lines through diligence and informed, selective breeding decisions. Biewers don’t have any special nutritional needs. They thrive on high-quality all-life stage food, home-cooked meals, or raw food.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall. Any trends that warrant concern?
Karen Hansen: I believe the Biewer breed is in good condition overall. Like in many breeds, certain lines have inherent problems and issues. One trend that concerns me is the intentional breeding for “teacup” Biewers. Standard-sized parents occasionally produce very small puppies that don’t make standard size, but to intentionally breed for these tiny Biewers does the breed no good and can taint the breed as a whole, having health problems that are due to a tiny size.
Do you feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders? B
Karen Hansen: Biewers have some preservation breeders, but there is certainly room for growth. This delightful little dog’s popularity is growing by leaps and bounds as the public becomes aware of them, and the potential for indiscriminate breeding for profit is a very real possibility. It is the responsibility of our current preservation breeders to seek out, educate, and nurture the next generation of guardians for the Biewer Terrier breed.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Karen Hansen: Biewer Terriers are excellent family dogs. They are playful, friendly, smart, and highly trainable. For all their small size, they are very athletic and can be found regularly competing in Agility, Luring, Fast CAT, and Barn Hunt. The best candidates to be owned by a Biewer are people who have a sense of humor and adequate time to give the dog attention. Biewers are outstanding Therapy Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs, and do very well traveling in an RV with a retired couple or racing in the yard with children. They are not yappy, so they fit very nicely in apartments or condos.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Toy Dog?
Karen Hansen: Biewers are the happiest, funniest little dogs I have ever owned. They constantly keep us in smiles and laughter with their antics and just some of the goofy things they do. Our family likes to train our dogs for CGC and Trick Dog events, and teaching these little guys tricks is guaranteed to keep you smiling. I think it is adorable when they stand up like little Prairie Dogs to see what’s going on “over there.”