Interview with Sandra Holmes, Breeder of Trystyn Welsh Springer Spaniels
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Sandra Holmes: I live in Chelsea, Michigan, on several acres that border state land on three sides. I have been in dogs for 48 years, starting with a Golden Retriever that I competed and did well with at Obedience Trials. I bred my first litter of Welsh Springer Spaniels 25 years ago, in 1998.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Sandra Holmes: My Kennel name is Trystyn, a name I took from Tristan, one of the characters from the book All Creatures Great and Small. I altered the spelling so that it looked a bit more Welsh.
I currently have three lovely bitches in my breeding program and just recently kept a male show/breeding prospect. The male, “Forde,” is from a special, frozen semen breeding I did in collaboration with Kennel Westaway (Norway).
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
CH Trystyn’s Hula Popper (Janvier)
- National Specialty Best in Sweeps
- National Specialty Winners Bitch
- National Specialty Best of Opposite Sex
- American Spaniel Club Best of Breed
- Seven Group Placements
GCHS Trystyn Statesman Cactus Blue (Maddux)
- National Specialty Best of Winners
- National Specialty Best of Opposite Sex
- Three Times National Specialty Best of Breed
- Two Times American Spaniel Club Best of Breed
- Five Times Best in Show
- Three Times Reserve Best in Show
- Westminster Best of Breed
AM CH INT NORD CH HeJW-13 NordJW-13 FinJW-13 WW-14 HeW-14, -15 FinW-14, -15 SeW-14, -15 NordW-15 Trystyn Gives Benton Goose Bumps (Chesney)
- This American-bred Welsh Springer achieved her FIN CH title at two years of age (youngest age to be allowed to finish).
- Shown nineteen times in Finland, winning 18 CCs and one Reserve CC.
- She won Sixteen CACIBs in Finland plus several CCs and CACIBs abroad.
- Shown as an adult five times at the large Helsinki shows, including the World Winner Show, and took BOB each time. Chesney was owned/co-owned and shown by Marjo Jaakkola (Kennel Benton).
CH Benton Loves Duckaholics (Maija) (Finnish Import, Kennel Benton)
- American Spaniel Club Best in Sweeps
- National Specialty Winners Bitch
- American Spaniel Club Best of Breed and Best Owner-Handled in Show (from the Classes)
- National Specialty Award of Merit
- American Spaniel Club Award of Merit
- American Spaniel Club Select Bitch
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
CCH Trystyn Gives Benton Goose Bumps (Chesney)
Chesney only had one litter while she was in Finland. You can still see the influence she had on the one bitch puppy that was shown and bred along with the offspring of her get (beautiful front structure and amazing movement). Chesney returned to me in the US and produced several beautiful puppies with the same qualities.
CH Trystyn’s Country Cabernet CD RN (Walker)
Walker, who was the sire to Chesney, has been quite influential in this breed both here in the US and through one of his sons that was exported to Sweden. Walker produced correct fronts, beautiful side movement, and lovely outgoing temperaments.
CH Trystyn’s Blue Rodeo (Filson)
Along with nine American Champion offspring, Filson produced one Norwegian CH, one Swedish CH, eight Finnish Champions, and five International Champions. One of his son’s in Finland was the top Welsh Springer male as a nine-year-old veteran in 2022. He is the sire to one of the top-winning Welsh Springers in the history of the breed in the US. Included in these offspring are four different Best in Show winners in three different countries.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Sandra Holmes: My significant other, Greg, is a veterinarian and I am a veterinary technician, so the puppies get great veterinary care at home. I’m fortunate to have access to some of the best reproduction vets in the country. This allows me to plan for breedings from some of the best dogs in the world or on ice, so to speak, rather than only the dogs I can use locally and currently.
The puppies are born and raised in our home. My goal is to raise puppies that have had stable and healthy experiences with as many people and situations as possible before they go to their new homes. A confident amiable temperament is very important to me.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies? Field Puppies?
Sandra Holmes: My process for selecting show puppies starts at about six weeks of age when the puppies are up on their feet and getting coordinated. I spend hours on end watching them move about with their littermates. I take stacked photos of the puppies at 6, 7, and 8 weeks of age. I find looking at these photos is one of the best ways to evaluate the structure of each puppy. Of course, other things come into play such as bites and movement. I never pick the show puppies until after the 8 week photos. I have learned over the years that they change quite a bit between 6 and 8 weeks of age, so it is never a good idea to make a choice before that.
If I have puppies going to Performance homes, I look for the pup that does things first (like climbing on top of objects, or going through or around different obstacles). Good eye contact, biddability, and proper structure are also a priority.
I like to see Field prospects carry things in their mouths and have similar attributes as a Performance puppy. Correct structure is also needed in a Field prospect. A Field prospect should be quite biddable and very slightly independent, but not to the point of wanting to wander off and hunt on its own.
Of course, it’s easy with Welsh Springers because we have no split of show/performance/field. I just like to watch for those minor nuances when I know the new owner has certain preferences.
Do I compete in Companion Events? Performance Events?
Sandra Holmes: Although I did participate some in Obedience, years ago, I do not compete in Performance Events at this time. I tend to focus almost all of my time on my breeding program. Many of the dogs I breed go on to participate and do well in Conformation, Obedience, Hunt Tests and many other Performance Events.
Are Field Trials or parent club Hunt Tests important to me?
Sandra Holmes: Hunt Tests are very important to me. The very reason I got a Welsh Springer was because Greg wanted me to get a dog that he could hunt with and I could show in Conformation. At this time, there is no split between show and hunting type in our breed. I would like this to remain true in the future.
The Welsh Springer was bred to be a hunting dog, above all else. Hunt Tests are a wonderful way to highlight their talent in the field. The purpose of a Hunt Test is to validate the ability to do that for which the dog was bred. The Conformation show is to evaluate the structure that allows the dog to do what it is bred for all day long.
That being said, the Welsh, no matter how poorly built, will work in the Field to the very best of his/her ability. Our goal is to breed, a dog that can work in the field to the very best that the breed was meant to do.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Sandra Holmes: Proper physical conditioning would be to daily give your Welsh Springer plenty of room to romp in an enclosed area (preferably with another dog), along with walks/runs in the woods/fields when possible. Keep proper weight, the coat clean, trimmed, and mat-free, along with proper veterinary care, and nail trims, when needed. Be sure to keep your dog healthy mentally by continuing to expose him/her to people and different places throughout its lifetime.
It is not unusual for properly conditioned Welsh to live long lives, and many continue to do well in the show ring, Obedience, Agility, and in the Field when they are 10, 12, and 14 years of age.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Sandra Holmes: Overall, the Welsh Springer is a healthy breed, but there are a few health problems such as epilepsy (not as common as in the past), hip dysplasia, entropion, and hypothyroidism. It does seem that, recently, there has been some increase in the incidence of glaucoma.
CHIC requirements for the Welsh Springer are currently OFA hip, elbow, thyroid, and eye evaluations.
The Welsh Springer does not have any special nutritional needs except a dog food that is complete and balanced for his/her life stage or all life stages. Be sure to feed dog food that is AAFCO approved.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Sandra Holmes: Although there are several preservation breeders doing their best, I don’t believe we have as many as we should have.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Sandra Holmes: I do believe our breed is well suited to be a family dog, with a few exceptions. The family situation should have children over the age of six and a fenced yard for the dog to play/exercise in. The adults should be willing to take the time to provide the proper training and socialization the puppy needs.
I don’t really have what I would call the best candidates because each individual situation is different. I will say that this breed does well with active families/people that like to walk and do outdoor activities on a regular basis.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Sandra Holmes: I get a lot of calls from puppy people looking for what they think is a smaller, red and white English Springer. Size-wise, there isn’t that much difference between the two, but the look of each is totally different.
The breed’s best-kept secret is the breed itself. Not many people have heard of the Welsh Springer or know much about them.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Sandra Holmes: For general appearance, the Welsh should have substance, without coarseness, and be compact.
Current problems to watch for in our breed: Upright fronts (short upper arms), lack of forechest, not converging when coming towards you, or underneath when viewing side movement. Too much emphasis is also being put on hair these days.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Sandra Holmes: If possible, please get another knowledgeable breeder to mentor you. Make a point of educating yourself by going to a breed seminar(s). Read and learn the Breed Standard as well as the Illustrated Standard. Read as much as you can about the correct structure and movement in both Welsh Springers and other Sporting breeds. Learn what is right, so you can easily know when it isn’t.
Are you looking for a Welsh Springer Spaniel 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 Welsh Springer Spaniel 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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