Interview with Sarah Lawrence, Breeder of Chatterbox Toys Shih Tzu
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Sarah Lawrence: Currently, I live in Ocala, Florida. I have been in dogs for 63 years; I showed my first dog competitively when I was only nine years old. I whelped my first litter at the age of 11, but didn’t start making decisions in terms of breeding and building a program until I was 17—55 years ago.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Sarah Lawrence: My current kennel name is Chatterbox Toys, though I have also shown under Sun Canyon and Wenshu. In terms of how many dogs I keep, I have enough to continue a diverse breeding program.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Some of my noteworthy winners include:
- CH Sun Canyon The Heartbreak Kid
- CH Wenshu’s Mona Lisa
- CH Krissy’s Dream Lover
- GCHG Pekings Midnight Vision At Wenshu (the top-winning black Shih Tzu in the history of the breed)
- GCHG Wenshu In The Midnight Hour (2019 American Shih Tzu Club National Specialty Winner)
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
My noteworthy sires include:
- CH Bar None Edge Of Night
- CH Sun Canyon Anything Goes
- CH Sun Canyon Heza Happy Fella
- CH Sun Canyon Ready Teddy
- Chatterbox In The Heat Of The Night
- CH Wenshu Decisive Action At Toy Art
- CH Krissy’s Dream Lover
Noteworthy dams include:
- CH Sun Canyon My Hearts Desire
- CH Wenshu’s She’s All That Peking
- CH Chatterbox Ella Enchanted
- Chatterbox Louisiana Glamour
- CH Chatterbox Sheza Princess
- Chatterbox Naughty After Midnight
- Chatterbox Party Like A Rock Star
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Sarah Lawrence: The dogs of Chatterbox live in a home-like environment with both indoor and outdoor exercise spaces to cater to their individual needs while allowing for the weather. Our puppies are whelped in our personal living space where they reside while getting 24/7 care and attention for at least the first eight weeks.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Sarah Lawrence: When selecting a show puppy, I assess their structure and temperament while they interact with both other puppies and the people around them. It’s kind of hard to explain the “it” factor, but it’s just something special.
How important are Breed Specialties to me? How important are Group Shows?
Sarah Lawrence: Breed Specialties are very important to me because they give breeders a chance to showcase their best-quality dogs to one another. Group Shows are important because your dog is being judged against other dogs of different breeds and how each breed matches up to their specific Breed Standards, so the goal of a Group Show is to showcase the best-quality dog.
What are my priorities when it comes to breeding? What are the drawbacks?
Sarah Lawrence: For me, the goal when breeding a litter of puppies is to breed puppies that are better than both the sire and the dam. Sometimes this means that I breed type to type, but other times this means that I analyze the pedigrees of both the sire and the dam to ensure compatibility or to rule out potential matches. Personally, I would consider fault offset breeding as a drawback.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed? How important is coat care?
Sarah Lawrence: For Shih Tzus, “conditioning” is ensuring that the dog is at the correct body weight as it pertains to the frame and size of the dog, that they have the proper depth of chest, that their rear legs have muscles and that their shoulders are in the correct place—these two things come together in a phrase commonly known as “reach and drive.” Coat care is paramount in this breed because the coat of a Shih Tzu is actually two textures—the top coat and the undercoat—which requires daily grooming.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Sarah Lawrence: Shih Tzus don’t have any breed-specific health concerns, but as they age they may develop eye issues. Some Shih Tzus are prone to food allergies, but these are relatively easy to navigate.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Sarah Lawrence: Yes, I do.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Sarah Lawrence: A Shih Tzu is very much a family dog because they are companions above all else. They are suited for kids 11 years of age or older, as well as the elderly who may just want a companion to sit and watch tv with them.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Sarah Lawrence: The biggest misconception of Shih Tzus is that they’re just small, yappy dogs that bark for no reason. They were raised to be guard dogs in the bed chambers of Imperial China. Their best-kept secret is that they are silly little clowns—you don’t get to see that side of their personalities while in the show ring.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would I like to say to them?
Sarah Lawrence: I would simply suggest, especially to the newer breed judges, that they seek out mentorship or refreshers from breeders to help them interpret and understand the Standard, since the Shih Tzu Standard is surprisingly broad.
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Sarah Lawrence: I would suggest that newer breeders seek out the best mentors that they can. Sometimes breeding can get really overwhelming, so it’s important to have someone you can talk to as a sounding board or to even ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they might be unimportant. At the end of the day, we are all here for the love of our dogs and want the best for them.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Toy Dog?
Sarah Lawrence: The most amusing thing that I’ve ever experienced with a Toy Dog happened while I was snowed in my hotel after a show in Boston with “Tyra” (GCHG Pekings Midnight Vision at Wenshu). I had ordered dessert via room service and she decided to help herself to it when I turned my head for a few moments. I’ll never forget how silly she looked, the top-winning black bitch of all time with whipped cream covering her whole face.