- Where do you live? What is your breed? What are your interests apart from dogs?
- How many years have you been involved in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
- Current overall quality of the Herding Group?
- Most of these breeds were developed for particular (and almost always outdoor) purposes, but now find themselves leading primarily indoor, air-conditioned lives. How do you think Herding Dogs have adapted to this change?
- What particular challenges do Herding Dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate?
What makes a Herding Dog the ideal companion in these 21st-century times?
- What was your original breed? If a Herding breed, how have you seen your original breed evolve and drift in other directions? Do you feel that the drift has been good for the breed?
- What advice would you give a newcomer judge to the sport?
- Please choose a Herding breed and give us a sentence that briefly describes each breed’s essence-words to someone who is new to learning about the breeds.
- Do you compete in conformation, companion or performance events? All three?
Is your breed still capable of performing its original function?
- Can you define the key essentials of “type” in your breed?
- Are you pleased with your breed’s current overall quality? Its popularity?
- How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?”
- Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in your breed?
- Who were your mentors? Any words of wisdom from them that you can pass along?
- What is it about your breed that has sustained your interest and encouraged your involvement in the sport?
- And for a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing experience you’ve ever had at a dog show?
Current overall quality of the Herding Group? Since I am not a Herding Group judge, I cannot comment on the overall quality of the Herding Group from a judge’s point of view. However, as a breeder/owner-handler of Pembroke Welsh Corgis for nearly 50 years, I have spent a great deal of time over the years in the Herding Group at all-breed shows. When I first started showing Pembrokes in the early 70s, there was no Herding Group—all Herding breeds were shown in the Working Group. I remember when the Herding Group was created and I first participated in one—it was such a relief to be in the Group with dogs that had very similar temperaments and interests as Pembrokes. Over the years, one obvious difference in the Group is its size; so many breeds have been added to the Herding Group in the past five years alone that it is now one of the largest Groups. I have been in Herding Groups that had over 30 dogs competing. Each of the breeds that have been added have the same Herding dog temperament and fit into the Herding Group very well.
How do you think Herding dogs have adapted to living indoors? Herding dogs make fantastic companions because they were bred to stay with and protect their flocks, and take direction from humans. Now, their “flocks” are the families they live with and their greatest desire is to be with them at all times!
What particular challenges do Herding dog breeders face in our current economic/social climate? With some of the rarer and less domesticated Herding breeds, selling the puppies can be a challenge for breeders. Herding breeds are not for everyone as they can easily take over a situation if their human owners are not strong enough to control them. I tell all of my families that Pembroke Welsh Corgis should never be allowed to run loose with running children. Their herding instincts can easily take over and they can begin to nip at the legs of the children to try and herd them. Puppies with very strong herding instincts should never be placed in a home with young children. So Herding dog breeders must very carefully evaluate their puppies, and also carefully evaluate the homes they are going into.
What makes a Herding dog the ideal companion in these 21st-century times? Herding Dogs like to be with their owners. My dogs stick right with me. If I get up and leave the room, they get up and follow me. When we are taking a walk, they stay right with me. I love the Herding dog instinct to stay with its “flock.” Herding dogs are extremely easy to train for both housebreaking and obedience training. My puppies are housebroken before they go into their new homes at 12 weeks, and they come when they are called almost from birth! Also, Herding dogs are very good at sizing up strangers. They know right away if a strange dog or person can be trusted or not.
What was my original breed? I bought my first Pembroke Welsh Corgi in 1968 and have been breeding and showing them ever since. Pembrokes have remained very true to their roots during this time. Many breeders show Pembrokes in conformation, herding and other performance events, so the breed has retained its versatile character.
What advice would I give a newcomer judge to the sport? Any judge who is not familiar with Herding dogs should listen carefully to a Judges’ Education Committee presentation for the Herding breeds they are interested in judging. Herding dogs should always be approached from the front so they can make eye contact with the person who is going to examine them. It is also a good idea to speak to the dog or the handler, so the dog knows you are a friend. Also, never throw keys or make funny noises to get a Herding dog’s attention—let the hander do that. Herding dogs are often very focused on their handlers and not very interested in strangers; and if a Herding dog alerts to something going on outside the ring, it is best to give the dog a moment or two to settle down. Herding dogs are very aware of their surroundings and can detect “danger” that mere humans may be unaware of!
In a brief description, Pembroke Welsh Corgis are the “can do breed”—they want to do what you want to do and they do that very well!
The most amusing experience I’ve ever had at a dog show? A few years ago, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America’s National Specialty Show offered Herding Instinct classes on ducks. I had a top-winning Specials bitch at the time named Holly that was a real challenge to show in the conformation ring as she had a lot of energy! I spent many hours training her for conformation and trying to convince her to do things my way! She had never had the chance to herd anything, but I thought she might enjoy trying, and I felt that it was a fairly safe activity for her since she would be herding ducks and not cows! Holly and I both entered the class knowing nothing about herding, but in about 30 seconds, something clicked in her head and off she went! Holly had those ducks all rounded up and in a corner of the pen before I knew what happened! Then she looked over at me as if to say, “Just stay out of my way, Mom. I know how to do this and you obviously don’t!” It was really amusing to see a dog that had never had any exposure to livestock of any kind take care of a flock of ducks so easily. Herding dogs are nothing short
Though my permanent residence is in Anderson, South Carolina, I currently live just outside of Houston, Texas, while I work for handlers David and Jennifer Harper. My breed is Collies—though I will say I am far partial to and focus on Smooth Collies. Apart from dogs, I love to cook, fish and, as a former music major, I am a huge patron of the arts. I love the symphony and the opera and would spend every extra moment there if I could!
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? I started in dogs six years ago. My first litter was in 2017.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? Though I have bred dogs that perform in a wide variety of arenas from dock diving, to obedience, to herding, my personal focus is conformation.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? I believe Collies are still very functional as a whole. Our breed has done very well to maintain a high level of intelligence and superb temperaments. Collies are willing to work, and have the brains to do almost anything you want them to do. I do believe there are areas of our structure that are lacking and, thus, we have lost some endurance and stamina to work livestock all day. However, there are many Collies that still excel in herding.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? By far the most “defining” trait of the Collie to me is the dreamy expression. Our AKC breed standard specifies that the Collie cannot be judged until first its expression has been evaluated. In my humble opinion, the Collie without those melting, dark, almond eyes obliquely set as they flow into a plush, smooth muzzle, just lacks that classical Collie type. The head, of course, is of extreme importance according to the Collie standard and to most Collie breeders. The parallel planes, well placed stop, flat backskull, lack of depth from brow to jaw, a tight lipline and beautiful finish of underjaw are keys to the correct Collie profile that has become a quintessential element of Collie type. Lastly, I will include the curvaceous outline as an important part of Collie type. When you see a Collie standing there, you want to see beautiful curves. The crest of neck, the sloped croup, the bend of stifles—all so beautiful when seen in harmony on a sound, balanced Collie body.
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? I believe we have made great strides in our breed to produce beautiful heads and lovely expression. Don’t get me wrong there is still much work to do, as there always is, but you can find these beautiful heads and pretty faces. The area I think our breed is lacking are the bodies. Our breed is plagued by bad fronts specifically. I think we have the most work to do in this department, but I see many breeders talking about the fronts and striving to do better. Recently there has been a lot of great conversation amongst our breed about structure and how we as a breed can do better to strive for good structure. I am optimistic of the future and that we will only continue to improve our breed as time passes.
As far as my breed’s popularity, I certainly think it could be higher. I think Collies make the most amazing family pets, and I think once people have a Collie, they will always have one! They are irresistible in my eyes.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” Finding majors at all-breed shows is rather difficult. At specialties, not so much. I look back at catalogs from 30-40 years ago and see 20-30 dogs in a single class, now we are lucky to have 20-30 in our entire breed at one show. Our numbers have definitely plummeted, but we see a significantly larger turnout for stand alone specialties rather than all-breeds, which I find to be a shame.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? I find the Rough puppies much easier to find excellent homes for than the Smooth puppies. I have a long waiting list for Rough puppies, but very few names on my list for Smooth puppies. Rough puppies are pretty irresistible fluff balls as babies so I think pet homes find that very appealing. What they fail to think about is that the hair just keeps growing as the dog grows and they have to work a lot harder to maintain that pretty coat than the people who take the Smooth puppies.
Who were my mentors? I have been so blessed to have amazing people help me get started in dogs. Before I ever got my first Collie I traveled to shows with Robert Robinson who, at the time, had Cresteds and Dalmatians. He really was instrumental in teaching me structure and a lot about grooming. Diane Steele was the first Collie person to take me under her wing at a show. I helped her at a few shows and she returned the favor by teaching me about what she was doing, and why she was doing it, every step of the way. She was really kind and helpful to me as I was trying to find my way in dogs. Micki Elliot of Ceilidh Collies not only was the one to introduce me to Smooth Collies, but she also took me into her home when I was having my first litter and she taught me how to whelp. We whelped my litter and two of her litters together and the experience was one of the most valuable experiences I had as a new breeder. I spent two years traveling on and off to shows with Dona Williams. She was really the person that taught me what it meant to “work” a show. Caring for dogs at the show, getting them ready for the ring, managing the preparation of a bunch of dogs, even loading and unloading the van. She also took me to work for her at my first Collie national. That was really an experience I will always cherish. Mike Cheatham of Southland Collies and Crystal Stoner of Accolade Collies contributed the most to the formation of my ideal Collie. My vision would be worlds away from what it is now without their mentorship, and even just seeing their dogs. Robin Reed of Creekwood Collies took me under her wing and shared with me my first stud dog and first campaigned special. To this day, she remains a treasured friend and invaluable mentor. My most prolific mentors now are David and Jennifer Harper. Living with and working for them in Texas has been the most educational experience of my life. Both have brilliant minds and just being able to surround myself with them and absorb every ounce of knowledge that I can has been truly life changing. They have become like a second set of parents to me and now I can’t imagine having not made the decision to move here and work for them. Hailey Stoner of Avondale Collies taught me one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned, and that was that it was okay for me to think differently. Honestly, this changed everything. It was okay that other breeder’s, whose opinions I greatly respected, were not entirely my ideal. This would be the piece of advice that I would share foremost. It is okay to think on your own and make your own decisions. I was persuaded into breeding to a certain dog or not keeping a certain puppy because of the opinion of someone I respected. Though that stud dog fit their ideal, or the puppy I wanted to keep did not, a few of those decisions turned out to be mistakes for me. Take what all of your mentors teach you and use it to make your own decision. It is most important that you are happy with what is in your backyard.
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? The Collie, in my totally biased opinion, is the most amazing breed. Their intelligence and beauty are unsurpassed in my eyes. It is the passion to share the breed with others and constantly strive to create my ideal Collie that keeps me sustained. After I had my first Collie, I cannot imagine life without one!
I have been involved with the Bergamasco Sheepdog since 2005. I fell in love with an image of a Bergamasco in a rare dog encyclopedia and lived on a farm in Nova Scotia, Canada, at the time with herds of goats and sheep. I imported Lothario, our first male from the USA and, one year later, imported a female, Mezza, from England.
Over the next several years, I learned all I could about the breed and became heavily involved in efforts made by the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA) to promote the breed. On July 13, 2007 the first Bergamasco litter was born in Nova Scotia out of our Mezza and Lothario.
I moved back to the U.S. shortly thereafter and worked with the BSCA to help gain breed recognition with the AKC. This would be a long process and, in the meanwhile, I attended shows and events and continued to create awareness. For the next several years I served as the BSCA Vice-President and was able, along with the help of my colleagues at BSCA, to gain full AKC recognition for the breed in 2015. I am the former President of the BSCA and have worked diligently to achieve parent club status with the AKC. Before I resigned my position as President, I helped to organize the club, draft the bylaws, partner with the CHIC registry and set health testing standards for the breed. I have been involved with the AKC Judge’s Education program since breed recognition, and continue to enjoy long- and short-term judge mentoring as well as ringside mentoring. In addition, my husband and I were the founders of the Bergamasco Companion, a quarterly publication of the BSCA, no longer in print.
In 2018, I founded the Bergamasco Shepherd Association of Canada and am currently working on breed recognition with the Canadian Kennel Club. I am the current President of this association. I am also a member in good standing of the Bergamasco National Sheepdog Alliance and Societa Amatori del Cane da Pastore Bergamasco (S.A.B.). I fully support these two organizations for their continued work to preserve this breed as it was intended.
Over the last 15 years, we have bred 10 litters. We believe in quality over quantity and our current and future litters are carefully planned. We are active in AKC conformation events and herding. I am proud to be an AKC Bred with H.E.A.R.T. breeder.
I live in Durham, Connecticut, where we raise Bergamasco Sheepdogs. Apart from dogs, we have horses, goats, chickens and I do freelance photography. I am a step-mom and a drummer. I play in a rock band for fun.
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? I have been involved in dogs since I was 23 years old when I moved to my first farm and it sparked an interest in herding dogs. I had my first Bergamasco Sheepdog litter in 2007 in Nova Scotia, Canada. I lived here during my early years in dogs.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? I compete in conformation and we also have dogs that are training for herding and agility trials. Our dogs have everything from farm dog to CGC to trick titles and some of our puppies have rally obedience titles.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? Yes, some are, though they haven’t been bred for work for a long time. I get super excited when I see a dog with really good
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? It should be very clear when you look at a Bergamasco that it is not a Komondor or a Puli. They have a distinctive coat that does not look like either of those breeds. Also the silhouette of a Bergamasco should be obvious. The Bergamasco is unique in its nearly square or off-square length of body, with a 30 degree sloped croup and tail to the hock that rests in a hook at the level of the hock. It does not have the length of body of the Komondor or Beardie. The breed should have a rustic appearance, but not to be confused with unkempt or unsanitary. The differentiation between types of hair and location of its distribution on the body is also an essential of type, but this is something rarely seen outside of the country of origin these days.
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? I think the breed’s overall quality can be improved. It’s not all bad, but over the years I have seen an increase in weak backlines (sloping in the center), high rears, long loins, cow-hocked legs, lack of substance, muscling and condition. Due to this, I have seen poorly kept coats that are dirty, not well-maintained and I have seen a lack of progression toward trying to regain the correct distribution of coat as described in the standard. I am happy with it’s popularity at this time.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” It is challenging. The East Coast has the largest number of the Bergamascos in the country, so most of the majors are here. It is very hard for the folks on the West Coast and Midwest to find majors. Even on the East Coast the majority of majors are in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area, so the numbers are very concentrated in these areas. Travel is a must for competing unless you live in these states.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? Yes. Most of the puppies in this breed go to pet homes. It is difficult to find show homes and even more difficult to find working homes. Most of the folks looking for Bergamascos are families with children.
Who were my mentors? I have had many mentors throughout the years. Some were Bergamasco breeders and many were experienced breeders of other breeds. Some have been farmers, handlers, herding instructors, etc. I try to take away what I can from various sources. The original mentors I had no longer supported me when our bitch became a top-winning Bergamasco and, eventually, a top-40 Herding dog. I have turned to the original breeders in Italy who have been with this breed since the start and have the most knowledge. I think an important thing to pass along is that a breed is only as good as its mentors. If you are not willing to take an honest look at the breed in an unbiased way and celebrate the dogs that exemplify quality and help those who want to learn in an honest way, then you should take another look at why you do this.
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? The desire to keep this breed going. I am always worried that this breed will fizzle out and never have new breeders who are dedicated to keeping the gene pool honest and healthy. By showing these dogs we gain some interest and some publicity.
Sky Acres’ legacy in Belgian Tervuren began 36 years ago and launched one of the most successful breeding programs in breed history. Michelle has bred over 100 Champions, producing 18 dogs that have amassed over 110 Best in Show and Best in Specialty Show wins. Sky Acres has been home to the #1 ranked Terv 30 of the past 36 years—in either the All-Breed system, Breed system, or All-Systems, and often of All-Belgians.
Over the years and generations, Sky Acres has claimed the fame of having the Top-Winning Bitch of All Time. MBIS/MBISS GCHG Sky Acres Flying Solo was #1 All-Systems, All-Belgians for three consecutive years. She is the only bitch to be ranked Number One, holds all bitch records, and is the breed’s only Gold Grand Champion bitch.
Sky Acres also claims the distinction of having the Top-Winning Dog of All Time. Solo’s son, MBIS/MBISS GCHP Sky Acres Maximum Altitude, holds the records for most BISS wins, BOB wins, Group placements and dogs defeated. He is one of only two Platinum Grand Champions.
Sky Acres is the only kennel to have produced three different National Specialty winners: MBISS CH Sky Acres Piper Pawnee, BIS/MBISS CH Sky Acres Piper Aerostar, and MBIS/MBISS GCHB Sky Acres Spy Plane. Spy also has the prestige of being one of the breed’s four Group-placers at Westminster Kennel Club.
Michelle was honored for her accomplishments and contribution to the breed by being named the 2009 AKC Herding Group Breeder of the Year. In 2010, she was one of the first to be recognized as an AKC Breeder of Merit. Her breeding philosophy is simple: “Only breed the best for the betterment of the breed!”
I live on a private airport in The Dalles, Oregon, located in the Columbia River National Scenic Area. Since 1984, my breed—and passion—has been the Belgian Tervuren. When I am not walking dogs, playing with dogs, training dogs, breeding dogs, grooming dogs, showing dogs, cleaning up after dogs, playing with puppies, and doing all things that are dogs… I sleep! And sometimes I clean house, do yard work, enjoy photography and graphic design and drawing, shoo critters off the runway (elk, deer, turkey, and the neighbor’s cows) and go flying in a Bonanza Beechcraft A36.
I grew up with German Shepherds and learned to walk holding onto a very patient, old girl named Leibchen. When I was ten, I got a dog that was all mine and started training and showing in conformation, obedience and Jr. handling—which was pretty much it in those days (unless you had a hunting dog). One of my GSDs earned a coveted Utility Dog title. I purchased my first Belgian Tervuren in 1984 and started breeding three years later—a passion, devotion and vision for my breeding program was conceived.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? I competed in conformation and obedience with my first two Tervs. In the early years, Herding events had not yet been invented, but we did attend some herding seminars. There was no Agility, Rally, Trick dog, Barn hunts, etc. and when there was, I had found my calling in the conformation ring and was spending my time there—both as a breeder/owner-handler and as a professional handler. In 1987, my first Terv won his first Best in show and I was bitten by the dog show bug! That dog had just finished his Companion Dog Excellent title with high scores, but we would never experience the “Futility of Utility” as the conformation ring had become much more fun! My second Terv only earned his CD (on a bet, which I won), but went on to win ten Best in Shows.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? Yes, very much so! Although I no longer compete in venues other than conformation, my puppies and their owners do me proud in all events. Many have done very well at Herding trials and the first Herding Trial Champion was a grandson of my second Terv.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? For me, type is all-encompassing. It is not just a “look,” but the entire package: Form and function. Type is temperament, coat, structure and movement. Type embodies the blueprint for the breed distinguishing it from all others, both standing and in motion.
If you read the AKC Belgian Tervuren breed standard, the key essentials of “type” are those of a confident, medium-sized, square dog, elegant in appearance, whose gait covers maximum ground with minimum effort. It is not a “head breed.” Nor should its predominant color be pale, washed out, cream or gray. The color range is rich fawn to russet mahogany.
I would like to note there is a coat difference in my breed, between the male and female, similar to that of a “lion and lioness”—with the male coat being very grand, long and abundant with a pronounced collarette, whereas the female coat is rarely as long or as ornamented. This disparity should not be considered when the female is judged against the male, as long as both coats conform to the standard.
This line from the standard sums up “type” very well: “The Belgian Tervuren is a herding dog and versatile worker. The highest value is to be placed on qualities that maintain these abilities, specifically, correct temperament, gait, bite and coat.”
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? I am sorry to say I am disappointed by the quality I see in the conformation ring. Too many dogs lack the sound structure described by the breed standard and, therefore, cannot and do not move correctly. It is much easier to breed for a “look” in the head or body standing still, than it is to breed for aesthetic structure and movement. However, when that static picture becomes kinetic, the dog must have the correct structure in order to be functional in motion. Too often I see lovely dogs that simply do not cover ground as defined by the standard: “Gait—Lively and graceful, covering the maximum ground with minimum effort.”
I am very pleased with the public popularity of this breed. As breeders, we do not want the breed to become too popular, as that may encourage indiscriminate breeding, producing poor quality, temperament, and health. It is also not a breed for your average dog owner, so puppy placements must be made with careful consideration. The breed is highly intelligent, with high energy and high drive, making it rather “high maintenance!”
I am disappointed the breed is not more popular with the conformation judges. Many dismiss it in the Group and Best in Show rings—even ones that are outstanding—for a more popular or promoted breed. I understand that when a breed lacks depth of quality at the breed level, it is hard for some judges to reward it on an individual basis, but those are exactly the dogs that need and should be meritoriously recognized!
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” In most divisions, it only takes an entry of five to six for a major in either sex. If exhibitors rally together and commit to travel, in most areas it is not hard to build majors. Remote locations and small shows don’t tend to draw majors, but there are typically larger shows that draw a good entry. In my area, it is not a lack of exhibits that fails to pull majors, it is the lack of effort on the part of the exhibitors.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? I cannot speak for other breeders, but due to the reputation of my dogs for good temperament and health, I get a lot of pet/companion requests. Many of those are declined due to lack of experience, making the home unsuitable for this breed. Tervs are best served by a strong, experienced pack leader. The breed also requires a good amount of mental and physical stimulation, so active owners are best for a successful placement. I give show/performance homes placement priority and, thanks to a successful breeding program, I tend to have very few “pets.”
Who were my mentors? I was fortunate to have been taken under the wing of one of the breed’s founding mothers, Edeltraud Laurin of Chateau Blanc Belgian Tervuren. I can still hear her, with her imposing German accent, telling me to always adhere to the breed standard! Above all else, those are her words of wisdom that I’d like to share! After her tutelage, she had enough faith in my commitment to appoint me an official judges’ education breed mentor, a position I embraced for 17 years.
Another mentor to whom I am grateful was, and still is, Cheryl Calm of Calm Bouvier de Flanders. Nearly 36 years ago, she patiently helped me learn and understand the mechanics of structure and how it translates to movement. We have helped each other apply that knowledge to evaluating puppies. Even now, we put our heads together and collaborate on litter evaluations, puppy placements, pedigrees and breeding prospects. While we are long-time competitors, it is a shared love for our breeds and breeding that has made us lifetime friends.
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? I am struck by the beauty of the Belgian Tervuren, its athleticism, its zest for life, its sense of humor and its devotion to its people. I have a vision for my breeding program and my breed. I wish for a depth of quality in the ring that makes judging Tervs a pleasurable experience and a rewarding challenge. As a breeder and exhibitor, I will continue to strive for that wish to become a reality.
I live in South Florida, in a rural district known as
My breed is Berger Picards, and my mentor was Betsy Richards, and still is Jackie Walker. They have instilled in me the awesomeness of this breed. All of my dogs are currently able to perform their job of herding sheep.
I have been involved in my breeding program for four years now and involved in conformation classes for over 20 years. I also participate in FCAT as well. I have done obedience when in 4-H as
I was involved with Berger Picards before they were accepted into AKC and were in the Miscellaneous Group. They were accepted into the AKC stud book on June 1, 2015.
The “Winn Dixie Dog,” starring in the movie of the same name, is the Berger Picard and yes, they do shed, but a little grooming once a week keeps them from doing much of that. I generally run a Greyhound comb through my dogs/ bitches once a week. Their hair is also much easier to sweep up than most dogs.
I live in Thousand Palms, California, just two hours east of Los Angeles. My breed is Briards. Outside of dogs, I am a mother of three children, one being my talented daughter, KayCee. When not at dog shows I enjoy riding my two Quarter Horses, Lagenta and
I have been involved with this amazing breed since 1995. Together with my daughter, KayCee, who has been involved with showing and caring for Briards since she was a little girl [and] is now an integral part of Mon Amie Briards, we are a team and work together to breed beautiful, sound examples of the breed. We feel our dogs stand out not only for their lovely soundness and beauty, but for their amazing, stable, easy temperaments. Together we have raised (and KayCee has expertly handled) multiple Group-placing and Group-winning dogs, Specialty-winning dogs, National Specialty-winning dogs, and two generations of Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show dogs and almost 100 champions of record. It is my hope that when I am long gone KayCee will continue on and preserve the pedigrees and dogs of Mon Amie.
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? I have been involved with this amazing breed for 25 years now. I was given my first Briard as a gift, she was my first show dog. I started breeding in 1998 and had my first Briard litter.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? My daughter and I compete in conformation, although over the years we have gotten some CGC’s on our dogs. Many of the dogs we’ve bred do have performance event titles, herding titles and even Farm Dog titles.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? Briards were bred to not only herd, but guard their flocks. Although temperaments, in my opinion, are less tough than dogs of years past, the dogs do still possess their natural instincts to herd. I do believe they would protect their families with their lives as well. Briards have a sense of loyalty like no other dog I have ever owned. So, yes, I believe Briards of today (if given the opportunity to perform their original function) would absolutely be able to.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? To me, the Briard should be proud and alert, handsome, sound, well-balanced and of correct size and proportion, possessing a beautiful outline with a correct head of correct length.
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? Yes, I think breeders try hard to produce healthy, sound dogs. However, I believe our breed will be in trouble if breeders are not mindful of proportions, sickle hocks, and sound structure. Too much emphasis is being put on coat quality and color. We need to remember [that] this is a breed that needs to be able to cover the most amount of ground with the least amount of effort, tirelessly, for hours. The Briard is less popular than many of the other Herding breeds. I believe [this is] because of the amount of time and socialization they require from puppyhood through adulthood, and because the coat requires time and effort to properly groom.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” Like many of the less popular or rare breeds, finding majors can be a struggle. Breeders and owners have to communicate and work together to get the required number of dogs entered for majors. This can be challenging if Briarders do not work together.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? I cannot speak for other breeders, but for KayCee and I, we usually have a waiting list for puppies. We only produce one to two litters per year and we are fortunate to have wonderful homes waiting for our puppies long before they are even born.
Who were my mentors? I have been fortunate over the years to have many wonderful, smart breeders mentor me, but my original mentor in the breed was Mary Lopez of Mon Jovis Briards. I think the one thing I took away from the many years we worked together is to stand in my own convictions. She taught me to make decisions based on what I believe was right for my own breeding program and not to worry about what others might think. That is very hard to do even to this day. I am also very fortunate to have a dear friend, Terry Miller of Deja Vu Briards, to call not only my friend, but to call on when I need advice or just want to talk dogs. She has been a wealth of knowledge over the years and I respect and admire her work in our breed. Ann Kennedy of Clarion Poodles, Dominique Dube of Popsakadoo Briards, Meg Weitz of de Beaujean Briards—so many wonderful people who have been there for me over the years. I am truly fortunate to have so many years of knowledge available to me.
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? Briards are like no other dog I have ever been around. They have amazing intuition, a goofy sense of humor and their sense of loyalty is remarkable. Their sheer beauty also attracts me to the breed. I cannot imagine life without this amazing breed. Over the years I have met so many wonderful people in the dog world, so showing the Briards has become a passion for me, something I now enjoy with my daughter, KayCee, who has become an integral part of Mon Amie.
Janina Laurin is an AKC judge of BIS, the Herding Group and multiple Working breeds, and a second generation dog fancier. She has judged the national specialties of all three Belgian breeds and Newfoundlands. She has been honored to judge the breed twice at Westminster, at the AKC show, and will be judging the AKC/Royal Canin Bred-by Group 2020. Janina will also be judging the Tervuren national for the fourth time in 2021. In October 2020, she will be judging the first Belgian Lakenois national. In 2002, Janina accepted the inaugural AKC Herding Breeder of the Year award on behalf of Chateau Blanc Kennels (Edeltraud, Janina and Darlene). Chateau Blanc has produced over 250 champions, Best in Show, National Specialty and Specialty winners, Dual champions, herding and tracking champions, multiple HIT winners in all performance events in the States and Canada, including Schutzhund events, on a limited breeding program. Janina and her sister are actively showing in conformation, herding, obedience and tracking with their current dogs and continuing to breed Belgian Tervuren. She has served as the parent club’s AKC Delegate for over 20 years, Showchair/Co-Chair Putnam Kennel Club, founding member and past President Berkshire Belgian Tevuren Club, past President of the American Belgian Tervuren Club, and member of Saw Mill Kennel Club. Janina is a founding member of the parent club’s Education Committee and has served on it since the mid-1980s.
I live in a sleepy little town in Connecticut. My hometown road has not changed substantially in 50 years. The “newcomers” on the road have been here 20 years. We recently moved back to the country from our city/suburban home of 38 years. My breed is the Belgian Tervuren. They are very happy to have so much room to run like wild beasts. It took them a little while to adjust from “city” noise to “country” noise (turkeys, deer, coyotes, etc.).
Other than judging and showing dogs, I enjoy reading, swimming (consequently, all my own dogs learn to swim). Currently, we are renovating the family homestead and restoring the aged landscape. By the time this publishes, I’ll be retired. Fooling around with recipes and plotting out a garden for next year are next up on the agenda.
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? I always say I’ve been involved for life. Quite frankly, I don’t remember ever not participating in some sort of dog sports since I was a youngster. I bred my first litter when I was 17 and truly love mixing, matching and researching pedigrees and dogs. It’s an education, always. I do enjoy following successful breeders in other breeds as well as watching where they take their lines. Many times following a judging assignment, I may go look up a pedigree of a dog I liked to see where and how it came to be so nice.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? I still like to compete and believe all judges should keep some hand in the competitive end of it, especially if they stopped breeding and are still physically able. My current dogs are all young (except the 15-year-old) and I believe in cross-training to keep them mentally and physically fit. It provides direction and control from just playing, running and swimming, which they do plenty.
Currently, I’m showing in conformation, and training in the companion and performance events. I do frequently use a younger handler for specialing in conformation at the all-breed shows, but I enjoy very much showing in the classes myself and at specialties as well as at the companion/performance events.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? Absolutely. We have a very active membership that competes in multiple disciplines and particularly herding on all levels.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? When all the pieces fit, there is nothing more beautiful than my breed standing proudly, squarely with its beautiful, rich color, elegantly watching over its domain or people. While the breed is not specifically a “head breed,” much of its beauty can be found in its confident, alert expression. Almond-shaped, correctly placed eyes enhance the look. Finally, type is not stationary—it is quite fluid. Sound movement is essential in a Herding breed. While we can forgive, as we must as breeders or judges—elegance, movement and rich color as defined by the standard are key essentials in our breed. When you have found the dog that can hold its beauty and soundness standing and moving, well, you have found a dog to reward highly.
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? Yes and no. The breed has improved in terms of its body-shape. We have less rectangular dogs than in previous times. We have, however, lost some elegance in that quest, with fewer dogs that have harmonious lines. There is some misunderstanding amongst breeders (in my opinion only) on what good angulation is, movement in a square breed, and what our heads should look like. The interpretation of moderate is wildly interpreted.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” I don’t think it has been particularly difficult. In the Northeast, we have several shows per quarter with majors. There are generally fewer of the breed shown on a weekend-to-weekend basis overall.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? Yes. There is a robust market for pet quality puppies. Those homes aren’t always necessarily well-suited to the breed. Our breeders have very high standards in terms of requiring new owners to be involved in some type of activity with them. One thing for certain, this is not a lay by the fireplace and do nothing kind of breed.
Who were my mentors? My family, of course, and I would consider the dog showing/breeding community-at-large a
huge think-tank. We have so many knowledgeable, successful, dedicated breeders and dog show people who are willing to share their knowledge if you are sincere and respectful. Of course, listening and acknowledging is an art as is actually having a plan. One of the many pearls of wisdom from Mrs. Laurin has, and still is, “Start with a sound foundation. If you don’t have four good legs and a good temperament, you are starting out at a deficit already. Don’t be in a hurry. Sometimes, breedings don’t turn out as you thought, but when you’ve settled on a plan, don’t be afraid to stick with it despite the ebb and flow of fads.”
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? By and large, I’m a competitor and enjoy competing and winning, of course. As for my breed, there is always something to improve, breeding-wise. I can’t imagine living without a Belgian Tervuren. They are beautiful, versatile and devoted.
Jeanie Troyan McAdams is a breeder/owner-handler of Miniature American Shepherds (MAS) and an AKC Breeder of Merit. Her kennel name is “Love That” and she is a parent club Judge’s Education Breed Mentor.
She and her husband, Dr. Douglas McAdams, live in Denton County, Texas, where they have a dental practice that Jeanie manages. Jeanie was on the parent club (MASCUSA) Board that negotiated entrance into AKC. The breed was accepted into AKC FSS in 2012, quickly advanced to the Miscellaneous Class, then became fully-recognized July 1, 2015.
Although she has had Australian Shepherds since 1975, Jeanie did not show dogs until 2007. She was busy training and showing Reining Horses in the 1980s and ‘90s, winning many National Reining Horse Association Major Events and NRHA World Titles. When she retired from reining, she missed the training of an animal and putting a show record on them. She bought her first Miniature Australian Shepherd in 2007 and began showing at the rare breed shows. (The breed name was changed to Miniature American Shepherd when accepted into AKC.) She has been busy promoting the breed ever since.
I live in Denton County, Texas. My breed is the Miniature American Shepherd. Outside of dogs, I’m interested in snow and water skiing, design/architecture/construction, and travel.
I have had Australian Shepherds since 1975, and Miniature American Shepherds since 2007. I’ve been a breeder for nine years.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? I compete in conformation.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? Yes, these dogs are very good herders.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? An effortless, agile movement and a head similar to an Australian Shepherd, but with not as much “stop.”
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? Personally, I would like to see people pay more attention to proper movement but, considering the breed will be fully-recognized just five years in July 1, 2020, I feel the breed as a whole has improved. Our breed is amazingly popular.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” I don’t think its been too hard for most.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? Absolutely, this breed makes a great pet!
Who were my mentors? Unfortunately, I didn’t really have any mentors when I was starting out showing dogs. I just tried to look at lots of dogs and figure things out on my own. I would have loved to have had a mentor though! I think my years of training and showing horses, especially Reining Horses, helped me. At the shows you can learn from everyone, either how to do it or how not to do it. I would say that the one person who has been the most helpful to me since our breed was accepted by AKC is Maggie Pryor. She is a sweetheart and so helpful to so many people! Also Thomas Vinson and his wife, Doc Sherri Vinson, have helped me a lot, especially with the mental aspect of showing! They are very knowledgeable and very kind to share their wisdom! I can’t thank these three people enough!
My advice would be to stay humble, be persistent and be honest about your ability and your dogs. Help others when you can, and the dogs always come first! Enjoy the ride!
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? I love watching a beautifully moving dog in the show ring or just trotting across the yard. They are so loving, loyal dogs; they just capture your heart. Since retiring from showing horses it was a natural progression to start showing dogs. I love to put a great record on an animal.
I live in Cumby, Texas, (small town in Northeast Texas). My breeds are German Shepherds and Cardigan Welsh Corgis. Outside of dogs, my interests include learning about films, history,
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? I’ve been in dogs for nearly 25 years. My parents bred and showed German Shepherds when I was a young kid, and when I was in my 20s I bred my first litter of German Shepherds in 2011 at age 21. As for Cardigans, I became involved in them seven years ago after I graduated college and lost my companion Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? I compete in conformation mostly, but we do make time for companion events like Farm Dog Certification, CGC, Rally, Herding Instinct, and try often to have GSDCA approved Temperament Test Certification on my breeding dogs.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? My dogs are very capable of going out and herding, which is what they were bred to do. While I have a hard time finding an actual training facility in my region for true herding lessons, we do live out in the country and our German Shepherds have herded goats and pigs out of areas we don’t want them in (and one of the dogs actually chased off a wild hog to protect me on a walk in our pasture, and had an excellent recall). Our Corgis have done well herding Guinea hens, miniature horses, and cows. Our German Shepherds will do perimeter runs and will bark to alert us when people have entered our property.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? For German Shepherds, I always stress that we don’t want them to appear like a different Shepherd breed. I want to be able to do a quick look and be able to say that’s a German Shepherd with its correct, beautiful curves, heavier-boned than, say, a Belgian, and a head that is strong. I also want to see them with that beautiful opening-up gait. For Cardigans, I look for a correct head and ear and the front wrap with round bone. I do not want to question if it is a Pembroke.
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? I wish German Shepherds were not so popular, [with] too many people breeding them and doing little or no health testing, nor do they breed them to standard because, outside of the dog show world, many German Shepherds are very poor quality and make you even question which breed they are. I do think show line GSDs are getting to a good point; just look at dogs like Rumor, Fritz, and Tony. We have come back from becoming almost overdone. For Cardigans, the quality at shows is becoming very strong and it’s great to see a strong line-up from the classes. They have gained popularity recently in the public eye, but the breed club and breeders do a great job of protecting the breed.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” German Shepherds have become a bit harder in my region for majors for various reasons, partially because we are not an easy breed to show; not so many handlers or owner-handlers are showing them (and many breeders/handlers still prefer to show at specialties or under breeder-judges only). Cardigans are easier for majors overall because they have a lower point scale and we usually know which shows owner-handlers can come to.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? For both my breeds there is a market for pet puppies. The people wanting Cardigan puppies have done research and there aren’t as many breeders, so they are willing to wait. With German Shepherds, people will always want them, but some do not want to pay for a well-bred dog or wait, since they can find one easily, probably from a local person for cheap.
Who were my mentors? First, my mother, Heather Miller, was my mentor in German Shepherds. I’ve also had help from Sergio Espejo and Laurie Jeff Greer and, recently, Nancy Schnider. All great people who have bred good dogs and done a fair share of winning at various levels. In Cardigans, I have to thank Joan Adams for her help guiding me after I got my first girl, and then I’ve had help from Betty Ann Seely, Sherri Hurst, and Cassie Frank. From the beginning I’ve learned to never throw the baby out with the bath water, but always be evaluating your dogs and don’t be afraid to change direction. From my own personal experience, I’ve learned while it’s great to have one mentor to guide you, still learn from as many people as you can and be willing to try something that you think is best.
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? While there are days I want to stop breeding German Shepherds, I’ve had them my whole life and I put my heart and soul into them, even when they break my heart. I keep coming back and chasing that dream of having that big-winning German Shepherd that influences the breed. As for Cardigans, I’ve been in them for a shorter time, but I love everything about them and see opportunities to be a part of a breed [with which] I can use my German Shepherd experiences to try to breed nice dogs that are healthy and competitive.
Christina (Chris) Miller has been active in purebred dogs and AKC events for over 40 years. She first stepped into the conformation ring at the tender age of eight with her parent’s, Michael and Merry Carol Houchard, Great Danes. Since that time she has competed in conformation, junior showmanship, obedience, agility, rally obedience, coursing ability, barn hunt, Fast CAT, and herding.
Chris became enamored with the Canaan Dog in 1997, the year of their full AKC recognition into the Herding Group. Looking for a breed of medium size, intelligence and exceptional health, the Canaan Dog seemed the logical choice. After meeting her first Canaan Dogs in person, a new chapter in her life began. With the arrival of her first Canaan Dog in 1998, she has devoted much of her life to this amazing breed.
Her background and knowledge of purebred dogs and AKC events was swiftly welcomed by the Canaan Dog Club of America (CDCA). Chris has served the CDCA as past secretary, board of directors member, breed standard revision committee member, newsletter editor, and on various committees. She currently serves as treasurer, national specialty oversight co-chair, and judge’s
Chris’s breed accolades include the top breeder/owner-handled Canaan Dog for the breed 2000 to 2005, the top owner-handled Canaan Dog bitch for 2009 and 2010, top breeder/owner-handled Canaan Dogs for 2011 to present. The 2005 AKC ACE Award for Exemplary Companion Dog was awarded to one of her dogs. CDCA National Specialty awards have included 2013, 2015, and 2018 Best of Breed, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2019 Best of Opposite Sex, 2000 CDCA National Specialty, High in Trial and numerous CDCA National Specialty Best Rookie and Best Experienced Herding Instinct winners. She can also boast of the first Canaan Dog to earn their AKC Grand Championship and the first with the AKC Coursing Ability title. Three of her dogs have also received the CDCA Dog of the Year award. Through the years, she has bred or owned over 30 AKC Champions and has over 100 performance titles.
She is an AKC approved judge for Canaan Dogs and Junior Showmanship. She had the honor of judging the 2008 CDCA National Specialty Puppy and Veteran Sweepstakes and will be judging the 2020 National Specialty (Dogs, Bitches, and Intersex) in October at Eukanuba Hall. Chris was awarded the CDCA Member of the year in 2010 for her continued dedication to the club, sport and breed.
We currently reside east of Atlanta, Georgia, in Conyers. We are in the process of renovating our new home and completing our new kennel in the Northwest Georgia mountains outside of Villanow. We lovingly refer to the new residence as River Rock North. Furthermore, we will be officially combining forces with my father, Mike Houchard, to become River Rock at Lyceum.
My breed for the last 23 years has been the Canaan Dog. I grew up with the Great Danes of Lyceum, had a few Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Dalmatians along the way, but the Canaan Dog captivated me in the late 1900s.
My interests apart from dogs range from gardening, gourmet cooking, photography, travel, and painting. My passion in gardening are herbs which, in turn, lends itself to my gourmet cooking. In all honesty everything comes back to the dogs. What are the subjects of most of my photography and painting? Dogs. What does most of my travel revolve around? Dog shows.
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? Growing up with my parent’s Great Danes, I have always been involved with dogs. I started showing the Danes 42 years ago and I’m still showing my own dogs today. If you want to count the litters that I co-bred with my mother, I have been a breeder for 36 years. Under my River Rock prefix, I have been a breeder for 30 years and just recently welcomed my twenty-fourth litter.
The Canaan Dog entered, and subsequently began running, my life in 1997. They have become my passion. I can only hope to have given the breed half of what these amazing dogs have given me. They have taught me so much about the human-canine bond and natural dog behavior. I don’t think I could not have a Canaan Dog (or two) in my life.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? I have competed in conformation since 1977. I have achieved CD’s on a few of my dogs. Rally is my favorite companion event. It’s well-suited for the Canaan Dog and their desire not to repeat the same exercise over and over. The performance event that really
suits them is Fast CAT. I can currently boast of having the fastest recorded Fast CAT Canaan Dog. Coursing Ability Tests are also another favorite of my Canaan Dogs. Unfortunately, after a few CAT runs they swiftly learn how to read the line and just lay in wait for the “rabbit” to come to them. We do dabble in Herding, but haven’t really gone past basic Herding Instinct and Tested levels. This is more due to handler ability than the dog’s ability and desire.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? As the breed was developed from a geographical convergence of type, their original function was survival. Could these dogs still survive if left to their own devices? Emphatically, yes. They are thinking dogs that easily solve problems to benefit their needs. Once semi-domesticated by nomadic tribes thousands of years ago, they were proficient in moving and guarding stock. They are still very capable of those functions today; a natural breed, capable of covering much ground in a day, of moderate build, with a keen mind.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? A square dog of moderate build with an effortless, ground-covering endurance trot; a blunt, wedge-shaped head with intelligent expression in balance with an athletic body; and a tail carried, no more than one curl, straight above the back. You want to see smooth side planes on an elongated head with obliquely-set, almond-shaped eyes; a harsh, flat-lying double coat with no preference to color (other than those that are a DQ); an endurance trot that is clean coming and going without extended reach and drive on the side.
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? The overall quality of the Canaan Dog seen in the Breed ring is excellent. You can easily find dogs of sound mind and body, carrying correct type, in your ring today. There are always exceptions, but the breed and its dedicated group of breeders are producing dogs of quality.
I doubt that the breed will ever be popular and I’m quite happy with where the breed is today. They are a thinking dog that can often outsmart their owners. That’s not what most people want in a dog. For those that can appreciate their naturalness and intelligence, they are the perfect fit and people find that they cannot be without a Canaan Dog.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” With the exception of our National Specialty week, it can be difficult to find majors. With the “new normal” it will probably be even more difficult. Our show community does try to keep everyone apprised of where we might congregate to create majors. Additionally, there is a Facebook page: Canaan Dog AKC Point Builder, where we try to let folks know where there may be an entry. We also encourage those interested in seeing the breed to also join
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? The companion dog market is our largest market in our breed. Even though we can consistently place in the Herding Group across the country on any given “normal” show weekend, we are not a sought-after breed for conformation. There is a small market for performance Canaan Dogs, as they do excel in multiple
My mentors in the world of purebred dogs were and are my parents, Mike and Merry Carol Houchard. Although Mom is no longer with us, I still hear her in my head and she comes out of my mouth from time to time. My best words of wisdom from Mom go back to my Junior Showmanship days, “Smile, enjoy your dog, and have fun.” These words still resonate today.
My Canaan Dog mentors are Bryna Comsky and Donna Dodson. Both are breed matriarchs. Bryna bred my first Canaan Dog and instilled a romanticism of the breed and its history. She also contributed to my eye that spots the elegance of the breed. Donna bred many of the dogs behind my foundation in the breed. Her keen sense of the essence of Canaan Dog temperament helped me to understand the naturalness of the breed. My well-rounded knowledge would not be complete without the dedication and hard work of both of these women.
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? I guess the fact that the Canaan Dog is awesome doesn’t really justify as an answer. The fact that this is a breed worthy of, and in need of, preservation is a sustaining factor in my dedication to the Canaan Dog. From detecting my son’s seizure disorder, before we knew he had issues, to bringing me joy with every litter—I cannot imagine my life without them. The breed has allowed me to walk in partnership with them on this journey, and I hope the journey continues.
Ellen Myers has been a devoted dog fancier and breeder since 1987. She is a Breeder of Merit with the AKC. She has published previous articles about the breed in international dog show publications. She has a published series of E-books on aspects helpful to dog owners in general called: Life With Puppies, Holidays with the Dogs, and others. Her Briards have achieved high titles both in the USA and Canada, and in European Countries.
I live in Bridgehampton, New York. My breed is the Briard, Le Chien de Brie. I have a lot of interests, really, and involvement in other areas. I have career involvements as well. I am a creative person professionally in entertainment, as a creative story writer, producer, and sometimes actress. I have been an avid skier, and am a yogi, teaching specifically mudras work. I have an interest in horses, and metaphysics is a lifelong interest of mine. I am for a long time engaged and interested in the field of human development potential. I love to read and travel. I love many kinds of music. I like to dance. I am basically still curious about many things.
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? I have been involved with the Briard since the late 1980s. I bred my first litter in 1993.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? All three, really. I have competed internationally in conformation with my dogs, as have some of my puppy buyers, but always my dogs are bred first and foremost to be companion dogs. Even if they show and compete successfully, their bulk of life I aim to be compatible with their person and families. It was an effort on my part to produce, as best I could, a dog that had it all. Yet, I have, I believe, as a breeder, produced the top-ranked ever AKC Herding dog in competition in America: Triple CH Fresco of the Coastline, [also] a conformation CH, whose one litter was filmed at my home by the Discovery Channel for their show on the Briard, Too Cute.
Several other Briards of my breeding have competed to high results in herding as well. Many of my dogs have been simply big family dogs, or shown only in conformation classes to success. The last dog of mine that was out showing was shown to his CH in conformation from start to finish by his owner, Mr. Joe Contrera of Massachusetts, who had never been in a dog show before in his life previous to owning his Briard, whom he calls Seth.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? There are many professional herding people whom I have heard say, for the most part—in the USA at least—that many Briards today are not able to perform well, nor are [they] such good students of sheep herding, the original purpose of the Briard in ancient times. That aspect of nature for that work is not very evident at this time when they see them show up for herding classes. It is not only their conformation that has been off for the breed, especially in size, not correct really to the standard for herding work, but also I have heard often their temperaments are not easy to train for that work. I do think there are many who no longer try to herd due to not being near a facility or having sheep of their own. People compete more often in Rally and Obedience work and, perhaps, Carting. Some owners are avid about doing Agility. I found that taking dogs when they’re younger to agility classes can help them later to work with better response and results in herding.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? The “correct” type to my mind remains any dog whose conformation is clearly adhered to as defined by the standard. Older books (some written in other languages) go into more depth about these qualities than others. A very good dog is not only excellent to the standard, [but] goes beyond the three or four key points about the breed that are necessary to say it is a Briard. Within the breed, as it is an ancient breed, there are and have been breeders throughout the world developing their own lines for a long time. Many breeders traditionally, and in the early days here in the USA by request of people in the breed, made a point of asking that our breeders not overbreed, but work to maintain the special aspects so unique to the Briard. Overseas, access to different dogs and pedigrees that go far back in history allowed for variations in what is type due to a very long and expansive EU breeding history in this breed. For me, the various types can be interesting and, in reality, we breeders have the choice to have preferences for what we feel is best and most appealing as a “type.” For myself, I have always preferred what I would call, and others have called, a “rustic” type. After all, it is not a breed created for fluffy dog shows, but a hard-working, endurance breed. It is not a breed like, say, the Cocker Spaniel, where every hair should be in a particular place; but in each and any of these types, the need to comply with the standard. That is the same for all types. So the standard is the bottom line and how accurately in all details one accomplishes this has mattered to me. This includes the character. A knowledgeable judge is accustomed to different types and knows how to distinguish what is great in a dog of a particular type compared to a dog of a different type in the ring at the same time, and from that decide which is more excellent to the type he is, and then, of course, if both are actually quite equal in their excellence, the judge chooses which type he or she likes best or it is decided by performance. Most judges, if the room is available, let the gavel fall on the comparison of the dogs’ movement and the endurance of the dogs moving properly. Often the time to evaluate deeply is too short for any judge to really know. Let’s face it, any dog can be made to look good for three minutes around a ring.
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? I believe there is good breeding effort being made.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” It is challenging. There are few younger people coming into the breeding world in the Briard—which was never huge to begin with—and the older breeders, such as myself, are stopping or slowing down. But I have faith that the breed will endure in the world as it has for centuries, actually.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? Certainly this is true. The majority of people buy a Briard this way.
Who were my mentors? I was mostly self-taught. I made my very first breeding decision on my own and it remained that way always. I studied by going to shows and watching, and this included several trips to Europe, and watching generations of dogs, and talking to people at shows about breed evaluation. As in Europe when I began and it still goes on, there are judges whose particular work is in just the one breed, and their training takes five years. So there I discovered it was more possible to learn about the dogs. This environment was educational as people were all interested in speaking about the breed for the sake of the breed, and not focused on wanting to win a dog show. What the majority wanted was the achievement of breeding very proper dogs in all aspects. Even second generation breeders there stopped and accepted the critique well from any expert being shown their dog. There was no hostility, but respect for their views. I found avoiding cliques of people beneficial as well. I read books and articles where I could and I also studied horse breeding, actually. That gave me creative and new ways to look at dog breeding, and things that might be important that were not being discussed by dog breeders. As horses mean a lot more money, I figured at the time, they are studying things that really matter about their breed, because of all the money involved they only get one baby from an effort. All this was privately thought about by myself during this time and pursued by myself as a form of breeding study. I, of course, tried to select people to get input from whose dogs mattered to me the most.
I avoided discussions and people who were primarily interested in showing agendas over concerns about the breed.
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? This is to me a gorgeous, ancient breed whose history is big and impressive. It is such an intelligent dog and so devoted to its people. A Briard is a dog that will always prefer the company of a person over another dog. It has been my honor to love and attempt to keep the breed as good as I can in my own small effort, as I was never a big breeder. I sometimes worry that the future of big, purebred dogs is growing thinner. I didn’t know. I have found it an honor to support this breed. I feel sorry for those who may come later and never be able to know what a Briard dog is, or to own one. Generally, but specifically, my role as a breeder I have seen as one of a caretaker for the breed. There were great people who bred hard and true before me and I hope what I leave behind supports their future.
Here is a book I wrote some time ago with views of breeders on the breed other than myself. It is available from me directly, signed, or via Amazon.
I live in Brooksville, Florida. My interests include law (I am a lawyer, after all), horses and equestrian sports, and classical music, including Italian opera.
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? I have been involved in dogs for two full generations, equaling about 50 years. I have been actively breeding for about 10 years.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? I compete in conformation and occasionally in obedience. I have bred dogs that participate in all three.
Is my breed [Beauceron] still capable of performing its original function? Yes, it is and some do.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? Square body, solid topline even when moving, shepherd type head (not Rottweiler), smooth, easy movement, aloof temperament, moderate curve, and substance. The breed standard specifies this is a moderate dog
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? Not truly. The breed is losing its shepherd type and becoming a Rottweiler type with cheeky heads, overdone bone, saggy toplines, and the inability to be the endurance dog that can herd over 50 miles per day. All of this is because it is becoming too popular and being bred to meet demand, not the standard.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” It can be challenging.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? Yes.
Who were my mentors? Susan Bass and Carla Davis. Words of wisdom were, “Don’t breed too close in a small gene pool.”
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? They are sweet family dogs and are true shepherds when bred correctly. I enjoy
Jo-Ann Secondino is a Bronze Breeder of Merit who has served as the Vice President, Breeding and Review Committee Chairman, and Health and Genetics Chairman for the Icelandic Sheepdog Association of America. Jo-Ann and her partner, Jonathan Pickett, actively support the breed by initiating fundraising efforts for the breed’s rescue organization that reaches out to engage the entire Icelandic Sheepdog community.
I live in Maryland. My breed is the Icelandic Sheepdog.
How many years have I been involved in dogs and as a breeder? I’ve been involved with dogs all my life, but I’ve been involved with Icelandic Sheepdogs for 17 years. I have been breeding Icelandic Sheepdogs for 13 years.
Do I compete in conformation, companion or performance events? I mostly compete in conformation, but have participated in barn hunt and fast cat.
Is my breed still capable of performing its original function? Oh yes! The one thing that is stressed about the Icelandic Sheepdog is that there should be no separation between working lines and show lines. Every show dog should be able to do the job it was bred to do.
Can I define the key essentials of “type” in my breed? First thing essential to our breed’s type is its ability to do its job in its country of origin—even though it may never be tasked with doing so. This means a weather-proof, double coat in either a short or long coat, they must have a coarse outer coat and thick undercoat to protect them from Iceland’s tempestuous weather. The head should be triangular when seen from the top and sides, with the muzzle being slightly shorter than the skull. The body should be rectangular, with a level topline, a slight tuck-up, and a high-set tail curled over the back, As a breed designed to assist in driving sheep up in down rugged terrain, movement is an important part of type. They should have a brisk, ground-covering trot with strong rear that drives an effortless and agile gait.
Am I pleased with my breed’s current overall quality and popularity? The Icelandic Sheepdog isn’t among the most popular breeds. I feel that’s a good thing. They are a delightful breed, but can be challenging for some owners. They can have an independent nature, be quite vocal, and require better-than-average interaction from their owners. As a low numbers breed, we have foundation stock from different regions of Europe and Iceland. These regions have developed their own style of Icelandic Sheepdog. As a breed, internationally, we are all working towards a consistent type and improving their overall quality while striving to maintain a healthy population.
How challenging has it been for exhibitors to find “majors?” Finding majors in certain areas of the United States for the Icelandic Sheepdog can be challenging. In other regions there seems to be a greater numbers whose owners actively compete in conformation.
Is there a market for “pet quality” puppies in my breed? Oh, there certainly is a market for pet quality puppies. New owners should understand that not all Icelandic Sheepdogs are created equal. While some can be quite easy, others can be challenging. When considering bringing an Icelandic Sheepdog into your home, owners should be prepared for either side of the spectrum.
Who were my mentors? I was very fortunate to find mentors from across the USA, Iceland and Europe when I first discovered the breed. I found that if I was willing to just listen, people were willing to share their experience with the breed, its history, their pedigrees and health issues as well as Iceland’s history and culture. Ans Beer Schell of the Netherlands, Monika Karlsdottir, Brynhildur Inga Einarsdottir and Helga Andresdottir of Iceland, and Elisabet Stacy-Hurley of the USA, and so many others have been so generous with their time.
What is it about my breed that has sustained my interest and encouraged my involvement in the sport? I love their silly personalities. Some are quite sweet and easy, others more intense and constantly problem-solving. I love how they constantly challenge me to change the way I approach training and my dogs’ management. They have taught me more than any class could. Their enthusiasm for competing in conformation is boundless; all my dogs excitedly wait to see who gets to go to the show when they see my skirt suits come out. While watching them eagerly strain to get to the lure before they’re released during FAST CAT, you can’t not want to bring them back when you see them take-off after it [with] the look of glee on their faces.