Interview with a Herding Group Breeder Dara Conklin
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Dara Conklin: We live in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Even though we have not had a large number of litters, we have been breeders for 47 years.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Dara Conklin: Our kennel name is Von Darste German Shepherds. We currently keep six dogs that we own at this time (five German Shepherds and a Belgian Malinois).
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Dara Conklin: Noteworthy winners include: Von Darste’s Rhoda, BOB Westminster in 1979, Dara owner-handled; BIS GCH Colbyhaus Flash Dance GSDStyle TKN, OFA H/E, #2 NOHS Lifetime; GCHS Amber’s Material Girl V Carma, OFA H/E, #1 NOHS Lifetime and 2008 Amateur Maturity Victrix at GSDCA National; and GCH Amber’s Chanel No. 5.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Dara Conklin: Sires and Dams who are influential in my dogs’ pedigrees include: (Sires) CH Kismet’s Sight For Sore Eyes ROM; GCHP Stuttgart’s Now Don’t Refuse Me of Masrock RN ROM; CH Alkarah’s For Your Entertainment; and (Dams) CH Amber’s Pleasure V. Joels ROM; GCH Colbyhaus Dancin’ In The Willows ROM; and Amber’s Miss Daisy ROM.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Dara Conklin: We are a very small hobby kennel. Dogs live primarily in the house. We have kennel runs in a large, fenced-in backyard as well. When we have an occasional litter, they are whelped in our built-in back porch. Pups are raised with constant supervision. In the days leading up to the whelping date, Andrew sleeps outside of the whelping box! When the pups are born, we both take turns sleeping next to the whelping box or even in it! The pups are raised with hugs and kisses constantly. We love them so much.
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Dara Conklin: The process of selecting show puppies takes time. Usually, at 4-5 months of age, we can tell if a pup has serious show potential. It depends on the structure, attitude, and general appearance. Our pups are socialized as soon as they have their first set of vaccinations. We have our “rent-a-kids” come over for puppy playtime. Their parents are welcome as well.
The GSD is uniquely presented, both standing and moving. How do I prepare my pups for the show ring?
Dara Conklin: Our pups do a lot of training. We start stacking them on the grooming table as early as two months old. We also clip nails and brush them as well. I give them their first puppy bath. Again, socialization is essential for well-rounded puppies. As the pups get older, we take them to show handling class as well.
Care to comment on the various coat colors of the breed? Any personal preferences?
Dara Conklin: We love a variety of coat colors. We have owned black and tans, sables, bi-colors, and solid black German Shepherds. We prefer rich-pigmented dogs.
What are my thoughts on the various “styles” of GSD seen in the US and around the world?
Dara Conklin: As far as various styles of GSD, we prefer angulated dogs; however, not overdone.
Do I compete with my dogs in Companion and Performance events? Are Specialties important?
Dara Conklin: In the past, we have participated in Obedience and Rally, and have put our first Trick Dog title on our girl. We plan on retiring “Summer” in the next year or so, and we want to pursue more Performance and Obedience titles.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Dara Conklin: In our opinion, people are being more pro-active as far as genetic testing. Reputable breeders are taking the time to have their dogs health-screened.
Is the GSD well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Dara Conklin: Absolutely, German Shepherds are the perfect family dog. They are very well-suited to be the family dog and family member. German Shepherds are loyal, smart, and willing to please their owners. Raising a German Shepherd requires a lot of patience, time, and understanding. Consistency is essential for routine and training. German Shepherds are wonderful with children.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Dara Conklin: Yes, we would say that German Shepherds are supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a GSD?
Dara Conklin: Many years ago at the Greenwich KC, I was exhibiting my dog, Ardric’s Donner Von Darste, at an obedience trial for his CD. On the Long Down, “Donni” decided to slither over to me in a straight line (never getting up from a laying down position). Needless to say, we were disqualified. However, he was the hit of the show. On a side note, he eventually got his CD and a CGC.