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Interview with Erica Jayes, Sandylands

1. What are the main distinctive features of Sandylands dogs?

They usually have a gentle head with a kind expression, a good level topline and well set tail, good overall balance and they simply love life.

How can we recognize them among other labradors?

They are usually recognised by their attractive head and their distinctive type, and are usually very outgoing with a lovely temperament, wanting to greet everyone and everything with enthusiasm sometimes a little too much ! It is not just the owners who recognise the type, but on many occasions they will meet strangers who say that must be a Sandylands dog

2. You have been breeding and judging labradors for many years. How does a modern labrador differ from a labrador of 30-40 years ago?

Modern Labradors generally tend to have more bone, be shorter on the leg and are heavier than they were.

In your opinion, has the breed improved over the years?

I really do not think we now have as much quality in depth as there was years ago, and there is not the range of quality stud dogs who are both stallions and good producers particularly in blacks. Not enough attention is paid to temperament.

3. What type of labradors do you like most? What is your idea of a perfect labrador? Who are your ideal labradors of the past, and of today?

I like a dog to look masculine and a bitch to look feminine, with correct head and general overall balance, with level topline, correct tail, tailset and tail carriage and to move soundly.

A perfect Labrador ?

One that is very close to the breed standard and has all the main features of a Labrador- head, coat, tail and sound movement.

An ideal Labrador ?

A question I have been asked many times. I have seen many great Labradors and it is difficult to name them all so this time I will list :- Ch Cookridge Tango, Ch Ballyduff Marketeer, ShCh Sandylands Mercy, Eng & Am Ch Sandylands Tanna, Ch Sandylands Truth, ShCh Croftspa Hazelnut of Foxrush, Ch Sandylands Geannie, ShCh Beltarn Diuma Of Newinn, ShCh Rocheby Polkadot, and ShCh Bradking Hugo.

Present day:- ShChTapeatom Ginantonic At Sandylands, Ch Warringah Bungle Bungle, ShCh Silver Suede Over Rocheby, and ShCh Sandylands Pressed For Time.
These have all given me that indescribable feeling of excitement that comes with an outstanding dog.

4. What problems of your first labradors, if there were any, you were able to improve in the next generations, and what features you might have lost?

I would like to answer this slightly differently. As for the word Problem if there was a problem that occurred they were never bred from.
If you mean slight fault then that would be corrected by using a male who excelled in that area. Years ago when we were losing pigment we went to the Garshangen kennel as they were very strong in pigment.

5. What faults do you consider the most serious in a labrador?

Without doubt any form of aggression, straight shoulders, incorrect tailset (high or low) light eyes, and anything exaggerated away from the Breed Standard.

Which of them are the most difficult to get rid of?

Bad temperament is very hereditary and is best dealt with by not breeding on from it. Bad temperament is not just a problem for the breeder as most puppies end up in pet homes with a family where temperament is so very important. Incorrect shoulders are also difficult to breed out, as are light eyes..

6. As a judge, do you pay attention to a dog's presentation?

Most definitely, it is a type of beauty show and I expect dogs to be presented in clean condition, nails trimmed, the whisp at the end of the tail trimmed, and the dog to be in good hard condition.

Do you think good/bad handling can influence a dog's result in the ring?

Most definitely. A good handler can make a mediocre dog look better than it is, whereas a poor handler will not get the best out of any dog.

7. How do you choose a stud dog for a bitch, do you look at his pedigree, his type or something else?

Look for a dog that can improve where the bitch fails. He must also be a known producer with few problems, of the correct type and temperament and obviously the pedigree has to be suitable.

Do you prefer to use linebreeding or outcross?

We prefer to line breed as that is where you produce type and continued type. There have been times when we have used an outcross for a specific purpose but we always come back to line breed in the next generation in order to maintain type. We never outcross consecutively.

8. At what age do you choose the best puppy from the litter? Do you believe it is really possible to see if a puppy has "show potential" at the age, say, 8 weeks?

As soon as they are able to stand we begin assessing our puppies by standing them on the table. This continues on a weekly basis to enable us to assess the puppy and the way it is developing. It also helps the puppy to become used to being handled. By the time they are about 8 weeks old we are usually able to assess their construction and know whether or not they are good enough to run on.

9. What do you think is the most important in rearing a puppy?

Here we may differ from other people. We begin with ground beef at about 14 days and continue on a natural diet........... for the rest of their lives. We do not confine puppies, leaving them to develop and strengthen in their own way. Mrs Broadley always said It is 50% breeding and 50% rearing that produces a dog successful in the show ring.

10. What would you advise to novice breeders?

Listen and learn even experienced breeders do this. Dont be afraid to seek the advice of successful long term breeders as the majority will be there to help you. Dont leave a show as soon as you have finished showing sit and watch the judging, never be kennel blind and always see the faults in your own dogs, look for the good things in other peoples dogs. You may not always agree with everyone but just remember, as I was taught, that your own opinion might not be the right one.

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Interview with Anne Taylor, Fabracken

1. What are the main distinctive features of Fabracken dogs? How can we recognize them among other Labradors?

I hope they are recognisable as being typical Labradors, not modern day show dogs. For their overall conformation and unexaggerated build. For their correct coats and tails. And for them being capable of working all winter in the shooting field and making easy family pets.

2. You have been breeding and judging Labradors for many years. How does a modern Labrador differ from a Labrador of 20-30 years ago? In your opinion, has the breed improved over the years?

The modern day Labrador is quite different to what it was 20-30 years ago. Todays Labrador is heavier built, with shorter legs and a deeper chest. With these changes comes lack of scope and flexibility. Things that are needed in a working dog. Its expression is also different being created by a broader skull and cheek, more stop, less length of muzzle and rounder darker eyes. I can't honestly say that I think the breed has improved. The standard of dogs may be more even in the show ring, but their abilities to function as a working breed must be in grave doubt. Many could go out and retrieve a ball or a dummy on flat land, but could they work day after day, for months, on all sorts of terrains, bringing back heavy birds and game over distances again and again.

3. What type of Labradors do you like most? What is your idea of a perfect Labrador? Who are your ideal Labradors of the past, and of today?

I like a middle of the road type of Labrador with not too much of anything. A dog who has scope, a typical kind expression, a dense coat and an otter-like tail, and whos overall conformation would allow him to work hard and efficiently during the shooting season. Any Labradors who conform to this I can admire. As far as kennels I admire because they could produce a definite type of really typical Labrador then it would probably be the Manserghs of Mary Roslin Williams, and the Ballyduffs of Bridget Docking. I was also a great admirer of Janice Pritchards Charway kennel.

4. What problems of your first Labradors, if there were any, you were able to improve in the next generations, and what features you might have lost?

Of course there were many things I wanted to improve on with my first Labradors. With each generation I assess the individual bitch and look at her faults and her virtues. I then try and find a dog for her who is likely to improve where she fails, both in the way he looks and very importantly with what is in his pedigree. What is behind a stud dog is very likely to influence what he will produce. In trying to improve certain points it is difficult to also not lose certain things that you have bred to get over the generation.

5. What faults do you consider the most serious in a Labrador? Which of them are the most difficult to get rid of?

Physical and mental soundness in the Labrador are very important, as is working ability. Then how the dog conforms to the breed standard. If you are talking about breed standard faults and failings then type is all important, the dog must look like a Labrador and nothing else. The expression must be right (which at the moment it isn't), and the dog must have the correct coat and tail. These three things make a dog a true Labrador. In actual structure we have major problems with our fronts. Our fronts are far too upright, especially being short in upperarm. And we have too much angulation in the hindquarters in some animals.

6. As a judge, do you pay attention to a dog's presentation? Do you think good/bad handling can influence a dog's result in the ring?

Personally Im not that interested in the dogs presentation, either is whether he is well groomed or in how the handler presents their dog. A show is not a beauty event, a show is to find the best breeding stock for the future. Of course a well presented dog is good to see, proving his owner/handler takes care of him, but it does not influence how I assess that dog. However I am sure many judges are influenced by presentation.

7. How do you choose a stud dog for a bitch, do you look at his pedigree, his type or something else? Do you prefer to use linebreeding or outcross?

The 10 million dollar question! Choosing a stud dog is an absolute nightmare. How to improve on certain features, and yet not lose others. Having assessed my own bitch I then look at various dogs. Im looking to see they are typical of the breed (not necessarily successful show dogs) and that they do not have the same faults as my bitch. Then I look at their pedigree. On occasions I have used a dog whose pedigree has what Im looking for even if the dog is not outstanding himself. But he does have to have some quality to him. And of course acceptable health test results. And temperament, and preferably some known working ability or at least some known ability behind him. Easy isn't it.. I prefer to linebreed but occasionally do an outcross mating to bring certain points in, though I like that dog to be of a similar type to my own if possible.

8. Do you think it is more difficult to breed chocolate Labradors? If so, why?

Yes it is. The obvious difficulties are breeding good eye colour and pigmentation, on top of all the usual things. When chocolates/livers first appeared they were very much in the minority, and not really liked. Gradually they became more popular and now they are significantly more popular, especially as pets. Because of this increase in popularity it is unfortunate that people have bred to just get the colour with not enough regard for the physical and mental soundness of the puppies they are producing. Coats are talked about a lot. Think of yellows, and even blacks, and the variation in the shading of the colour. So why is it that people go overboard about all chocs needing to be as dark as possible and their undercoat being the same colour as their topcoat. Having judged many of them around the world it seems to me that the totally dark coated dogs often have little undercoat. The texture of the coat should be far more important than the shade of the coat.

9. At what age do you choose the best puppy from the litter? What do you look for in a puppy in the first place? Do you believe it is really possible to see if a puppy has "show potential" at the age, say, 8 weeks?

I normally first look at my pups at about 6 weeks. From then until about 8 weeks I look at them constantly, watching them run and play and seeing how their proportions change. At 8 weeks I will let most of the litter go onto their new homes, and perhaps run-on a couple of pups. Between 8 weeks and about 6 months my pups can grow in all sorts of ways but in general Im looking for the one who grows steadily. I don't mind some leg length and Im certainly not looking for the finished product who can go into the ring at 6 months looking like a 12 month. I think at 8 weeks it is possible to look at a puppy and see if it has quality. But in no way can I look and say that it will become a Champion. Todays Labrador is brought on to be far too mature too quickly. This isn't good for them, or good for the breed. We could do a lot of good if we could get back to the leggy adolescents that we used to think of as normal. Maturity should come gradually and the dog should not reach its peak until it is well into middle age.

10. What do you think is the most important in rearing a puppy?

Let the puppy be a puppy. Don't bring it on too quickly, let it physically and mentally mature gradually. Let it play and exercise within reason, and give it mental stimulation.

11. What would you advise to novice breeders?

Don't run before you can walk. Dont collect a lot of dogs too quickly, especially poor quality ones. Spend time watching good dogs and talking to top breeders. You can only learn by absorbing information over a period of time, it doesn't happen overnight. In fact the longer you are in dogs the more you realise how little you do know. Aim to have the best quality dogs you can in your kennel. You can only do this by being critical of your own dogs. Its no good ignoring their faults and failings, and in order to see these you need to first learn what they are. Then you can improve. And overall be patient in everything you do, and enjoy your dogs. Thats why we have them.

Interview with Allison Hillius, Devonshire

1. Tell us a bit about your kennel - how did it all start? How many dogs do you have? What is your "daily schedule"?

Right now I only have five dogs. Two champions, a dog and a bitch. One young male 16 months out of the champions, one young male 5 months and one female 4 years.
I started in Labradors when I purchased a Lab as a pet. The breeder told me I could show it. I gave it a try and was hooked. I purchased 5 other pups who had various problems before I came across my foundation girls. I purchased three half sisters all out of the same sire and their mothers were sisters. They all got their championships in a year and a half. They were Am Ch Ridge Views Just A Bit Britt, Am Ch Pine Edge Jus Maid Rite, Am Ch Pine Edge Mibleulite Special. I am grateful to those girls today for all of the wonderful qualities they gave my lines. Their sire was Chablais Rhapsodie En Bleu.
My daily schedule is feed, clean kennels, put dogs out to exercise. I move my dogs around throughout the day from the kennel to the paddock and in the house. It keeps their life interesting and I find they are better balanced mentally if I accomplish this. I feed them later in the evening and then potty them before they go to bed. We take them on walks to the park or around the area regularly. I also take them to handling classes occasionally where we train for the show ring.

2. What type of labrador do you like most? What is your idea of a perfect labrador? Who are your ideal labradors of the past, and of today?

I believe the only perfect Labrador is in my mind (smile). Some dogs that I admire are Am Ch Dickendall Arnold, Am Ch Receiver of Cranspire, Eng Ch Sandylands My Guy, Am Ch Dickendall Daveron Gable, BISS Am Ch Boradors By George, BISS Am Ch Windfalls Black Piper, BISS Am Ch Tabatha's Pristine, Ch Tweedledum Crispy Duck, BISS Am Ch Chablais Myrtile. All are and were excellent producers and gave a lot of wonderful qualities to the breed.

3. Do you think there is a difference between "American" and "English" type of labradors?

Yes. The American show Labrador has more bone, a more substantial head (sometimes a shorter muzzle) and can be much bigger in size both in height and bulk of the body. I have been to the UK and seen Labrador competitions there. I think if you took the English Labrador and gave it more bone, head, coat...just plain more of everything you would have an American Labrador. (Keep in mind there are two types of Labradors here in the United States. Those that compete at Specialties, which I was referring to and those that are field lines which are different yet again).

4. What faults do you consider the most serious in a labrador? Which of them are the most difficult to get rid of?

Straight fronts (with rolls over the shoulder), short upper arms. All three of these faults produce poor front movement which breaks down a dog eventually. A short muzzle which means they cannot pick up a large bird. I have seen more poor bites on short muzzled pups which I believe is caused from the lack of length for teeth. No double coat. A labrador must have a double coat in order to be able to withstand the water it is retrieving in. Long hair coats and overly coarse incorrect coat, which does not insulate the dog in the correct way for water.

5. How do you choose a stud dog for a bitch, do you look at his pedigree, his looks or something else? Do you prefer to use linebreeding or outcross?

For me I look first at what the stud dog produces. I look at the bitches he has been bred to and determine from his pups what influences he has on the puppies. What pedigree does he come from? A pedigree of top calibre dogs or is he the only one? Is he true to his pedigree and a strong sire putting his stamp for certain traits on the pups.
I look at his clearances, temperament and conformation.
I might initially think he should be breed to a certain bitch I have and then after I do my homework on him I discover he suits a different bitch instead. It's good if you can know what your bitch can throw also. I don't like doing breedings where the stud doesn't have much to compare in offspring and neither does the bitch. It can be a real shot in the dark.

6. What do you look for in a puppy when you choose your "pick of the litter"? What things can change in a puppy as he grows and what never changes?

I look for a pup that has as much of the whole package as possible. I don't pick for one thing. I want breed type. They must have a Labrador head.
When pups are 4-12 months old I see them get high in the rear. Their head can tend to narrow and they blow out their puppy coat. Everything changes. Nothing doesn't.

7. Which health issue (hip&elbow displasia, eye diseases, EIC, allergies, etc) is the biggest problem in the breed, in your opinion?

I think we have eradicated a lot of the hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia so if we stay the course I don't see that being a major problem. The health issues that worry me the most in our breed are heart problems and epilepsy. The quicker we can get a genetic test for these diseases the better. We can breed around it.
I believe that the genetic tests are the key to our breeds future health with these issues.

8. What food do you feed your dogs, especially puppies? Do you give any supplements (glucosamine, vitamin C, etc)?

I don't give pill supplements. Although all my food does have glucosamine in it. I fee my pups Costco puppy food. It is 30 percent protein and 18 percent fat. It has dha and probiotics for digestion.

9. The wonderful coat of your dogs is due to genetics, outside living or do you give any supplements to improve coat quality?

I think good coat is a combination of genetics, food and environment. I give my competing dogs omega fish oil in their food and find it's wonderful for keeping their coat in bloom.

10. What would you advise to novice breeders?

Don't try and do it all at once. Take on one or two things and learn all you can about it and learn to do it well. Then move onto another area in dogs. Learn all you can from books, experienced breeders and seminars. It takes hard work, dedication and a willingness to learn from failure and disappointment. There will always be ups and downs. It's all about enjoying the ride.

Interview with Laura Reich, Lor-Al

1. How did you start out in labradors? Why did you choose this breed?

It was 1985 and I wanted a family dog for us and our son who was just 5 years old. I chose a yellow Labrador after watching the movie "Old Yeller". Within three months I had her at matches and in the show ring at 6 months old. She won a lot but never finished her Championship.

2. What problems of your first dogs, if there were any, you were able to improve in the next generations, and what features you might have lost?

My first failings were bad elbows, PRA affected, and just no breed type. I placed or returned three dogs that didn't turn out. I didn't breed any of them. After the hard knocks of being a Labrador enthusiast I finally improved my kennel in 1990 with the purchase of a well bred yellow bitch that was perfection in breed characterists in every respect. It is because of her that I am where I am today.

3. What type of labrador do you like most? What is your idea of a perfect labrador? Who are your ideal labradors of the past, and of today?

I like a well rounded Labrador. Clean lines without loss of type. Never too heavy or sloppy headed. The perfect Labrador would have perfect attitude, balance, and type, with a fierce love for birds. My favorite Labradors of the past are Ch Davoegs Silky Beau, Ch Chablais Myrtille, Ch Dickendall Arnold, Ch Lenches Teddy Bear, Ch Chocorua Seabreeze, Ch Ashways Coppertone Sadie, and Ch Guidelines Master Card. Today I have a hard time finding stud dogs that please me. Without meaning to sound conceited, I prefer my own boys to alot of what is out there today.

4. What faults do you consider the most serious in a labrador? Which of them are the most difficult to get rid of?

In my opinion, the worst fault in our dogs today is the tail. Many dogs here have a scoop or what we call a banana tail. I also really don't like a harsh expression. Both are hard to get rid of. Here in the States we lack length of neck on most of our dogs also.

5. How do you choose a stud dog for a bitch, do you look at his pedigree, his type or something else? Do you prefer to use linebreeding or outcross?

I choose a stud by seeing the dog normally and I usually go for type to type. I sometimes know within seconds if I like the boy or not. I have used a boy or two that I have never seen just because I wanted the pedigree. I guess you could say both. I like to have a few common dogs in his pedigree but I don't ever tightly line-breed. I have refused girls coming to my males that are too tightly line bred.

6. What do you look for in a puppy when you choose your "pick of the litter"? What things can change in a puppy as he grows and what never changes?

In picking my puppies I must see presence, attitude, and balance in that order. Stuffy necks, poor heads, lack of angle, and certainly a shy puppy or poor attitude never changes.

7. Which health issue (hip&elbow dysplasia, eye diseases, EIC, allergies, etc) is the biggest problem in the breed, in your opinion?

I am convinced our biggest issue is elbow dysplasia. We don't breed our hip dysplastic dogs, but many do still breed grade 1 elbows as if it isn't a problem, therefore prolonging our defects.

8. What food do you feed your dogs, especially puppies? Do you give any supplements (glucosamine, etc)?

I feed Iams adult food and use Eukanuba puppy for youngsters and dogs that I am showing. I also mix in a bit of the all natural frozen food called BilJac to the youngsters. It's an all natural meat product with no preservatives.

9. The wonderful coat of your dogs is due to genetics, living outside or do you give any supplements to improve coat quality?

The coat is genetics and living outside. They swim daily when the weather permits. I do not supplement for coat, but the sleeping out is a lot of it.

10. What would you advise to novice breeders?

The best advice I can give is to know that you never "know it all" so take in all the information you can from the pros. Never keep mediocre dogs that you have bought or bred. If you aren't thrilled with your keepers, then don't keep them. If you do, you will end up with a kennel full of generic unexciting dogs. Learn to cull (place in pet homes) what doesn't please your eye.

Interview with Judy Heim, HySpire

Before I start the interview let me say that HySpire is a partnership of three women, myself, Vonnie Russell, and Lisa Da Ross and also Vonnie's husband Jim Russell. Any successes we have had at HySpire should be attributed to all four of us and we have all worked hard together and put together a partnership that has allowed us to attain a certain amount of success in our chosen hobby of breeding , showing and loving Labrador Retrievers. However I will answer theses questions in the singular, I, in many cases because like all breeders we do each have our own opinions about different things and they are not always the same and therefore I do not want to make it appear that I am speaking for my partners as I answer these questions. There are some questions that will require a we' answer however, pertaining to how we operate at HySpire.

1. Tell us a bit about your kennel - how did it all start? How many dogs do you have? What is your daily schedule?

My kennel started the way that many do. I got a Labrador Retriever as a pet for myself and my family. I had always liked the look of the breed because I grew up riding quarter horses and I felt like the short coated medium sized well muscled Labrador looked as much like the Quarter horse as a dog possibly could. I was fortunate, however, that they also had the same gentle nature as a Quarter horse because I stupidly did not one bit of research on temperament. The first Lab I acquired was a black male and interestingly enough, although his mother was more of a pet, his sire was Glenarvey Barrister an English import. I took this dog to obedience class, found I had a real knack for it and was soon heavily involved in obedience competition and did quite well. Once I became more involved with other dog people, it was an easy transition into the breed/conformation ring. I did both for many years. After 15 or 20 years of breeding and showing Vonnie and Lisa and I became involved with a breeding we did and then we bred some more litters and before long we were doing all of our breedings together and eventually decided to blend our two kennels and have one kennel name. My kennel name was Inspiration and theirs was Hygate and from that came HySpire and we have never looked back or regretted our merger. I have been breeding for 41 years and Vonnie and Lisa for about 31 years. I believe we have been breeding together for about 15 years.

We are fortunate that we have three different households so we can have more dogs that way. I believe between the three of us we have about 40 dogs at this moment. However that changes and I suspect we will have fewer soon as we have some young dogs growing up and clearances will be done and decisions will be made and some will go to new homes over the next year because they never all make it through those hurdles we put these dogs we show and breed through. The number we like to have at any given time is less than thirty. Of course there are always the space wasters' as we jokingly call them, and those are the older veteran dogs who live in our homes and sleep on our sofas and occasionally think they are a pup again and have to tear up a book or steal a loaf of bread off the counter. There are some that just stay forever no matter what.

Our daily schedule is like any dog breeder. We get up in the early am and feed and clean up after the dogs and clean and refill water buckets. None of our dogs live in a dog run/kennel. All three of us have paddocks for our dogs and they run in groups in the paddocks. Our boys and girls have to be able to live together peacefully and if we ever have one come along that cannot do that, then he is out. Its how it has to be and it has given us wonderfully sweet tempered tolerant boys and girls. Our outside dogs ( as opposed to the house pets inside) sleep in dog crates at night in our dog rooms and after they are fed they go out to the paddocks where they have plenty of room to run and play and sleep and dig and chew- just do whatever their little Labrador hearts desire. In the summer they have swimming pools of some sort put into every paddock so they have water to play in. Vonnie has a real swimming pool at her house and her dogs get to take turns at supervised swimming in the pool and I live near her so often in the summer take my dogs over for a swim as well. Vonnie also works at a boarding kennel and therefore her dogs can go to work with her and they take turns doing so and it is great socialization for them. I work from home so my dogs live in my office! In the afternoons we generally clean our paddocks again and in the summer empty waters and put fresh cool water into the buckets and then when it gets dark the dogs all go into their crates with a bedtime cookie and go to sleep. In the summer they have big fans on them in their paddocks and also in the dog room while they are in their crates.

2. What faults of your first dogs, if there were any, were you able to eliminate in the next generations, and what features might you have lost?

Well some of our my first dogs were not even good enough to talk about and information was so limited back then as we only had one publication that came out annually and that was the Julie Brown Labrador Retriever Breeders Directory, and I don't think we had a way to gain quick knowledge as to what was good dog anatomy, what dogs were out there, and all the information we have today to help us make educated decisions. I don't think my first breedings were all that good. I was living in Arizona at the time and there were only three dog clubs of any kind and so we had three dog shows a year. Then I moved to California where there are probably two hundred dog shows a year and that is when I really began to see and learn. I read every educational book I could get my hands on and some were excellent but you also need to just have real life experiences to put what you have read into play sometimes.

But what I will say about the first breedings when I really got it' and started doing breedings that made progress was that Vonnie, Lisa and I looked at structure and looked at it hard. It has been the most important part of the dog for me for many, many years now and it has paid off. You have to have something to build on and that is the structure and you have to get that right first. Then you add the rest of it, heads, coats, type.

I think one of the things we had to fight the hardest to fix on one of our old lines was rear angulation. We had imported a dog who was quite straight in the rear but who had so many other wonderful qualities and we still have a line that comes down from that dog. It took us about three generations to correct that rear and it was a great feeling of success when we finally did it, and even more rewarding when those first dogs with proper rears could produce those same proper rears even when bred to a dog/bitch who was straight stifled. We lost nothing while working to fix the rear.

If your real question to me though is what do I think we can easily fix in one generation..I would say heads and type- very easy to fix.

3. What do you look for in a Labrador? What is your idea of a perfect Labrador? Who are your ideal Labradors of the past and of today?

A perfect Labrador for me first and foremost has to have a perfect Labrador temperament. He/she needs to be happy to lay at my feet while I work or watch television and bound up delighted if I pick up a gun to hunt, a tennis ball to throw, or say lets go for a swim. It must be happy to have children using it as a pillow and if a baby accidentally stumbles and falls on the dog while it is sleeping, its first instinct is to lick that crying child not bite it. It must love to pick up a duck or pheasant and at the same time bathe an adopted kitten that is curled up next to it for warmth. It must be friendly to all that I am friendly to but discerning and intuitive enough to be suspicious of those who warrant it.

In looks it is one that has perfect structure: beautiful shoulders and forearm of proper length and layback, good spring of rib and depth of chest with a slight bit of tuck up so it does not appear to have what we term a sausage body'. Good turn of stifle and strength to the set of the rear, good muscling in the second thigh and good width across the hips. Good bone in both the front and rear legs and bone all the way to the ground. Good well arched feet, nice and tight and well padded. A good topline that basically starts at the back of the skull and comes down a neck of good reach and goes all the way down the back over those beautifully laid back shoulders and straight across the croup with no drop or roundness from the croup to the tail. Tail not set low but neither set high as many seem to be these days. A lovely head with some width of top skull, eyes neither too small or round with good color, not too light or too dark, good stop, more than a flat coat, less than a Rottweiler, good width and depth of muzzle, with a good scissor bite and no missing teeth. The coat must be thick and double and must wrap. The wrap is all important. I don't believe another breed has this criteria but ours and therefore it is certainly a hallmark of our breed's type. This of course is going to also give you the lovely otter tail that is so necessary and then we must add that the tail is of medium length that reaches to the point of the hock and is straight as a board with no curve and is carried almost straight out and not high and over the back. When this perfect dog moves away the hocks work with good action, not hocking in or wobbling or crossing over and coming towards me the dog is nice and straight, not wide, or narrow. Moving from the side really tells a story. The topline stays nice and straight, head is carried a bit higher than level, not too high, nor too low and the straight topline continues out to the end of the thick otter tail. The front legs reach forward, with no lifting or restriction, out to the dogs nose and the rear legs come forward under the dog and then grab the ground and push out behind the dog with a power and strength that appears effortless a graceful strength. The rear legs go well behind the dog but not in an Akita kick' which you will see sometimes in a dog with little rear angle. That is not the way a Labrador should drive off its rear. Then for me personally to top it all off this dog is black ( my personal favorite although I do love yellows and chocolates too), loves the show ring, and will occasionally stand like a stallion in the ring. He has hip and elbow clearances, eye clearance, Optigen Normal, heart clearance. And he has the sperm count of a young Angus bull. (Well you said perfect!)

So that is perfection in a nutshell. If that dog ever walks into my life..I am quitting. It will be my last dog because I will have attained that goal that all breeders seek- The Perfect Dog.

Now since we know that no such dog exists, then we have to look at what we can forgive and I can certainly forgive a missing tooth or two if I have all the rest of that. I can never forgive a bad temperament even if I had all the rest. So that is where breeding decisions come into play.

Ideal Labradors of the past and present: I am not going to mention many dogs from Great Britain only because I have not seen them as I have never been to Great Britain, but I suspect that Sandylands Mark would have been at the top of my list based on production alone, and I always liked that the Rocheby dogs had fronts and rears that matched and were so balanced..

But in theU.S. Ch. Dickendall Arnold, Int. Ch. Raintree Slippery When Wet, Ch. Windfall Black Piper, Ch. Wingmasters K-MA , Ch. Lobuffs Turtledove , Ch. Lobuff Hollyridge Puffin, Ch. Graemor Tim, Ch. HySpire Darktown Strutter, Ch. Inspirations Wish Me Back, many of the Mallorn dogs, Ch Chablais Myrtille and quite frankly I like a lot of our own dogs. If I didn't like them and if Vonnie and Lisa didn't like them we would not have them. So I have to include a bitch we used to own named Ch. HySpire Charmed, Ch. HySpire Somethings Amiss, Ch. HySpire Pipin Hot, and our boys Ch. Sureshot HySpire Impressive, Ch. HySpire Hotter Than Blazes, Ch. HySpire Adrenaline Rush, Ch. Nipntuck HySpire Unforgettable, Ch. Ghoststone HySpire Dressed To Impress, Ch. HySpire Singular Sensation to name a few and that is enough. Again these are Ideal dogs but not Perfect dogs.

4. Do you think there is a difference between "American" and "English" type Labradors?

Well yes, but let me explain. At one time, when I first got started in Labs in 1969 the dogs in the states were quite different looking than the dogs in GB which was the Labrador Mecca! Our dogs tended to have a rather longer muzzles and a bit snipey, did not carry proper coat, long legs with little depth of body and whipety tails. Now all of these dogs went back to English dogs but some came from field kennels and some came from English breeders who sent some of their not so good dogs over because many Americans would buy anything, dogs or chinaware, if it came from GB. And then we continued to breed them and Americanize' them. However there were some good breeders who went to GB and brought home some very nice dogs and we began to get, especially on our east coast, some dogs with proper heads, and coats, etc. Then they began to look different than the dogs that were the American type and when the person walking down the street would comment on this very handsome dog and be surprised to find out it was a purebred Labrador in spite of the lovely head and tail, the owner would say, well this dog's mother or father or the dog itself was brought here from GB. Those dogs that had proper Labrador type began being called the English type. So it was merely a way of differentiating between the type of dog that looked more like a field type, American kind of dog and the show dog type which was coming over from GB and it has stuck and now the general public when they call to purchase a dog know to ask for the English type' dog which means they are looking for a dog with nice bone and substance, a pretty head, and nice type, rather than those with no coat, long thin tails and long thin legs. Those American types are usually a bit more hyper as well.

Whether there is a difference between Labradors in America and Labradors in GB though - well I am sure there is since the British keep talking about it but since I have never been to GB to see there dogs, I am not sure I can accurately comment on it and I wouldn't judge that on the few English imports that have come over in the last five years because I do not know if they accurately represent our breed in GB.

5. What faults do you consider the most serious fault in a Labrador ? Which of them are the most difficult to get rid of?

A bad temperament is the most serious fault in a Labrador . You cannot find a good home for a dog of any breed with a truly bad temperament. And it is easy to to get rid of because if the dog has a truly bad temperament and I mean one where it has and would bite then it needs to be put down. But fortunately it is a problem we seldom ever see in our breed. So I would say lets back up a bit into a dog who has a temperament we don't want to see in a Labrador but it is not a truly bad temperament but maybe the dog is a bit too shy, or headstrong, or hyper, or needy. Well these are dogs than can be neutered and put into a wonderful pet home because most of these dogs can do well with a one on one relationship and obedience training and those types of temperament flaws are easy to breed out because you just don't breed the dog, period. At HySpire we are adamant that our dogs have temperaments that we absolutely love to live with and anything that isn't we do not breed and therefore we never produce anymore from that dog or bitch.

Conformation faults: I would say in going around the world and within our own country I am seeing two problems consistently and I hate both - straight forearms, or upper arms as some call them and tails carried too high. Of the two I think the tails are the hardest to correct because I see them coming from lines that should not be producing them and I personally have not figured out what is causing them when the tailset is not really high but the tail carriage is. So that is the next challenge.

The forearms though - you just need to breed that into your line once and then do it again and do it again and keep picking your pups that are the best looking pups but with the best forearms until you set' it in your line. Of course first of all you have to know what a good forearm is and how it should look.

6. How do you choose a stud dog for a bitch, do you look at his pedigree, his looks or something else? Do you prefer to use linebreeding or outcross? 

This is pretty easy. There is an old saying in horses, You can't ride a pedigree and it is soooo true. However we have gone both ways in selecting our stud dogs. Generally speaking though it is done like this. We almost always have a short list of stud dogs we have personally seen and whose get' we have seen that we really like and keep them on our list of dogs to breed to. Then when the time comes to breed a bitch or to at least talk about breeding, we look at the bitch or usually we already know what it is about her that we want to correct in her pups. I can tell you too, that usually there is not much to correct because of the way we go about out breeding program and so we are starting with a very correctly made girl in the first place. But none are perfect so we know her failings and then we look to our shortlist of stud dogs and decide which dog is strong and has produced strongly where she is weak. Then we look at the pedigree and again we usually know it already but we will review it again to make sure it looks like it will work with her pedigree. We have on one occasion when we were trying to get rid of a specific fault and we had bred the bitch twice with no luck in changing that fault, decided to look to her pedigree and pick the dog in her pedigree that was strong where she was weak and we linebred back on that dog. That was the straight rears I was talking about and that put us on the road to recovery from that fault.

We have used and like all three methods of breeding: inbreeding, linebreeding, and outcross. We don't use inbreeding very often at all . I think we have only done that twice and it was very good for us, but we take those pups from that breeding and they are bred on an outcross. Recently we have been doing more outcrosses and I think they are the hardest and the least productive sometimes on the first generation but they definitely are needed. We have been doing them because we like our own boys so much and love what they are producing but we cannot breed to them because all of our girls are closely related to them. So we have done some outcrosses, brought in some new blood and now this year we are able to breed back to some of our own dogs for the first time ever and are we ever excited about that.

7. What do you look for in a puppy when you choose your pick of the litter? Can the whole litter be of the so-called show quality' or it's usually 1 or 2 pups?

We look for that structure I have spoken of before. We know we have the type and we don't worry about the heads because they are so easy to get. So we look at structure. We have been doing this so long now that we are pretty solid on that as well so I would say we do try to look for the best pup structurally and then when we find four or five hopefully or even more with that structure we start getting more picky to sort them out. We try to look at coat quality because it seems wrapping coats are harder to find these days and we look at tail set and carriage and then again we look at the bitch and what we were trying to improve from her in her pups and if that was a straight forearm then we are going to look for the very best forearms. If, for instance, her eyes are too small then we look for good eye size and shape.

We have a lot of litters that have four or five show quality pups. In fact I would say that is the norm. We seldom anymore have a litter with just one pup that is show quality but have had more of that in the past. We have also had the occasional litter where the whole litter but one or two were show quality and but even among the show quality ones there are a couple that are supreme show quality- specialty winnersand that is what we are looking for. We are also apt to keep four pups out of a litter. Our last one we kept three. We are trying to do less of that now and let more of them go to other breeders. But it is an addiction, you know!

8. Which health issue (hips, elbow dysplasia, eye disease, EIC, allergies, etc) is the biggest problem in the breed in your opinion?  

Elbow dysplasia by far. When I first started in Labradors and we were only doing hip x-rays and not everyone was still doing them and we all looked for excuses as to why our dogs had hip dysplasia so we could still breed them, the Veterinary schools had the data to teach their graduating Vets that one out of every four Labradors had hip dysplasia. Well time passed and breeders were basically forced to x-ray hips by other breeders and the people purchasing their pups. Now we seldom ever see bad hips in our kennel. We have had two in the last ten years and both of those dogs came from a pedigree that was ? imported dogs from a country that has been doing hip x-rays for less time than has been done in the pedigrees in the U.S. I talk to other breeders of show dogs in the states and they are telling me the same story. They seldom see it anymore.

When Wind-Morgan was still active and x-raying Labrador hips, hocks, elbows and shoulders and keeping a data base with a four generation pedigree on every dog, their statistics showed that one out of every four Labradors had elbow dysplasia. I think we see less of elbow dysplasia than we used to also at least in our kennel and that I don't know about other kennels. Hard to believe but I still run across the occasional breeder who does not do elbow x-rays and then there are the other ones who do the elbows but when the dog does not pass they tell everyone the dog had injured the elbow and that is why it did not pass. Unfortunately I know that the radiologists who are reading the x-rays can tell the difference in an injured elbow and elbow dysplasia. They are not the same. But I believe if we continue to x-ray elbows and eliminate the dogs from our programs who have ED and the bitches who produce it in litter after litter we are goingto have much healthier elbow joints before much longer. I am already seeing it in our own dogs. We have had to make some hard calls to get there though, for instance spaying and placing a lovely bitch who was clear on elbows but produced a lot of it in two litters. An interesting statistic from Wind-Morgan also was that the bitches tended to produce it more and the dogs tended to have it more.

Another reason I picked ED as the worst is because it is so painful for the dogs and there really is not a good surgery that is truly successful for these dogs. I have seen for years that it is more painful than bad hips because a dog cannot easily throw its weight off its front onto its rear unless it sits or lies down, but a standing dog can lower his head and put more weight onto its front end than its rear when it has bad hips and I have seen many dysplastic dogs do this.

9. What food do you feed your dogs, especially puppies? Do you give any supplements (glucosamine, vitamin C, etc.)?  

We feed Purina Pro Plan Chicken and Rice and we feed their old formula which we had to ask for very forcibly to get.. We do not feed their new Shredded formula. The old formula is a maintenance food and it is not Large Breed. I do not believe a Labrador is a large breed, but rather a medium breed. A Newf, Saint Bernard, Great Dane is a Giant breed but not a Labrador . We feed our pups Purina Pro Plan Chicken and Rice Puppy Food and we sometimes give our adult dogs a mixture of the chicken and rice and the Salmon and Rice which they call their Sensitive Stomach/Sensitive Skin food. It seems to really help the coats because of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids. However lately I have been thinking about just adding fish oil to their food rather than feeding that very expensive food. We give no supplements at all except occasionally if a pup is cutting teeth and goes down in the pasterns pretty badly we will give a Pet Tab one a day dog vitamin till they get through that stage but we really seldom ever get that. Also an older dog on Glucosamine.

10. What would you advise to novice breeders?

The most important thing you need to do is pick a short kennel name!!!! Okay a little joke there but do think hard about a kennel name that fits easily on the registration papers giving you plenty of room for the rest of the name.

I would say to the novice breeder ( once you have picked your short kennel name):

A. Don't forget Temperament, Temperament, Temperament.

B. Don't forget Structure, Structure, Structure.

C. Read Mary Roslin Williams, Reach For The Stars ( Used to be Advanced Labrador Breeding) and read it again every year.

D. Buy and watch annually the DVD Dogsteps by Rachel Paige Elliott ( I think Amazon.com has it)

E. Go to the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac Specialty in April in Frederick, Maryland, USA and see the largest Lab specialty in the world and listen to the conversations of breeders from around the world and see dogs and what they have produced. And be sure to go to the bar on Karaoke night!

F. Whenever you hear a rumor about a dog or its owner, don't just say ,Wow and then run around spreading the rumor. Unfounded rumors hurt our breed. When you hear one, ask the person saying it how do they know this, who told it to them. Then go ask the person who told them where they heard it, how do they know it's the truth. Track that rumor down. I have done that with several rumors and gotten back to the source and found that they were completely wrong and untrue. Remember everytime we lose a Labrador to a genetic disease or a stud dog because he has produced a genetic disease it is a blow to the breed you profess to love. Losing them to rumour is useless and wasteful. Preserve the integrity of our breed by protecting it from unfounded and hurtful rumors.

 

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