Let’s Talk Breed Education!
SWEDISH VALLHUND Q&A
winner. I was hooked from there and my days of showing horses was over. My husband Bill & I have bred over 50 AKC conforma- tion champions and numerous performance titled dogs. We are firm believers in the saying “A well balanced dog has a title at both ends.” To this day, I consider earning my first UD one of the highlights of my time in dogs. People have asked me which is easier a UD or a CH. I assure you it’s a Championship! I have enjoyed judging dogs and have been honored to judge all over the US as well as in China and Australia. In our lives away from the shows I work as an Emergen- cy Room nurse and Bill is a helicopter pilot in the TX Army National Guard. I currently live in Georgetown, TX now, but I’ve lived in many parts of the country over the years. What do you do “outside” of dogs? I’ve been an RN for 29 years the last 10 in the Emergency Room. I am now semi-retired and loving it! How many years in dogs? I’ve had dogs all my life Showing? 32. Judging? 10.
I grew up with wonder- ful parents who despite our families constant moving (I’m an Army brat) allowed me and my 4 siblings to have numer- ous pets. We grew up with miniature Dachshunds, a Ger- man Shepherd, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses and even pet ducks. I started showing in 1984 in obedience with my Lab Ret.
A couple years later I was at an obedience trail with my Labrador I started talking to the owner of a cute litter of Pembroke puppies. That chance meeting brought the little dog that would eventually become a multiple BIS & BISS
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CHERYL ROLFE In 1991, I discov- ered the Swedish Vallhund through a GSD breeder friend of mine. I got my first Vallhund that year and have been continuously owned by Vall- hunds since. In the years prior to AKC recognition, I suc- cessfully competed in all of the rare breed venues finish- ing many champions and winning multiple BIS including the SVCA National Specialty Show. Since our breed was officially recognized by AKC in June 2007, My dogs have earned many Ch & GCh titles including the 1st Silver GCh. We have also earned Performance and Companion titles, including; RA, CGCA, TDI, RATO, BN, THDN, HCTs, VSV & 4 ROMs so far. I showed the first SV to win BOB at Westminster and have won BOB at the Eukanuba National Championship show with 2 of his sons. I have served on the SVCA Board of Directors several times over the years as, President, or, as a Director and was on the original committee that wrote (adopted) the Breed Stan- dard. At present, I am the JE Committee Chair, a Regional Director and also, sit on the Rescue & Awards Committees for the SVCA. I am committed to the promotion, protection and preser- vation of this wonderful little herding breed. I live in Lake City, FL on 21 acres with my husband of 21 yrs, 9 Vallhunds ranging from 15 months to 14+yrs, 4 horses, 6 cows & 2 birds. I have worked at a Vet Clinic for the past 17 yrs. Outside of dogs and work is taking care of the farm and running our raw dog food business. I have been “in” dogs (mostly GSDs) all my life. First as just pets, then Obedience and helping a friend whose mother showed Afghan Hounds. I started showing my own dogs in the ‘80s and bred, showed and trained GSDs in Conformation, Obedience, Tracking and Search and Rescue until 2008. I got my first Vallhunds in 1991 and began showing in the Rare Breed venues at that time. I am not a judge but have judged Hound & Herding Breeds, Groups & BIM at Matches.
2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? DB: Good temperament is always number one on my list. They are an alert and friendly breed, never shy or vicious. Next I want the correct outline, slightly longer than tall, with a level back. Finally I want correct movement. They are a Herding breed so they should be sound, with good reach and drive. CR: Soundness (Mind & Body)—they should look, and act, like they are capable of doing the job(s) they were bred to do. Breed Type—they should have proper proportions, substance, size, coat and coloration. Appeal—they should present a pleasing impression with a kind expression and attitude. 3. What do you feel the average judge misunderstands about the Swedish Vallhund? DB: They should be balanced and athletic. They are not a tall, smooth coated, grey Pembroke or a miniature Elkhound. They are well boned and solidly built. They are not necessarily a showy breed and can be quite aloof toward strangers (ie. judges) so don’t expect them all to stand there and bait all day. I’m hearing complaints from breeders that they feel judges are leaning toward over sized and too long. Remember the 2:3 body ratio. CR: They are small cattle heelers, not little sled dogs, or fly- ing trotters. Everything about them is “Moderate”. They
“Good temperAment is AlWAys number one on my list. THEY ARE AN ALERT AND FRIENDLY BREED, NEVER SHY OR VICIOUS.”
1. Describe the breed in three words. DB: Intelligent, athletic and energetic. CR: Sturdy, healthy and fun loving.
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should have free movement with good reach and drive for their size, not excessive reach and drive, angulation, or stop. 4. What about the breed makes it a good show dog? A good companion? DB: Some of my friends will tell you they aren’t actually the greatest showdogs! They can be reserved in strange environments and often have their own agenda. They aren’t generally the type breed you are going to hand off to stranger to show. A good companion? They are very devoted to their owners and willing to work. Their size is a plus and they don’t shed that much compared to many heavier coated breeds. They are generally low mainte- nance and don’t require much grooming, which is also a plus for the show ring. They can be quite vocal but that just makes them a good watchdog. This is a breed that needs to be part of a family, not out in a kennel. CR: They are VERY food motivated, which makes them easy to train. They are loving, loyal, nurturing and always ready to go with their people. 5. What advice would you give a novice exhibitor? DB: The same advice I give everyone... HAVE FUN! At the end of the day the only thing that matters is you and your dog. Remember judging is just one persons opinion and what really matters is that you love your dog. Patience is also a virtue. If you are just starting out you and your dog may not be on the same page when it comes to what needs to be done in the ring. Just keep working and it will come. Also, nothing can beat an experienced, suc- cessful mentor. Find a good one and listen to them! “KnoW your doG. their strenGths, WeAKnesses, WhAt mAKes them spArKle, WhAt speed they looK their best At, AND MOST OF ALL HAVE FUN!!!”
CR: Know your dog. Their strengths, weaknesses, what makes them sparkle, what speed they look their best at, and most of all have FUN!!! 6. Is there anything else about the breed you’d like to add? If so, please elaborate. DB: A note to fellow judges. This is generally not a “cutsie” or “fancy” breed with lots of hair and showmanship so they are not going to necessarily jump out at you in the group ring. They are an honest, sound, little working dog. Judge them on their virtues. If they fit the standard please reward them. CR: Vallhunds are very pack oriented. They need to have a job, and they need companionship. Doesn’t have to be Herding, Agility, Flyball etc. But, they need to have a job. They excel as Therapy dogs, ball fetchers and playing in the hose. Being your best friend and companion is the best job they can have. They do not do well just being left outside in the yard by themselves. 7. And, for a bit of humor, what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? DB: To me personally, several years ago, when I had long hair, I threw my lead over my neck when I put my dog on the table. When I went to take the dog off the table and pulled it, it somehow got rolled in with my hair and neck- lace. I tugged and tugged which only made it worse. Bob Moore was the judge and at first he gave me that famous Bob Moore scowl, but then he started laughing. He finally suggested someone come in the ring to help me get it undone. When my friend was finally able to get it mostly untangled I did my down and back, minus a good chunk of hair! CR: I once had one of my young bitches get loose from the person holding her ringside and come in the ring, go all the way around by herself and self stack in front of me as if to say, how was that? I don’t need a handler thank you very much.
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JUDGING THE SWEDISH VALLHUND
By Cheryl Rolfe
General Appearance S mall, powerful, fear- less, sturdily built Spitz herding dog • Height to length of body is 2:3 • Wedge-shaped head, prick ears • Close-fitting, hard double coat with characteristic “harness” markings • Tail may be natural (long, stub, or bob) or docked • Balance, outline, temperament and movement are of overriding importance. Size, Proportion & Substance • Height at withers 12 ½ " to 13 ½ " for dogs; 11 ½ " to 12 ½ " for bitches • Proportion height to length, as mea- sured from prosternum to rear of but- tocks, should be 2:3 • Substance strong, well boned, well- developed, muscular Head • Rather long and clean, when viewed from above, an even wedge from skull to nose tip, well filled-in under eyes • Eyes: medium size, oval, dark brown with black rims • Ears: medium size, pointed, prick, firm, smooth-haired, mobile and set at outer edge of skull above a line drawn from the corner of the eye • Skull: broad and almost flat; Stop well defined; top lines of the muzzle and skull parallel
• Muzzle: rather square when viewed from side, slightly shorter than skull • Nose: black, on same line as muzzle and not extending beyond forepart of muzzle • Lips: black, tight with no noticeable flews • Teeth: strong, full dentition in a scissors bite. Any deviation is a serious fault. Neck, Topline & Body • Neck long, strongly muscled with good reach • Topline level when standing or moving • Chest good depth, ribcage long and ribs fairly well sprung. From the front, chest is oval, from side, elliptical. In a mature dog it should reach down two-f ifths of the length of the forelegs; lowest point of chest immediately behind back of foreleg. Prosternum visible and not excessively pronounced • Underline slightly tucked up; Back well muscled; Loin short; Croup broad and slightly sloping • Tail long, stub or bob; natural or docked; all equally acceptable Forequarters • Shoulders strongly muscled; Shoulder blades long and well laid back • Upper arms slightly shorter than the shoulder blades, set at an approximately 90 degree angle, close fitting to ribs, but mobile. A line perpendicular to the ground can be drawn from the tip of the shoulder blade through the elbow to the ground.
• Elbows move parallel to the body, turn- ing neither in nor out • Legs well boned; Pasterns slightly slop- ing, elastic; Dewclaws may be removed • Feet medium sized, short, oval, point- ing straight forward; Toes tightly knit and well knuckled; Pads thick and strong Hindquarters • Angulation: to balance the front, well angulated at stifle and hock • Legs: well boned, upper and lower thighs strongly muscled. Lower thigh is slightly longer than the distance from hock to ground. • Stifles: well bent; Hocks (Metatarsal bones): perpendicular to the ground, and viewed from the rear, parallel • Feet: toes and pads same as forefeet. Coat • Medium length, harsh; topcoat close and tight; undercoat soft and dense.
“Small, powerful, fearless, sturdily built SPITZ HERDING DOG”
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Ring Presentation For ease and proper perspective, the Swedish Vallhund is examined on a firm, solid table, permitting an accurate evalua- tion of the dog’s structure, balance and out- line. Expression and temperament are best judged when the dog is on the ground. Th e Vallhund should be walked naturally into a four square stance with his attention focused on his handler. Th e dog should require a minimum of hand posing except when being stacked on the table for examination. Th e Vallhund is best gaited at a moderate trot on a loose lead, as “stringing up” inter- feres with freedom of movement. A taut lead or racing the dog may actually cause choppy movement. A Vallhund should be shown in a natural, untrimmed state, but clean and with short nails and tidied pad hair. Exces- sive grooming is to be discouraged.
“Watchful, energetic, fearless, alert, intelligent, friendly, eager to please, active and steady; never vicious or shy.”
Procedure for Judging the Swedish Vallhund
1. Assess the outline and balance of the dog from at least 15 feet away from the dogs—both standing and gaiting. 2. Always examine a Vallhund on a table. Wait until the dog is set up on the table before examining him. Stand away from the table to assess balance and outline. 3. Evaluate true Vallhund expression on the ground, not on the table. 4. Should a reexamination be necessary, it is preferable to put the dog back on the table. 5. A Vallhund examined on the ground should be approached from the front, not because of fear or injury to the examiner, but because this breed reacts quickly to unexpected movements overhead. He should recover promptly and resume his self-confident attitude. Th is avoidance is not to be interpreted as shyness. 6. Smooth, sound movement with free reach and drive should be highly regarded.
Color A sable pattern in colors of grey through red and combinations of these colors in various shades. All are equally acceptable. Lighter shades on chest, belly, buttocks, lower legs, feet and hocks, with darker hairs on back, neck and sides of body. Light harness markings are essen- tial. Although a dark muzzle is accept- able, a well-defined mask with lighter hair around eyes, on muzzle and under throat, giving a distinct contrast to the head color, is highly desirable. White is permitted as a narrow blaze, neck spot, slight necklace, and white markings on the legs and chest. White in excess of one third of the dog’s total color is a very seri- ous fault. Any color other than described above is a very serious fault. Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault, and the seriousness of the fault should be in exact proportion to its degree. Th e following faults are to be so severe- ly penalized as to e ff ectively eliminate the dog from competition: Flu ff y coat, any color other than described above, nose not predominantly black, more than one- third white, any bite other than scissors.
• Hair is short on head and foreparts of legs, slightly longer on neck, chest and back parts of hind legs. • Dogs are to be shown in an untrimmed, natural state. Faults include wooly, curly or open coats. Flu ff y coats (longer hair on body and furnishings, with ear fringes) are a serious fault. Gait Sound with strong reach and drive. From the front, the legs do not move in exact parallel planes, but incline slightly inward to compensate for shortness of leg and width of chest. Th e forelegs should reach forward in a free stride without too much lift. Hind legs should drive well under the body and move on a line with the forelegs, with hocks turning neither in nor out. Feet should travel parallel to the line of motion with no tendency to swing out, cross over or interfere with each other. Short, choppy movement and overly close or wide movement is faulty. Temperament Watchful, energetic, fearless, alert, intelligent, friendly, eager to please, active and steady; never vicious or shy.
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THE SWEDISH VALLHUND
By Amanda Lowery Photos courtesy of the Swedish Vallhund Club of America
T he Swedish Vallhund has been recognized by the Swedish Ken- nel Club since 1943, and for many years by kennel clubs in Can- ada, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia and other countries around the world. The breed was fully recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2007, and is in the Herding Group. An ancient herd- ing dog (some say the breed has been known since Viking times), this is an alert, energetic and healthy breed. Body & Versatility Longer-legged, lighter in build, and shorter in body length than either Corgi (but still longer than it is tall: the Vall- hund’s correct height-to-length ratio is 2:3), the Vallhund stands 11 ½ to 13 ½ inches at the withers (although the stan- dard states that overall balance, type and proportion is more important than minor variations in size), and should be sound, sturdy, muscular and give the impression of power (without being either too coarse or too f ine). Bitches tend to be smaller than dogs. Th e Swedish Vallhund is a versatile, all-purpose farm dog. Originally a cattle- specific herding breed (although they will herd anything and everything!), Vallhunds are built low to the ground and are heelers (herding by rounding up and nipping at the hocks). As this is a working farm dog,
“AS THIS IS A WORKING FARM DOG, MOVEMENT (flowing with good reach and drive) AND TEMPERAMENT (fearless, intelligent and alert) ARE VERY IMPORTANT.”
movement (flowing with good reach and drive) and temperament (fearless, intelli- gent and alert) are very important. While the SV is not intended to run hard all day as some other herding breeds are, it should still be an agile and economical mover, and should give the impression of being capa- ble of a day’s work. Tail & Color The tail is one of this breed’s unique features: Vallhunds can be born with a wide range of natural tails, running the full length of the spectrum from almost- nonexistent bobs, through stubs of vary- ing lengths to a full tail (which can be carried curled over the back or straight). Docking is still acceptable for the breed in the AKC standard, although there is no requirement to do so, since all tail
types are equally acceptable, none are preferred over another, and in confor- mation, judging stops at the croup (the tail is not judged). When breeding, it is suggested by the Swedish club that one of each tail type be used, in order to preserve the natu- ral bobtail gene (you will generally see a mix of tails in a litter with a parent of each tail type). Tail crossed to tail will result in a litter of all tails, whereas bob crossed to bob may still produce some full tails in the offspring, depending on the tails of the dogs in the pedigree. The Swedish Vallhund must be sabled (having darker tips to the longer guard hairs), and comes in varying shades of grey and red, with lighter shades of these colors on the underside, legs and face (a dark muzzle is acceptable, but a
“THE SWEDISH VALLHUND MUST BE SABLED (having darker tips to the longer guard hairs), and comes in varying shades of grey and red, with lighter shades of these colors on the underside, legs and face...”
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“...they are always up for whatever their family wants to do, from a hike in the woods to watching TV. THEY ARE GENERALLY LESS INTENSE THAN SOME HERDING BREEDS, AND HAVE AN ‘OFF’ SWITCH AS LONG AS THEIR EXERCISE NEEDS ARE MET.”
History of the Breed Th e Swedish Vallhund’s nickname is “ Th e Little Viking Dog”, as some histori- ans state that dogs of similar physical type go back to the time of the Vikings. Th ere is debate about the connection between Vallhunds and Corgis, since there are many physical similarities. Some histori- ans feel the Vallhund is the older breed, and that dogs of this type may have been brought to Wales in the eighth or ninth century and used in the creation of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, but we may never know for sure. While the specific details of its his- torical origins may remain under debate, breed fanciers have made the breed’s more recent history legendary. Th e breed had become nearly extinct by 1942, when a Swedish dog fancier named Björn von Rosen (who had helped save several other old Swedish breeds from extinc- tion), became involved in trying to save the breed we now know as the Swedish Vallhund. Von Rosen placed an advertise- ment in a newspaper asking for people to contact him if they had any information about these short-legged herding spitzes. He got a response from a school teacher named K-G Zetterstén, who volunteered his own time (and the time of his stu- dents) to help von Rosen. Th e men and
lighter, well-def ined mask with distinct contrast to the head color is desirable). The harness markings (lighter stripes running down the sides from the with- ers) are essential, and are a breed charac- teristic. White markings are allowed as long as the white does not exceed 30% of the dog’s total color, white markings are usually on the feet, chest, neck and face. This is a double-coated breed, and should be shown in a natural state. Temperament Swedish Vallhunds tend to bond very closely to their families and they genu- inely want to be an active part of their owners’ lives. Vallhund owners joke that you will never go to the bathroom alone again if you own a Vallhund— they are always up for whatever their family wants to do, from a hike in the woods to watching TV. They are gen- erally less intense than some herding breeds, and have an “off ” switch as long as their exercise needs are met. They have a double coat, which means that they do shed (especially during seasonal coat changes. Most are very gregarious with other dogs, especially other Vall- hunds, and their loving nature and gen- uine desire to please make them truly wonderful dogs to live with.
students rode their bicycles around likely areas of the countryside, looking for dogs that met their criteria for the breed, and eventually found one dog and four bitches (only three of breedable age) of the correct type. Th ese dogs were exhibited at a show in Sweden, where it was o ffi cially agreed that they were of a distinct, individual breed, and together this tiny handful of Vallhunds formed the foundation of von Rosen and Zetterstén’s breed salvation program. Careful breeding practices from those early days on have helped the breed become quite well-diversified genetically. Swedish Kennel Club The breed was off icially recognized by the Swedish Kennel Club in 1943, and was named the Svensk Vallhund ( Svensk means “Swedish” and Vallhund translates roughly to “herding dog”, so it was the “Swedish Herding Dog”). Today the breed is still called the Swed- ish Vallhund (a partial translation of its f irst off icial name) in English-speaking countries, but the Swedish breed stan- dard was revised in 1964, and the breed was renamed Västgötaspets (“Spitz of the West Goths”), after the Swedish prov- ince of Västergötland in south-western Sweden where Björn von Rosen believed the breed originated.
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“...Vallhunds have earned titles in obedience, rally, tracking, herding, agility, lure coursing and the newer sport of Barn Hunt (SINCE CONTROL OF VERMIN IS PART OF THEIR TRADITIONAL WORK, IT SHOULD BE NO SURPRISE THAT SWEDISH VALLHUNDS LOVE THIS NEW SPORT!).”
The Swedish Vallhund in the US Th e breed’s American history began in 1985, when Mrs. Marilyn Th ell of Rhode Island visited England and was intrigued by the Swedish Vallhunds she saw at Crufts. Mrs. Th ell brought the first Vallhunds to the United States in July 1985, and on September 4, 1986, the first Vallhund litter in the United States was born at Mrs. Th ell’s Jonricker Kennel. In 1987, Mrs. Th ell founded the Swed- ish Vallhund Enthusiasts’ Club (SVEC), the club which was to become the Swed- ish Vallhund Club of America (SVCA). Th e Swedish Vallhund became an AKC Foundation Stock Service breed in 1999, entered the AKC Miscellaneous Group in 2005, and was fully recognized as an AKC Herding Group breed in 2007. Versatility Most Swedish Vallhunds love to learn and work (most are very food and/or toy motivated, and as such can usually be easily trained with positive methods), and in addition to conformation titles, Vallhunds have earned titles in obedi- ence, rally, tracking, herding, agility, lure coursing and the newer sport of Barn Hunt (since control of vermin is part of their traditional work, it should be no surprise that Swedish Vallhunds
love this new sport!). Th is is a physically hardy and truly versatile breed, and can excel at a wide variety of dog activities, including search and rescue, service dog and therapy work. While they can make wonderful family pets, like most breeds, the Swedish Vallhund is not suited to everyone. Most are quite active and very intelligent, and as such, require both mental and physical exercise to be happy. Swedish Vallhunds are farm dogs. Th eir traditional work includes herding livestock, killing vermin and alerting the farmer to danger. Th ese are things to keep in mind when considering adding a Vall- hund to your family! Most take the “alert- ing to danger” part of their job descrip- tion quite seriously, and that means at least some degree of barking! Most can be trained not to nuisance bark, but they are generally not extremely quiet dogs. Vallhunds play hard: they love to wres- tle and chase and crash into each other and poke with their noses, and they have very loud play growls. While many are somewhat adaptable to their playmates’ playing styles, they can be a bit more bois- terous than some dogs enjoy, so Vallhund owners should choose playmates accord- ingly. Vallhunds are generally “easy keep- ers”, and tend to need far fewer calories than you might think to stay at a good
lean body weight. Kept lean and fit, Vall- hunds are extremely nimble and athletic dogs. Th ey are very physical, a ff ectionate dogs, and many consider themselves lap dogs. Th is is a healthy and robust breed as a general rule. Th e Swedish Vallhund Club of Ameri- ca has recently implemented its “Swedish Vallhund Versatility Program”, the pur- pose of which is to support and encourage participation in a variety of AKC perfor- mance and companion events. Th e award recognizes titles earned in conformation, obedience/rally, herding, tracking and agility. Th e program is open to all Swed- ish Vallhunds who meet the requirements and whose owners apply for the award. Points earned in each performance cat- egory are not cumulative, and points will be credited for the highest title achieved in each performance area. So if you are looking for a charming and bold little companion who is willing and able to participate in any activity, be it an organized dog sport, bringing in the cows, a long hike, or a trip to your local park or outdoor market, a Swedish Vallhund is sure to be a willing team player who will make friends and a lasting impression wherever you may go together. Vallhund fanciers say they are a “potato chip breed”, you can’t have just one! BIO Amanda Lowery has owned Swedish Vallhunds since 2003. In addition to the breed ring, her interests include agility (her dog Nina is a top 5 AKC agility Swedish Vallhund), herding and tracking. Amanda has served on the board of the Swedish Vall- hund Club of America and has written arti- cles about the breed for various publications. She lives in western New York.
“MOST TAKE THE ‘ALERTING TO DANGER’ PART OF THEIR JOB DESCRIPTION QUITE SERIOUSLY, and that means at least some degree of barking!”
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