Flat-Coat Retriever Q & A
“FLAT-COATS ARE HAPPY ACTIVE DOGS. STANDING STILL IS NOT THEIR FORTE.”
I had a broken bone in my foot. She had won three previous BOS awards and I had pretty much given up on the dream of a breed win. I bred, owned and handled her. Flat-Coats are happy active dogs. Standing still is not their forte. Hand stacking rarely shows them off at their best. They look won- derful free baited and standing with the typical happy wagging tail. CINDY ZELBST I have lived in a small com-
Attending national specialties is another critical component. Specialties give us a “snap shot” of the breed in time (in both con- formation and working abilities) which helps us to see where our own dogs are lacking, where they excel and what to work on in the future. Similarly, visiting shows and breeders in countries where Flat-Coats are more numerous, such as in Europe, can be extremely useful in gaining a higher understanding of the breed. For the most part we handle and train our own dogs in confor- mation, obedience and Retriever work. I believe that this helps us to appreciate the subtleties of what constitutes a well-built and good working Flat-Coated Retriever. I think that excellent quality Flat-Coats are usually noticed and rewarded in the group ring. I hear talk about how it is more chal- lenging to do well in the ring with a liver-colored Flat-Coat, but I have not found that to be the case, as long as they are a high-quality dog. However, keeping a liver coat in show condition is significantly more challenging than with black dogs. It’s difficult to pick just one favorite show memory, but recently we have had some lovely wins with our veteran bitches. At the recent Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America’s National Specialty in Albany, Oregon our home-bred veteran bitch won Best Veteran in Sweeps (under long-time breeder Judy Gladson) and then went on to win Best of Opposite (under long-time breeder-judge Helen Szostak). Blazingstar Puffin is about to turn nine years and is a clas- sic example of how Flat-Coated Retrievers improve with age and converge more towards the breed standard once they are six years old and beyond. Big wins by veteran dogs is not that unusual for our breed. Vbos the Kentuckian was a super example of that, winning Crufts at the age of nine years in 2011. Flat-Coated Retrievers are a dual-purpose breed, so it’s critical to be cognizant of factors that play into working ability (such as drive, birdiness, biddability and natural marking and scenting abili- ties) when making breeding decisions, rather than only breeding for dogs that are competitive in the show ring. The dual-purpose nature of Flat-Coats is what attracted us and many others to the breed in the first place. We feel very strongly that it is important to retain the working side of the breed along with the attributes that constitute a good show dog. HELEN SZOSTAK, DVM I live in Plymouth, Michigan and I am a veterinarian in my “other life”. I got my first FCR in 1974 and I believe had my first lit- ter in about 1978. I judged the our National Specialty this spring as a Breed Club recommended/requested judge and am in the process of completing the requirements for a “real” judging license. The secret to a successful breeding program is having a good strong bitch line. Do I think the breed’s ranking fosters a responsible breeding program? I think it is good that our breed does not have great popularity. Flat-Coat breeders are very careful with puppy place- ments and with trying to produce dogs that remain true to their original purpose—that of a working Retriever and family com- panion. Health, type and temperament and working ability are of extreme importance. Do I feel the breed gets its fair share of attention in the group ring? It is still difficult to do much in the group with an owner handled dog, even a very good one, and even if it is well presented. My favorite dog show memory is winning Best of Breed at our National Specialty in 1999 with my very special girl, on a day that
munity, nestled in the Wichita Mountains in southwest Okla- homa, called Meers, my whole life. Outside of dogs, my hus- band and I manage my family ranch where we raise Angus cattle. I am also involved with the Meers Volunteer Fire Department, one of the old- est volunteer fire departments in Oklahoma. I serve on the Board of Directors for the Comanche County Conserva- tion District. In addition, I am
President of Mid-Del-Tinker Kennel Club, Vice-President of the Lawton Dog Fanciers Association, and am a member of the Board of Directors of the Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America. I’ve been involved with Flat-Coated Retrievers since 2000 and have been breeding Flat-Coats since 2003. For me, the secret to a successful breeding program is having a great mentor and I had one. I also believe that to have a suc- cessful breeding program, you must talk to other breeders and learn from them. Having a successful breeding program is an on- going learning process. I also try to have a very critical eye regard- ing my own dogs and breed based upon the needs of the areas I have identified that need improvement, while keeping in mind the pedigrees involved. Do I think ranking #91 fosters a responsible breeding program? Yes, I do believe our ranking does foster, for the most part, a success- ful breeding program. Flat-Coat breeders are a fairly small group, compared to other breeds. It’s easy for us to talk to each other about our breeding programs. There are many of us who communicate with each other regarding where our puppies go. There are a lot of us who either get referrals from other breeders, or we send prospec- tive puppy homes to other breeders. As a whole, we have a good idea where our puppies go and what puppies might become a part of a breeding program. My favorite dog show memory is pretty recent. My dog was awarded Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club show in 2018. I was humbled beyond words by the award. I immediately thought of all of the breeders before me and currently who have been involved in the breed a lot longer than I have who have yet to achieve that goal. I thought about the breeder, who was also my mentor, who would have been so very proud of that moment, who sadly and suddenly passed away in 2015. I so wished I could have called her to tell her the wonderful news. I thought about all of the breeders, Flat-Coat and otherwise, who have given me guidance throughout the years. I thought of all of the miles my first FCR and I traveled to shows together and what started me on the path that I’m on today.
294 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ULY 2019
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