curly-coated retriever Q&A WITH IRIS ANDRE, SUE DAVIS, KATHY KAIL, MEGAN MELLO, MARY KAY MOREL, LESLIE PUPPO, SCOTT SHIFFLETT, ANN SHINKLE AND BOB THOMPSON
don’t know. Don’t ever be afraid to pull a breeder aside and ask more questions, we love talking about our breed. The most common fault I see right now in the breed is dogs that do not stand true and strong on their rear legs. May- be it is a pet peeve of mine but it is something that sticks out to me. I’ve grown up in this breed and will always have one in my house. They truly are the best family dog that is willing to please and work for you. I know sometimes it might be hard for a judge to give a Curly the recognition they deserve being a not so popular breed. Judges don’t be afraid, once you find a good Curly give it the honor it deserves. My first dog show was a fun match at six or seven years old. My father and I were showing two six month old Curly puppies, one of which was my first show dog and gave me some of the greatest wins ever. Anyways, I was in the front of the line and after all the judging was said and done and the judge was looking to pick the breed winner my father leaned over and said “Now remember who your father is.” Granted at that time he also had the top winning Curly of all times. However, being the smart kid that I am I replied back “Yeah dad, but he’s the judge (with a wink).” The judge laughed, my father laughed, and I won the breed. I think my dad knew at that point he had a handler in the makings. MARY KAY MOREL I live in Maineville (Cincinnati), Ohio. Overall, the quality of purebred dogs is high and the qual- ity of Curlies has improved significantly over the past 20 years or so. We are seeing better breed type and coats and much less coat patterning in the ring. With such a small gene pool, we have to be extremely careful when making breeding choices to avoid the risk of epilepsy. Until we have a reliable genetic test for it that can identify the combination of genes necessary to produce epi- lepsy, every Curly litter has some risk of the disease. After several generations of clear dogs, you can start to feel “safer,” but epilepsy is can crop up unexpectedly. Since it often does not appear until a dog is between two and six years old, the affected dog might have been bred or its sire and/or dam might have been bred again. It is also becoming increasingly more difficult to find Curlies that are clear for the genetic diseases that we can test for, such as PRA, EIC and GSDiiia. Breeders have to strive for more genetic diversity instead of only using a few popular sires. I have struggled with infertility in my years as a Curly breeder. The high emotional and financial cost of missed breedings and small litters makes breeding Curlies truly an act of love. My goal has never been to make money, just to breed some fine dogs and hopefully break even. I have suc- ceeded in terms of breeding some really nice Grand Champi- on and Champions that have also been versatile performance dogs, field dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, and loving companions. However, I have lost thousands of dollars on each litter. The price breeders charge for Curly pups has not kept up with the market price for other “rare” breeds of dogs. Only about 100 Curly pups are produced in the entire Unit- ed States each year. Some long-time breeders are no longer breeding due to their own age, declining health, and the high financial cost of producing litters. Not enough “new” Curly breeders are stepping up to fill the void. I currently
have two really nice three-year-old finished Champion bitch- es that should be bred sooner versus later. Because I am no longer working, I have to make some hard decisions about when or whether to breed them because of the high financial cost involved. The best advice to a new breeder is to learn all you can from the long-time breeders about pedigrees in terms of health issues before you breed, and also not to expect to make any money doing it. My advice to judges is to really learn the breed standard, study the illustrated standard that is now available, and get their hands on as many good Curlies as they can. Attend the hands-on sessions offered at the CCRCA Nationals and the Michigan Sporting Dog Association Judges Ed seminars each year. Contact one of the sanctioned breed mentors in your area. Curly people are happy to help judges learn. And remember, the curly coat is the hallmark of the breed. Don’t put up patterned dogs. The most common fault I see when traveling around the country is high hocks and gay tails. Longish ears and bad feet are also pet peeves of mine. If you see an outstanding Curly in group, give it some recognition, please. Curlies will always find a way to have fun, and it can be embarrassing. While waiting for my first Curly to be exam- ined in Sporting Group in Indianapolis many years ago, she decided to duck under my calf-length flowing skirt and pro- ceeded do her rendition of a Chinese Dragon dance. My des- perate attempts to extricate her while keeping my skirt from being flipped above my waist had the crowd at ringside laugh- ing uproariously. That day taught me to always wear bicycle shorts as well as a slip under my skirt. Another time, the same Curly’s collar unsnapped from my show lead during the exam in Group and play bowed and whirled around several times playing “catch me” before I could grab her. Needless to say, we did not place in group in either instance. LESLIE PUPPO I’m originally from California, now live in North Carolina. I think that the quality of our breed has improved since I started in 1986. We have better coat and better breed type. My biggest concern for the breed is the fact that we have new people in the breed that do not want to learn from breed- ers who have been in the breed for years and have a wealth of knowledge. People who are breeding litters without hav- ing a good grasp of the breed standard. We are a small breed and it is not difficult to finish a championship on a Curly. Just because you can put a conformation title on a dog does not mean it should be bred. My other concern is that we don’t have breeders that are keeping more than a few dogs and are not growing several puppies up from a litter to make sure the best is retained and used in the breeding program. I feel this is a problem in other breeds as well. It is difficult for most people to keep numerous dogs. In the past I have partnered with other breeders and shared breeding stock so that one person did not need to keep as many dogs. I think overall our breed is very healthy compared to other retriever breeds. Personally I feel that GSD and EIC are not big issues for our breed, especially since there are tests available and feel that some people are ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ when excluding dogs that are carriers or affected from a breeding program.
308 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M ARCH 2019
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