Breed Community

When an experienced dog show exhibitor even thinks about getting a new breed, one of the first questions asked of the breed that they are interested in is "what is the breed community like?" Thankfully, the Hamiltonstovare breed community in America is wonderful, we all support each other and offer advice when needed. The global community is less than great. I am glad to be over 3,000 miles away from the majority of it. 

The UK breed community is factioned, badly. There are very few people that are willing to put their personal biases aside and benefit the breed as a whole. Recently, I received word of 2 dogs dumped in a boarding kennel/shelter in the UK that were bred by Alice and Rolo's breeder. Immediately, I contacted the RSPCA and another UK Hamilton breeder. The contact that I received was from an independent rescue group that knew I have dealt with rescue Hamiltonstovare before. My chief concern is for those 2 dogs that are away from everything that they are familiar with and kept in a kennel environment for six months and counting. The UK breeder that I contacted has offered to pay the outstanding fees for the dogs and take them in as long as the KC registration is transferred over. If I was in that situation, I would GLADLY accept that for the well-being of the dogs. However, that could be further from the truth, the "owner" of the dogs is doing everything to stonewall the dogs from receiving the love and care that they need. Now that the majority of the breed community knows about it, the ones who are genuinely concerned have expressed it. Those associated with the "owner" are doing everything in their power to suppress any of this knowledge coming forward. This is doing more harm than good, please put differences aside and help these dogs. This is NOT a private matter, this is a matter that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. The dogs' lives should be the paramount concern instead of reputation, bad feelings, etc. At this point, I do not care who put them in there as long as they get out to somebody who knows how to rehabilitate them in a manner appropriate for the breed. Unfortunately, that is just one example of factions within the breed. 

Every person is absolutely entitled to their own opinion and that opinion should be respected. However, the breed is incredibly splintered in the UK, that I am sure it does alienate owners and future owners. Most UK owners that I have talked to have expressed this to me at some point. Some differences are mild and opinion based, others are rotten. Poor sportsmanship is something that should never be tolerated in a breed community, but it happens. Jealously is a nasty green monster and some people give into that monster. When a dog wins the breed at Crufts, congratulate them instead of criticizing the dog, owner, handler, breeder on a very public forum. When people hear of dogs needing rescuing move mountains to help them instead of making excusing for the owner's horrific actions. When a dog gets injured, express your sympathies instead of blaming the owner who is already going through enough as it is. When a new breeder is proud of a litter of puppies who had a tumultuous birth, wish the breeder luck, offer educated advice and do not publicly ridicule them when you don't know half of the the story, do not wish their beloved dog's death, dog not wish terrible diseases on the puppies. When a new owner asks for paperwork that has not been delivered as promised, do not run away and hide, deliver on your promise. When an owner has gone well above and beyond expectations, it is the breeder's job to be incredibly proud of the dog and the owner, NEVER take credit for their successes that they put countless hours of work on, always encourage and motivate the owner to constantly succeed. When at a show, if you lose, graciously congratulate the winner, hug your dog and chalk it up to maybe it will be your turn the next show. Never make a winner feel so bad about winning that they are in tears and nearly shaking so bad that they can hardly compete in groups later on in the day. If your dog didn't win the breed, still stay and cheer for that breed in group competition. If a new exhibitor shows up, embrace them and treat them like old friends, instead of enemies that deserve to be destroyed. I can promise you, the Hamiltonstovare breed community is not the only breed community dealing with similar issues. If every exhibitor treated each other in a manner of respect, good sportsmanship, and in a way that they wish to be treated in return then I bet this sport would start growing again, the public perception of purebred dogs would change and our beloved breeds would be better than ever.  

PETA, a Tidewater perspective

Again, I do try my absolute best to make sure that every post is Hamiltonstovare related as possible but I just can’t with this post at all, on any level. This is going to be a tough topic to write about because it is dangerous, very dangerous. Most people who have written about PETA have a legal team, now live outside of the US, or can afford constant personal security. I do have personal security at my home and monitor my house remotely when I am not there.

I was born and lived the first twelve years of my life in the Tidewater, Va area. I went to elementary and most of middle school there. Why is this important? Well, PETA is based there, their headquarters are not in New York City or LA, but in Norfolk, Va. Norfolk, Va is an odd location for PETA’s headquarters until you break down the surrounding area, in the surrounding area you have 7 LARGE cities with lots of impressionable children. You also have sympathetic local governments that adore them. The first time I ever heard of PETA, I was in elementary school. From what I remember, PETA never came to my elementary school to do an assembly but it is possible. What I do remember is the posters and pamphlets, they deliver them to local schools. These posters were specifically geared toward kids and at the time was not as radicalized as they are now. The literature featured appropriate pet care and how you could join PETA and almost be an involved citizen to stop animal abuse.

While that sounds innocent enough, but what they were doing was grooming the next generation of activists. I remember once that I found a lovely hound roaming my neighborhood street, I proudly helped the dog into my backyard and tried to help it out, basically doing what those posters told me to do. The dog had a collar and what happened next imprinted upon me how I should trust PETA. I happened to have a poster with a phone number, I called it and asked them what I should do. The nice person said to me that I should take the collar off the dog, don’t call the owner because they didn’t care enough to keep their own dog, and either keep the dog myself or let it go. I couldn’t do that, so a friend of mine said that they would help me. They told me that they called the owner but nobody answered, and their grandmother would allow them to keep the dog so they dumped it somewhere. I was so upset that I cried. The worse part was the owners came to me asking questions and I told them what I was told to do by a trusted name in the area, that posed as a shelter. I was just 10 years old, very much a latchkey kid, and had to think on my feet. I never knew what happened to the dog but sometimes I think about that moment and how defining it was to me. How could PETA tell a child to do such a thing? This was in the late 90’s well before internet and cell phones, so I trusted what my school gave me. At that moment, I stopped trusting in PETA.

As I grew up showing dogs and loving dogs in a way that felt right to me, I learned more and more about PETA. I learned from the internet that PETA is a monster, not to be trusted. They are a “shelter” that has the highest kill percentage in all of Virginia. I never realized how bad they were until college. I attended a show in the Tidewater area where members of PETA would routinely point at dogs’ testicles and say “you are killing your dog because he isn’t neutered…”, thankfully I have a mentor that knew how to behave and kept her mouth shut. Other more quipy people would make retorts like “thanks for looking at my dog’s nuts.”

The next experience that I am about to tell was done by somebody that is a supporter of PETA and extremist animal rights, I do not know if they were employed by PETA, regardless it is shocking. In college I showed Clumber Spaniels, and this time we were showing in a series of shows in Baltimore, MD, right around this time of year actually. It was February and cold, I was traveling with the Clumber Spaniel’s owner, her handler, the handler’s mother and a string of dogs all are coated dogs. We checked into the hotel and began the process of taking dogs out to go potty. While myself and the daughter of the client was walking a few dogs, we noticed that a car kept on circling the hotel parking lot. Finally, they stopped and asked us why kind of dogs they were. We told them and kept on our business. We put the Clumber in the hotel room and loaded up the other dogs in the van (which is designed for housing multiple dogs at all temperatures). We got ready for bed and didn’t think anything about the encounter in the parking lot. That was until the handler got a knock at the door saying that one of the dogs was “near death” in the van. We went out to the van and the dogs were sleeping soundly and were in no distress at all. We made the decision to move the dogs into the two hotel rooms just to be on the safe side. The next morning we went to the show and then went out to dinner. While we were at dinner, we were told that the Baltimore Police Department had surrounded our vehicles. So we went to the police and explained the situation. Unfortunately, we did not know that it is illegal in Maryland to leave a dog unattended in a vehicle regardless of the weather or if the dogs were in any danger. The dogs were fine and the officer gave us a warning. The final day of the show, I just happened to look over my shoulder and noticed the same person that asked me a question at the hotel just standing at the show site. We alerted the show board who escorted them off the site. It was later determined that the person was an animal rights extremist looking to “rescue” dogs (meaning steal) that they thought were in danger. There is no way to know if the person was affiliated with PETA at all but we do know that they were cut from the same cloth.

PETA is a horrible organization and I am appalled by any celebrity that endorses them for any reason (I’m talking to you P!NK right now). PETA is subject to new legislation that will hopefully stop their killing practices at their headquarters but it does not stop them from stealing animals, like poor Maya, and killing them in a van somewhere. The Maya case is so shocking because no charges have been filed and PETA was caught on camera trespassing then returned later with a fruit basket instead of the dog. The dog’s body has yet to be returned to her owners, and never will be. PETA has doctored video footage to show carriage horses in danger, they have even caused NYC carriage horses to get injured. No animal lover should support PETA.

If you are an animal lover, please support your local kennel club. Please come talk to breeders and owners at Meet the Breeds on Saturday, education is the most powerful tool. 

Rescue Issues

Generally with the blog I try and make the focus more geared toward the Hamiltonstovare. I am going to try my very best and relate it to the experiences that I have with Hamiltosntovare and other breeds. As I have mentioned previously, there is a rescue problem with Hamiltonstovare. The problem is complex and will not be solved overnight.

Generally I think that there are a select few of rescues that are in it to help animals. I am sure that most started in order to help animals. However, rescue by nature should be focused on one primary goal and that is someday to close because the rescue problem has been solved. Most rescues do not operate that way at all, I think most municipal shelters try and run that way but the independent rescues do not.

The nature of rescues and shelters especially with dogs, can easily get fixed because they are spaying and neutering nearly every animal that comes in within 48 hours. Most dogs that are pets have never been around an intact dog, period. Some totals and estimates show that an alarming 75%+ of all dogs are spayed/neutered in America. There will be a serious shortage of dogs regardless of breed and situation within the next ten years just because there are so little that actually are allowed to reproduce. Shelters and rescues are already seeing shortages in their area and are regularly importing dogs from other states and even countries to meet the demand of a rescue dog.

Hamiltosntovare rescue is no exception, Ruger, Brutus, Renegade, and Eve are just a few examples of dogs that were transferred from one shelter to another. Ruger, Brutus and Renegade were transferred hundreds of miles across state lines from Virginia to New Hampshire or Massachusetts. Some will say as long as those dogs get great homes then what’s the issue. The issue is that you run the risk of transporting hidden diseases and also run the risk of people doing horrible things to make sure that dogs are rescued. Currently, the purebred dog fancy knows that there are several rescues around the country that will break into homes, walk on people’s property with the sole intention of stealing dogs just to meet the demand for a rescue. I have seen rescues make up sob stories to get a dog adopted faster (Renegade is an example, he was found with a number dyed on his side, the rescue said it was chemically burned there but myself and the shelter know that it was done with a pet safe bleaching agent done for the purposes to identify the dog in a field trial.) I have also seen rescues lie about a breed and say that a breed is one thing instead of another to get it adopted faster, and I have also seen rescues intentionally lie about where a dog was found in order to make sure that the original owners never find it.

What most people do not know is that Animal Rights is not something that any dog person should ever support. Animal Rights is a movement supported by PETA, HSUS and ASPCA that want to end all pet ownership. Animal Rights tries to push for donation money in order to push legislation that will make sure that pet ownership is eliminated. Those main groups also make sure to give money to owners of privately owned rescue groups that are local lobbyists. So those rescue dogs could mainly just be a method to prove that the lobbyist isn’t the scum of the earth and has a heart. In my state, Virginia, that is going on very heavily. The Richmond SPCA is run by a person who is a lobbyist and is funded by the HSUS. The person that runs the Richmond SPCA left her own dog in a hot car and let it die but yet people adopt hundreds of animals from them every week.

One experience that I had with a rescue personally proved to me that every person who decides to adopt a dog needs to do their research, visit the facility, ask about prior care and even ask about financial returns versus profit returns. Most rescues should be a 501(c)3 non-profit organization so they should not show a profit, nor should they over-pay their associates to make sure that they don’t turn a profit. My fiancé worked at a big-name pet retailer for years and this retailer had an agreement with a rescue to allow adoptions to take place one day a week. So when a litter of 3 week old kittens was found, abandoned they contacted that rescue. That rescue made no effort to ensure that the kittens that weren’t weaned were picked up and given emergency treatment. So my fiancé brought one of the kittens home as no rescue group was willing to take them. Several associates took one kitten each home that night. Our male kitten was covered in fleas, eyes were still blue, could barely walk and barely had teeth. So we immediately crafted a natural flea treatment, started him on a milk replacer/wet food combination and took over the role of mother cat to him. He was too weak to be transported back to the store but others brought their kittens in. The rescue arrived and immediately started threatening my fiancé because they said that he stole their kitten and demanded a $100+ adoption fee and application for the kitten that was never in their possession. He refused and legally there was nothing that the rescue could do. The little kitten had a few set-backs at first but after a week he began to grow and grow. He has stayed with us ever since and he will be 2 years old in a few months. That same rescue is still in operation today but no longer has an agreement with that retail store because they were placing unvaccinated animals up for adoption, arriving late to the store, and kept the animals in a horrible condition.

The term retail rescue is going around the dog fancy right now and most people in the dog fancy agree that it happens, a lot. I see it with my involvement with Hamiltonstovare rescue. I sent an email to a rescue in Virginia Beach just requesting more information about a few dogs. I can almost guarantee that I will not hear from them and I am almost certain that these dogs will be adopted quickly because of the rare breed interest. To me what sends up red flags regarding a rescue is one that conducts adoptions in a retail store, has discounted adoptions around holidays, and boasts about numbers adopted. Most adoptions done at a retail store are impulse adoptions and are designed to prey on people who like the cute animal in a window, most of the time there is an application done but never a home visit and are more concerned about the check clearing than anything else. Rescues that boast about numbers, like a local rescue adopted out 200+ dogs in 2 days, etc., no way have the ability to make sure that every home is just right, let alone do home visits and follow-up checks.

However, these rescues are the first ones to vilify breeders and call us greeders. They also will spread around such catch phrases as “adopt don’t shop”. Most responsible breeders never turn a profit in the amount that these rescues are. Most responsible breeders perform follow ups for each puppy sold for the puppy’s entire life. I know that my puppy owners made their choice and decision based on research, communication and are willing to build a relationship with me. I pride myself on being their SME with their puppy. I do not know of a single rescue or shelter that is willing to put in that kind of dedication for each dog that they adopt out. I am in no way saying that all rescues and shelters are bad but what I am saying is that regardless of how a person decides to get their next pet, that research is required. 

Color and Coat Genetics for the Hamiltonstovare

I am fascinated by canine genetics in general but especially canine color genetics. I could go on about other genetics but for right now lets just stick with color and coat genetics. The Hamiltonstovare color has never been truly studied. There are a few assumptions that can be made just by the way that the color is expressed. 

The main assumption is that the majority of the population does not carry the liver gene (b) and are probably homozygous dominate for black (BB). Another assumption is that they do not carry the blue dilution (d) and are probably dominate in that gene as well (DD). We can also assume that they have some sort of Irish spotting gene and tan marking gene. 

The difficulty with breeding Hamiltonstovare comes with the Irish spotting gene and tan marking gene. Hamiltonstovare does not appear to have the piebald gene (sp) or the solid gene (S). The Irish spotting gene (si) causes the color to be much more static and you can almost predict that the color will appear in certain areas. The one area where there is flexibility is the neck. Currently, it is unknown what causes a white collar or no white collar. For example, in my most recent litter 2 puppies were born with very little white on the neck, one had a large white spot and another had a white collar that faded to a partial white collar. The parents have very little while on the back of the neck. 

Another part of flexibility is the tan markings, there are 2 parts of flexibility there. The first part is how much tan is seen and the other part is the color itself. It is currently unknown why the tan creeps into the black because genetically all saddle tricolor dogs have similar color genetics to Bernese Mountain Dogs, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, and other Swiss mountain breeds, which is (atat sisi). The theory is that there may be an unknown modifier on a different gene that influences the expression of the amount of tan. Some Hamiltons have large saddle with a minimal amount of tan and others have a slightly smaller saddle with more tan. The color of the tan varies and is related based on Intensity gene (I). The theory is that the variations on the I gene will cause a darker to lighter tan. 

The Black gene (BB) within the Hamiltonstovare and other breeds does control the pigmentation of the nose and eye rim pigment. So the Hamiltonstovare will always have a black nose and eye rim pigment. The exception is where white is, there may be some pink pigment mixed in with the black. For example, Hamiltonstovare should have spotted paw pads, this is indicative of the Irish spotting gene. 

There is a different black gene (K) that is assumed to be that Hamiltons have the kk gene due to the tan markings and lack of brindle gene (kbr) in the breed. There is an assumption that the recessive red gene (e) is very rare in the breed. The Hamiltonstovare does not have the ticking gene. Some Hamiltons may have the occasional spot on the legs or belly but that is more like a random freckle in humans than a true ticking pattern. 

This lack of flexibility within the genes of the breed mean that the only color that Hamiltonstovare will be is tricolor that will change from a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog tricolor to a more traditional hound tricolor as they age. The change should be complete by the time the dog is 2 years old. 

Hamiltonstovare should have a double coat that is very dense and short. Hamiltons coat texture will change as they age but the double coat will stay regardless of age. There have been rumors that single coated Hamiltons are in certain lines but I have not seen any proof of that. I also have not seen any studies that show what gene is responsible for a single coat like a Great Dane and a double like Hamiltonstovare. 

I hope that there is a study one day to determine the true genetic make-up of the Hamiltonstovare coat. I think that they would be an ideal breed to finally figure out where the modifier of the tricolor saddle lives, as they only produce that color. 

Puppy Talk and Socialization: why I don’t breed a lot

Generally in this day in age when you tell people that you are a breeder, regardless of the breed, they think that you are surrounded by puppies every single day. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Most responsible breeders don’t have puppies around all the time, but for a few brief moments and then devote countless hours planning the next litter and following up with those produced.

My first litter of puppies was not something that I planned fully and just happened. My list of lessons learned is about a mile long. The next litter that I am even considering is 2016, I personally don’t see how a person working 40+ hours a week can breed a litter every year. I need some breathing room. This first litter was highly anticipated just because of the parents alone. So when Alice kept everybody on their toes then it was no surprise to me. Alice has always been a dog that kept everybody guessing. The emergency c-section was a two-fold situation. The first was that Alice’s temperature went from 100.6-98.7 between days 58-63. It is enough to drive any breeder crazy. Between days 60-63, I was having Alice go through an ultrasound to make sure everything was ok. After a solid 24 hours within 98F range and yet no puppy or any sign that she would ever push, I went nuts with my emergency vet who monitored her and then the final ultrasound at the reproductive vet showed signs of fetal distress. So the puppies arrived amid stress and freaking out on my part on May 21, 2014 around 11am. At that point, we realized the issue was a puppy had died around day 56/57 and was mummified.

As soon as Alice and her 4 puppies arrived home, the real work began. The puppies were monitored for weight, ability to nurse and other vital signs. Around day 3, I started the Super Dog program of early neurological stimulation. The Super Dog program lasted until they were 13 days old. It consisted of various movements, stimulation of the feet, and exposure to brief periods of cold. It may seem strange but it really worked, every puppy hit their milestones 2+ days ahead of schedule. All 4 puppies have no issues with any sort of anxiety and all are extremely friendly. After their Super Dog program ended, they were exposed to various people in a controlled environment. As such, these puppies seek out people for comfort and really enjoy the company of people. That is a huge change from their parents who have great temperaments but aren’t very affectionate nor to the truly seek out people for companionship (other than me, they adore me almost to a fault).

After the puppies started walking is when I started instinct testing them. They would be exposed to rabbit scent and pelts. Then they were exposed to fox scent and a fox tail. After they were old enough to run, I would take a rabbit pelt and tie it to a lunge line to see how their natural prey instincts were. During the instinct testing and exposure is when I started housebreaking and leash breaking.

All of these things take time and effort, and that is the main reason I do not breed that often. I am devoted to each and every puppy, not just the pick of the litter or the one I am planning on keeping. I make sure that each puppy is well rounded, healthy (both mentally and physically), and ready to leave before their new owners come and pick them up. Also, I have to think about every single time I breed that complications could happen. I want to have Alice with me as long as possible and to lose her while producing a litter of puppies seems very selfish. As such, Alice will only be bred one more time and then that’s it. Her daughters will never be breeding machines either, they will only be bred 1-2 times total. I don’t believe in repeat breedings (Rolo is a product of one, which I am glad but they aren’t for me). I believe in the Swedish model which is making sure that genes do not become too prevalent within a population and cause a bottleneck. 

Breeding is a joy in that I get to mold the next generation of Hamiltonstovare in America. It isn't for everybody because if you think of things in a financial speak, you will lose money almost every single time. However, when you breed you can honestly see the future of the breed right in front of you. I want what is best for them and care deeply about how they impact the breed as a whole.