No Hamiltonstovare at Westminster

Hamiltonstovare aren’t eligible to compete at Westminster, plain and simple. The reasons why are a bit more complex. The main reason is that Hamiltonstovare aren’t fully recognized by the American Kennel Club. The road to full recognition is a numbers game, the first stage is Foundation Stock Service which is where the Hamiltonstovare are. After there are over 150 Hamiltonstovare registered with the Foundation Stock Service then the Hamiltonstovare Club of America can petition to the AKC to progress to the Miscellaneous class. After over 450 Hamiltonstovare are registered with the Foundation Stock Service and the Hamiltonstovare Club of America writes an approved breed standard in the AKC format, then the Hamiltonstovare Club of America can petition to move to fully recognized. So if you own a Hamiltonstovare, please register it with the AKC as each and every dog even in other countries helps.  

Now the Westminster Kennel Club could host an AKC Open Show which would allow all FSS and Miscellaneous breeds to compete. I have requested this multiple times as it would be an instant boost to all rare breeds struggling for full AKC recognition. The Westminster Kennel Club never responded to my multiple requests, ever. The Westminster Kennel Club does host Meet the Breeds where Hamiltonstovare can participate but logistically, it is incredibly difficult to attend for just one day and not get even a chance to compete and it is very discouraging to the general public who ask over and over at the booth to see the breed compete and we have to constantly say that we can’t.  

Hamiltonstovare are eligible to compete in the agility competition and as of 2018, the Junior Showmanship competition. Hopefully FSS breeds will be able to compete and hopefully the breed will advance because it is my goal to compete on the green carpet with a Hamiltonstovare.  

Judging the Hamiltonstovare

As with any rare breed, judges education is essential. Judge education should always come from the national parent club or registry and never from an individual kennel. A judge's education presentation should be approved by a committee and biases removed from the presentation. The dogs used as an example should be able to show both the good and the bad. My goal with this blog is NOT to educate judges about the breed because there is a great judge's education tool available from the Hamiltonstovare Club of America that has been around for years. It is approved by the club, it is a word document file so that judges can easily print it out for their use at any time. I will post a link to it at the end of this post.

In my opinion there are a few rules that should be kept clear when judging this breed. The first is does it look like it can survive in a colder climate? Hamiltonstovare are a Swedish breed and they are expected to survive in every type of climate. The dog must have bone, substance, muscle tone and a correct coat to survive. A dog that does not have bone and substance in equal parts will never survive. This breed is not bred for speed so it should never look thin or racy. They should embody and give the impression of great power and strength. This breed needs to look like it has the endurance and power to run, not walk or trot, all day. That requires a lot of muscle and is only achieved by proper daily conditioning. The coat type, not the color, is needed to survive, the coat must have an outer harsh layer and a very short plush layer. The coat should be very dense and no hair should come off in the judge's hands during examination.

The next thing is make sure to check over items that are eliminating faults in the FCI standard, such as height. Height is an eliminating fault in the breed because it is a breed defining trait to distinguish it from other breeds native to the region, such as, the Finnish Hound. When a Hamiltonstovare and a Finnish Hound are placed next to each other, they should look related but distinctively separate from each other. Hamiltonstovare are smaller and more refined than the Finnish Hound. When in doubt, use a wicket, over or under of the prescribed height ranges is grounds for elimination. Please note that the height ranges for dogs and bitches are different.

Another very important thing to take into consideration is muscle tone. Hamiltonstovare should have clearly visible muscles especially in the front and rear. The front and rear muscles should be equal. Hamiltonstovare are an ideal dog to use the “Structure In Action” method as described by the great judge and dog breeder, Pat Hastings. If you are interested in canine structure, movement and why they do the things they do, please go to her seminar and/or buy the book “Structure In Action”. The main rule about dogs and canine structure is balance should always be your guide. If a dog isn't balanced in both front and rear angles then it will not be efficient in the job that it was bred to do.

When watching a Hamiltonstovare move around the ring, the gait should be smooth and efficient. It should cover a lot of ground with the least amount of effort. The legs should track effortlessly in 2 separate lines with only slight convergence to the center as the dog picks up speed. Limbs that cross, paddle, cow-hock out, appear choppy or have high lifting front action will never be able to survive in the field. The ultimate goal when judging this breed should always be: can this dog survive all day in the field with snow on the ground? If that answer is yes, then put it up, if no then do not award it at all. Hamiltonstovare are a scent hound and should never look like a sight hound at all. They should look like they came from scent hounds, a dog that is lacking in bone, muscle tone, substance, and have exaggerated front and rear angles goes against breed type and needs to be excused from the ring.

Hamiltonstovare have a different proportion, they are built on a series of rectangles, not squares. They should be slightly longer in the body than they are tall. They need to be rectangular because it allows them to be more flexible in negotiating rough terrain. The breed is bred to run, climb and push through a forest. They cannot do that job if they are square. Square dogs are more for running in flat fields, that is not like this breed at all.

Hamiltonstovare are a markings breed but it is also a working scent hound that still hunts in its native country. If the dog cannot do its job due to a structural fault then that should be the over-riding rule instead of awarding a pretty color. Hamiltonstovare should always be tricolor with very specific locations for the white, tan and black. If a judge is looking at a beautifully marked dog that is not structurally sound and a structurally sound dog with a markings fault then the judge should award the dog with the markings fault instead of the dog that is not structurally sound.

Which outline would you choose?

The answer is the outline on the right. If you chose the outline on the left, please re-read the Hamiltonstovare FCI breed standard. If in doubt, please visit the Hamiltonstovare Club of America Judge's Education document, here.


Training Hamiltonstovare Do's and Don't's

Training a dog is a personal choice as always but there are some methods that work much better with Hamiltonstovare than others. I have trained my guys mainly at home but I do work in a formalized way with them from time to time. The first key component of any well trained dog is socialization. Take your dog everywhere and as often as possible from as early an age as possible. A good breeder should start that process for you, they should easily be able to tell you where they take their dogs and how often. If they can't do that, run away as fast as you can. True, Hamiltonstovare aren't an at risk breed for aggression but a breeder should try their best to better the temperament as often as possible. 

The first thing you should do when bringing your new puppy home at 10-14 weeks, any earlier is a huge no-no, is enroll them in a puppy manners class that focuses on crate training, socialization, manners, and some introduction to obedience. The puppy manners class should focus on letting the puppy make good choices and enforcing those positive choices. After the puppy manners class, they should start a basic obedience class that puts emphasis on sit, stay, come, down, heel, and using those skills at will. Hamiltonstovare that are trained well from a good trainer should never need a prong choke collar or a gentle leader. Gentle leaders have become very popular as a training tool recently and almost every single person I have seen use them, use them incorrectly. Gentle leaders are designed for one purpose, to discourage pulling on the leash as a last resort. It is not a training tool to be kept on during a training exercise, a hike, or anything after the dog is properly trained. Gentle Leaders are only to be used on adult dogs that are done maturing, for Hamiltonstovare that is over 2 years of age. If you have trained your dog properly then you should NEVER need to use one. Hamiltonstovare have long necks and the possibility for injury using a Gentle Leader is great. Gentle Leaders can cause neck injuries, muzzle phobia issues, and if put on incorrectly permanent nerve and spinal damage. 

Training a Hamiltonstovare is actually remarkably easy if you have one key component, food. Hamiltonstovare are highly food motivated and will do practically anything for food. I have trained 2 dogs to a CGC and one to a CGCA using food. At home I train tasks 100% off leash using food. Alice is my trickster and she knows several tricks that we all taught while having her wait for dinner. Alice knows sit, down, wait, speak, roll over, sit-up, shake, wave, high five, back-up, and touch. Rolo is learning but he knows sit, down, wait, speak, say his name (he goes Ro Ro), sit-up, back-up and touch. Rolo is in training for agility and is progressing very well with that training thanks to food and an item called a Lotus Ball. 

Rolo doing some DIY agility jumps

Rolo doing some DIY agility jumps

With Raven and Selene, we are doing things much earlier and the results have been incredible. Raven has started some Rally-O training recently and she is loving it. Raven is being trained using the clicker. Clicker training has really helped her understand the importance of good choices, immediately. Selene is highly toy driven, the most toy driven dog I have ever seen, and she has started some agility training. She adores it. 

The main key to training a Hamiltonstovare is finding the thing that motivates them and exploiting it to do things that you want them to do. Hamiltonstovare, like most scent hounds, respond horribly to negative reinforcement. Anything from yelling, prong collars, gentle leaders, some types of choke chains; can actually do more harm than good. Trust is key with Hamiltonstovare, they respond best to an owner that allows them to work and progress at their own pace. 

Here are some key Do's when training Hamiltonstovare:
Work with them daily using positive reinforcement
Challenge their brain on a regular basis, Hamiltons are very bright, use it to your advantage
Use food as a reinforcement
Take them everywhere possible
Try anything with them from weight pull, lure coursing, rally, agility, etc.
Find a trainer that understands how to train a hound

Here are some key Don't's when training Hamiltonstovare:
Use a gentle leader on a dog under 2 years of age
Yell, hit, or any form of negative reinforcement
Make them do something they they don't want to do
Expect more out of them than what is realistically possible
Use a prong collar or gentle leader unless it is an absolute last resort for the dog's safety

The most important thing to remember when training Hamiltonstovare is to have fun. If you are having fun then that will travel down the leash to them and they will have fun. Hamiltonstovare are incredibly versatile and have the ability to excel in agility, dock diving, lure coursing, weight pull, rally-o, obedience, fly ball, trick training, service dog work, therapy dog work and pretty much anything you can think of, they can do it. 

Alice waving

Alice waving

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.