Voices of Experience:

Interviews With Some of Our Long-Time Breeders (Part 1)

by Claudia Waller Orlandi, Ph.D.

This month’s column is the first of a four-part interview with ten of the country’s leading breeders of Basset Hounds. The original plan was to prepare a two-part series, although early on it had been suggested that some breeders might decline to be interviewed and in that case we would be down to a single column! To our delight, each breeder graciously and enthusiastically agreed to participate. The results are the detailed and well-thought out comments that follow. All of the below breeders have been breeding for a minimum of 20 years, with the majority over the 30 year mark, and have gone Winners or better at the BHCA National Specialty with their hounds. Deciding on which breeders to include was sincerely our most difficult task and we look forward to speaking with others in the future.

We would like to thank Bob Booth (Hiflite), Sandra Campbell (Craigwood), Sharon and Jim Dok (Castlehill), Penny and Randy Frederiksen (Ambrican), Jinny and Frank Kovalic (Stoneybluff), Claudia Lane (Beaujangle/Classic), Vicki and Doc Steedle (Halcyon), Kitty and Chuck Steidel (Sanchu), Dawn and Garry Towne (Von Skauton) and Joan Urban (Fort Merrill), for taking time to share their knowledge and breeding experiences with other BHCA members. We hope you find their insights helpful

What advice would you give someone just starting a breeding program?

Over half the breeders (Vicki, Bob, Dawn, Joan, Sharon, Penny & Randy, Kitty) felt the acquisition of a good foundation bitch was of primary importance. In the words of Sharon Dok (Castlehill): “Advice is cheap but the reality of starting a breeding program is not! Once you have determined you want to get serious then BUY THE BEST BITCH YOU CAN.”

Bob Booth (Hiflite), Penny & Randy Frederiksen (Ambrican) and Jinny Kovalic (Stoneybluff) all believe newcomers need to decide which style of Basset they prefer.
Jinny suggests that newcomers “first become aware of and be able to recognize the various types of Bassets being bred. Going to large dog shows, especially the Nationals, is one way to see a variety of Bassets from all over the country.”

Dawn Towne (Von Skauton), Claudia Lane (Beaujangle/Classic), Sandra Campbell (Craigwood) and Kitty Steidel (Sanchu) add that it is helpful to develop a mentor relationship with a knowledgeable and experienced breeder whose style of bassets you admire. As Claudia says: “Most Basset people are more than willing to share their experience, time and expertise with serious newcomers.” Dawn notes that mentors who live nearby are “ideal” and also recommends “visiting the kennels of as many reputable breeders as possible to see how various breeding programs have come to life. In most instances, hounds of different ages will be available and the breeder can explain how various dogs are being utilized.”

Kitty recommends memorizing the Standard word for word and, along with Jinny, feels that becoming familiar with basic genetic principles is important. For Jinny, a working knowledge of linebreeding is key and she recommends reading The Joy of Breeding Your Own Show Dog (New York: Howell, 1980) by Anne Seranne, which discusses breeding and how genes work in terms the novice can understand

When the time is right, Bob Booth says linebreed your best bitch “to the soundest male of that style that can be found, regardless of distance or dollars.” Vicki Steedle (Halcyon) advises: “read, ask questions, watch and study.” In addition to studying the breed, Claudia Lane and Joan Urban (Fort Merrill) point out the importance of not rushing into doing a first breeding. Joan concludes: “Be patient; don’t be in a hurry.”

What do you feel are the most common mistakes newcomers make?

Joan (Fort Merrill) and Kitty (Sanchu) feel many newcomers do their first breeding before they have done the above mentioned “homework.” Joan also thinks a common mistake is being impatient and buying a puppy at too young an age. Kitty concurs and adds: “You’ll love it and probably show it and breed it no matter how it develops….Bassets can change right up to a year of age.” Dawn notes that many beginners make the mistake of starting with marginal stock and as a result, reaching desired goals can take years longer.”

For Jinny (Stoneybluff) another common mistake is not understanding the basics of genetics before you start breeding. Hand in hand with understanding how genes work, Kitty adds that many newcomers make the error of breeding to the top winning dog of the day without carefully evaluating whether his physical make-up (phenotype), as well as his pedigree, will work well with their bitch.

Although Sandra (Craigwood) and Kitty (Sanchu) both support the role of mentors, Sandra feels it is a mistake for newcomers “to become completely dependent on one source of information [and believes that they] should always be open to new ideas as well as continually studying other bloodlines and how they might contribute to [their] breeding program.” Kitty suggests that since a mentor may have spent 25 to 30 years developing a line, newcomers should “progress on that and not divorce themselves from the mentor’s knowledge and advice too quickly.” Sharon (Castlehill) has seen situations in which newcomers will ask “everyone in the world [to evaluate] the bitch they just bought” and perhaps because of the competitive nature among breeders, the opinions of others are not always favorable.

This can discourage many newcomers to the point of their dropping out of the sport completely. Sharon suggests: “Buy a bitch that you like, for whatever reason you choose. Learn about her virtues and how to improve her faults.”

Claudia Lane (Beaujangle/Classic) believes that many newcomers make the mistake of breeding a dog which is not good enough to finish its championship, and has heard more than one novice say: “Oh well, I can’t finish this dog so I’ll just breed it.” Claudia stresses: “While it is true that attaining a championship does not necessarily ensure quality, it is evidence that more than one knowledgeable person thought this animal worthy as breeding stock. Barring certain types of injuries that may prematurely end a show career, in the majority of cases IF A DOG IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH MENTALLY OR CONFORMATION-WISE, IT SHOULD NEVER BE BRED; this includes dogs with ‘great’ pedigrees, littermates to Top Winners, etc., etc., etc.”

In the end, Bob Booth (Hiflite) feels that “probably the most serious mistake [newcomers can make] is failing to have learned what is correct and what isn’t as far as the breed is concerned.” Bob sums up his views with a reference to kennel blindness: “The second mistake, assuming that [newcomers] have good breed knowledge, is not being critical enough in evaluating the short-comings of their own dogs.

In Part 2 the breeders give their views of the statement: Bassets do not breed true. They also discuss whether they linebreed, inbreed or outcross.