Page 275 - ShowSight, March 2020
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                            Do I hope my breed’s ranking will change? Does it help or hurt? I am comfortable with the placement. This breed is not for everyone and popularity in many breeds seems to bring out the people want- ing to raise pups for the money and not for the preservation of the breed. It doesn’t help or hurt.
Does the average person recognize my breed? Rarely do we meet a person who recognizes Bergamascos. The guesses are a huge range from Doodle (No, this is a purebred), to Briard, to Komondor, to, “Oh it’s a Rasta dog”.
Any misconceptions about my breed? Ah, yes! There are many myths that are out there about this breed. “They are easy to groom.” False. They are easier than some breeds, but their hair does need attention. They are reverse mops. Their hair picks up dirt and stick- ers like velcro and if it is flocked the debris needs to be picked out of the coat by hand. Brushing only partially works. They need to have head and neck brushed. The beard gets matted with food and thus bacteria if not kept brushed and the oils from the ears also causes matts behind the ears. Those are not flocks!
“They shouldn’t be bathed.” False. They don’t need a bath as often as many breeds since they don’t get that dirty dog smell, but they smell a lot better after a bath! And mine like to sleep on my bed. And when in the tub the water turns black with dirt! The flocks, if they aren’t trimmed under the belly and around the butt, soak up urine and periodically that area needs to be spot bathed. A bath is time consuming and drying requires a nice hot day with a dry wind or industrial fans in order to dry the flocks so that they don’t mildew.
Their hair can’t be cut short. False. In the Alps where they worked the sheep with the shepherds, they were periodically shorn with the sheep. They would have been unable to move easily through the mountains with flocks dragging on the ground. People are attracted to our breed because they are beautiful with flocks, but sometimes the reality is that flocks don’t work with all lifestyles. If that is the case, the hair can be kept in a puppy cut. It is much bet- ter to cut it than to have a matted mess that isn’t cared for. It is the heart and soul of this breed that makes them unique and wonderful, not their hair.
What special challenges do breeders face? I think that the big- gest problem for breeders is the pro-rescue climate and the bad name that breeders get from puppy mills and backyard breed- ers who breed a lot of dogs and don’t support their puppy buyers throughout the life of their puppies. All we can do is raise healthy dogs and pick the best possible homes and then support them. If life changes happen then we need to be able and willing to take a dog back or re-home it and not let it go to a rescue.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? They change so much before they are fully grown at two years. You can get a pretty good idea at seven weeks, but then the gangly growing begins!
Most important thing about my breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Theses dogs worked sheep and protected them from preda- tors in the mountains. They had to leap over logs and maneuver in mountainous terrain. They need be strong and to have good movement. Their movement should be fluid with long strides. They should float across the ground with their head and neck even with their topline. They should be thoughtful and cautious, but never aggressive.
The best way to attract newcomers to my breed? Willingness to educate and talk to anyone who is interested. Too many breeders only want to talk to puppy buyers. I am happy to take the time to talk to anyone interested in learning about the breed.
My ultimate goal for my breed? I hope to be able to continue to work with Italian breeders and my likeminded friends here in the United States to preserve the breed as it is and has been in Italy for generations.
My favorite dog show memory? I loved taking my first Bergamas- co to shows when we were still in FSS. She was such an ambassador for the breed. People loved her and she loved the attention! My pas- sion with my Bergamascos now is AKC Agility. My bitch Spell- bound’s Minerva and I have earned AKC Master’s Agility titles. I see agility as all of the things this breed was bred for, minus the sheep!
Anything else I’d like to share about my breed? Bergamascos are smart, they are problem solvers. If they want something they figure out how to get it! They are independent thinkers. They will respond to your commands when they are finished with whatever they are doing. They can be stubborn, but they are very sensitive and need a human who is not heavy handed. They are loyal to their family, thus they need lots of positive experiences as puppies with socializa- tion. They need exercise such as a brisk walk for 30 minutes and some ball time and then they are happy to chill on your feet in the house. They worked as an equal with the shepherd, thus they want to be with you. If you are in the house, they are in the house. If you are outside then they will want to be outside. If you are going in the car, they want to go in the car. They will sleep in your bedroom on your bed or on the floor. They will love your kids as their siblings. They bark when someone comes to the door, but once that person is accepted by the family then the Bergamasco will want to sit in their lap.
I live in Maine. Outside of dogs, I enjoy screenwriting, daylily hybridizing and I’m a retired attorney.
Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfortable with the place- ment? The Bergamasco is not for everybody. They are very intelligent and sensitive and require a certain sort of per- son to understand them and give them what they need. Also, many people would not want to do the coat, although it is not as much work as many other kinds of coats. When
breeds become too popular, they get overbred and this is not good for the dogs. I think the level of slow growth we see now is appropri- ate. Do these numbers help or hurt the breed? These numbers are irrelevant to the breed.
Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? It used to be never, but now more people have at least heard of the breed. Many because of Westminster.
Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? The coat is not a high-maintenance coat. There is work involved at age one to two years to set up the flocks, but after that, there is no brushing or other difficult maintenance. Bergamascos do not roll and do not stink and so do not require baths more than once a year (or less).
What special challenges do breeders face in our current econom- ic and social climate? Unfortunately, the Internet is a place where much disinformation can be spread. People interested in the breed would be well advised to get their information from a breeder or several breeders who have deep experience with the breed, having owned numerous Bergamascos. They are not a cookie cutter breed and there can be big differences in their personality, size, likes, dis- likes, coats, temperament, etc. It takes many years and many dogs

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