Page 209 - ShowSight - April 2020
P. 209

1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs?
2. In popularity, The Löwchen is currently ranked #168 out of 195 AKC-recognized breeds. Do you hope this will change or are you comfortable with his placement?
3. Do these numbers help or hurt the breed?
4. Does the average person on the street recognize him for what he is?
5. Are there any misconceptions about the breed you’d like to dispel?
6. What special challenges do breeders face in our current eco- nomic and social climate?
7. At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthi- ness (or lack thereof)?
8. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind?
9. What’s the best way to attract newcomers to your breed and to the sport?
10. What is your ultimate goal for the breed?
11. What is your favorite dog show memory?
12. Is there anything else you’ d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.
I started exhibiting Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs in 2002, with
Löwchens fast following. I have earned over 75 titles in conforma- tion, competitive obedience, rally, herding, lure coursing, weight pull, drafting, water rescue, packing, and animal assisted therapy. I am the owner and trainer of the only two Greater Swiss Water Rescue dogs in the US, and am a drafting and weight pull judge for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America.
In 2016, I started a global long-term plan to build a sustain- able Löwchen population. Since 2009, the breed has not had more than 100 individuals registered with the AKC each year, putting the future of the breed dangerously at risk. I have been recruiting established accountable breeders and exhibitors in the breed, importing new bloodlines into the United States, execut- ing international health focused projects, promoting the breed in performance arenas, and helping other breeders develop an online presence. My home has been dubbed the United Nations of Löw- chens as I’ve had bloodlines from eight different countries. I am also the owner and handler of the 2019 #1 All-Systems and #1 Owner-Handled Löwchen.
I currently live in Minneapolis and Atlanta (for work). Out- side of dogs, I am a data product manager which means I make data (digital and marketing) available for data science and analytics needs.
Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfort- able with the placement? While the popularity ranks and gene pool are correlated, I’m more concerned about the overall breeding population rather than ranks. For reference, the Löwchen typical litter size is two to three puppies, and very few of those eventually contribute to the gene pool. For the last ten years, we average only 15 individual dogs and bitches per year contributing to the gene pool with a first litter.
Do these numbers help or hurt? The numbers are precariously low. With a shrinking gene pool, we don’t have as many options when it comes to stamping type and maintaining soundness.
We have even fewer people exhibiting. Of the 2019 all-breed shows, only 25% had a Löwchen entered, and only 2% had a major entry. If people do not see our breed at shows, in performance, and at trials, how will we recruit more exhibitors and breeders? Do note that we have extremely high demand in companion homes. Both companion homes and breeders are needed to keep the breed alive.
Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? Not at all. Without the distinctive lion clip, the general public just assumes the Löwchen to be another small, non-shedding breed or a mixed breed. They certainly miss the amazing qualities that go beyond the distinctive clip.
Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? Yes! The first one is a misconception from the public about the lion clip. Many assume that the dog has a medical issue, and thus has the shaved butt. The other misconception is that the hair grows that way—as in the hair doesn’t grow on the butt. Other misconceptions are around temperament and price. The temperament of the Löw- chen should be a joyful, friendly, playful, confident, and agreeable dog with an opinion. The temperament of the breed makes them excellent performance dogs. The second is a rumor that Löwchen puppies cost $10,000. That long-running myth results in inaccurate Internet articles about the breed being one of the most expensive breeds. In reality, a well-bred quality Löwchen is similar in price to other well-bred purebreds.
The biggest challenge for the breed is the community itself. For many years, fanciers were against the idea of allowing this amazing breed to be known. As a result, very few breeders have websites or digital presences. There was very little recruitment of new breed- ers and companion homes. From there, the numbers of breeders dropped over the years, which then turned into fewer dogs in com- panion homes. Since 2016, there has been a concerted effort to start heavily recruiting new breeders, exhibitors, and owners.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? It is fairly easy to assess structural soundness at a young age; some of them seem to always be in a perfect stack and move effortlessly without wasted energy as puppies. At about a year old, you have a fairly good idea what you will have in terms of proportion, struc- ture, and substance. Some qualities that can take longer to evaluate are adult coat texture and degree of physical maturity.
What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? While the lion trim is a distinctive attribute of the breed, it is not what defines the breed. The standard calls for a compact, slightly off-square dog that has the physical ability and temperament to entertain both knights on horseback and ladies of the court. Today, more than ever, structural soundness and body proportions are crucial as many companion homes today are seek- ing to excel in sports with this breed. Under the coat, judges should look for a sound dog that can navigate a busy castle or a challenging agility course!
What’s the best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? The best way I’ve found to attract new conformation exhibi- tors is to enter a show and talk to people. The Löwchen is a breed that will charm all who meet it, and that holds true when out in public as well. There is no shortage of eager bystanders who want to cuddle a snuggly lion.
My goal is that when my time on this Earth is done, the breed has enough stewards to ensure that Löwchen will persist for decades to come. This gem of a breed almost went extinct after World War II, and it is at risk of extinction again. In 2016, I created a strate- gic roadmap of how to get the breed back on track. The phases

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