Page 216 - ShowSight - April 2020
P. 216

                LEXI NEEL
Since I was little I would walk up to any dog. It should have been a warning sign to my parents. I started doing obedience and agility class with our mixed breed and loved it. At age 12 we got an Australian Shep- herd for me to compete with. Shortly after I was introduced to Juniors and conformation, and I didn’t turn back. My Aussie didn’t like showing much so I started looking for another dog that fit my mother’s rules, small
and non-shedding. I got my first Löwchen when I was 14 and was hooked. Showing quickly took over my life. Being homeschooled in high school allowed me to travel to shows. I started traveling with handler and breeder friends and learned everything I could. I can’t imagine my life without dogs or dog shows. I am now 24 and the President of the Löwchen Club of America. My life revolves around these amazing little dogs and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I live in Raleigh, North Carolina, and dogs have always been a big part of my life since I was little. I don’t do much outside of dogs. I have a horse that I enjoy riding and I have an equine and canine massage therapy business.
Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfort- able with the placement? I do hope this will change; I still do not know why our breed is not more popular. Once people meet them and are around them, they fall in love. We need more breeders to help keep our breed alive, we can’t depend on just the people we have now. I am the youngest breeder of Löwchen and I do every- thing I can to bring more people, especially younger people into the breed.
Do these numbers help or hurt the breed? I think in some ways they do both. With such a rare breed, I think people don’t look at them as a potential pet as they don’t have the chance to see or be around them. Of course, being rare means the gene pool is smaller, and breeders must go to many more lengths to find breeding stock to expand the gene pool
Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? Not at all, they usually first ask what mix they are or if they have had surgery (after seeing the shaved rear). Other guesses we get are Chi- nese Cresteds (if in a lion trim) or a designer dog.
Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? The largest misconception is that they cost thousands of dollars, thanks to the Most Expensive Dog Breeds articles. Another miscon- ception I get is that they have poor temperaments. Temperaments were not the best when they first came to the US, but breeders have concentrated on developing the great temperaments they have now.
Some people also think the Löwchen is a small, breakable breed because of their size, but that could not be further from the truth. They excel in agility, obedience, dock diving, barn hunt, track- ing, and just a great companion breed that will lay on the couch with you.
What specific challenges do breeders face in our current eco- nomic and social climate? The adopt don’t shop movement is bring- ing challenges to all pure breeds. We need to do a better job of tell- ing the public they should always be able to make their own choices. Our breed club supports rescue in every way, but if someone wishes to purchase a puppy that they determine fits their lifestyle, they should be able to do so.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I start putting my puppies on the table at six weeks, but I don’t really start to evaluate them until starting close to nine weeks and then I pick my show puppies at 12 weeks. But we keep re-evaluating them
until almost a year to determine the temperament and type to make sure they still fit into the breeding program. Like most breeders who have been breeding for a long time, I can usually pick one early on that just has that “it” factor.
What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? One of the most frequent questions from judges is about movement and fronts. Chests do not typically devel- op until two years old which can make a puppy’s front go all over the place when they move. Do I still look at a puppy’s movement? Absolutely, but I take into consideration their age and development as well. Another thing I like to remind people is that Löwchen come in every color and one should not be preferred over another. Yes, you will see some colors more than others and some colors will have a lighter color pigment, but keep in mind you cannot get black pig- ment on a chocolate.
What’s the best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? I think the best way to attract and keep newcomers to our breed and sport is to be helpful and give them as much guidance and knowledge as you can. Our club has a very active Meet The Breeds committee and they attend all the larger Meet The Breeds events. I think this gives the public the chance to interact with all the different breeds.
Additionally, I offer handling, grooming, and training tips to any of my puppy buyers. If I see someone new in the breed who may be struggling, I offer my help if they want it. I was welcomed into the sport and breed with open arms and have had many mentors help me. I would love to return that favor to a junior just starting out or someone interested in the breed.
My ultimate goal for the breed is to get more recognition. They are such a cool dog that can fit just about anyone’s lifestyle.
My favorite dog show memory? I had entered the Ft. Wayne, Indiana, show which was about a 3. 5 hour drive from our house. My dad drove me up on that Saturday morning really early. By the time we got there it was getting close to my ring time, so we parked and went in the building to find a place to set up. When we walked back to the car, we opened the back hatch and immediately we were hit by a cloud of the most awful smell. Trivia, one of the Löwchen, was loose in the car. While we were gone, she had messed all over the front two seats and console and had continued to paint the win- dows with it. My ring time was approaching so I quickly gathered my things from the car and took the dogs, which left my dad to clean up the mess. And that was the last time my dad ever took me to a dog show.
I started in dogs with Japanese Chins in the late ‘80s as a junior handler. Currently I breed, train and compete with Löwchen and Cane Corsos under the Potrero kennel pre- fix. I also just added a Bracco Ital- iano to our crew. I have an affinity for the rare breeds and am currently an AKC judge of Japanese Chin and Cane Corsos. I live in Sonoma County, California in a tiny, little town close to the coast. My “real job”
is working for a small software company that specializes in small business software.
Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfort- able with the placement? This is a loaded question for sure in our breed. I am not opposed to a breed becoming more popular. I would love for folks to want a Löwchen as an alternative to a Mini-Doodle. I feel that there are very few irresponsible breeders in the Löwchen

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