Poodles in Lights: ….as in literature, movies, TV, and Madison Avenue, like John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie and Karen LeFrak’s children’s book Best in Show. Our own Poodles have posed for calendars, ads and cards like Dante’s “Isn’t Having Great Hair a Bitch?” (yes, both “girls” are Dante, delicately airbrushed) and Ari daughter Birdie’s appearance touting Tillamook Cheese.

Dante bitchin

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I still have a copy of the “Jack and Bill” segment from Angela Lansbury’s old TV series, Murder She Wrote. Jack wouldn’t cut any swath through conformation rings, but he sure turned things around for formerly inept detective Bill. I have no doubt that Standard Poodles could succeed as police officers (picture Columbo with a better coat) or CIA agents like Jack.

 Police Dog

Inspiring Poodles:  Many Poodles have inspired me, some that I’ve known and others I’ve known only through photos and video and the written word. I’ll mention just two, since they’re patriarchs in our family: Gordon, Ch. Maneetas del Zarzoso Fuego Fatuo, for his charisma and his fabulous temperament; and Peter, Ch. Whisperwind’s on a Carousel, for his sparkle and his beautiful Poodle movement that he gave to his son Dante, Ch. Sauvies Islander.

Inspiring Poodle People: Many of these too! I’m especially inspired by master breeders such as Luis and Maria Aiscorbe of Aizbel—and grateful when such breeders share their wisdom and experience. Examples are articles by Luis, such as “Thoughts about the Development of a Bloodline,” published in the PCA Newsletter, where he reprinted (with his own poodle-specific notes) Ernest Eberhard’s Twenty Basic Breeding Principles from The Complete Bull Terrier, originally published in 1957. I’m awed by the exquisite presentation of our top professional handlers and see role models in breeder-owner-handlers like the Aiscorbes and Gary Wittmeier (winning Best of Breed at the PCA National in photo below). With a saner schedule now, I dream of stepping into a Bred-By class myself.

Gary Wittmeier with BOB at 1992 PCA National

Del Dahl’s Book The Complete Poodle: This is a terrific book whether you’re just starting out in Poodles or gleaning tips and inspiration from Del’s vast expertise. Now if I could just remember who borrowed mine!

Mackey Irick’s book The New Poodle: I enjoyed this as an in-depth introduction to lineage behind all three varieties of today’s American Poodles, complete with many photos of famous dogs. This history is a treasure trove for new breeders.

Lloyd Brackett’s Planned Breeding: Initially published some 50 years ago as a series of articles for Dog World magazine, this is fascinating reading with provocative observations even for those who don’t share Mr. Brackett’s views on close breeding. You can find it online.

Pat Hastings Books and Seminars on Sound Structure in Dogs: If you’ve never seen Pat Hastings evaluate a litter of puppies for structure or give a presentation on performance-dog injuries caused by structural problems, check out the seminar schedule on her site www.dogfolk.com.   In most conformation (or obedience or agility) rings, we see Poodles with structural issues like poor front assemblies, ewe necks, straight or way over-angulated rears, bad knees, slipped hocks, etc.—all affecting their ability to move with that balanced, effortless light springy action called for in the standard, not to mention their ability to function as durable athletes. And that’s our doing as breeders. Pat doesn’t evaluate qualities such as attitude or prettiness or breed type or what I heard her call “Zzzzt,” though she often will comment on such virtues in a puppy. She stresses that she’s rating puppies on their structural soundness, and if the stars align, one of the best puppies on her scale is also the pretty and typey one that always catches your eye. And if that puppy naturally falls into pretty poses with a perfect self stack, you can bet it’s one of the best in structure! It’s up to us as breeders to put it all together.

Structure in Action

George Padgett’s book Control of Canine Genetic Diseases: This 1998 book helped put genetic diseases into perspective for me, and its information and guidelines still ring true today.   For example: “….if we follow that oft-given advice don’t breed carriers, we will never breed another dog in any breed in the entire world.”

Of course, Dr. Padgett would be thrilled with the lengthening list of new DNA tests for genetic diseases. But we’ll probably never have genetic tests to prevent all current diseases (and gene mutations will ensure that new diseases crop up). I highly recommend Dr. Padgett’s book, especially Chapters 10 and 11, “Breed Clubs and Control of Genetic Disease” and “For the Breeder,” including his general guidelines to avoid genetic disease and intriguing thoughts on the role of gossip, problems with imports, etc.

In one striking passage, Dr. Padgett describes seminars presented to four audiences of breeders, totaling 400 or 500 attendees, in which he presented a scenario of three top-notch Scottish terriers, a bitch and two prospective studs, whose genotypes were known for purposes of the seminars. Each dog carried four defective genes for genetic diseases common in Scotties. The question: all else being compatible, which dog do you use on your bitch? The answer was obvious, since only one match would produce no affected puppies. But ALMOST ALL attendees said they wouldn’t breed any of those dogs! Dr. Padgett responds, “Do you know now why people won’t tell you about the disease status of their dogs? If you won’t breed to these dogs, what dogs will you breed? Do you believe that of all the Scottish terriers in the world, these are the only three that carry four genetic diseases? …..Scotties carry, on the average 4.67 defects per dog. Currently the way you handle this situation is to blacklist dogs like these and breed to dogs whose owners lie to you. Currently, we do things in exactly the reverse order of how we should do them. We ostracize people who tell us the truth and give our trust (and our stud fees) to the people who are not honest with us.” He goes on to discuss how breeders might fare with a blind-luck cross of one of these dogs to a Scottie of unknown genotype. You can guess.

Canine Genetic Diseases

I once had a fascinating talk with Dr. Padgett about breeding and will never forget his comments on the “accidental test breedings” that we should use more often in our breeding decisions. For example, let’s say I have a dog who sired a litter of seven puppies. When the puppies were six months old, the dam developed Addison’s Disease. Of course, scientists don’t yet know what causes Addison’s, but most believe that heredity plays a role. So time goes by and all those puppies remain healthy past the likely age range for this disease to develop. What have I learned? Given a green light for all other traits, my stud dog looks pretty good for bitches with cases of Addison’s disease in their family tree. If a single recessive gene mutation caused Addison’s (and current research suggests otherwise), the probability would be 99.2 percent that my dog doesn’t carry the defective gene.

The Poodle Club of America Foundation:  Ok, as a member of the Board of Directors, I’m biased, but I’m also excited about the Foundation’s past and present work in education and health research. Check out our site and let me know if you have questions or suggestions: www.poodleclubofamericafoundation.org.   And if you have dogs who could volunteer for any of the studies under way, please help us help Poodles!