The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes Breeders of Merit for their dedication to breeding purebred dogs with the appearance, temperament, and abilities that are true to their breed standard and for their commitment to health screening and 100 percent puppy registration. The AKC celebrates their success in and passion for canine sports. They are the pinnacle of the AKC community.
Each quarter, the "Meet a Breeder of Merit" series will feature a member of the program to showcase his or her achievements, breeding philosophy, and history of involvement with the AKC.
Featured Breeder of Merit: Kathy Rust of Kizmar Vizslas
Location: North Dakota
Years of involvement with AKC events: 41
Breeder of 112 Champion Vizsla
1. Breeders of Merit have to have a history of at least five years of involvement in AKC events. Please tell us about your first experiences in the sport. What event did you start in?
I started in obedience with my first Cocker Spaniel when I was 13. We earned a CD (companion dog title). I got a job at a local breeder’s kennel and discovered dog shows!
2. What breed did you start with, and is the breed you started with the same breed you are recognized as a Breeder of Merit for? If not, how did you choose the breed you have now? (Or how did it choose you?)
I started with Cocker Spaniels. My husband chose Vizslas, and they have taken me on an amazing journey.
3. Breeders of Merit must have earned event titles on a minimum of four dogs from AKC litters they bred/co-bred in each breed. What titles or accomplishments as a breeder are you most proud of?
Winning the Vizsla Club of America National Specialty as a breeder/owner/handler, as well as regional specialty wins, are accomplishments that are very precious to me. I love the bond that is formed with my dogs when working in all venues (conformation, field, obedience, rally, agility). However, I feel the most proud when I’m watching owners achieve their goals with their puppies. They are all family to me.
4. Please share the thought process you use when you decide to breed a litter. Do you have a breeding philosophy?
First, the dam must meet my standards in four areas: conformation, natural hunting instinct, health, and temperament. My goal, when choosing a sire, is that he will help maintain the strong points of the dam and help improve any shortcomings. At the same time, I also think about how the resulting progeny will fit into my breeding program. I try to think at least a couple of generations ahead.
5. What are the keys to finding homes for your puppies? Do you advertise? If so, how and where? Do you take advantage of your free litter listing on AKC Marketplace? Do you use an application for prospective puppy buyers?
I have been blessed to have amazing puppy owners. Most prospective owners are referred to me by current puppy owners and fellow breeders. I do not advertise. I use a questionnaire to screen prospective puppy buyers, and follow up with phone calls and in-person visits to ensure it is the right match for both my puppies and the potential owners.
6. How do you ensure that all of your puppies are registered with the AKC? How do you encourage new puppy owners to register their puppies? Beyond that, how do you encourage those new owners to participate in AKC canine sports?
I include the cost of the individual registration as part of the purchase price. I also assist the owners in getting their puppies registered. It’s very simple, quick, and easy to do online. I go over all registration requirements with my puppy owners, and it is part of my contract that the puppies will be registered. Helping puppy owners find classes in their home area is the first step to getting them involved in AKC canine sports. Attending local club fun days and introducing them to other owners helps to get them interested. Being a positive, supportive mentor, along with good communication, goes a very long way in getting new owners involved. I create a group for each litter on social media to make it easy to stay in touch. Puppy owners from each litter help support and encourage each other.
7. If you were asked to be a mentor to a person who aspires to become a Breeder of Merit in your breed, what advice would you give her or him?
My advice would be to set a standard that you want to achieve and develop a plan to get there. You must maintain the integrity of the breed and be its guardian — there are no shortcuts. Be respectful and learn from master breeders. Ask questions. Each and every puppy and its respective litter will teach you something. Along the way, share what you have learned with others.
8. What aspect of the Breeder of Merit program is most important: Health Testing? Titles? AKC and breeding experience? All of the above?
Each part has its own importance. I don’t think you can single out just one aspect. So, all of the above!