Jean Tuggle and Emily Foster became friends after they each got a Black Russian Terrier from the same breeder. They lived in the same area, and a mutual love of the breed led to a partnership in a breeding program.
Jean has called many places home, being from a military family (she was born in Germany). “I now live in Western Washington and feel blessed to call the Evergreen state my home,” she said. She grew up with a Golden Retriever and a cat, and riding hunter/jumpers was a big part of her life. As a young adult she fulfilled a lifelong passion when she got her first Great Dane. But she got hooked on Black Russian Terriers when she saw her first one and is an active member of the BRTCA, serving on the board as its recording secretary. She is also an active member of the Mount Rainier Working Dog Club.
Emily, an AKC Breeder of Merit and AKC Bred with H.E.A.R.T. breeder, is from the Pacific Northwest and lives on five acres in the heart of Oregon’s wine country. Growing up, the family dog was always a loving, loyal Rottweiler. There was also a cat, a lovebird, hamsters, and fish. She has been involved with the Black Russian Terrier for nearly nine years and is also a member of the BRTCA (serving on its board of directors) and the Linn County Kennel Club.
AKC: How did you get started in breeding dogs?
Jean: I have worked with animals in multiple ways for most of my life. They have always been my passion, and through all my different experiences this passion has never wavered.
After meeting my first Black Russian and doing lots of research, I decided to add one to my family. It did not take long after that for my love affair with this amazing breed to blossom, and I decided this was the breed I would devote myself to for the foreseeable future. Emily and I met because each of us got our first Black Russian from the same breeder, and we lived in the same region. Our mutual love for the dogs quickly blossomed into a lasting friendship and breeding partnership. It felt like the perfect way to fulfill our mutual goals. I believe that alone I may have been able to make a positive impact but working together with another likeminded strong and passionate woman, we could move mountains. We each have our own set of strengths and our own views and visions at times. Our mutual love and respect for the breed and each other is always at the forefront of our relationship.
Emily: After knowing what life is like being loved by this wonderful breed, I knew I had to be a part of its preservation. It became especially important to me to protect, educate, and to positively promote the Black Russian Terrier. I wanted to feel at the end of the day that I in some way made a difference in my beloved breed. Jean and I are devoted to making positive strides forward toward the overall betterment of our breed.
AKC: What is the most important thing to know about your breed?
Sparta – Jean and Emily collaborate: Black Russians are a truly special breed. They are completely devoted to their families and can make a wonderful addition to a family willing to dedicate themselves to this very intelligent and head strong breed.
They are not a breed for everyone, but for those willing to devote the necessary time and focus to their dog they have an amazing capacity to return that love and devotion in kind.
Life with a Black Russian is never dull. Their intelligence and strong will can make them very entertaining to have around. They will keep you on your toes while at the same time making you feel loved and protected in a very special way. It is hard to put into words, however most people, after they get their first Black Russian, get it.
They are a large and powerful protection breed. This is something that every Black Russian owner must always remember, no matter how loving, sweet, and gentle they may be with you and your family. Early, constant, and consistent socialization and training is key to being successful with this breed. This is a lifelong commitment, and the importance of this cannot be stressed enough.
Our breed is also very versatile and can excel in a variety of situations. They can be used for service work, tracking, protection work, competitive obedience/rally, carting, nose work, and search and rescue work, just to name a few of the ways in which our breed can shine in the right hands.
AKC: How has AKC Marketplace helped you find puppy buyers?
Jean: The AKC Marketplace is a great resource for us as breeders. People looking at the breed have a resource to research the breed and then find breeders they can talk to and learn more from.
Emily: We find that often those contacting us through the Marketplace have done their research and ask good questions. It is an immensely helpful tool for us as breeders for sure.
AKC: What is your favorite question to ask of potential puppy buyers?
Jean: First and foremost, are you familiar with the breed and what drew you to the breed?
Emily: What experience do you have with working breeds? What breeds have you had before and how much time are you able and willing to devote to your puppy?
AKC: What are the main qualities you look for in potential owners?
Jean: We love to speak with potential owners who have already done some research on the breed and can really explain to us why they think this breed is a good fit for them.
We want to talk to potential owners who are looking for a lifelong companion. These are not dogs that do well left unattended for long periods of time in a yard or left to their own devices most of the time. They need their people, and they need leadership. They thrive on a good working relationship with their owners, and without this there is the potential for them to become dangerous dogs. We do not want our breed to develop a bad reputation. It is important to us that our potential puppy families sound as devoted to our dogs as we are.
Emily: As Jean mentioned, speaking to a potential owner who has done a lot of leg work is always a bonus. It really shows genuine interest as well as careful consideration. This breed is NOT the first-time dog owner dog, nor for someone with a more passive personality type. It is paramount that a potential owner demonstrates their willingness to devote and dedicate the time our breed needs to reach its potential. Calm, confident leadership is what helps the Black Russian Terrier thrive.
AKC: What is the best advice you would give to novice breeders?
Jean: It is of the utmost importance that you research, research, research. Study the history and purpose of the breed as well as the standard and pedigrees. For our breed it is important to pay proper attention to not just the AKC standard but the Russian standard and never discount the valuable insight that the Russian breeders can give you.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Challenges will inevitably arise, and it is important to recognize that there is no perfect dog.
Lastly, I wholeheartedly believe it is very important to formulate a vision of your ideal dog and for what you want to achieve with your breeding program and your dogs. Always be mindful of this vision and try your best to work towards it despite the inevitable obstacles that will arise.
Emily: My best advice to a novice breeder would be “Ask yourself why you want to breed?” “What is your goal and vision?” “How do you plan to help improve the breed?” Learn all you can from the reputable breeders in your breed. Find mentors! Learn your lines and the health concerns that may or may not pop up and how to prevent them. Lastly, may all your choices be with the Black Russian Terrier’s best interest at heart.
AKC: Do your dogs participate in AKC sports?
Sparta – Jean and Emily collaborate: Participation in AKC conformation shows is especially important to us. We not only want our dogs to conform to the standard, but we want them to be seen and appreciated by both newcomers and those who have a long history with our breed.
We also participate in other AKC sports including rally and scent work. While we spend most of our personal time and energy training for and showing in conformation, we love when our dogs go out there and get other titles as well. We encourage our puppy owners to be involved with their dogs and participate in as many AKC sports as possible. This is a great way to build relationships and showcase the versatility and workability of our breed.
AKC: What do you like best about breeding dogs?
Jean: I have a science brain. I love researching pedigrees, genetics, and dogs. I have a head chock full of pedigrees and find it fascinating. There are so many factors involved in the selection of a breeding pair including health testing, type, conformation, temperament, workability, and that all important vision. There is no such thing as the perfect pairing or the perfect puppy. But as you work towards your goal and you see your dogs go out there and succeed, and you know it was your own blood, sweat, and tears that went into that dog, there is no better feeling.
Emily: For me, the best part is watching the relationships grow between our puppies and their people. At Sparta we are very family oriented and share in each other’s successes. It is wonderful to share stories and keep each other updated on daily life. Some of our dearest friends are because of the Sparta family. I love the sense of pride in the accomplishments of our puppies and families and knowing we did our absolute best to meet the high standards we hold ourselves to by producing dogs to the standard as we understand it – sound, confident puppies.
AKC: Do you have a favorite breeding story?
Jean: I cannot say that there is one special story. Each pairing is unique and special to us.
Emily: Well, it may not be a breeding story but winning our first Bred By Exhibitor will always be an incredibly special moment. Not only was it our pick bitch from our first litter but it was also the first time entering the Bred-by-Exhibitor class. She won the breed then went on to win the BBE working group! For me this is one of the most important moments as a breeder. We are still chasing the best in show bred-by, with the ribbon in our sights!