Susan Kustrup, owner of Tallie Farms Beagles in Manahawkin, NJ, has lived in New Jersey all her life. She is an AKC Breeder of Merit, having bred and shown dogs since 1977, and has bred and shown Tallie Farms Beagles for the past 15 years. She is a past board member of the Central New Jersey Hound Association.
AKC: How did you get started in breeding dogs?
Susan: I started as a junior handler with Irish Setters and English Cocker Spaniels, getting involved in junior showmanship and conformation dog shows. Having not come from a dog show family, I read every book I could get my hands on about showing and breeding dogs. When I started in dogs, there were no mentoring programs. I was fortunate enough to learn from and work as an assistant for professional handlers Bonnie and Mark Threlfall.
After many successful years of breeding and showing English Cocker Spaniels, I realized that it was quite difficult to balance the raising of an active family and maintain my ECS show coats. I had always loved Beagles, so I made the transition from the merry Cocker to the happy hound. With my first Beagle, I inherited an extended family in my breeder and mentor Michelle Sager. She and her husband, Tony Castellano, offered me invaluable guidance and education on the breed. They taught me to preserve the breed standard and to understand form, structure, and movement of the Beagle. I did my homework too, researching pedigrees and asking questions in order to strive to breed better dogs conformationally and free from health issues.
AKC: What is the most important thing to know about Beagles?
Susan: Beagles are hunting dogs; they follow their nose and are food driven. Anyone interested in owning a Beagle must have a fenced–in yard and be aware that Beagles will eat just about anything.
AKC: How has AKC Marketplace helped you find puppy buyers?
Susan: The AKC Marketplace has proved to be an invaluable source for puppy buyers to research what type of dog they are seeking for their family, whether they are interested in conformation, performance, field trialing, or a combination of sports. There are a variety of breeders within Beagles to choose from, enabling a puppy buyer to find the type of Beagle they want for their family.
AKC: What is your favorite question to ask of potential puppy buyers?
Susan: I love asking people why they chose the Beagle. It is so interesting to hear the many stories of how they have fallen in love with the happy hound. Many have memories from childhood or just met a Beagle when they were out and about.
AKC: What are the main qualities you look for in potential owners?
Susan: First, I have them fill out my puppy questionnaire. I’m interested in their family lifestyle; it’s important to have time to devote to a puppy as well as the right environment. I want a family that I have a connection with. It’s important for puppy buyers to know that their breeder will be there to help them with anything that comes up in their puppy’s lifetime.
AKC: What is the best advice you would give to novice breeders?
Susan: Find a knowledgeable mentor: Someone well respected, who has been in the breed for many years. Listen to your mentor. A good one will educate you, discuss, offer you options, and guide you. Once you get established, don’t forget where you came from. Be kind to fellow breeders and continue your education.
AKC: Do your dogs participate in AKC sports?
Susan: My concentration is in AKC conformation shows. However, many of my dogs’ relatives compete in AKC performance sports. For me, in particular, participating in the AKC National Owner Handler Series has been both exciting and rewarding. I had the number-one 15-inch Beagle bitch for 2019. Also, I bred and co-owned the Winners Bitch at the 2019 National Beagle Club of America Specialty Show.
AKC: What do you like best about breeding dogs?
Susan: Where do I begin? It’s nearly impossible to narrow that down! The people, families, friendships, puppies, canine athletes, and those ever-beautiful, dignified senior dogs. Seeing all your hard work pay off when a family and dog are perfectly matched for a lifetime. Listening to sounds of newborn puppies contentedly nurse. I could literally go on and on.
AKC: Do you have a favorite breeding story?
Susan: I do have a favorite. My foundation bitch had a beautiful litter of three puppies on an early afternoon. At about 10:30 that night I received a phone call from a fellow Beagle breeder who had five puppies that same day. Sadly, the mother of those puppies passed away a few hours after giving birth. She asked if we could see if my Coco would accept her babies. Of course! Two-and-a-half hours later, they arrived with a cardboard box of five precious puppies. We brought the box in to where Coco was nursing; she immediately heard the puppies. She sat up immediately as if to say, “Puppies? I hear puppies? I have more?” We let her smell each puppy; she gave them each a few licks, and they were all nursing away. Coco was thrilled with her new additions! A litter of three turned into eight. It was a miracle! It didn’t stop there. One special puppy went on to win Winners Bitch and Best of Winners at the National Beagle Club specialty, and another lifetime friendship was born.
Learn more about Tallie Farms Beagles on the AKC Marketplace.