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Harold (“Red”) Tatro III and Denise Tatro of Redglen Lakeland Terriers and Whippets value versatility in their lives as well as their dogs. In the fancy for more than a half-century, this couple from Crowley, Texas, has spanned multiple groups and events with their interests and breeding activities, from conformation to earth dog trials to lure coursing, and beyond. Both are American Kennel Club conformation judges, with Denise judging obedience and rally as well. A longtime delegate for the Fort Worth Kennel Club, Red Tatro is probably known best to the fancy at large in his new role as a member of the board of directors of the American Kennel Club. Here, he talks about the differences between hound and terrier people, battling it out in the obedience ring, and flash over substance in conformation circles. 

Ready, set, woof:

“As a child, I participated in 4-H, and as an adult, my brother’s red male Doberman sparked my interest. I was amazed by this dog’s beauty, intelligence, and affection. So after getting out of the Air Force, I bought myself a purebred Doberman bitch named Shasta from a local breeder. Denise got her start at a young age training and showing her grandmother’s smooth Dachshund, titling him in 1962. The first dog she owned was a Standard Poodle that she also trained and competed with.”

Turning to terriers:

“When I would go to a local park with my Doberman to practice for our obedience class, people assumed she was an ‘attack’ dog, even though she was very friendly and accepting of strangers. So I began my search for a small, friendly-looking dog that people would not shy away from. During that search, I kept coming back to the Terriers, with their distinctive looks and outgoing personalities. I met a Lakeland Terrier breeder at my workplace, and when they had a litter I purchased one of the two pups. He was my first venture in conformation and my first dog to finish a championship and get multiple Group placements. I was hooked!”

… and Whippets:

“Growing up, Denise had several Doberman Pinschers over the years. In the late ’70s she received a Whippet puppy as a Christmas present from longtime friend, Carol (Parker) Harris of Bo-Bett fame. That began her love for the breed that continues today.”

Denise Tatro with her Whippet, Flare.

Couples time:

“We met as Obedience competitors with our Doberman Pinschers. It was certainly not love at first sight, because the first time I noticed Denise was when she defeated Shasta with her bitch, Erica, for High in Trial at the Doberman Pinscher Club of Dallas specialty! We later became good friends, began dating, and were married in 1988, thus joining our menagerie of dogs.”

Terrier vs. Hound people:

“The terrier world is very much ‘in your face’ about things, yet the disagreements are typically settled quite quickly and easily, and things move on. The hound world is not as open about things. Things tend to drag on, and people can hold a grudge for a long time!”

Misconceptions 101:

“For Whippets, people assume that they are skinny, scared, fragile dogs, and nothing could be further from the truth! They are incredibly tough athletes, and most are very affectionate and outgoing. Yes, they are naturally skinny – don’t I wish! – because they like to run and get exercise for themselves. With Lakelands, the stereotype is mostly that they are hyperactive, bouncing-off-the-wall terriers. But Lakelands are a pack terrier that walked with the hound pack and were not carried in saddlebags on the horse. They had to co-exist with the Fell hounds and needed a stable, agreeable temperament to survive. Their ‘tough’ side was exhibited when they went to ground after the Fell fox and were not asked to dispatch the vermin for sport, but to destroy it right in the den.”

Ringside laments:

“Lakelands have become more of a grooming contest than evaluation of the merits of the dog. If the dog isn’t perfectly groomed and colored, too many of today’s judges don’t even consider the dog. The degree of shortcuts and turning the breed into a ‘paint by numbers’ breed is appalling. This has led to more owner- and breeder-handlers either leaving the sport or turning over their dogs to professionals. In many ways, I think Whippets have taken the same path. There is always discussion on social media about the need to shave off whiskers, trim every stray hair, and apply lots of white chalk in order to win. For a breed that proclaims itself to be ‘wash and wear,’ there is an awful lot of time spent grooming a Whippet for the conformation ring that really isn’t needed.”

Red Tatro shows his Whippet, Babe, in the ring at the LSWC Specialty.

Breeder booster:

“I believe the Breeder of Merit program is not only for those who have accomplished the requisite titles, but it’s also a commitment to the American Kennel Club in registering all of the puppies produced and being a mentor for life. The general public normally thinks of an ‘AKC dog’ as a dog that is purebred with a pedigree.  I think the Breeder of Merit program helps strengthen that point of view.”

Chipping away:

“We register every puppy online once we implant the microchip. When the new owner comes to pick up their puppy, we choose the registered name from among the litter’s theme and complete the process with them. All our puppies are microchipped with prepaid AKC Reunite chips, and we give the new owners the form to complete the registration into their name, but by purchasing them as the breeder we are always listed as a contact.”

Word of mouth:

“We are not high-volume breeders, and never desired to be. We have not used a formal puppy application, and we don’t have a website. That is not to say we don’t ask a lot of questions: We spend time getting to know prospective owners well in advance of the litter arriving or the puppies being offered.  Talking and listening to people can offer a more personal insight into someone over a stark Q&A application.”

The big picture:

“I suppose like most breeders, we desire to make each new generation better than the previous. We often have a plan that may take several years and different breedings to accomplish. There is always a need to look to the future, past the current litter being produced.  While many follow the strong sire point of view – not to be confused with the ‘popular sire’ syndrome – we typically have followed a strong dam-line philosophy. A tagline my brother uses for his consulting business comes to mind: “People don’t plan to fail … they simply fail to plan”!

Hair’s the thing:

“We try to explain the ‘life’ of the hair in a terrier and the need for regular, proper grooming to puppy people. For those who have chosen conformation showing, I make it clear that it is a challenging path that takes time to learn and a lifetime to master. I usually start by showing them some photos of my dogs, from the earliest grooming to the later grooming, where the skills have developed. There is a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to someone who can put down a proper terrier coat and furnishings.”

Summing up:

Whippets – a smooth, curvy, powerful athlete of tremendous speed and abundant affection. Lakelands – a small, square, workmanlike terrier of great courage, intelligence, and determination.”