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Brittany Cipriotti with her daughter

Tuxedos are usually reserved for formal affairs, but Brittany Cipriotti of Warrenton, Virginia, lives with that striking black-and-white pattern day in and day out. Under her Ellenni banner, she breeds mantle Great Danes with her mentor and co-breeder Kristi Allison of Blackstone Great Danes, as well as similarly patterned but more vertically understated Boston Terriers. That’s not to say this Silver Breeder of Merit is monochromatic: Cipriotti also breeds fawn and brindle Danes with Marion Clark of Honey Danes, and co-breeds Mastiffs with Becky Cooper. An all-breed professional handler who started off in horsesCipriotti introduced her twin daughters Angéle and Brielly to the sport, and today the two 19-year-olds are talented handlers and breeders in their own right. (Angéle is a Breeder of Merit in Danes, and Brielly is poised to send in her paperwork, as well as planning her first litter of Grand Bassets.) 

Here, Cipriotti talks about Boston Terrier self-image, the importance of outline, and the buck that unfortunately didn’t stop here. 

Culture shock: “In horses, if you’ve got a big barn and a lot of money, they really like you. Dogs are different – they’re more family friendly. You can be an average family. My kids started in Juniors, and were top handlers within their groups. We had fun travelling together. They’ve travelled countrywide and worldwide. We socialize our dogs – I socialized my kids.” 

On going pro: “I’m 6-foot-1. Someone said to me, ‘You’re really tall. You could probably show a Mastiff.’ After that someone else said, ‘Hey, could you do this breed?’ Before I knew it, I was showing a bunch of dogs.”  

Boston proper: “Bostons are the perfect dog to raise Great Danes with. They’re like Danes on crack. When I have a Dane litter, my Boston Terriers are in the whelping box with them. They are the respect builders for my Dane puppies because they think they are 300 pounds and 12 feet tall. They’re great social animals, and not very breakable for a dog of their size.” 

Taking on the mantle: “I think that pattern is very classic looking. When I had horses, I had a Tennessee Walker with high socks – I loved the flash. I love to watch correct movement in a breed, and those white feet really accentuate the movement on an animal. You cant mess up when you have them, because they really show any imperfections.” 

Quality check: “I believe in preserving the breed at all costs. Do I want to win? Absolutely. But not at the cost of losing what my dogs are. I’ll place a mediocre dog as a pet that someone else might go out and win with. If you sell a dog to someone and its obvious that the shoulder is really bad, why would you ask the owner to keep showing it if you know you wont breed it? Do you need a ribbon or champion that badly?”

Daughters Angele and Breily

Color code: “I think sometimes merle Danes win because the judge just wants to put up a newly recognized color. I dont care what color the dog is. That whole package is what’s important.” 

Cutting up: “When I mentor people, I try to help them understand the outline that they’re looking at. I take win pictures off the internet, print them out, and cut the dog out. Then I turn that over, and put it against a black background so it’s just a white outline. I think that’s a great tool for people to learn what a dog should be.” 

Collision course: I was hit by a deer at the end of June. A wacko buck T-boned and attacked me while I was doing 50 mph on my motorcycleI saw him in my husband’s headlights, and started to slow down when he dropped his head and came at me. He pushed me down into ditch, and then into cornfieldalmost lost a leg. I was in rehab until the end of December. Then we all got COVID. 2020 was not good year.” 

What dog shows are all about

Busy work: The Breeder of Merit program is a great way to distinguish us from other breeders. And for me it’also a way to get my people out doing something with their dogs. I try to encourage my buyers to participate in Canine Good Citizen, agility, rally, obedience ..It’s important to have people work with their dogs. I don’t care how good the temperaments are going out the door; every dog has the potential to be a time bomb if it’s not socialized properly. Dogs need to use their brains in a way that makes them well rounded.” 

Social network: “I have a private page on Facebook that I invite people to join as soon as they’re interested in dog. The people who already have my dogs are very transparent with themI’ll do Facebook Messenger chats with the owners from my litters. After they pick up their puppies, I send out a Zoom meeting invite and we go through the material I gave them.” 

Kindness counts: We need to stop and be part of the solution, not the problem. You could take five minutes and say, ‘Hey, do you have a mentor?’ When I first got into Danes, people would say, ‘Why did you get a Dane from this person? They didn’t hear what I had to say. I believe in giving a person the benefit of the doubt. I believe in my dogs, I believe in going forward, and I believe in helping people.” 

Related article: Signs of a Responsible Breeder
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