Lisa Gaertner of Pinecliff Cockers is a lifelong New Jersey resident and has owned Cocker Spaniels for the past 30 years. She is an AKC Breeder of Merit, member of the American Spaniel Club, treasurer of the Keystone Cocker Spaniel Club, and board member of the Cocker Spaniel Club of New Jersey. In addition to putting together four Specialty Shows a year with her clubs, Lisa is part of a group that was instrumental in reinstituting the Cocker Spaniel cataract research programs.
AKC: How did you get started in breeding dogs?
Lisa: After my first show Cocker hit the ring, I learned so much more about the breed. I began to understand the importance of structure, movement and form. I knew I needed to improve on what I had so I found a stud dog that would complement what my bitch needed. And so, it began. I continue to strive to improve my lines with each and every litter. One piece of advice that sticks with me is “always breed up.” I keep that in mind every time I consider a breeding. There is always something to learn.
AKC: What is the most important thing to know about your breed?
Lisa: There are many things, but the most important, I think, is to refer to the breed standard “above all they must be free and merry.” Cockers are loving and happy dogs, but the stigma remains that they can be nippy. The first thing I look for when breeding is temperament. It’s easy to spot a bad topline or bad bite, but unless you’re spending a lot of time with a dog, not so much the temperament. That’s why choosing the right breeder so very important!
AKC: How has AKC Marketplace helped you find puppy buyers?
Lisa: I’m very fortunate that in most cases I have a waiting list, but the AKC Marketplace is a great resource for future forever homes for our pups. Even if I don’t have a puppy for a prospective buyer, I can help educate and steer them in the direction of a reputable breeder.
AKC: What is your favorite question to ask of potential puppy buyers?
Lisa: Many times, potential puppy buyers have recently lost their beloved pet, and it’s an extremely emotional time for them. I ask them about their pet as I want to hear stories about them that make them smile (you can hear it in their voices). One of my favorite lines from a movie is “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” It perfectly describes these conversations. I know then that their heart is ready to welcome one of our pups, and that they’re a perfect fit for our Cocker family.
AKC: What are the main qualities you look for in potential owners?
Lisa: Love, compassion, patience. Loving a puppy is the easy part; compassion and patience for their mistakes through the puppy years is a bit harder. I also stress that socialization is key to a healthy life. So many times, I’ve heard people say, “My dog doesn’t get along with other dogs.” Most times it’s because they’ve never taken the time to allow for playdates and getting their dog out to meet other dogs, and people and children for that matter. So, I strive to find potential owners who will offer healthy social situations for their new puppy for its lifetime.
AKC: What is the best advice you would give to novice breeders?
Lisa: First, really think about WHY you want to breed. Research. Find a mentor! There is so much that comes before your bitch hits the whelping box! If you don’t have a breeding bitch yet, research, research, research and find the very best example of the breed standard that you can. Breeding is not for the faint of heart. There are the greatest joys, but also the deepest of sorrows when a puppy dies in your hands. Be financially prepared. Can you pay medical expenses for a C-section? What if the puppies require vet care? Do you know how to care for a bitch in whelp? Knowledge is power!
AKC: Do your dogs participate in AKC sports?
Lisa: Our concentration has been in the conformation ring, but we have one that is training for agility! We are very excited and hope to see her compete soon. Pinecliff Cockers has 14 home-bred AKC Champions, six who are Grand Champions and two who are Bronze Grand Champions. Thanks to the loving care of Marco Paseta, we have one who is a multiple International Best in Show winner, MBIS OHBIS MOHBISS GCHB CH Pinecliff’s Pot of Gold, or as we like to call him “Famous Seamus.”
AKC: What do you like best about breeding dogs?
Lisa: I love that year after year I see improvement in all my lines. It brings me great joy to see our puppies loved and cherished by their forever families, and I know those puppies have made such a beautiful difference in their lives. I especially love the friends I have met along the way. They are wonderful, knowledgeable people who I can count on to be there to answer questions, talk Cockers, or help each other through a difficult whelp. Breeding has brought us exciting opportunities, like when we were asked to film an episode of Animal Planet’s hit show Too Cute! featuring a litter of our puppies. The film crew arrived, and we got to experience a nine-week process of the production. It was awesome! One of my favorite times, though, is after the puppies are born, and momma has settled down. We sit and listen to the quiet sounds of the puppies nursing, and there is a peacefulness in the room. It is a beautiful and awe-inspiring time!
AKC: Do you have a favorite breeding story?
Lisa: There are many stories over the years, but I’ll share a story that came from a puppy from our very first show breeding. I bought a lovely little bitch and decided I wanted to show her. Truthfully, I didn’t even know what that meant, other than to run her around the ring and show her off. Madison was in a ‘pet cut’ right from the town groomer. I thought she looked beautiful. The judge, however, did not and dismissed us from the ring, withholding the ribbon, and mumbling something about her coat. It was a moment that changed everything. So many people stepped up to help, people who are still my friends today. Through a lot of hard work, the mentoring of dear show and breeder friends, I continued my quest to learn and grow from that experience. Two years after that infamous dismissal, I returned to the very same show with Madison’s daughter Lexi. She won the Variety over nine specials with me on the other end of the lead! I will always remember that day with great fondness and deep appreciation and gratitude for my friends and family who have supported me along the way. Thank you for letting me share!
Learn more about Pinecliff Cockers on their website.