Michel Berner, owner of Mira Vizslas, near Fairchild, Wis., moved from Milwaukee to the Eau Claire area a little more than 10 years ago. She is active regionally and nationally and has donated hundreds of hours to various Vizsla clubs, doing everything including serving as an officer and a director, judging hunt tests, editing newsletters, creating web presence, serving on committees, volunteering at breed education booths, and reporting on events. She is also an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator.
“I strongly believe that at the core, a Vizsla must always have the instincts to be able to be a superior companion hunter, and I have a responsibility to make sure those genetic instincts are always maintained, even if the buyers choose not to utilize them,” Berner said.
AKC: How did you get started in breeding dogs?
Berner: My parents bred their first Vizsla litter in 1972, and I worked alongside them training, breeding, and competing in AKC conformation shows, pointing breed field trials, and hunt tests. My family used the Strider prefix, and eventually I started my own breeding program under the Mira prefix. Being surrounded by breeders, competitors, and breed enthusiasts, I knew the work involved in giving puppies a proper start and waited until I was positioned to have time and the physical setup to do it correctly. Aside from all the years in the saddle watching our dogs compete in field trials, I have judged hunt tests and conformation sweepstakes, which has helped deepen my knowledge and understanding of each dog’s ancestors’ strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, along with the knowledge of what bloodlines combine well, and which one might have problems, and how I can incorporate that into my own breeding program to make changes.
What is the most important thing to know about your breed?
Vizslas are extremely intelligent and devoted to their people. They take the need for affection to a whole new level compared to other breeds, often needing to maintain physical contact with you when they are not in the field. Vizslas don’t just need physical contact and lots of exercise; they need to be kept mentally engaged, as well. The intelligence that makes them so easy to train also makes it extremely easy for them to train you! Vizslas are one of the leaders in AKC Dual Champions (Field Champion and Conformation Champion) and Triple Champions. The first-ever Quintuple Champion was a Vizsla.
How has AKC Marketplace helped you find puppy buyers?
AKC Marketplace has brought many inquiries from people who already recognize the importance of health-tested purebred parents and buying from a breeder who will stand behind the puppies she produces.
What is your favorite question to ask of potential puppy buyers?
I don’t have a favorite question, but I do have a questionnaire that asks open-ended questions to encourage descriptive answers.
What are the main qualities you look for in potential owners?
I want my puppies to be cherished family members, first and foremost. I love it when people compete and become involved in the various dog sports, but I really want every one of my puppies to be an integral part of his new family.
What is the best advice you would give to novice breeders?
Talk with lots of longtime breeders who have bred multiple litters. Ask honest questions and be open to learning. We all have different experiences, different perspectives, and different strengths and weaknesses, and most of us will give freely of that information to those who are truly interested in the answers.
Join your local and national breed clubs and attend the events. You will learn so much from watching how the established breeders, handlers, and competitors present their dogs and by asking questions and taking it all in. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people who can help you minimize the risks and advise you what to do when a problem does pop up. Remember that there are two types of breeders: those who have produced an issue and those who are going to eventually produce an issue. What separates the great breeders from the herd is the practical knowledge and support they can offer in those situations.
Do your dogs participate in AKC sports?
Yes. I currently own a National Field Champion, several conformation champions, and dogs titled in agility, and have several that are in the process of titling in various venues.
What do you like best about breeding dogs?
I love seeing how the different genetics come together. Being able to maintain some traits while improving others, seeing what traits are still present from the dogs we bred 35 or more years ago, and I love starting puppies out with proper exposure to things they will experience later in life. I love having people come back for their third and fourth dog from me, and to have the children and grandchildren of people who bought their first Vizsla from my parents or from me come to me for their new puppy. It’s great to share that kind of history together.
Do you have a favorite breeding story?
I have too many stories involving my buyers and how their dog from me has changed their life for the better to pick just one. I’ve had a couple puppies successfully trained as service dogs for their disabled owners. I’ve had another buyer receive a huge promotion at work because that person’s leadership style was enhanced by learning modern dog-training methods, and I’ve had some earn national recognition. They all share a common theme, though, and that’s the human-dog bond. When I receive a note from a buyer telling me that her puppy changed her life, it makes all the hard work worth it!