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Eleanor Winters

Eleanor Winters didn’t start breeding Dalmatians until she was 62 — she calls it her retirement career and has now had 17 litters. With every year and litter, she has picked up new tips, techniques, and knowledge.

She recently wrote a book called “So Your Bitch is Pregnant: Raising Your First Litter of Puppies From Pregnancy to Placement.” The book is an overview for first-time breeders full of practical tips.

“I want to address the delight and the ease of having a litter — most of the time — and let people enjoy the process and find helpful hints that I’ve picked up as I learned each time,” Winters said “And I would like to do something special from the top down to heal the gap between pedigree breeding and breeders in general.”

We recently had the chance to talk with Winters about her passion for breeding Dalmatians and her new book. Here’s our interview with her and tips every breeder and potential dog buyer should know.

AKC: How did you get started breeding Dalmatians?

Winters: When I started breeding, I was 62. I wanted to have a litter, so I did. And I loved it. I loved raising them, having them, the whole bit. And so, I have had 17 litters in 17 years; one a year.

I just pretty much had ladies that I kept. And this helped me improve my line and then I played the show game, Conformation, and had some success and some champions and grand champions.

I’ve had approximately 133 puppies and I’ve had no problem getting really good homes. I breed primarily for temperament and health testing, as I learned as I went. And I do that now, so my girls have chip numbers. I’ve loved it.

AKC: So, you’ve had Dalmatians before, but you weren’t breeding them?

Winters: That’s right… I did have one litter when I was 10. They were really cute. One was coal black. And of course, in those days everybody wanted males.

Photo courtesy of Eleanor Winters

AKC: Why are Dalmatians your breed of choice?

Winters: Well, they give you an awful lot of love. They’re very very affectionate… They want to please you, but they’re very … they want to be with you and they’re flashy. I like that. I like the attention. In fact, a lot of people are saying now that they haven’t seen a real live Dalmatian, because of what happened with 101 Dalmatians. You know, the excessive breeding, poor breeding.

AKC: How do you think the movie “101 Dalmatians” impacted the breed?

Winters: Well, we didn’t see it right away… It took six or eight months for everybody to figure out, ‘Hey, this is a very active dog and it’s more than we can handle.’ Yeah, it’s even called, as I say in the book, it’s even called the Dalmatian syndrome now.

A breed gets very popular either from television or a film — like the chihuahuas from Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It presents a big problem, so it’s an unfortunate side effect of fame, is that notoriety and everybody wants one and then their standards of breeding go down.

AKC: What is your top piece of advice for a first-time litter owner?

Winters: It’s all natural… It should go smoothly. It’s a natural thing. Puppies have been born for years, and we think we have to manicure them. We just need to know what’s coming.

And yes, things happen, but then you don’t have to scare yourself. When they happen you’ll take care of it. So I would say it’s a natural process and if people knew that and generally knew what’s coming down the line, they won’t freak out.

Photo courtesy of Eleanor Winters

AKC: What do you think puppy buyers should know about how to find a breeder?

Winters: Puppy buyers need to check how the litter has been raised. They need to be aware. They need to go see the puppy and see its environment and meet the parents if they can. Just see how the owners of the litter relate to the litter.

Check out the AKC Marketplace for Dalmatian puppies. You can hear more from Winters in her book “So Your Bitch is Pregnant.”
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