Dr. Renee Lara is that rare gem – a veterinarian who understands dog breeders. And that’s because she is one herself.
Owning her own veterinary clinic in Bryan, Texas, since 1990, where she offers a full array of reproductive services, Lara is Platinum Breeder of Merit with her Ehrenvogel German Shorthaired Pointers. She purchased her foundation bitch in 1977, and after finishing her championship, “Mischief” (Ch. Windbruch Unheilstifter) produced 17 champions in three litters, becoming the breed’s top-producing dam for two years. Lara’s carefully tended family of dogs includes more than 150 champions, Best in Show and Best in Specialty Show winners, and obedience, agility, and hunt-test titles. She recently bred her first dual champion, followed by a second and third, with several more on the way. An active member of the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America and a vice president for two terms, Lara has served on its health-and-welfare, standard-review and national executive show committees.
Lara says she wouldn’t have such breeding success without her collaboration with likeminded breeder and dear friend Lucretia Coonrod; combining their respective Ehrenvogel and Kan-Point bloodlines has resulted in consistently top-ranked dogs and multiple national specialty winners. And today, Lara co-breeds all her Shorthair litters with Ann Claire Wilson, who started traveling with her as a 12-year-old Junior a decade ago, and will eventually inherit the Ehrenvogel kennel name.
Continuing her dedication to German breeds, Lara also breeds standard Dachshunds, and is in the process of submitting her Breeder of Merit paperwork on that breed.
Here, she talks about the value of linebreeding, the long and short of tails, and potential COVID-19 fallout.
A Solid Start
“I did a lot of research on bloodlines, and I found a dog I really, really liked, Ch. Adam von Fuehrerheim. I never knew him in person, but of all the dogs that I read about and studied, he was the epitome of breed type. When I did my first linebreeding, I tried unsuccessfully to use a son of his, but I did find a grandson. He was owned by Terry and Janet Chandler of Rugerheim Kennels, who were soon to be my mentors and forever friends. I tried to get all my linebreeding to go back to Adam von Fuehrerheim – and that continues even to this day.”
Color Me Nostalgic
“My foundation bitch was mismarked – half her face was ticked and half was liver. Markings mean nothing in our breed in the show ring, but the breeder cut the price in half. Mischief was a great foundation bitch, with tons of breed type. My goal in breeding has been to produce puppies as good as or better than she was.”
The Tale of the Tail
“Most Shorthair breeders are very opposed to long tails. I don’t have any problems docking. I don’t have a problem if we go with long tails, either – I can live with it, as long as the tail set it right! But I can tell you from a veterinary standpoint, the reason for docking is there is so much damage to tails in the field. We see English Pointers with damaged tails all the time.”
Biggest Breeder Mistake, Conceptually
“From a conformation standpoint, they breed phenotypically instead of looking at bloodlines and pedigrees. They breed to the big winners, then don’t understand why they don’t get any consistency. By contrast, most of the top Shorthair breeders in the country have been linebreeding for years and years and understand the process. But linebreeding is often misunderstood by breeders who don’t educate themselves.”
Enter the Dachsies
“For many years, I showed Dachshunds for my friends Bill and Betty Jeffery, who had an old line that’s been around since the 1940s. They were getting elderly and I co-bred some litters with them. Betty is still alive and continues to co-breed with me – in fact, we have a litter right now that’s eight weeks old. But I met great resistance in Dachshunds when I wanted to linebreed. The really old lines did tons of linebreeding and were well stamped. You could look and say, ‘This is a Dunkeldorf dog, this is from Rose Wood, that one is Laddland.’ But they had just gotten away from it over the years, and then got scared, thinking – incorrectly – that linebreeding brings in disease and genetic problems. Our first litter had a coefficient of inbreeding of 17 percent; the Jefferys said, ‘We can’t do that,’ and I said, ‘Oh, that’s normal.’ We had 10 puppies and finished them all – including my first big winner, MBIS MBISS Am/Can Ch. Bessdachs Reba McLovely. They all lived to be very old – a great success.”
“There are very few show breeders who just breed standard Dachshunds. They’re very hard to find, especially smooth standards. Many conformation breeders focus on minis. It’s a huge effort to breed true minis, and a pretty big effort to breed true standards.”
Betwixt and Between
“The average non-show person who owns Dachshunds and does breeding is usually breeding ‘tweenies.’ As a vet, the number-one size Dachshund I see is that in-between size of 14 to 15 pounds. I think it is an uneducated buy by most people. A lot of puppy buyers don’t even know the standard size exists.”
Compare and Contrast
“Dachshunds are great moms, just like the Shorthairs, and easygoing. But breeding Dachshunds is definitely more of a challenge to get what you want in the whelping box. And having Dachshunds has really helped me with my Shorthairs because of the focus on a great front-end assembly. I had good fronts in my German Shorthairs, but I realized the breed was losing the length of ribbing, and that was leading to poor toplines. Addressing the problem and breeding correctly have helped tremendously.”
“Unfortunately, puppy buying was a splurge during the pandemic, and this is probably going to haunt us. Right before the pandemic, I just happened to have two Shorthair litters, 24 puppies in all, and only four were spoken for. I listed the litters on AKC Marketplace, and in less than a week I had 160 requests. I started talking to my other breeder-friends, and everyone across the board was having that kind of response. My concern is, once everyone gets back to work, what’s going to happen to those new puppies? Hopefully they will be well trained and be great members of the family.”
Here to Stay
“I think purebred dogs are slowly getting back some footing, I really do. I’m seeing more people come in with purebred puppies again. Toys in particular seem to be very popular. I think the breeders have persevered through all this rescue-a-dog situation. You just stay for the long run.”