It takes an army to raise a champion show dog: an owner to take her home and love her when it’s not show time, a groomer to clip, trim, brush and smooth with perfect precision, a handler to highlight her best features and exhibit her to the best of her breed standards. But before any of that can happen, she must come from a remarkable pedigree.
No one knows this more than the breeders of Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Best In Show winners.
Teresa Patton of Amissville, Virginia, and Cindy Cooke of Kalamazoo, Michigan, have both bred Westminster Best In Show winners. Patton runs Felicity English Springer Spaniels, where Ch. Felicity’s Diamond Jim, also known as “James,” lived when he won Best In Show in 2007, while 2010 Best In Show winner Ch. Roundtown Mercedes of Maryscot, better known as Sadie, came from Cooke’s Anstamm Scottish Terriers. Both feed their dogs Purina® Pro Plan® — James and Sadie ate Pro Plan® Performance throughout their show careers –swearing that their dogs thrive on it.
For most breeders, Patton and Cooke included, their dog breeding careers stem from unintentionally coming across a passion for a particular breed of dog. Patton originally had a Miniature Poodle, but she quickly fell in love with her dog trainer’s English Springer Spaniels.
“I was hooked,” she says. “I adored their goofy attitudes and lovable nature. What I love most about English Springer Spaniels is their zest for life and how they embrace life each day. They love their people and will give heart and soul as long as you love them and treat them fairly.”
As for Cooke, her first Scottish Terrier was a gift from her grandmother. At first she thought he was the ugliest dog she’d ever seen, but she soon grew to love him. He died of an aneurysm just a few months later, and that was when Cooke realized she couldn’t go on without another Scottie. She found an advertisement for a Scottie puppy in her local newspaper and bought him right away.
While a love for a breed tends to spark a breeder’s passion, far more goes into breeding champion dogs than just love. According to Cooke, there are two major factors that separate a good breeder from an average one. The first, she says, is having a willingness to work enthusiastically to reach desired goals.
“This requires not only a work ethic, but an unquenchable optimism that carries you through the inevitable bad times,” she says.
The second factor, Cook says, is the ability to evaluate one’s own dog critically as if he or she were a competitor’s dogs, as well as being able to see outstanding qualities in competitors’ dogs.
Patton, on the other hand, says that education is the primary element of becoming an excellent breeder. Studying pedigrees, going to reproduction seminars, attending parent club extended learning programs, judging workshops, training seminars, and grooming seminars are all very helpful.
“Arm yourself with as much information as you can,” she says. “Develop an eye for what the breed standard is for your breed, and breed to that standard.” She also emphasizes the importance of educating puppy buyers so that they too can pass along that information. “Be fair with your dogs and, above all else, love them with your whole heart.”
Patton also stresses the importance of keeping up with a dog’s exercise and diet.
“We have tried other foods,” she says. “But Purina® Pro Plan® helps keeps them in excellent condition. We love it.”
Both James and Sadie have offspring competing at Westminster this year, proving that Patton and Cooke clearly know how to breed top-notch pedigrees.
The 2016 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show will air live on Monday, Feb. 15 on CNBC and Tuesday, Feb. 16 on USA, starting at 8 p.m. both nights. Read more of AKC’s Westminster coverage here.
Header image: Sadie right after she won Best In Show in 2010. Photo: WKC.
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