Welcome to Pure Dog Talk. Thank you very much for joining us Suzanne Dillin
SD: Oh, thank you for being invited, I’m honored
PDT: Well we appreciate your time. So, Suzanne we talked a little bit in the introduction about your background, so what I would like for you to talk to us today about is Pug dogs.
SD: Pug dogs, alright where would you like to start
PDT: I would like for you to talk about your ideal Pug dog, I’d like for you to share with the exhibitor how you came to that, your understanding of the standard, and how you feel the standard guides you.
SD: Alright, well I’m a member of the Illustrated Standard Committee, so we’ve been working on our standard and the visualization of it. So, I have a view of a little square dog, with a curl over tail, curled over its back, and a round head. Our standard doesn’t tell you how they travel, our standard doesn’t tell you a lot so you have to imagine a lot of it. But, if I were to tell you what a Pug looked like, it is square, it’s four squares actually, it’s elbow to the floor, and elbow to the shoulder. And then the square then makes that, and so we need that to be definitely square. We’re having a lot of problems with top lines, long bodies, flat feet, loose tails, we’re losing our round head in favor a more elongated head with their ears popped up on top of their heads. Not the big luminous size that they ask for, so I’m really working very hard trying to get an illustrated standard that will show. When you look at it, it will come in sections and you can see, ok there’s a line through the eye, there’s a line across the nose, there’s across the chin, there’s a line across the top of the head, so that you can visualize it in your own Pugs if you have that ability.
PDT: Absolutely, and I think that that’s an important point Suzanne. I think that people as breeders, when we’re getting started as breeders, and as we’re going forward as breeders and we have our own vision of the standard, and being able to evaluate our dogs. And can you talk to us a little bit about as a judge, and as a breeder, how those things are different. What you see in a ring, and what you see as a breeder, how are those different? Or, how are they the same?
SD: I think that’s kind of funny question because, let’s start at the beginning breeder. And mostly when you come into a breed, you learn a very few things and then all the sudden, you think you know all about that breed. But anyway, so we get a person now who starts to breed, they’re called a breeder. Those are not breeders, those are putting dogs together to have puppies. We have a lot of those in the show room. We don’t have mainly people who study genetics, structure, pedigrees, so you get as a breeder, and I’ve been here for 47 yrs., bred about 150 Champions and I’ve had Best in Show in all three breeds that I’ve had. And mainly I get discouraged because there is no communication between what I call the vintage breeders, and the new people, because the new people are thin-skinned about what they think they know, and the breeders then are turned off because no one will listen to them. So, we have a conundrum here.
PDT: And that’s exactly what I think we’re trying to solve, is this conundrum and maybe that’s a big project for us to solve. But I would like to try and contribute to that so what I’m hoping we can do, is talk to some of the newer people and share your vintage breeder knowledge. So as a breeder, when you’re looking at a Pug dog, when you’re planning on breeding…ok for you, how far back do you go? How many generations back to you go on?
SD: That’s a good question too. I rely almost totally on the mother line, so when I go back, I may go back four to five generations, no farther. You’ve already lost most of what of that you’ve build from that, but you’ve lost most of that. So, that four or five generations is pretty important. I also line breed, and in fact I do a lot of close breeding. With most breeds, it’s pretty straight forward, with Pugs it’s difficult because you’re dealing with something that’s not normal. You have no nose, you have large eyes that, they don’t sit out but they’re in danger, you have a small dog but they’re heavy, so you have a lot of weight on the front, not much weight on the back, and people don’t understand I don’t think, as you described in the beginning, they don’t understand that if you draw lines on them you can see them. I’m also on the mentor chair for the PDCA, and I’m trying to teach the mentors how to speak. How to say the word to the standard, because first of all you can’t bias it with your own opinion, and second of all you have to know how to say what you’re saying. So, I’ve reconstructed the whole mentor process for the Pugs, and I’m basically throwing all the mentors out, making them start again, making them take structured exams, making them take the breed test, making them come to meeting at the Nationals to learn how to talk to people. Because you have to be able to describe what it is that they see, and most of the teacher that I do is through questions, what do you see? What don’t you see, what does this dog not have that he should have? And so consequently we make them think, and I do the same with judges, because you can’t just read them the standard and think they’re going to understand anything, they’re not going to.
PDT: And I think that that’s true in all of our breeds, and I think it’s very difficult as people are learning new breeds. It takes them awhile to grasp all the fine details.
SD: Oh, it does
PDT: Certainly Pugs are a breed that have a lot of like you say, complications?
SD: Yes, contradictions.
PDT: I like what you’re doing in terms of teaching your mentors, to teach the mentors how to do a better job mentoring. I think that’s a great idea. So how are you seeing that move forward within the club, are they then taking it and mentoring judges, are they mentoring other breeders, how is your mentoring program working that way?
SD: Well, since I’m in control of it, it’s going to work! And so, after laying out all the things we were going to change, we lost 90% of our mentors because they just want to be a mentor, they just want a mentor badge so that they can sit ring side and go: well I’m a mentor. Well you’re not! You’re not if you don’t know your breed, you’re not if you don’t know the standard, you not if you don’t know anatomy, so I’m trying to work from the bottom up. I would ask a question to you, what about breeder education? What about that, because no one’s doing that?
PDT: Right? And that’s a whole big part of what we’re hoping to do with this series, is bring forth ideas from really long-time successful breeders, and talk about ok, where do you start? How do you get there? Because it doesn’t happen overnight and there’s no magic fairy dust.
SD: Ya, and on the top of all that many, many, many of these of these clubs are stubborn in the sense that they’re not going to change their procedures, their attitudes, their way of thinking or speaking or learning, they don’t want to change because it scares them to be changed. So, you have to not only fight what you’re teaching, but you also have to fight the parent club, or parent clubs.
PDT: A lot of times
SD: And they’re just not willing to turn it loose, they’re just not willing to do that. So consequently, I think it’s very very difficult. It’s taken me years, and years and years to say, ok you’re going to lose me if you don’t adopt this, because that’s the way I teach
PDT: Ok, so if you were queen for the day
SD: I am queen for the day
PDT: You are queen for the day, yes. So, we’re trying to encourage the new breeders, so we’re trying to say ok, we want you to succeed
PDT: We need you to succeed, purebred dogs need you
SD: That’s right
PDT: So, here’s what we’re going to do to help you
SD: Alright, it starts at the breeder level, it starts when you sell a puppy. Where are, you selling that puppy to and for what reason? How do you help direct it? How do you get into that and say listen, I’m gonna be involved in this, I will help you? And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said I can save you ten years. I can save you ten years on any puppies you might produce, or any success you might have. I can save you that time, if you will listen to me, if you will just listen to me. I don’t mean to direct your business, but what I need to do is give you options that you can look at, and say well I want to go in this direction, well I like this, I want to do it this way. Ok I can help you do that, but it’s very difficult, it’s almost like a fiefdom, they will not give up their space that they think they’ve built. And you can’t build it in five years.
PDT: No, Rome was not built overnight
SD: No and when I say to someone, well you know I’ve had English Cockers for 47yrs, and they look at me like what? What? Well I’m only 48, so it was difficult. Honestly in all the breeds that I’ve had, I’ve been very, very involved in their pedigrees and their genetics. I’m exceedingly involved in the genetics of the dogs. Building a healthy dog is very difficult. And in English Cockers, I would say, maybe seven or eight years ago, here’s an example: I bred to a dog that the breeder didn’t tell me that the sister of this dog and several other members, had familial necropsy which is kidney failure. So, I bred to him, I didn’t have it in my line so it didn’t evidence itself, but I went back to the same place with a different dog and she didn’t produce it, blah blah blah blah blah. So consequently, we had a litter of just gorgeous, gorgeous dogs. They were group placers, winners, the whole nine yards, but we couldn’t breed them, because guess what? One of them died from kidney failure, so what do you do about that? And I would as anyone, what would you do about that? Would you be afraid that the dog world would beat you to death and send you away and you can’t do this anymore? Yes, they would be.
PDT: Right. So, your strong advocacy as breeders is for better communication, openness, share the good and the bad. Own it.
SD: Speaking up. Yep, yep, and the dog’s name was Journey. He had a very short one, but I said to my partner who was younger and newer, I said Colleen I’m going to put this in our magazine now, what do you think about that? I said they can’t run me off with a stick, I’ve been here to long you know, they can’t hurt me but they can hurt you. She said no, put it in there. So, we advertised it and I put the pedigree and I put my phone number and I said if you want to call me about this pedigree, feel free to. 150 phone calls later, with all the worries and the concerns, there’s no transparency, it’s all oh my dogs are great. You know my dogs are great too, but I know where to take them, I know what to do with them and that’s what we need to learn. You can’t be a doctor without going to school, you can’t be a handler without going through a journey ship. Why do they think they can just suddenly walk out and go, ok now I’m a handler? You don’t know anything about dog husbandry, you don’t know anything about anything! Business, anything. It’s the same thing with judging, it’s the same thing with breeding, it’s the same thing, and people don’t want to spend that time. They just want to walk in the ring, ok I’m gonna win now. Maybe not. Maybe not for long.
PDT: Well and I think that’s a valid point. Lots of people have expectations of doing well rapidly, and so again as a breeder as a judge, your recommendation is spending the time that it takes to learn.
SD: Many of the top dogs today, this is a whole different subject
PDT: It’s ok
SD: Are not the best of their breed. There’s a lot of money behind them, there’s a lot of politics behind them and consequently, those people, the real breeders, have a hard row to hoe. First of all, they breed good dogs so they know different than the ones that are out there, and they go, wow it doesn’t look that that one. You can’t win. We need a whole new education system.
PDT: And that’s what we’re suggesting here. Ok let’s give some hope, you’re a good breeder, you’re a preservation breeder, you’re a person that’s doing it right, you don’t have X million dollars
SD: Yes, ya
PDT: So, are we educating the judges, are we educating the breeders? Who are we educating?
SD: No. We’re not educating anyone currently. We’re not even educating them so they can apply for breeds, ok? And this is a major thing, this is going to kill us when all this matures in about two years, mhm-mhm. I truly am worried we’re not going to be seeing dog shows, let’s give us ten years.
PDT: Well, so our question is then, let’s start now, let’s fix it now.
PDT: Let’s say you’re a novice breeder, you’re a novice handler, you’re a novice owner whatever, your brand new. You’re excited about the sport, and why are you excited about the sport? If you’re brand new today what excites you about the sport, or what excited you when you started?
SD: Well I can from a dog family so dogs were my life. When I was a little girl, I couldn’t run away from home because I couldn’t carry the dog food cans, that’s when they had cans. So, I had to stay because, God knows I couldn’t take the dogs with me. So, I’ve been with dogs my whole life, and falling in to it as I grew up was just a natural thing. My husband was not a dog person and so I had to stand my ground every day because he discouraged that activity. I had to take three children with me when I showed, I had to have a clean house, I had to have food in the refrigerator, well you know he got over that. He really got over that, but in the beginning, it was very difficult and I had really no money. Zero, so the fact that I survived is pretty awesome.
PDT: And what kept you going?
SD: I knew I could do it. I knew that if I had enough information, and I did a lot of studying, pedigrees and where is what and how this worked, and I knew that if I just had enough information I could build a really good dog, and I did. I built a lot of good dogs, but it’s not easy, and I don’t know what brings them into this sport now, I think it’s just, I don’t know, boredom maybe? Because people are really not interested. They want to buy a puppy from you but they don’t want to know what to do with it.
PDT: I think one of the things that definitely brings us all together is that we all love dogs, I think that’s where we all start
SD: Ya, right.
PDT: And then where we take that. You know I think that may be part of the process.
SD: Ya we could take it into training, we could take it into obedience, we can take it into nursing homes. We can do whatever we want to with our dogs, but that’s not the thing, it’s the competition of it. And I’m the most competitive person alive, I mean I am just, you’re not going to beat me, you’re just not going to. Well, you know that’s not true at all, it happens every day, but I still have that attitude. I’ll tell you a story, I have a little black Pug at home, and that’s another point about black Pugs, so let’s talk about that for a minute. Black Pugs are very difficult to finish. The judges feel that they don’t have wrinkles, well they damn well do, all you have to do is look. They feel like they’re almost a different breed. Well they’re not. Why do you wear black do you think? To look slimmer, so they never look as heavily boned and whatever as the fawns do. So, it’s really difficult for them, and genetically they’re different. It’s taken us a long time to get in to building a really good black. So anyway, I have this little black dog, his name is “The Godfather,” and I call him “Vito Corleone!” And he goes: “Yes?” But he’s so much like his grandfather and he’s not the best Pug I ever breed. I’m showing him and I love showing him. We have more fun, I’ve never won anything with him, but I leave the ring just with this little dog named Vito Corleone, I just adore him. That’s part of it, is that you can grow up enough to know that this is supposed to be fun, this is supposed to be a fun thing. And when I judge in the ring, I have fun, I really laugh, I crack jokes, and ya, ya I’m going to, because why would you want to be there and be bored?
PDT: Well and maybe we could talk as kind of just a final piece on this, a little bit from the judging prospective. You’ve been judging for,
PDT: I was going to say, ya pretty close. Part of what I hear is the judges don’t care, you know the judges are dis-interested, they’re starring off in another ring, that the most offended they get is when the judge is not giving them their two minutes’ worth. So, can you talk to that a little about what do we do within the fan seed to encourage the judges to enjoy the sport, to enjoy what they’re doing?
SD: Well we’re gonna have to revamp why they’re doing it. Is it because oh, you want to give back to the sport? Ok, no. Is it because you want to be with your friends? Yes. Is it because you want to have a place? Yes. How good would it be if you were just doing it because you were putting a puzzle together, and every time you have the opportunity you got to find another piece of that puzzle, how bout that part? How bout the part about knowing that when those people came in the ring, that you’ve been there, it’s difficult, it’s hard, I scrabbled through it when I was younger. I think a lot of the people who are now judging are too far removed, I think there’s no interaction. I think they’re disenfranchised it what I think, and somehow, we need to get them back into the fun part. I only hang with the people that are fun at the shows, and sometimes I’ll look out and go, rahr, I’m eatin in my room tonight, because I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to talk dogs 24 hours a day, and I don’t want to be unhappy and criticized and all that stuff, life’s to short. So, there’s a lot of things that we can do if reminded. You know one of the things we had in San Antonio, but it’s been a long time, but I was involved in and I tried to get AKC to do it. We had a symposium, and the symposium had judges and handlers and breeders, and veterinarians, and we sat there and do you know we had 60 people come and we talked I know for four hours. Asking questions, we had AKC reps, and I kept saying this is what we need, why don’t you let me go to the bigger shows and put out a place that says “conversations.” Throw some coffee in there, sit down and say come on in, have some coffee. Pretty soon they’ll be talking about dogs, pretty soon they’ll be talking about what the problems are, pretty soon they’ll be uh-oh, we’re gonna get to know each other and then we’re not going to be hateful? Uh-oh.
PDT: I love that, and you probably don’t know but we Championship breeders in Pure Dog Talk, we just had a Friday night forum, exactly that.
SD: Did you?
PDT: We did. We sat down three judges, and invited people to ask questions from the audience, and do you know we had 60 people at an 800-dog show that I couldn’t make them leave after an hour, and it went for two hours?
SD: They’re hungry for this
SD: They’re absolutely hungry for it, and for some reason it’s not important
PDT: Well and I think that’s one of the things that we as exhibitors can do, let’s make it important.
SD: I know, and every time we think of something like this, we think oh let’s make and organization that will do this. No,
PDT: We’re doing it
SD: Yes, but it’s not like, oh let’s have a judge’s organization, let’s have a, no. Let’s have, well Bill and I are talking about a bunch of stuff to do, Bill Shelton
PDT: Ya, Bill Shelton is part of what we’re talking about
SD: Ya, ya, and so you know every time we get together and talk about this kind of stuff, it’s the same thing that we’re discussing now, and if somebody doesn’t take the bull by the horns, this can be bad. It already is bad
PDT: And I think that’s what we’re trying to do. And we appreciate your time joining us, so that we can take that bull by the horns, and maybe ride it in to the sunset!
SD: Wait a minute, now wait a second, wait a second, wait a minute! I got that you know! Anyway, thanks for inviting me.
PDT: Thank you very much Suzanne, we really appreciate your time.
PDT: As always if you have any questions or input, we’d love to hear from you. The show notes and links to resources on today’s topic are available at puredogtalk.com
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