Originally published in the AKC GAZETTE – August 2018
Welsh Wag - November 2018
When I first started “in dogs,” I knew I had a lot to learn, but after a while I thought I had learned all I needed to know. Serious dog people know they need to never stop learning. Yes, we go to conformation shows where we watch the great groomers and handlers and learn from them. Most of us also spend time observing the other long-legged terriers and comparing type and structure. Perhaps we also go to breed seminars on breeds other than Welsh Terriers. It is easy to stop there.
However, there are other valuable sources of information we might be missing. Take time to watch agility performances to see how the animal’s structure aids in their performance or inhibits it. Talk to veterinarians who do a lot of work with performance animals and you will learn what part of the animal breaks down first during strenuous exercise.
Performance seminars will give you a chance to see in slow motion what a dog’s body does during fast turns and weave-patterns, for instance. Note how the dog’s front moves as he goes through a tunnel; see what feet and pasterns do as the dog lands after going over the jump. This will give you an idea why good feet, strong pasterns, and shoulder blades that allow the dog to crouch are aids in tunnel work and help him to be a more functional hunter—the prime performance for which a Welsh was bred. While looking at agility, notice that top performance dogs in this category are slightly longer-cast than a Welsh Terrier should be and have less rib spring. A person looking for a performance animal would make a good home for a sound but not compact Welsh.
There are seminars on training dogs for therapy work, which will help you learn how a dog thinks and what his body language can tell you. These are useful tools when you need to help a novice solve behavior problems you haven’t encountered. Usually breeders correct little problems before they become big ones, so we find working out the big problems requires assistance. Talking to trainers who specialize in rehabilitating problem dogs gives you much insight.
You will be amazed by what you can learn from watching a “barn hunt.” The insights this provides into natural hunting ability and the structure that the long-legged terrier needs to do his job should translate into breeding better Welsh. What one learns about the dog’s body language as the intensity of the hunt continues can be used in reading canine body language to stop dog fights before they start.
Another subject that requires continual learning is selecting people you want to sell dogs to. Of course references from other breeders who know the people and the people’s veterinarian are valuable, but sometimes that is not enough. Even if the person has had terriers before, learning what questions to ask is important. If the prospective owner starts out with a list of things like “He wouldn’t let me cut nails, brush whiskers, or take toys away from him,” you might experience problems later. If they insist on underground fencing, are you comfortable with that? How are they going to keep the children’s hamster away from the dog? Will the cat let the dog live there? These and other questions will come up.
Sometimes you have to ask another experienced breeder how they solved such problems. It is easy to forget the wealth of information that other dog people have and are willing to share. For terrier owners, sharing ideas is a must because few books, videos, or obedience seminars are directed at the terrier breeds. We are usually considered as an afterthought. Because of this, I think that terrier people are more willing to share information; we have to.
One way we do so is in through the AKC breed columns—all which have much useful information in addition to the column for your breed. Read them all, and share the information.
Welsh Terrier Club of America
AKC Gazette – August 2018
Welsh Terrier Column
Reprinted with permission from the AKC Gazette