Julie Norman Jenkins: Breeding Dogs as Athletes and Pets
Jessica Hekman: Welcome to the Functional Breeding Podcast. I’m Jessica Hekman, and I’m here interviewing folks about how to breed dogs for function and for health: behavioral and physical. This podcast is brought to you by the Functional Dog Collaborative, an organization founded to support the ethical breeding of healthy, behaviorally sound dogs. FDC’s goals include providing educational, social, and technical resources to breeders of both purebred and mixed breed dogs. You can find out more at www.functionalbreeding.org, or at the Functional Breeding Facebook Group, which is a friendly and inclusive community. I hope you have fun and learn something.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE
Jessica Hekman: Hi friends. This week, I’m really happy to get to talk to Julie Norman Jenkins. Julie owns and captains Fur Fun Flyball, based in central North Carolina. Fur Fun’s accomplishments include being 20-time regional champions, and then they have a host of more selective championships, which I’m not going to list all out for you. But it culminates in becoming the 2019 FCI World Cup Champions. They’re also the current FCI world record holders. Those are some fast dogs. Julie doesn’t only run her dogs in flyball, she also breeds them herself. And her lucky friends and family get to have her puppies as fantastic pets, and also as sport dogs, not just in flyball. She breeds both border collies and border collie mixes out of Quicksilver Dogs. Julie was kind enough to talk to me about her breeding program. And I hope you learn as much from this episode as I did.
So hi, Julie. Thanks so much for joining me today. I’m really excited to have you.
Julie Norman: I’m really happy to be here. Thank you for asking me.
JH: So I figured where we should get started is the most important question, which is what dogs do you live with currently? What do you do with them? Who are they?
JNJ: Let’s see. Currently my husband and I, we own 14 dogs. One of them is currently on sort of an extended holiday with his flyball best friends. So we have 13 in the house. Our youngest are two young border collies, Cherry Bomb and Tart. They’re almost 10 months old, and we have a year old whippet named Needle. Um, oh my gosh, really want me to go through them all? (laughter)
JH: I didn’t realize there were 13. So maybe we don’t need to go all 13, although I will say those are fabulous names. I love those names. You want to give us an overview, like a highlight maybe? Who are the ones that you’re really doing sports with right now?
JNJ: Well, I’ll tell you. I’ll just go by what we have sort of breed wise. So we’ve got the two baby border collies. We have their mother, Chatty. I have another border collie, Glee, and our oldest border collie is Dexter. And then we have some small mixes. We have one little mix who’s from the shelter. We don’t know what she is. She kind of looks like a small border/Staffy. Her name is Toast. And then we have two border jacks. We have Elphaba and Visa, and we have a border/border named Tuppence. We also have a border/whippet, Homestar and a mostly border collie and quarter whippet named Hashtag. And I think that’s everybody.
JH: I’m definitely gonna be asking you to name my next dog for me. I think that’s my plan.
JNJ: Oh, I forgot Pac Man. I forgot Pac Man. Sorry. Pac Man is a mix of mixes.
JH: That’s awesome. So what kinds of stuff do you do with them? I hear you do a little bit of flyball. Sometimes.
JNJ: I do a little flyball now and then. Right now, we’re not really doing a whole lot of anything. But when we do things, flyball is our sport. That’s our main competition venue. We play with Fur Fun out of North Carolina and NAFA Region Nine. We love wearing pink. We love playing flyball. I also teach agility and I love training the skills to my dogs. We also do a little bit of disc dog. We host Up Dog competitions and I really enjoy that venue. I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly competitive in it, but I like teaching my dogs how to do it so that I can help other people with their dogs as well.
JH: And you’ve been in dogs, what, for like two or three years then? Something like that? That’s a joke. (laughter)
JNJ: I was born into dogs. I’m the only child but I don’t really consider myself an only child because I had so many dog siblings growing up. My mom is Deb Norman and she is sort of my co-breeder here at Quicksilver. She also breeds Quicksilver Dogs. And I was born into dogs and I sort of never looked back. I learned later in life that there were children of dog people that didn’t want to do dog things.
JNJ: And I didn’t understand it at all, but I hear that those people exist. I’m not one of them.
JH: No, Just say, you know, genetics control some stuff, I guess?
JNJ: I guess.
JH: So I’m told. So you breed some stuff. So what are you breeding?
JNJ: I breed border collies and border collie mixes, and border collies are definitely where my heart lies. My first border collie was Sprint, who I got when I was 15, and she changed my life. And she was the dam of our first three litters as Quicksilver border collies and then her offspring have helped us continue that line. So I still breed border collies because I love them. And because in order to have good mixes, I believe you need to have good border collies. I think that that’s sort of what makes my long term vision as a breeder sustainable is always having a supply of really nice border collies. I also breed mixes, particularly small mixes. There’s a hole in dogs of a type of work that we want them to do, which is being a flyball “height dog.” Where there really is not a pure breed that can consistently meet the expectations that we have. And there are mixes that consistently can and so…
JH: We should probably explain what a flyball height dog is. There may be a few people…
JNJ: Yeah, it’s talking about the size of the dog and the jump height that it sets. So it’s not only flyball height dogs, but also small dogs in dog agility, where they’re, although it’s less about breed there… And that’s another conversation that we’ll get to in a minute. But as far as flyball goes, dogs that are a certain size and can set the jumps at a certain height and then run as fast as the big dogs run. Which, you know, depending on your big dogs and your small dogs.
JH: And my understanding is that you want a small dog on your flyball team because that keeps the jump height low for everybody. Is that right?
JNJ: Yeah, a flyball team jumps the height of the smallest dog. The smallest dog sets the jump height for everybody on that four dog lineup. And so most competitive lineups are comprised of one dog that sets the jump height, and then three dogs that are big that don’t have to worry about jumping. There’s arguments about what the ideal height is in flyball, depending on your organization. You can be jumping, the maximum is usually around 14, the minimum in UFLI is six, and NAFA is seven. You know, of course, the 14-inch jump is not a particularly high jump. But in flyball, it’s not just the height, but it’s how many times they have to do it and the speed that we’re asking them to do it at. So there definitely is sort of an optimal jump height where the dog who sets the height is powerful enough that they can run really fast, but they’re still small enough that they’re setting a jump height where the larger dogs can run their best times.
JH: Yeah, that makes sense. And so now I hope I didn’t derail you from… So you were talking about that there is a hole for…
JNJ: So that, you know, in my experience with my own flyball team, our big dogs have done their best, they’ve run their best times, when they’re jumping eight, nine inches. And so that’s about the size of jumps that I want to be jumping. For NAFA that means a dog that is, you know, around 14 or 15 inches tall at the withers. We’re looking for a dog that can be able to run under four seconds. Complete the flyball course in under four seconds. To me, that’s a competitive height dog. If I can have a dog that can jump eight or nine and run under four, I’m pretty thrilled about that. And there are some purebred, you know, there are some individual purebred dogs that can do that, but they’re exceptional members of that breed. And so you may be able to find a Jack Russell, a Staffy. Um, I’m blanking right now. What else would we find that’s little and fast?
JH: I don’t know. I guess in agility we have papillons, I don’t know…
JNJ: We do. They’re not that fast in flyball. They don’t quite have the power. And that’s why the agility conversation is a little different. Shelties and papillons and, you know, your traditional fast agility dogs. In agility, there’s a lot more variables. Each course is different. The path that dogs take can be different. In flyball, it’s really the same and so it comes down to a much tighter margin of speed. It’s really hundredths that we’re looking at, in a difference of speed. And the traditionally dominant, small agility dogs, papillons and Shelties especially, just don’t seem to have the power to run quite that fast in flyball, at least quite as fast as a small mix can run.
JH: That’s interesting. I always wondered why so many of the sport mixes out there seem to be, everyone really seems to aim for flyball for them.
JNJ: Do you mean that’s where they’re getting their dogs? Or that’s what they’re doing with them?
JH: That’s what they’re doing with them. It seems that almost all of them do flyball, and that just feels like such a big part of the sport mix community, not the whole thing.
JNJ: It definitely is. Yeah, well and also because in the quest to breed this small dog, not all of them end up small. But those dogs that are not necessarily height dogs are still really good flyball dogs. They still have the temperament and the genetics and the build to be great flyball dogs. And so they, you know, there’s a place for them. Even if they’re not height dogs, they’re still competitive sport dogs that are great companions. So. So you know, it’s not just the little ones that are valuable or that you see.
JH: Yeah, well, that’s lucky.
JNJ: Ah, lucky? (laughter) I mean, you make your own luck, right? I think it’s by design.
JH: Fair enough. So what are those other characteristics that are good for these dogs that you’re aiming for when you’re figuring out a new breeding?
JNJ: Ah, well, in my own breeding program, I mean, I’m breeding for myself. That’s why I breed dogs. I’ve bred dogs because I have dogs that I freakin’ love. I have, you know, there’s other dogs out there in the world that I love. And I’m like, you know, if I put that one with this one… That’s really what it boils down to is I want dogs for me. I have a circle of friends and family who I love very much. And they can have some of them, too. And that’s pretty much who I’m breeding for. So I am breeding for flyball. But I’m also… I don’t think that the traits that I’m breeding for are exclusive to flyball. And so I have bred dogs that are… I bred the first mixed breed to be a two-time National Agility Champion in AKC. Little Sunday with Angie Bennett Keystone. So she certainly isn’t a flyball dog. But she’s pretty amazing at what she does, which is agility. So the traits that we’re looking for are the same sort of no matter what the sport is. Mostly, I’m looking for temperament. I want to breed dogs that are nice pets. That are nice to live with. That their people enjoy. And that if everything in the world stops, like is what’s happening right now, that we can just enjoy living with these dogs. Which is not the case for many working dogs. And I recognize that, but it is what I’m breeding for. I’m breeding for pets. Pets first. A pet that also happens to have a really nice, sound build. That are genetically healthy. And that have the temperament characteristics that are going to make them easy to train for the sports that their people want to do.
JH: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It’s definitely an issue I think in the sports world of people not recognizing that you’re gonna have to live with the dog. And people live…
JNJ: Forever! The sports are so much what we think about, but in terms of the time that we actually spend, the sports are not very much of the life that you have with your dog. And so having a dog with a nice temperament that you love and appreciate and you’d like to spend time with them is the most important thing.
JH: I think we assume that that’s going to be a given. And we think that… (laughter)
JNJ: That’s silly. (laughter)
JH:…all I need to worry about is having a dog with enough drive, because surely having a dog who (indistinct) will be no problem. (laughter)
JNJ: Hmm. Let me know how it works out for you.
JH: Yeah, yeah. No, I try to stay away from that. But it’s hard when you’re getting a new dog to know what you’re gonna get. So that’s the thing about breeding mixes versus breeding purebreds is that when you breed a purebred it’s a lot easier to predict when you put two dogs together what size you’re going to get. What temperament you’re going to get. What the look of the dog is going to be. So do you have any thoughts about that? Like how do you handle that?
JNJ: I think that the things that are easily predictable about breeding are more to do with physical traits than temperament. Okay? I think that temperament is predictive of temperament. And so like, it doesn’t really matter what breed dogs are, this dog that has a nice temperament and all its littermates and all its relatives that has nice temperament is more likely to have offspring that have nice temperament. That is predictable beyond breed lines. And I think that there’s definitely quite a few structural characteristics that are also predictive of themselves. So I think that it comes down to knowing the dogs that you’re breeding.
So I know my border collie line really, really well. And it’s very predictable. And I try to be very selective about the other dogs that I introduce, and to know them and their backgrounds, and then to also just have to draw from the knowledge that I have in my 39 years of knowing dogs, you know, to know, this dog was like this, and then it had a baby and this it was like that. And then it had a cousin that did this, and it’s you know, it’s being a breeder and understanding how things get inherited. And I think that if you’re diligent and careful about that and thoughtful about it that it can be, it doesn’t have to be as random as it may appear on the surface. Does that make sense?
JH: It does. And I like that you’re talking…
JNJ: You know, I try to stay away from Facebook. It just gets me in trouble, right?
JH: I don’t blame you.
JNJ: But every now and then I’ll get sucked into an intentional mixed breed debate. And they’ll be like, “You know, you just can’t know what you’re going to get.” And I’ll post three generations of different mixes that all look frickin’ exactly the same. But guess what? They all act the same, too. They come from related lines of border collies, and they’re selectively outcrossed to different types, but like, there’s a consistency in it. And I know that, especially what I’m doing, which is what I prefer to do: F1 crosses. Which is, you know, a border collie to a terrier, a border collie to a whippet. I’ve done a couple of F2, and I like them as well. But I think that with the F1, I have a little bit more, there’s a greater sample size. I know a lot more dogs of F1 crosses. And I think you can get a bit more predictability and consistency from them.
JH: Yeah, that’s what I’m… understanding the genetics that’s what I would expect.
JNJ: Although Ian and Tooie Crooks of Blue Cedar Sport Dogs. They have it down to a science and they’ve been breeding for a long time. And you can spot a Blue Cedar dog across the room. They don’t all look the same. But they all have physical similarities. And it’s a type. And it’s, once you are in the community, and you sort have seen some of these dogs, you’ll see it and be like, “Oh, well, that kind of looks like a Blue Cedar.” And then you go and you find that “Oh, it is a Blue Cedar.” And they’ve been breeding, I mean, they have so many generations of mixes. They’re not doing F1’s anymore at all. And yet, they’ve been doing it very carefully. And they have managed and they’ve had a really solid sort of vision in mind the entire time. And they’ve managed to get some remarkable consistency. So I think there’s a lot we don’t understand about breeding mixes.
JH: For sure. And how many breeds are in the Blue Cedars? Is that just a couple breeds?
JNJ: Oh, so they started with F1’s. But that was probably from their current dogs. That’s probably 10 generations ago. So border collies, Jack Russell, border terrier, whippet. There’s some Staffy in a couple of them. And they did a couple of breedings that had malinois in them, but those have kind of been phased out.
JH: Yeah, it’s so interesting to me that people are starting to breed these mixy-mixes and having really good results. It’s something that I feel like a couple of decades ago, we wouldn’t have done.
JNJ: Have you looked at the Blue Cedar website at all?
JH: I’ve heard of them. And I think I did go look at their website briefly and was like, “Oh, this is really cool.”
JNJ: It is.
JH: But yeah.
JNJ: Yeah. They’re very transparent, which I like. And I recommend them for people. They breed more than I do. And so if I don’t have a litter coming up and somebody’s asking, I’ve sent many people to Blue Cedar and always been tickled with the dogs that my friends brought home. They do a great job and they’ve really been doing it for a long time. And they’ve kind of turned it into a bit of an art and a science in my opinion.
JH: Yeah. Well so what are some of the challenges that you encounter as you try to do some similar stuff?
JNJ: Well, I’ve been lucky enough with my own dogs that with the breedings I’ve been able to do to have some pretty extraordinary stud dogs that I was able to use as far as breeding mixes. The first litter of mixed breeds we bred, actually the stud dog was a Jack Russell owned by Ian and Tooie Crooks and Blue Cedar. His name was Tex. I chose him because a teammate of mine had a border/Jack offspring from him. I was like, Well, here’s a nice Jack Russell. I’ve got a border collie. I really want to make border/Jacks.” I shipped my dog Bada Bing to them. She came home and had five amazing border/Jack puppies in 2008. And I think that the real challenge with breeding F1 mixes at least is finding great non-border collie studs. And so I was really thrilled with our Tex puppies. Unfortunately we had a puppy who was unilaterally deaf. I’m sorry, bilaterally deaf. That means both sides, right?
JNJ: Yes. Bilaterally deaf. And so we didn’t use Tex again. And that litter was all spayed. They were all girls, so they’re all spayed. But as far as temperament, working ability, every other health aspect, they were just amazing dogs. And then I was lucky enough to have access to Topper, Gail Mirabella’s rat terrier. And Gail and I, Gail is a frisbee person from back in the day. We were really good friends when I lived in Pennsylvania. She lived in Connecticut. And she had this great little rat terrier. She wasn’t a terrier person. She had Aussies and border collies and she got this little dog and he was just amazing. His name was Topper the Showstopper. And Gail performed in Ringling Brothers with him and traveled all over the world and has just this cool little dog. And she approached me and said, “I want to breed Topper to a border collie.” And I was like, “Border collie and rat terrier? Who would do that?” (laughter) and I was like, “I don’t know, Gail, are you really? Okay.” So we did. And those dogs were incredible. And I was lucky enough to then, I bred Topper to Bada Bing, and then I bred him to Bada Bing’s daughter Glee twice. And the Topper puppies were just amazing. And so finding a purebred terrier that has all the traits that I want, and is owned by somebody that’s willing to do a mixed breed breeding, is definitely the biggest challenge. Because most people still have a very negative feeling about it.
JH: Yeah, that’s one of the things I’m hoping that the Functional Breeding group can try to address: putting people together to make some of these pairings. It’s so frustrating, not just for sport mix breeders, but for all kinds of stuff that, you know, there’s outcross for health and stuff like that. That it’s so frustrating that people aren’t willing to contribute.
JNJ: Well, and I understand it from their perspective. I think that it is about education, and about communication and teaching people that those of us that are doing these breedings are doing it thoughtfully, and we’re using best breeding practices, and our homes are screened, and we’re providing support for life. And we do all the things that they do. We’re just breeding mixes.
JH: Right. Well, so why don’t you talk a little bit about some of that stuff that you do. So if you’re putting together a breeding, what are the steps for you?
JNJ: Um, I don’t really understand the question.
JH: Yeah. Well, all the stuff that you mentioned. So, health screening…
JNJ: Oh, okay. So any dog that I intend to breed I’m gonna do OFA hips and shoulders and elbows. I haven’t done any shoulders yet. I only learned that that was a thing recently. I didn’t know that OFA did shoulders, but I now will be doing those as well. And I do an OFA eye exam yearly for any dogs that are going to be bred. And I’m going to do a genetic panel screening for, you know, either being infected or being a carrier for all the diseases that are prevalent in that breed. And then I’m also going to a BAER test to make sure that my breeding stock can hear. And that’s all the things we do, right? We do hips and eyes. And yeah, those are all the things.
JH: That’s pretty much the whole body.
JNJ: For anything that’s got whippet in it you’ve got to do echocardiograms. Got to do a heart test. But just, you know, knowing your breeds and doing the health, or the breed appropriate things for them.
JH: Yeah. And so and then there’s the stuff that you can’t test for, but you have to know the lines for, right? Like epilepsy.
JNJ: Ugh, my God, epilepsy is the worst. (laughter)
JH: I don’t think anyone likes it.
JNJ: It is ubiquitous. It is, I mean, it is in every border collie line, unfortunately. And it’s not a straight-up form of inheritance. Like, we still don’t really know how it’s inherited. So that makes it complicated. And also, there’s some dogs that don’t start seizing till they’re like five, right? And then sometimes there’s dogs that are related to them that have been bred or even that dog itself. So with a health problem that doesn’t manifest until later in life, it’s always challenging to try to, you know, not breed dogs that are affected, or dogs that are closely related to dogs who are affected. Epilepsy is another tricky one because, you know, the manifestation of epilepsy is seizing. But there’s more than one reason for dogs to seize. So a seizing dog doesn’t necessarily mean an epileptic dog. And then you’ve got owner issues, right? And it can get complicated. But epilepsy is definitely one of the trickiest ones to try to be a responsible breeder and not breed dogs that are affected with it. I’ve been lucky myself, I will say lucky. I think we’ve had two affected epileptic dogs that were border collies in 23 years of breeding. So I’m not proud of it, but I’m not hiding it and I’m trying to not throw my baby out with the bathwater, which I realize is a dangerous phrase in dog breeding, but I am doing what I’m doing and, you know, take it or leave it! (laughter)
JH: (indistinct) Totally reasonable to me. And my hope would be that by mixing border collies with other breeds, you’d see a lot less epilepsy. So has that been the case?
JNJ: I can’t say that because we don’t have a large enough sample size, right? At all. But so I don’t think I have any relevant data to that. I think that there’s epilepsy present in other breeds as well. So I’m not so sure if it would help. I don’t feel comfortable making assumptions about that.
JH: Fair enough. Fair enough. And do you find that for issues like that, like epilepsy, that it’s hard to really know the lines? I mean, do you do trust that you really know that epilepsy is there?
JNJ: Um, that’s a very broad question.
JH: It is. I’m just trying to (indistinct) (laughter)
JNJ: I think that there’s always the issue of reporting. Right?
JNJ: So there are a lot of dogs in our community. And you know, a breeding happens and you may know some of the people that took those puppies, but you might not know the other places that those puppies went or maybe one puppy went to a pet home and nobody knows who that is. And so I think that reporting is an issue there. There’s probably a lot of underreporting going on, where we can’t really know. I think we do the best with the information that we have. And I’m, you know, I look forward to there being a time where there’s an easier way to track the inheritance of epilepsy, you know, where… I feel old to say this, but when I started doing dogs, and I was competing in flyball, there was a popular stud dog named Flash, owned by Doug Smuck, Flash Moy of Spunk. Great stud dog. Produced really nice dogs. Was a carrier of CEA. And so before there was a CEA genetic test, do you know how we used to figure out who is a carrier?
JH: No. Pedigrees?
JNJ: Test breedings. Which is awful, right? Test breedings, well, I mean, they are what they are. And thank goodness they don’t happen anymore. I can say that I never did one. And when I learned that they were a thing I was, I was kind of shocked. But a test breeding is where you breed a known carrier to a potential carrier that you know it might be from its pedigree. And if you produce puppies affected with CEA, then you know that that dog was a carrier.
JH: I’ve heard of this in livestock, but I didn’t know…
JNJ: It used to be the same in border collies for sure. And so whenever I sort of start getting like doom and gloom about epilepsy because it is so nebulous, I’m like, “You know what? They used to do test breedings, and that wasn’t even that long ago. And we now have a CEA marker. We don’t have to do that. We just do genetic screening and it is so great!” So, you know, I’m hopeful.
JH: Yeah, epilepsy is gonna be a tough one, for sure. But I also like hearing you talk about knowing the lines. I mean, whether or not people are fully reporting, it is still obviously important to really know the lines that you’re breeding from. And I think that’s another misconception that people sometimes have about people who are breeding mixed breed dogs – that you’re just taking a dog that looks nice with another dog that looks nice and putting it together.
JNJ: Like people don’t do that with purebreds all the damn time. (laughter) Anyway, sorry. Well, I think that the community of people that own performance mixed breeds is not a large one. And so being a part of that community and being a trusted part of that community, and not being the type of person that takes information and then uses it in an unkind way is helpful, right? Because then people are more likely to be open with you. And there’s, you know, a certain type of person that doesn’t do that. And they ruin it for everybody else. If you’re out to, via actions either implied or stated… if you’re out to discredit somebody by finding information about their dog and spreading it, then you’re just going to become untrusted and that’s gonna not help the community in the long run. And there’s a little bit too much sort of “gotcha” stuff going on. Well, I mean, I say going on. It’s not something that will ever go away. But you know, having good relationships with members of your community so that people trust you, and they are open with not just the good stuff, but also the bad stuff. And they know that you’re asking from a place of wanting to be better. I’m not asking because I want to go tell everybody that you’re a shitty breeder. I’m asking because I care and establishing that is essential.
JH: Yeah. So let me think what else were you talking about in terms of what you do when you’re breeding dogs…
JNJ: Best breeding practices. Yeah.
JH: And I mean there’s also finding good homes for your dogs.
JNJ: Having good homes for dogs lined up is definitely a thing. And making sure that your puppies are paired appropriately with owners, that you know the owners well and you understand what they want, and then understanding your own dogs well enough to match them appropriately so that everybody is happy. So the puppy gets what it needs. And so the new owner gets what it needs. Really establishing a very personal relationship with all my puppy buyers. And being an open book to them and always having an open door if they’re having an issue and they can’t keep their puppy anymore, not that that happens. But, you know, best breeding practices include taking your dogs back, having lifelong health guarantees, having support for the life of the dog and beyond. And one of the things that I’m happiest about is that my dogs… I have multi generations of dogs in the same household. Like the people that have gotten my dogs come back to me for their next dog and that allows us to really have an even deeper relationship. And to me that’s a really big part of why I breed.
As for selecting good homes, and having those homes in place before… I’ve never had leftover puppies. Like I just don’t have them. Like I have more homes than I expect to have puppies. That’s pretty important to me. Also how the puppies are raised. My dogs are house dogs. They all live here in my house. Behind me is my dining room where all the puppies live. There’s no puppies here right now. But they’re in the middle of our life. And they have really good enrichment, and they have great medical care, and they have great nutrition, and they are exposed to all these good things in healthy ways. And so they’re house trained by the time they leave at eight weeks. They’re really well rounded and well adjusted little dogs. And that doesn’t matter what I’m breeding. Like my border collies, my mixed breeds, it’s all the same. They’re just, they’re great little dogs, because I put a lot into them while they’re here.
JH: Do you have a particular protocol that you use? Do you use, like, Puppy Culture, or you have just your own thing?
JNJ: I do not. I think the Puppy Culture is great. And most of it is stuff that I already do. So I don’t have a specific protocol. But I am extremely involved with my litters and I am very transparent about what they do and where they live, and what sort of life looks like with them. And I spend a ton of time with them. I am in the puppy pen most of the time that they’re here. Interacting with them, teaching them things, learning things, but also just observing them and getting to know them. And so there’s just so much that goes into them, right? They’re just my babies.
JH: Yeah. (laughter) Yeah, and so how do you find homes for them? I’m guessing it helps that you’re involved in sports so that you can easily find people who are looking for sport dogs.
JNJ: People come to me. I don’t find homes. (laughter)
JH: That’s the way to do it.
JNJ: Like I said, I breed for myself and my friends. So if I didn’t have a million people asking for them, I would just be breeding for myself and my friends and family. And when folks at dog competitions look around and see dogs that are succeeding, they often will go and ask somebody. They’d like to look at the dog. They think it’s a cool looking dog. They say, “Hey where’d you get that dog?” “I got it from Quicksilver.” And they’ll contact me. You know, that’s theoretically how it would work.
In reality, I wish that I had enough dogs to meet that demand. I have some really successful dogs in competition out there right now that I’ve bred and they’re very visible. And so folks go to her owners and say, “Where’d you get that really cool little dog?” And she’s like, “Oh, I got it from Quicksilver.” And they write to me and they say, “I’m so and so. And I do all this with my dog.” And I’m like, “You sound like an amazing home, but I have 15 people on the list and the dog’s only gonna have three puppies.” My biggest challenge has actually been meeting that demand. My bitches have small litters. And my bitches are competition dogs, so they’re not just getting bred all the time. They’re also playing their sports. And so I have people literally that wait for years. And I always tell them that if they find another dog before I have a puppy for them, there’s no hard feelings. But it can be a several years wait. And that’s sort of what helps me screen for really good homes, too, right? If somebody is willing to wait three or four years for the right puppy, I know that they’re not just some “fly by night” who’s gonna flake out on it.
JH: Yeah, totally. But that’s a hard balancing act. So you only breed when you have a spot in your home for yourself?
JNJ: Um, no. That’s not true. I mostly mean that when I’m making breeding decisions, it’s for dogs that I either actually do want to keep or would want to keep. So I have done several breedings where I didn’t plan to keep a puppy and where I haven’t kept a puppy. Which is important because the litters are so damn small and I got all these people that want puppies whom I love, who I want to give puppies to. It’s really challenging.
JH: Small because you’re breeding small dogs, I guess. You need to breed some labs.
JNJ: I’m not sure if it’s because I’m breeding small dogs. I don’t know. My last border collie litter was large. But the little girls just haven’t been having big litters. But I don’t mind. I kind of like it. I mean, from a “giving puppies to everybody that I want to give puppies” perspective, it’s not great. But from a practical perspective, we usually only breed once a year. We try to breed the dogs in the winter and then have spring puppies, and then they can be back in shape by Can-Am. That’s usually the plan. Can-Am is our big flyball tournament in October. This year is different. Because who knows when we’re ever going to do anything again. But we tend to only breed once a year. Occasionally though we’ll breed two bitches at the same time and have sort of parallel litters. So they can be… the girls in the household usually all come in season at the same time anyway, so it’s not a difficult thing to sync up. And if I have one litter of three and another litter of two, by the time they’re four weeks, they’re combined. They’re getting to have a slightly larger group to play with. I’ve got all the puppy stuff out already. I’m doing all the puppy work, and I can do two breedings at once. Get my girls back in shape at the same time.
JH: I guess that makes sense. When you first said that I thought that that sounded totally exhausting (laughter)
JNJ: Well, having puppies is exhausting. But it’s just as exhausting for three as it is for six in my opinion. Like in my setup it’s the same amount of trouble, pretty much. So it works for us to just do them at the same time.
JH: Yeah. Is there a particular mix that you’re mostly breeding right now? Or is it different every time?
JNJ: It really depends on the stud dogs that I have available. And so unfortunately, Topper the Showstopper’s last litter was a while ago. We tried to breed to him two years ago and he is still with us, but his little swimmers weren’t up to the job. And so I am currently sort of seeking a new purebred F1 terrier stud. At the moment I have my two mixed breed girls. I’ve got Elphaba who’s the border/Jack and I have Tuppence who’s a border/border. I plan on breeding both of them in the next six months, probably to another mix, each of them, because that’s what’s available that I think is going to make the best puppies. So I’m doing an F2 combo with one of them, and then Elphaba to a multimix and sort of see what we get.
JH: So you have the sires picked out already.
JNJ: I do. Yes.
JH: Where do you find them?
JNJ: I own one and I bred the other.
JH: Yep, that’s the way to do it. Yeah. And so it’s got to be hard then. You don’t want to stick within the same lines too much, right? To inbreed, so you have to find something else.
JNJ: Yes. Um, so inbreeding is a word. Line breeding is another. (laughter) My border collies are… Chatty is line bred. My other border collies were not. I’m breeding two F1 crosses, one of them to another F1 cross. So I’m breeding my border/border to a border/rat. They actually are related on their border collie sides. They are not closely related. And it’s a coefficient of inbreeding that I am comfortable with. It’s not the first time we’ve done this. We bred Elphaba, who’s a border/Jack to Match who is a border/rat. We’ve done that three times. The offspring have been phenomenal. They also are related through the border collie line, but they’re not closely related. Again, it was a COI that I was comfortable with. I think that part of that though, has been helpful in the predictability aspect of the dogs, right?
So I am hoping that the border Jack/border rat, what I got from that, I’ve done that three times. I’m very comfortable with the offspring that we got. I love them and I’m pretty comfortable being confident about what I can expect from a similar cross. So I’ve got my border/border who’s related to the border/Jack. I’m going to breed her to the same stud, the border/rat. So it’s another F1 to F1 cross with similar components. The only difference being the terrier. Well, the border collies are different too, but it’s the same line of border collies. It was a border terrier rather than a Jack Russell terrier. So I’m excited to sort of try doing similar breedings with relatives, right? It’s one of the things that I’ve been impressed with Blue Cedar is that they keep multiple dogs from litters and multiple dogs in each generation. And then they have different options of combining them in different ways. And, you know, I know all breeders do that, but they’re the ones that have done it as mixed breeders. And I’m excited to see what we get.
JH: Yeah, and so that’s, I think that’s the really big trade off is predictability versus genetic diversity, right?
JH: That’s what it comes down to is that if you have more predictability, you’re gonna have less diversity.
JNJ: Yes. Which is true no matter what you’re breeding.
JH: Right. Exactly.
JNJ: Pekinese for the show ring or lurchers to catch rabbits. It doesn’t… it’s the same.
JH: Exactly. And I feel like in the purebred world, we have sort of one way of going about that. And I feel like there’s not a script written yet like that for the mixed breed world. So I feel like it’d be really valuable if you could talk a little bit about how you balance those two things. This question no one has asked you before and so we can feel through it together.
JNJ: Hmm. Okay, the short answer is carefully. That’s how you do it: carefully. Yeah, it’s scary.
JH: So what are some of the things you’re scared of?
JNJ: Well, so I learned about breeding from a couple of different people. But one of my greater influences was some breeders of Belgian shepherds, specifically the kennel Bois du Tot, in France. And when I was little, I got to go on a trip with some Belgian friends. Belgian shepherd friends, not friends from Belgium. We went to France. We went to the French specialty. We went to a couple of breeders and listened to the breeders talk about what they were doing and why and was really, really interesting, and I think influenced me a lot. And that’s obviously for breeding something that’s a very different end product than what I’m breeding now. But it’s still… the same rules of genetics still follow through, right?
And one of the things that was important to me when I learned was about phenotype and genotype, right? Which are what is actually expressed versus what is genetic, and what’s carried, and the differences between those. And then also the, you know, talking about line breeding versus inbreeding, because that really means the same thing, but they’re used in different ways. And that, when you breed dogs that are related, that’s when you get, that’s when you really get consistency. And that is a thing that is very much a purebred dog thing. You know, I’ve been shocked sometimes when I speak to breeders of other breeds at how tight a line breeding they will do. Mother to father, I mean, you know, daughter to father, that I’m like, “What?”
And so it’s kind of shocking when you realize how much it is done already. And that that really has a lot to do with creating breeds and having this predictability. But that recognizing that when you line breed, you are intensifying, and you’re doubling up on everything. And that can mean it’s great if there’s nothing wrong with the dog. If all you’re doubling up on is amazing traits, then it’s frickin’ great. And that’s the allure. Because when everything is firing right, it’s great to have a line bred dog that has all these amazing traits, that will produce all these amazing traits. But you get the bad stuff multiplied too, and so you know, if you’ve got copies of genes that are defective, now you have two copies of them, and now you can’t get rid of it. And if you are line breeding, and you don’t know about something that’s there, you can easily have your entire line become, you know, irrelevant, in the blink of an eye. If a problem comes up and everything you own is related to that dog, then you need to start from scratch. That’s scary. Genetic diversity is where it’s at for health. So recognizing that you’re going to magnify everything about that dog is key. And so if you know as much as possible about what that dog is both phenotypically and genotypically, if you know, if you have as much data as you can have, then you know what you’re going to be doubling up on. And if there’s nothing bad there, then it’s not occasionally bad to double up on something. I’m not saying that I’m breeding mothers to sons. But I might breed a cousin. Might do it a couple of times.
JH: So it sounds like that’s turned out well for you.
JNJ: I mean, it has so far. With this next generation of dogs… Each time I do a line breeding, I want to make sure that those offspring are not linebred, right? That those offspring, if they’re bred, they’re outcrossed. But I think that it is something that can be carefully, carefully executed well.
JH: Yeah. And I think that makes a lot of sense. The alternating.
JH: So remind me. The next two breedings that you’re talking about doing are actually going to be F2’s.
JNJ: We’re going to be breeding Elphaba to Pac Man, and Tuppence to Match.
JH: So what kinds of dogs are you hoping to get out of there?
JNJ: I’m hoping to get dogs who are small, so under 16 inches at the withers. I want dogs that have wonderful temperaments. That are not fearful. That are not aggressive. Get along with other dogs. They’re sociable with people. And that have the characteristics that make them easy to train.
JH: Yeah, and so we’ve talked a lot about physical health, but behavioral health is super important, too, if not more important so how…
JNJ: It is! And it’s impossible to test for!
JNJ: I’m gonna send out my temperament screening. See what kind of temperament my dog has!
JH: Yeah. So tell me about what kinds of puppies you get? Like do you have any stories? Or what do you hear back from your puppy owners? Or you own a bunch of them? So? Are their personalities similar to each other?
JNJ: Oh, my God. Yes. (laughter) They’re ridiculously similar.
JH: Yeah, that’s interesting.
JNJ: They have a lot of similar traits. You know, they’re all individuals, but there’s things that they all do that’s quite adorable and charming. Perhaps some traits less charming than others. My dogs do have a like… What they’re known for is just the most piercing bark. Like a horrible “needle in your ear all the way into your brain.” More when they’re waiting their turn, they want to go somewhere. So like that. I’ll tell you what. If I could get fronts like I get that bark, I would be the best breeder ever. That bark is strong. It doesn’t matter. Carries through all the lines. It’s there. But that’s just something silly.
JH: I live with a dog like that. And I sometimes want to kill him. We’re working on understanding that the bark is not the way to get what you want.
JNJ: Right, right.
JH: What else could I ask you? We could start wrapping up, but let’s talk about the future. What would you see for the future? Let’s see, in terms of society. So you’ve talked a lot about how hard it is to get the stud dogs that you want.
JNJ: I would like to see a little bit more understanding and, you know, maybe positive things from the greater dog community, from the purebred dog community. And, you know, I have a lot of crossover just in my own life of where I have professional interactions with folks that are in the purebred dog world and perhaps hadn’t been exposed to intentional mixes before. And I feel like I’m kind of, you know, a warrior out here on the front lines of teaching people that it’s not necessarily the worst. We’re not all doodle breeders. But on the other hand, you know what, doodle breeders are fine, too, if they’re checking their damn health, and they’re screening their own… Breed all the doodles you want. Anyway, sorry. But I don’t know why it didn’t happen with cockapoos. So they’ve been breeding cockapoos for 20 years. And nobody, nobody got nearly as up in arms as they have with doodles. But doodles really turned the purebred world like really sour, I think, on mixed breeds.
JH: If you think about it, cockapoos are doodles, right? Because they…
JNJ: Oh they totally are! I mean goldendoodles, labradoodles, that are within the last 10 years, but cockapoos have been around forever. And they also are suffering from the worst naming. They should be “cockadoodles,” right? (laughter)
JH: Yeah I never really thought about how cockapoos is two bad words put together.
JNJ: It is! But I try to be, you know… I have my dogs. I breed my dogs. And with Quicksilver Canine where I’m doing all of my work, I will often have my litter puppies there. And so my clients who come in… they’re doing agility with their retired show dogs and are now exposed to, “Oh, these are mixed breed puppies.” And so we may not talk about the ethics of mixed breeding, but they know me. They like me. They can see, you know, my puppies. They’re there with their little tunnel and their little baby pool that’s got chips and they watch them run in there and pee and poop and then come out and wobble on the wobble board. And they see that they’ve got amazing temperaments, and that they’re really well brought up and they’re nice looking dogs, you know. They’re put together well. And so even if we’re not having a conversation about it, they’re being exposed to it. And even if it’s not, you know… I only have puppies once a year. So if I don’t have puppies, I have one of my own dogs around. And they learned that you know, what it is, and that, “Oh, I did breed it.” And I think that change comes through that kind of interaction. Not so much necessarily, from, “Hey, I’m going to educate you about this because it’s fine. And you should be fine with it, too.” It’s more like, “Hey, this is me. These are my dogs. I’m an open book. You know, here’s all the things that I do. And I, you know, I’m doing a good job as a breeder.” The breeds that I’m breeding are not purebreds, but I’m using best breeding practices. And I’m doing everything that you would say that a breeder should do, except for breeding purebred dogs. And the hypocrisy of the purebred dog world really grates to me, right? Because there are so many breeders of purebred dogs that don’t use best breeding practices. And I don’t feel like they are subject to the same type of criticism as really well-intentioned, and not just well-intentioned, well-acting breeders of mixes. You know, it feels, it feels unfair. But life is unfair. (laughter)
JH: Yeah, no. I think that’s, I think that’s well said. And I’m hoping that we can start getting the word out there.
JNJ: So I’m very happy that AKC has opened up so many ways for mixes to compete. I certainly can say that for myself, Sunday, like being a two time NAC champion has been really good for my breeding program. And the fact that she’s, you know, her full name, there it is: Quicksilver Cherry On Top. So she’s a mix, but there’s no doubt about where she came from. I appreciate that. And I think that having more well bred mixes in the dog community, and them being good dogs is helpful, but also to try to get more and more breeders out there doing things with their dogs as well. And so that they can be part of the conversation. And instead of just the owner of the dog who’s out there with their one dog like, “Hey, I’m the breeder. Come talk to me if you have questions, or if you want to know something.” Most people won’t, because they’re not brave enough. But just being exposed to good stuff is good for them. And if they don’t have too many negative interactions, maybe they will stop being scared and they might be willing to interact, and they might have a positive interaction.
JH: I like it.
JNJ: There’s one thing that we didn’t talk about. Do you mind if I?
JH: Yeah. Sure.
JNJ: We can circle back. So I think it’s interesting to also think about and maybe talk about the side of breeding mixed breeds that’s more for… We say function, but it’s for sports, that’s a hobby. That’s not actual work. There are mixed breeds being bred for real work, like stuff that has to get done, which I think is really fascinating. And there’s definitely plenty of mixing breeds that goes on for like livestock guardian dogs, herding dogs as well. Not necessarily on this coast, but on the West coast. You know, that McNabb breed was pretty much created by mixing cattle dogs, border collies and Aussies, and I think that farmers and people who use dogs as part of their livelihood have been mixing breeds for a lot longer than most of us know. Because it was for function.
Probably also people that do terrier stuff, right? To get dogs that did the job that they wanted done. And I recently found out about somebody who breeds dogs that are border collies to greyhounds and borzoi, and they hunt wolves in the western… you know, like on ranches, which I think is fascinating. And somebody who has a 20 year breeding program of breeding this type of dog, this type of lurcher, that’s big enough and strong enough and has the right type of coat and has the right stamina and can hunt you know, in a pack or, you know, it can do the job that they need done in this specific environment. And how adding different breeds and doing different things with a mixed breeding program has created a dog that’s perfect for that job. For which there is not a purebred sighthound that does it.
And I mean, that’s not just me saying it. That’s the people that are doing the job, right? Like if there was a purebred dog that did it, they’d get it. It’s not like it’s a mixed breed agenda. They’re literally breeding for function. So I think that’s really interesting that it’s long been a thing that people that needed their dogs to live have been mixing breeds. I mean, for hundreds of years people bred lurchers to poach their game that they ate. That’s a border collie to a sighthound. Well, actually, it’s a sighthound to a not sighthound. But in England, it’s a border collie, for sure. And people have been breeding functional mixed breeds for a long time, just not within the dog fancy, right? Which is a privileged place where those of those of us live that can just do fun things with their dogs, right?
JH: Right. We like to think that we are all of dog culture, but there’s so much going on out there
JNJ: So much more. We also like to call our dogs working dogs. They’re not. They’re playing. I mean, yeah, I take it really seriously. And I’m like, “Yeah, we’re gonna go to work. My dog’s a working dog.” But it’s not working. It’s not doing a job that’s essential. No he’s not earning money for you. And it’s not helping anybody. It’s not helping anybody’s livelihood. It’s not doing an actual necessary job. It’s not keeping your livestock safe. It’s not whatever. But I was speaking to somebody who is a sighthound person who was telling me about this breeding program for the ranchers in western US and Canada. And I was like, it’s absolutely fascinating. And I bet that many people that are in the mixed breed discussion don’t know about that kind of thing. So I think it would be really interesting to try to reach out to that sort of arm, you know, to make functional breeding not just about hobby dogs. Because I think there’s a lot that could probably be learned from those people.
JH: 100%. I totally agree with you. At one point, I asked people in the Facebook group what kinds of… who they would want to see me interview for this podcast, and I got a lot of suggestions for people breeding assistance dogs and guide dogs. So there’s that.
JNJ: Yeah. Right. Now there’s some work.
JH: Right, right. Right. Difficult, difficult work. But those… that’s a great idea. And I didn’t actually know about those people breeding lurchers. So that would be fascinating.
JH: So if someone wants to come talk to you, where would they? Where would they get in touch with you?
JNJ: Our website is www.quicksilverdogs.com. I’m on Facebook, Julie Jenkins. You can also… Quicksilver Dogs has a Facebook thing that you can message. I’m not great at communicating. I’ll admit it.
JH: Your husband got right back to me when I messaged him
JNJ: He’s the best. I’m always happy to talk about dogs. I tend to be a little bit shut down if somebody wants a dog because I know that I won’t be able to give them one right now. And that makes me sad. And that’s just a personality quirk of mine that if I feel like I’m going to disappoint somebody, I don’t really want to interact with them, because then I’ll just disappoint them. Does that make any sense?
JH: That does. You want to have good interactions.
JNJ: I do.
JH: And for people who are local, you do some training. I mean, not right at the moment.
JNJ: I teach. I teach dog training full time at Quicksilver in Julian, North Carolina. Our website is www.quicksilvercanine.com. I was thinking about the breeding website which is www.quicksilverdogs.com. I teach flyball, agility, Disc Dog and a little bit of everything. I’d say flyball puppy foundations is probably what is the most popular right now. Little bit everything.
JH: And I’m told a lot of people are getting puppies in the time of COVID. So.
JNJ: So I hope that we get to do things again. I’m, you know… the world is changing. And I think that the whole dog sport landscape is going to change just like everything. It’ll be very interesting to see sort of where we end up.
JH: Yeah, everything. Yes. Everything will be different. Yeah. More virtual.
JNJ: Yeah. But anyway, I mean, hopefully not too virtual because I got a lot of money sunk on this 15,000 square foot facility. I really don’t want it to sit empty. (laughter)
JH: No, fair enough.
JNJ: Like please let us not just do everything virtually.
JH: No, I think it’ll be fine.
JNJ: I think so, too.
JH: Deep breaths.
JNJ: Yeah, we’re gonna be alright.
JH: Yeah. Well, this has been fabulous. Thank you so much.
JNJ: I hope that it was good. You know, take what’s what’s good.
Thanks so much for listening. The Functional Breeding Podcast is a product of the Functional Dog Collaborative and was produced by Sarah Espinosa Socal. Come join us at the Functional Breeding Facebook group to talk about this episode or about responsible breeding practices in general. To learn more about the Functional Dog Collaborative, check out www.functionalbreeding.org. Enjoy your dogs.
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