Interview with Mrs. Nannette Newbury • Interviewed by M. Ljutic & J. Danilovic
Published in Best in Show Annual 2015
BIS: When have you got involved in dogs and how did you first come across Aussies?
Nannette: My family always had dogs while I was growing up, but other than obedience classes, we were a pet home. I was raised with my motherís poodles and my grandfatherís hunting dogs, German Shorthaired Pointers. I saw my first Australian Shepherd at a rodeo in California probably in the early 1960s. Rodeo clown Wilbur Plaugher had an act with dogs. I think the dog I saw might have been Sislerís Doc who was originally trained by another famous rodeo performer and early Aussie breeder, Jay Sisler. When I went to college I met even more Australian Shepherds and was hooked. I vowed to get one as soon as I was able. I had several Aussie mixes before I got my first purebred Australian Shepherd from the Hartnagle family of Los Rocosa Australian Shepherds (Colorado) around 1973.
BIS: Which thing about Aussies was (and still is) so special for you?
Nannette: I was intrigued with the Aussie from the first moment I saw them. I was initially attracted to the intelligence, and temperament. Also the markings of the blue merle were quite unique and appealing. While the merle markings are no longer ìuniqueî to me, the outstanding characteristics of this breed remain very specialÖtheir sense of humor and fun, wanting to be with me, willingness to please and their incredible athleticism
BIS: Which dog do you consider the foundation of your own breeding program?
Nannette:My breeding program is probably unique in several ways. I was initially involved with the breed as an owner and competitor for close to 20 years before I bred my first litter. I had no desire to be a breeder. I enjoyed owning, training, trialing and showing great that were owned and/or bred by others. My goal was to always have a sound, gorgeous and competitive dog on the end of the lead when I entered the ring. I also enjoyed winning! Breeding held no interest for me initially. After I moved back to California I mentored under Kathy and Alan McCorkle of Heatherhill Australian Shepherds. After years of showing they encouraged me to breed my first litter. Most of my dogs are descendants of their great dogs and the result of their successful breeding program. Any of my success is a direct result of that collaboration and due to the quality of their breeding program. The dogs I have now are primarily descendants of Ch. Oprah Winfree of Heatherhill.
BIS: How many Aussies do you have at home (living with you) and how many you coown?
Nannette:The number of dogs on my property changes daily! I currently have four retired show/breeding females that are all over the age of 10. I enjoy living with the older dogs so they stay at my place. As I am doing all of the work on my own I am capable of handling about seven adults without too much stress. So I have the oldies and always have up and coming prospects and picks from my current litters.
BIS: With how many kennels and who are the Kennels you co-breed? How important was cooperation between breeders through the time?
Nannette: My breeding career has been almost exclusively with Heatherhill Australian Shepherds. I do not wish to have numerous co-breeding relationships. I like to keep things simple. Over the years I have seen many friendships damaged by co-breeding, co-owning relationships so I am very careful whom I do business withÖ.a co-breeder is almost like being married to someoneÖyou should know your partner well and have shared values in order for them to work. Co-ownerships and co-breeding relationships take a great deal of time and energy. With the increase in the worldwide popularity of the breed I am committed to ensuring that quality animals are available to select breeders overseas. I recently co-bred a litter with Energies Australian Shepherds, Kerstin Patzold (Germany) that I am very proud of. The offspring are just starting to show in Europe and have had some lovely wins at an early ageÖthey show a lot of promise. This has been another example of a breeding relationship that has grown into a friendship. For me that becomes an important aspect of breeding that I enjoy.
BIS: Who has been your biggest inspiration and support? Did you have mentors and how important was mentoring through the time being a breeder?
Nannette: I would not be where I am or have the results I have had without mentoring relationships. I give full credit for any of my success to those mentors. I am extremely proud of my long-term relationship with the McCorkles of Heatherhill. What has been most remarkable is that I do not think that we have had one formal, signed document between us. Our word is our bond, and trust is evident on both sides. While I started out as an eager student, the relationship has grown into a deep friendship that I am very proud of. I am a lifelong student of the breed and this relationship supports that goal. I would not be here without the continued support and friendship of Kathy and Alan McCorkle.
I have been fortunate to have access to and talk dogs with many of the great breeders in our fancy. I was the former editor of the Australian Shepherd Journal for many years and was able to meet many of the foundation breeders through my interviews for the magazine. I include the advice, discussions, mentoring and continued support of Leslie Frank (Propwash), Frank Baylis (Bayshore), Linda Wilson (Briarbrook), Nan Gilliard (Peachcreek), Pamela Levin (Agua Dulce), Ellen Brandenburg (Thornapple), Georjean Hertzwig (Gefion) to name only a few. These breeders and others have always taken the time to answer my questions. I also maintain working relationships with many of my peers and competitors and enjoy ongoing discussions with them about the breed, issues and areas for improvement.
As my knowledge has grown and my belief in mentoring for breeders is firm, I created an on-line Australian Shepherd Breeder Mentor group. It has been hugely successful, but not without challenges. While incredibly valuable the concept of mentoring appears to be on the decline.
BIS: What would be the main characteristics on the dogs you breed?
Nannette:If I look at my dogs over time my goal is to maintain the high quality I started with and/or to exceed that quality. I think my dogs are exceptionally pleasing to look at, are athletic and versatile, have great temperaments, are intelligent and biddable (willingness to please). I keep detailed records on my dogs and create a visual time line via of each offspring to make sure that I am maintaining or increasing that quality over time.
My primary goal with each litter is for the offspring to be of greater quality than the sire or damÖcontinuous improvement. I make the majority of my decisions on what stays here based on that goal.
For instance, I started with a daughter of Ch. Oprah Winfree of Heatherhill, Ch. Heatherhill Tyra Banks. Her daughter is Ch. Stonepine Silk. Her daughter is Ch. Stonepine Sheer Silk. Her son is Ch. Stonepine Fuel Injected. (see photos) That progression is what my breeding program is all about.
BIS: What are your goals in the breeding program?
Nannette: I breed for sound, healthy dogs with great temperaments that meet the breed standard. With a worldwide focus on breeding healthier dogs, I have spent the past several years studying the overall health of our breed and ensuring that my dogs have a tremendous start in life, including prenatal care, the health of my dams in whelp and pay particular attention to what is put in and on each puppy or dog.
As a working breed my focus is first and foremost on structure and movement. These dogs have to be able to perform their original form and function as an all-around ranch dog even if the majority of them today live as companion animals. As a breeder it is my responsibility to preserve those unique traits in our breed for future generations to enjoy.
BIS: Did you change the type of the dogs you breed through the years and if yes why?
Nannette: Being closely associated with Heatherhill Australian Shepherds, my lines had a clearly defined style, long before I started breeding. I am not sure my ìtypeî has changed, but we certainly have different ìstylesî within the breed. The ìstyleî of a Stonepine Australian Shepherd dog is hopefully consistent at this point in my breeding program.
BIS: How many lines did you use by now?
Nannette: I have not used many outside lines in my breeding program. I tend to use line-breeding with the occasional outcross to a distantly related sire. I strive to balance the negative aspects of line-breeding (potential weakened immune system for instance) with maintaining and preserving breed type and consistency. I use all three tools in our breeder toolkit (in-breeding, line-breeding and outcrossing). Although realistically any purebred breed is inbred by definition due to the closed gene pool.
BIS: How did the Aussies change over the time since you first got involved with the breed?
Nannette: I wish I had available pictures of my first Los Rocosa dog from the early 1970ísÖ.he was actually quite handsome, minimal white, well-built blue merle that I think would still be appreciated today, so in this case, not much change at all is noted.
Some of the early dogs had questionable or difficult temperaments and we have definitely improved that. From the 1970ís until the late 1990ís I think many lines improved. In the United States we removed Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) from the breed (without the use of gene tests!).
I am not as pleased overall with the trends in the breed from about 2000 on. We have lost soundness and the focus appears to be on ìwinningî versus a clearly defined long-term breeding program. Winning is fun, but it is immediate gratification. Breeding is for the long term and designed to preserve the breed for future generations.
From the original Dr. Weldon Heard dogs (Flintridge), which are the foundation of many of the show lines today, the dogs have changed actually only slightly and I think for the better in some aspects. As with any breed, some of the dogs today have become extreme in areas such as rear angulation, and coat. It is the responsibility of breeders to correct unwanted trends and judges not to reward these dogs in the ring.
As the breed has evolved and become more popular, the look has changedÖhopefully our changes over time are for the betterment of the breed.
BIS: Is there something which you would like to change/improve in the breed in general?
Nannette:I would recommend that potential breeders be involved in the breed for ten years before breeding their first litter and maintain a long-term mentoring relationship with another breeder. I would encourage breeders to be active members of their national breed club. I would encourage breeders to contribute back to the breed.
In terms of the dogs themselves and what I see in the ring as a breeder and a judge, I think we have a tremendous issue with incorrect proportions in the breed, the ìlong and lowî look which is absolutely incorrect for the breed. These dogs tend to do well in the breed ring as the lack of leg can give them tremendous side gait. While impressive in the show ring, our breed standard does not call for extended or excessive movement of any kind.
BIS: What do you consider your greatest achievement as a breeder?
Nannette: As a breeder/owner/handler I do not tend to place my offspring in show or breeding homes. I breed primarily for myself, keep the superior animals in a litter and the majority of my puppies are placed in well-researched pet homes. So in terms of show wins, the results I have accomplished were as a breeder/owner/handler and limited; however I am proud of this. My greatest achievement is the consistency and quality of my dogs over time and the incredible family of owners that have contributed to my success in performance venues and the home.
One of my favorite achievements would be winning the title of Most Versatile Australian Shepherd with Ch. Peachcreekís Simply Sterling ìBodieî, bred by Nan Gilliard (Texas). He also was reserve the following year. This win required winning scores in obedience, agility, herding and conformation competitions. Bodie was also the first Australian Shepherd with herding titles exhibited at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show. He was also the only Australian Shepherd with a championship title and herding titles asked to participate as a demonstration dog for the first AKC Advanced Herding Judges Institute. I have had a personal goal of placing or winning my classes at both National Specialties annually. Since around 1998 I have pretty much accomplished that goal. I consider part of my success the contributions I have given back to the breed and time given to numerous local and national breed clubs. Achieving status as an approved breeder judge in both ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America) and with AKC/FCI has also been one of my important milestones. Giving one of my dogs to war veteran Thomas Hutchings has been a personal highlight for me. I.C. (short for ìIntensive Careî as she had a rough start in life) breathed new life into Thomas who became one of the first war veterans to actively use a service dog, paving the path for many more after him to use dogs. Thomas and I.C. are a highlight and joy in my breeding program. Katelyn Scott (Spring Fever Australian Shepherds) is another shining star. Katelyn put out the word that she was looking for a dog to show in Junior Showmanship. I had a remarkable young female that I felt would complement Katelynís outstanding handling skills. I am very proud of what this team accomplished and proud to be a small part of their success. I am particularly pleased with the large number of owners who have put performance titles on my dogs. Many of the dogs I have bred lead wonderful lives as pets who also play at a variety of sports as Frisbee, dock diving, barn hunts, lure coursing, etc. For me this is the definition of versatility we define in our breed standard.
BIS: Are there any specific stud dogs/brood bitches in your variety, in your country, or globally, that you think have had an important impact on the breed?
Nannette: I would have to cite Dr. Weldon Heard of Flintridge as having a huge impact on the breed particularly in setting ìbreed type.î His work as a geneticist was unparalleled and his dogís contributions to the breed are legendary. According to the All About Aussies blog, ìDr. Heard was without a doubt a great man and one of the most influential breeders in Australian Shepherd history. Thousands of pedigrees today and the greatest percentage of the Aussies in the ASCA and AKC show ring trace their heritage to names such as Heardís Blue Spice of Flintridge, Heardís Salt of Flintridge, Heardís Chili of Flintridge, Heardís Cactus of Flintridge, The Herdsman of Flintridge, and Heardís Savor, Champion Fieldmaster of Flintridge CD and Champion Wildhagenís Dutchman of Flintridge CDX.î Due to my close relationship with and knowledge of the two dogs in question I think that Ch. Oprah Winfree of Heatherhill and littermate brother Ch. My Main Man of Heatherhill (1988) have had the most significant effect on not only my breeding program, but also those of countless other breeders in more recent history. They remain in the pedigrees of many successful breeding programs today. They are the product of an outstanding cross and most of their siblings also were successful in the breed ring and as producers.
It would be hard to match the combined records of these two exceptional animals. What made these two remarkable was the unique ability to pass on their best traits, their exceptional breed type, and on top of that they both had incredible success in the show ring as well. Not every great show dog can reproduce; not every great stud dog can win in the breed ring. That is my definition of an outstanding animal in the breed…one that can do both.
BIS: Please mention 2 to 3 Aussies which are not owned, bred or shown by yourself, that you particularly admired, and tell us what you most admired about each.
Nannette:Around 1997 I fell in love with a young red tri female bred, owned and shown by Leslie Frank of Propwash Farms. Her name was Propwash Fire Flies ìBugî and she was simply breathtakingÖa daughter of Propwash St. Elmoís Fire. She had quite a successful show and breeding career. One of my all-time favorite dogs bred primarily from working lines was Maarten Walterís Chaps. Gabrielinoís Charlie Chaplin was bred by Maarten, Susan & Marieke Walter. He was a working champion, a versatility champion and had agility titles. I first saw him in the stock arena at one of our National Specialties and was stunned at his breed type and soundness. Chaps was a handsome black bi that truly spanned the deep divide between our working lines and our show lines. He went on to produce some equally as outstanding offspring as well. In the 2004 time frame the girl to watch was Ch. Agua Dulce Popcorn Popper. This impressive blue merle was bred by Pamela and Tiffany Levin and Debbie Misner. She was owned by the Levins, Misner and Reggie and Susan Moorehead. She was sired by equally impressive parents, ìDuke,î Ch. Brookridge Winning Ways and Ch. Agua Dulce Snofall.
BIS: Every breed has some common problems. Which is the most common problem in your variety seen from a breederís point of view?
Nannette: In terms of health I think that we need to be aware of the breedís sensitivity to chemicals, toxins, common medications and vaccines. Our specific issues that I concentrate on are early onset cancers, vaccinosis, auto-immune disorders and seizures. In my discussions with other breeders I think that while genetics do play a role in health issues, we as breeders also need to be aware of the incredible and documented effects of the environment on our dogsí health. Numerous current and emerging research studies have confirmed that the early spaying or neutering of dogs can have life-long detrimental effects on health of our dogs. Early and often vaccination can be a culprit and is cited as a cause of seizures and other debilitating health issues. I cringe when I hear of countries in Europe making combination vaccines mandatory for puppies at six weeks of age. This practice should be outlawed. Annual vaccinations are coming under intense scrutiny here with many breeders opting for titer tests first rather than annual vaccines.
BIS: What has been the biggest disappointment in breeding and showing for you so far?
Nannette:Breeding dogs in generally can be hugely disappointing, with one failure followed by another disaster. However you get that one litter, that one pup that embodies what you are trying to accomplish and it makes the heartache a little less harsh. Overall I have been truly fortunate in my breeding program. I have the best of mentors and I started with some pretty great dogs. So I can hardly complain. Looking back if I could change things, I would wish for more time and more money to help me accomplish more of my goals, but overall I am pleased with my path, my dogs and my friends in the breed.
BIS: What do you think is the most problematic about Aussie FCI or AKC Standard?
Nannette: The most disturbing trend in the breed is the number of them and the differences in each of them. I think that there are currently four different breed standards being used for this breed. I feel strongly about having one unified breed standard worldwide. The lack of knowledge amongst breeders on how to write, read and interpret a breed standard also negatively affects a standard. Overall both the AKC and FCI breed standard are incredibly similar. We could improve upon both by addressing proportions more implicitly, adding some more clear measurements for the ears and ear set. We could more clearly define ìbody splashes.î And where white should and should not be. Both standards deal with movement well sound movement as the result of superior structure is pretty common among the movement breeds. I think it would be beneficial for the founders of the breed in the United States to define tail set and carriage for countries where tail docking is currently banned.
I think both breed standards could benefit from a detailed annotations section that illustrates and discusses what the founders had in mind in creating the breed and sustaining it the with breed standards.
JUDGING THE BREED AND THE DOG SHOWS
BIS: What is the most important point of which you would like a judge of your breed to be aware?
Nannette: As an approved breeder judge I am very concerned about correct proportions for our breed, sound movement; coming, going and side gait AND breed type. I am very critical of exhibits that are overweight and/or out of shape. This is a breed that demands physicality. This breed is sound and space sensitive. They are generally focused on the handler. I do not try to distract a dog in the show ring to give ìme, as a judgeî expression. We discourage judges from making odd noises to get a dogís attention. We encourage judges to make their final determination on movement versus standing on the line.
BIS: What qualities do you admire most in a judge?
Nannette:Fairness and consistency. I like judges that judge the dog solely on its merits and give each dog a fair evaluation. I like showing to judges who know and appreciate the breed and have done their study of the Aussie. I like judges who run an efficient ring, moving the dogs in such a way to illustrate proper movement and a quick and efficient manner. I appreciate judges that. while they may not like a style of dog, do not penalize a dog in the breed ring based on their personal preferences. I like judges who are respectful of the exhibitor and the dogs.
BIS: What are the most important characteristics to keep in mind for anyone wanting to become a good Aussie judge?
Nannette:Becoming a breeder judge for me was the next level of achievement after my breeding program. While some people have the qualifications to become a judge early in their career in the breed, I find that time and experience cannot be substituted. Be committed. It is easy to become discouraged at how long the process takes and how expensive it can be. For those who are not breeders wishing to judge the breed, I would suggest spending as much time around great breeders and great dogs as possible. Find an outstanding breed mentor and study the breed. The Aussie is actually quite an engaging breed and the owners and dogs can be quite fun and entertaining. You must connect with the unique qualities of the breed and become a fan of the dogs to be a great judge of our breed.
BIS: What would be the most important single piece of advice you would give to all serious young breeders?
Nannette:Find and keep the best mentor possible. Love your dogs no matter what.