Ready? This time we are very proud to have Carole Davis from Findell Kennels – she breeds Miniature Schnauzers for health, temperament and beauty, complying with the American Kennel Club standards.
Just so everybody understands this interview: Schutzhund means protection dog in German and is a dog sport that was developed in Germany over a century ago as a breed suitability test specifically designed for German Shepherd Dogs. The test was used to determine if the dog displayed the traits and characteristics required from a proper working German Shepherd Dog. Nowadays, Schutzhund is a sport open to other breeds than German Shepherd Dogs, but it is an extremely demanding challenge for any dog breed and very few are the ones that can pass.
Please introduce yourself and your Miniature Schnauzer breeding business?
My name is Carole Davis and I breed Miniature Schnauzers at Findell Kennels. Findell was the name of the very first registered miniature schnauzer. He was a solid black boy and the breed was developed in Germany.
How did you actually start having the passion to start breeding dogs?
I began my interaction with dogs during the 80’s when my eldest daughter wanted a German Shepherd Dog to work in Schntzhund. We had a Weimeraner at the time and brought that dog to a schutzhund training in Houston Texas. They ignored us. We went back a total of six times before someone came over to us and asked what we wanted. I told them and they laughed at the prospect of me working a Weimeraner because its mouth is soft for retrieving dogs… so began my education on dog varieties.
One bad event caused a great adventure to start…
Because I was treated so badly, it ticked me off so I found a German woman and purchased an 18 month old, already titled, schutzhund German Shepherd bitch. She was magnificent. I brought her to the club training ground and had no problem joining. The attention was immediate.
So you started falling for German Shepherds first?
I raised and trained German Shepherds for over 30 years. I did very little breeding as the morals breeding German Dogs are much different than those at the American Kennel Club. Breeding a dog that will be registered with the German SV required parents with working titles, but before that could be accomplished (or during), OFA on hips and elbows had to show clean, an AD was required ( 12.5 mile jog used to test your dogs endurance) and as stated a working title such as herding, schutzhund or IPO (police officer).
You knew what you were doing, you had an expertise in your field…
I have trained and titled dogs in all categories and have trained a drug dog which was donated to the local Police department and certified. I was also the expert witness called into court to testify on bite cases and temperament dogs to relay whether the dog was safe to go home or be put down. I trained handlers for a large security company and trained their guard dogs.
After all those years my arms and legs started to get too weak to continue so I went with another German Breed, the Miniature Schnauzer. Going without working with dogs was not an option.
Do you actually see dog breeding as a hobby or a full time activity?
I like the dogs to pay for themselves and with Miniature Schnauzers, the progeny do that. I expect to be able to keep enough money back for emergencies and to cover all vet tests, etc.
I have always held another job and even now at age seventy, I work as a customer service rep for ATT and also collect social security (which no one could ever live on.)
Very courageous Carole, are you on your own in this (incredible) adventure or do you work with a team?
My son lives with me and tends to the dogs when my working schedule is odd, he also accompanies me to dog shows to help with heavy lifting and to be there to handle the dog in the ring if necessary. I do have a significant other who also helps. He babysits when we are at dog shows and does repairs on the dog and grooming areas. Without those two I could no longer efficiently run the dog’s household. I also pay someone to help with my website updates and optimization.
Back to the Miniature Schnauzer – why this particular German breed over another?
I went with Miniature Schnauzers as the German breed I was interested in because my neighbor in California was Bonnie Wharrel. She is the developer of Belgar Kennels and has very clean lines and the “type” of Miniature Schnauzer I liked. She was quite big in the show world and her Mini Schnauzers had larger heads and were bulky which I prefer versus the thin type with smaller heads.
I take it you got your first Miniature Schnauzers dogs from her?
Yes, I did purchase my foundation dogs from her. They were three incredible bitches and one champion male.
What improvements do you want to bring in the breed?
It seems to me that the world is crazy. No one bothers to look at the breed standard and I get a lot of inquiries for colors that were bred out of the Miniature Schnauzer when they were being developed.
The size is also an issue. There are no “toys” or “teacups” . These sizes are products of breeding into another smaller breed to reduce the size the puppy mills are breeding. Miniature Schnauzers were never meant to be real small, they are hearty dogs, the breed standard states they should be between 12″ and 14″ and their color is black, black and silver and salt and pepper.
The original developer of this breed took a hundred years to get the best bang for their buck. To develop a smaller ratter but one who could hold his own in a fight with a rodent. The size was developed to create a dog that is strong and yet could come in the house to help keep the rodent population down. In the rest of the world, Miniature Schnauzers are placed in the “working group” and not the terrier group and for good reasons.
What are the biggest misjudgments other owners and breeders may have about Miniature Schnauzers?
A lot of good breeders are falling for the AKC’s attempt to develop a dog that is too short coupled and too angulated. As with the German Shepherd that AKC breeders have ruined, I have been careful to maintain good structure and meet the standard of the world and not just AKC.
How do you work towards keeping the Miniature Schnauzer as the breed you talk so passionately about?
My dogs have always lived in their own facility. I do not understand people who have ten dogs in their house. My dogs’ facility is structured for their convenience and comfort. They are brought inside one at a time to maintain social behaviors but in the end they are dogs and love their pack members.
How many dogs do you currently keep with you for your breeding purposes?
I keep no more than six females and one male. I sometimes keep a male for a while that I have produced to cross breed another bloodline into my dogs if I feel it offers something I’m looking for. All dogs have faults but you do try to breed the least amount of faults possible to genetically produce near perfection.
Concretely, what do you do to improve the breed generation after generation?
I also test each breeding parent and certify or numerous known problems within this breed. They are DNA tested for Myatonia, an optometrist tests eyes and the findings are sent to OFA for certification from cataracts, they are tested for heart problems and certified. Lastly, their pedigree is researched for certain bloodlines that are known carriers of MAC. MAC is a genetic muscle problem that has recently been found in Miniature Schnauzers from bloodlines with too much inbreeding. I do not want to keep or sell a puppy with any health issues. I give a lifetime genetic health guarantee.
How do you choose your puppies' new owners?
On picking puppies for forever homes, I just help them select the most logical puppy for their household taking into consideration the number of children, how athletic they are (jogging or hiking with the dog) and what reason they are purchasing the dog for (breeder, show, family pet.)
How do you control your expenses while dog breeding (dog food, dog health and care…?)
Expenses cannot be controlled all the time. I do buy great dog food that is manufactured by an entrepreneur in the USA (in Texas) with a 4.5 rating and no recalls. The dog food is inexpensive and great. I have been feeding it for 8 years now without a problem. It’s called Zach’s Quality dog food and can be purchased over the Internet or in some Texas Costco’s.
I do give my own shots, take care of most health problems myself but have three vets reserved each with their own expertise and their own rate charts. I do my homework on illnesses, parasites and have taken courses on keeping a clean and healthy kennel environment. My kennel is immaculate and my dogs reflect their environment.
People are welcome at any time to come and play with my dogs, meet them, greet them and socialize them.
What would you tell to those who say dog breeding should cease or become ultra-regulated as there are too many dogs in rescue/rehoming centres?
If you go to a pound or shelter, you will find mixed breeds. It is rare to find a purebred there. Dogs were bred to do particular jobs and when a buyer is paying a thousand dollars or more for a puppy, they are going to work with a breeder if there is a problem and a reputable breeder will take a puppy back with a problem and either replace it or refund the money. This behavior by all reputable breeders keeps the purebreds out of pounds and shelters. My buyers must agree to return a puppy to me if they cannot keep it for any reason.
Also, I do rescue work and have always done rescue work for the breed I am working with. Most of the rescued dogs are dogs that people just did not do the right thing for. I always instill in my customers that puppies need obedience training to ensure they understand who the boss in the house is and become a loved and loving family pet.
Many shelters warn people about small and toy breeds as they say it increases the risk of medical conditions…
Let’s face it. Small breeds were “bred down”. That means everything in their structure was made smaller than God meant it to be. Take that and the hundreds of breeders who produce the “toys”, “teacups” and have no clue about genetics and no sense of how long it took the original breeders to create a healthy robust little dog and you have these mixed breeds with many genetic health problems.
What would you say to the people I described?
The biggest problem I see with small breeds is overfeeding. People feed a dog into oblivion and then are upset when it develops diabetes or some other stomach problems. I try to instill in my customers to keep the dogs on dog kibble, wet it when it’s served to help with the digestion and do not feed too many treats. I also give them a recipe for treats since most recalls are for foreign made treats and small tummies just cannot digest a lot of the products on the market today. I know it’s hard but keep them underweight with no foreign foods or treats, no plastic chewy or pig ears, etc. The bully sticks are ok because they are pressed little pieces but a whole one is not a good thing.
What is your marketing strategy? How and where do you find most of your clients?
I don’t do much marketing. I have great dogs and people come to me. I always have a list of people trying to find a reputable breeder who has dogs within the standard and not “colors” or “toys”.
What are your efforts put into in order to build a great reputation and become an active member of the Miniature Schnauzer's community?
People email or call me and I talk to them. I answer questions and have been in the business long enough to know the answers to their questions without bullshit. I give honest answers and don’t sell to people who I feel are not right for my puppies. I also subscribe to a background check organization and run their information through the background check before I sell a dog. I do not want my puppies to end up in a puppy mill and that is the reason for the background check. People lie to you, they are surprised when I know they are breeders. I do not sell open registration unless it is discussed with me first and approved.
How important is it for a breeder to have an online presence nowadays?
I do have a website and I have someone who updates it for me, optimizes it and basically runs it for me. She has her own website and has AKC bulldogs so she knows the market and knows how to apply my information to my website.
Do you advertise online for your breeding business, or receive most traffic from Google?
I am not sure how people find me but I suppose that if you are looking for quality, you will search until you find it. I did when I initially purchased my German Shepherd import and have found that having your base breeding dogs “excellent” gives you a great advantage that most people recognize. I have to love what I sell or I could not do it.
If you had to start afresh with another breed, which one would it be?
I bred my first litters in order for me to take dogs back to work. I placed the remainder in homes without papers. They were pet homes and they reported back to me several times and assured me all was going well.
What about memorable sales or clients of yours?
I sold a puppy bitch as a pet to a woman from Puerto Rico. She decided to work the dog in obedience and we became great friends. She is now my partner kennel in Puerto Rico and has titled all her dogs. I go there twice a year and stay with her and her significant other. We show in FCI shows and all my dogs are titled in FCI. I do show in AKC but it is more expensive, more time consuming and harder whereas FCI is fun, you can get your title in a week if your dog is excellent…
Since then I have sold a dog to a man in Trinidad and they have titled him in breed and obedience. They hike with their dog and have invited me to come to their club and put CGC (Canine Good Citizen) titles on their dogs… I am a CGC and AKC judge.
I receive emails weekly with pictures about dogs I have placed in homes and it’s always aa good feeling when people love their dogs. Pet is actually the best vocation a dog can have if placed in the right home.
Any advice you would give to newcomers in this industry?
Know your breed, know your standard, study genetics of your dog, purchase the best of the best as your foundation male and bitch (always buy the male first) and be obnoxiously stubborn when seeking information about the breed you wish to breed. You should be keeping your own dogs and working them in obedience and breed so you absolutely know what you are producing. Title and test all the parents and progeny. It’s expensive but pays off. You can make some money but don’t expect to live on it if your doing it right.