The Belgian Shepherd Dog, commonly called Malinois, is a wonderful working dog used for a variety of tasks including detection of explosives, narcotics and guarding; the U.S. Secret Service uses the breed to guard the sensitive White House. We are pleased to have Ursula Furter, from Avonwolf Kennels (Bristol, UK), answering our questions about her dogs, how she got started and some anecdotes too!
Please introduce yourself and your breeding business.
My name is Ursula Furter. I breed and train Malinois with a passion. We are a small family-run working Malinois kennel.
How did you get involved in the breeding industry?
I have worked my female in different sports and have earned good qualifications with her. Over the years I have been asked several times if I’d breed her. When I started to look for a second dog to work I couldn’t find the right lines so I decided to breed my female to create the kind of lines I want.
Do you consider breeding as a hobby, a business or both?
We enjoyed raising the pups so much the first time that we decided to do it again. Breeding is a passion and a hobby and it may turn into a business in the future however we will only breed a small amount of pups and take the real care in how we raise them.
What breed(s) are you working with and why this/these over other breeds?
Our breed is the Belgian Malinois. In our opinion this unique breed is the best working dog on the planet. Their amazing level of intelligence and agility is unlike anything I’ve seen in any other breed of dog.
How many dogs did you start with and how did you choose your founding stock?
I’ve been successfully trailing with my female so I decided to start breeding with her. We did not plan to breed her when we bought her. The decision to breed her came once we’d seen her fantastic work and health results.
Did you need a lot of money to start your breeding business?
To do breeding properly involves a lot of expense. The way we breed involves getting health tests of the parents, looking for the right stud dog (internationally), trailing all over the UK and getting all the right equipment so it is by no means a cheap hobby. Breeding is not about money, it’s about the goal of creating little heroes!
What are your breeding plan’s main objectives?
- Healthy dogs without genetic defects
- Clear headed working dogs that are both confident and social
- Strong willed dogs with extreme drive that can be switched on and off
- Agile dogs with strong nerves and high prey drive that are always ready for action
- Determined dogs who have endless will-power.
All together a reliable working dog that makes teamwork an absolute pleasure.
How many litters per year are you having on average?
A maximum of one per year per female with no more that 4 litters from any bitch during her life.
How do you find most of your clients?
Through my website and through other working dog sites but mainly at trials and competitions.
What are your efforts put into in order to build a great reputation?
The quality of my dogs!
How do you differentiate your dogs and your business from the other breeders?
We go the extra mile. I breed dogs the way I’d like them to be bred if i was looking for one myself. We search internationally for the right match to our females.
Do you do anything special, on a daily or weekly basis, to give extra care to you dogs?
Our dogs are on the BARF diet. Their menu is freshly put together on a daily basis. Every day I give them training and 2 hours walks.
Are you active on online communities and message boards?
I update my website and run a Facebook page, It’s the best way to spread the word quickly.
If you had to start afresh with another breed, which one would it be?
I really can’t imagine breeding anything but Malinois. In my eyes the Mali is different from any other breed. For the work I do the only other breed that comes close is the working line German Shepherd. Working lines aside I also like breeds like Border Collies, Australian Kelpies or Cattle dogs. Basically healthy dogs with real intelligence.
What has been your most memorable sale and client?
Every customer is chosen very carefully. I only agree to sell a dog if I meet the potential owner first. One of my customers bonded amazingly with my female even though she’s not too keen on strangers. They became best buddies in seconds. That really impressed me!
Do you remember your first sale?
It was difficult to part with our first puppy but she was destined to have a great home and a very fulfilling future as a security dog.
Any advice you would give to newcomers in this industry?
Dog breeding is not about making money. Although it can be exhausting and heart breaking it is also a very beautiful and rewarding experience.