Devonshire Interview with Allison Hillius
- Can you tell us something about your breeding, how did it all start? How many dogs does it have today? What is your daily routine?
At the moment I only have five dogs. Three champions, one male and one female. A sample is a sixteen month old male, then I have a five month old male and a four year old female. I entered the world of Labradors when I bought a Labrador as my dog. The breeder told me that I could have him participate in competitions. I tried and it was a success. Then I bought five other female puppies before I found the right one. At that point I took three sisters from the same family branch (their mothers were sisters). They all became champions at the age of one and a half. They were Am Ch Ridge Views Just A Bit Britt, Am Ch Pine Edge Jus Maid Rite, Am Ch Pine Edge Mibleulite Special. Today I am very grateful to them for the splendid qualities they have left to subsequent generations. Their progenitor was Chablais Rhapsodie En Bleu. My daily routine is to feed, clean kennels, and leave dogs outside so they can exercise. I move my dogs continuously from the kennels, to the fence, to the house. This makes their lives more interesting and it is known that their mental balance is also better when this happens. I make them eat late at night and then make their needs before going to sleep. We take them to walk in the park or in the neighborhood regularly. I also occasionally take them to training classes for competitions.
- What is the type of Labrador you prefer? What is your idea of a perfect Labrador? What are your ideal Labradors from the past and which ones are today?
I think the only perfect Labrador is in my mind (smiles). Some dogs I admire are Am Ch Dickendall Arnold, Am Ch Receiver of Cranspire, Eng Ch Sandylands My Guy, Am Ch Dickendall Daveron Gable, BISS Am Ch Boradors By George, BISS Am Ch Windfalls Black Piper, BISS Am Ch Tabatha's Pristine, Ch Tweedledum Crispy Duck, BISS Am Ch Chablais Myrtile. All are, and have been, excellent breeders and have handed down excellent qualities to the bree
- Do you think there is a difference between the two types of English and American Labradors?
Yes. The American competition Labrador is more massive, has a firmer head (sometimes the muzzle is shorter) and can be much larger, both in terms of height and body mass. I happened to attend Labrador competitions in the UK. I think if an English Labrador was more massive, he had a bigger head and more hair ... maybe a little more than everything, then he would be an American Labrador. (Keep in mind that in America there are two types of Labrador: those that compete in the Specialties, those to which I referred, and the Labrador "field lines" that are still very different).
- What do you consider to be the most serious flaw for a Labrador? Which one is the most difficult to correct?
A too straight front structure and short front legs. Each of these defects causes a very limited frontal movement, which, sooner or later, will hurt the dog. A short muzzle, which means that I am unable to pick up a large bird. I have seen so many weak bites of short-faced puppies, which I believe are caused by short teeth. Nothing under fur. A Labrador must have an undercoat that helps him protect himself, even from water. The very long hair, as well as a too thick hair, is not able to properly isolate the dog from the water.
- Based on what the male chooses for a specific female: his pedigree, his gender or what else? What type of coupling do you prefer between linebreeding and outcrossing?
First of all I look at what a dog has produced. I look at the females with whom he mated and, observing their puppies, I try to understand what are the characteristics that it transmits to generations. What is your pedigree? That of high quality dogs or is it simply his? Are you faithful to your pedigree? Is it a strong stallion capable of transmitting its characteristics to puppies? I look at his appearance, his temperament and his conformation. I can think that it is suitable for a particular female but, after observing it well, I can find that it is actually more suitable for another. It is important to know the female well too. I don't like that male and female have nothing in common. It is too risky.
- What do you look for in a puppy when choosing the best litter? What can change in a puppy during growth and what will never change?
I am looking for a puppy that is as complete as possible. I don't choose it for one particular feature. I want one that is very similar to the characteristics of the breed. I want you to have a Labrador head. I see that puppies between four and twelve months grow mainly in the back. Their head narrows and they change their fur from puppies. Everything changes, nothing remains as it is when they are puppies.
- In your opinion, which health problem (hip and elbow dysplasia, vision problems, EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse), allergies, etc.) is the most serious for this breed?
I believe that hip and elbow dysplasia has become much rarer, so if we continue on this path, I don't think it will be a very serious problem anymore. The problems that worry me most about this breed are heart problems and epilepsy. I think the earlier genetic tests are done for these conditions, the better. We must try to lose them between one generation and another. I believe genetic testing is the best way to safeguard the future health of the breed.
- What is the diet you use for your dogs, especially puppies? Do you use any supplements (glucosamine, vitamin C, etc.)?
Non uso nessuna pillola come integratore, però tutto il cibo che utilizzo contiene glucosammina. Per i cuccioli uso i mangimi Costco. Contiene il 30% di proteine ed il 18% di grassi. Contiene anche DHA e proibitici per la digestione.
- Is the magnificent coat of your dogs determined by genetics, by the fact that they live outdoors or do you use some supplement to favor the quality of the hair?
Credo che un bel pelo sia la combinazione genetica, cibo ed ambiente. Ai miei cani che partecipano ai concorsi metto anche l’olio di pesce con omega nel loro cibo e trovo che sia davvero utile per la lucentezza del pelo.
- What is your advice for novice breeders?
Don't try to overdo it immediately. Choose one or two things and try to learn everything you can about it so that you can be well prepared and work well. Then choose another topic to focus on. Get information and examples from books, experienced breeders and seminars. You have to work hard, you need dedication and a willingness to learn from mistakes and disappointments. There will always be positive and negative moments. It's all about appreciating and enjoying the experience.