Interview with Allison Hillius, Devonshire

1. Tell us a bit about your kennel - how did it all start? How many dogs do you have? What is your "daily schedule"?

Right now I only have five dogs. Two champions, a dog and a bitch. One young male 16 months out of the champions, one young male 5 months and one female 4 years.
I started in Labradors when I purchased a Lab as a pet. The breeder told me I could show it. I gave it a try and was hooked. I purchased 5 other pups who had various problems before I came across my foundation girls. I purchased three half sisters all out of the same sire and their mothers were sisters. They all got their championships in a year 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. I am grateful to those girls today for all of the wonderful qualities they gave my lines. Their sire was Chablais Rhapsodie En Bleu.
My daily schedule is feed, clean kennels, put dogs out to exercise. I move my dogs around throughout the day from the kennel to the paddock and in the house. It keeps their life interesting and I find they are better balanced mentally if I accomplish this. I feed them later in the evening and then potty them before they go to bed. We take them on walks to the park or around the area regularly. I also take them to handling classes occasionally where we train for the show ring.

2. What type of labrador do you like most? What is your idea of a perfect labrador? Who are your ideal labradors of the past, and of today?

I believe the only perfect Labrador is in my mind (smile). Some dogs that 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 were excellent producers and gave a lot of wonderful qualities to the breed.

3. Do you think there is a difference between "American" and "English" type of labradors?

Yes. The American show Labrador has more bone, a more substantial head (sometimes a shorter muzzle) and can be much bigger in size both in height and bulk of the body. I have been to the UK and seen Labrador competitions there. I think if you took the English Labrador and gave it more bone, head, coat...just plain more of everything you would have an American Labrador. (Keep in mind there are two types of Labradors here in the United States. Those that compete at Specialties, which I was referring to and those that are field lines which are different yet again).

4. What faults do you consider the most serious in a labrador? Which of them are the most difficult to get rid of?

Straight fronts (with rolls over the shoulder), short upper arms. All three of these faults produce poor front movement which breaks down a dog eventually. A short muzzle which means they cannot pick up a large bird. I have seen more poor bites on short muzzled pups which I believe is caused from the lack of length for teeth. No double coat. A labrador must have a double coat in order to be able to withstand the water it is retrieving in. Long hair coats and overly coarse incorrect coat, which does not insulate the dog in the correct way for water.

5. How do you choose a stud dog for a bitch, do you look at his pedigree, his looks or something else? Do you prefer to use linebreeding or outcross?

For me I look first at what the stud dog produces. I look at the bitches he has been bred to and determine from his pups what influences he has on the puppies. What pedigree does he come from? A pedigree of top calibre dogs or is he the only one? Is he true to his pedigree and a strong sire putting his stamp for certain traits on the pups.
I look at his clearances, temperament and conformation.
I might initially think he should be breed to a certain bitch I have and then after I do my homework on him I discover he suits a different bitch instead. It's good if you can know what your bitch can throw also. I don't like doing breedings where the stud doesn't have much to compare in offspring and neither does the bitch. It can be a real shot in the dark.

6. What do you look for in a puppy when you choose your "pick of the litter"? What things can change in a puppy as he grows and what never changes?

I look for a pup that has as much of the whole package as possible. I don't pick for one thing. I want breed type. They must have a Labrador head.
When pups are 4-12 months old I see them get high in the rear. Their head can tend to narrow and they blow out their puppy coat. Everything changes. Nothing doesn't.

7. Which health issue (hip&elbow displasia, eye diseases, EIC, allergies, etc) is the biggest problem in the breed, in your opinion?

I think we have eradicated a lot of the hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia so if we stay the course I don't see that being a major problem. The health issues that worry me the most in our breed are heart problems and epilepsy. The quicker we can get a genetic test for these diseases the better. We can breed around it.
I believe that the genetic tests are the key to our breeds future health with these issues.

8. What food do you feed your dogs, especially puppies? Do you give any supplements (glucosamine, vitamin C, etc)?

I don't give pill supplements. Although all my food does have glucosamine in it. I fee my pups Costco puppy food. It is 30 percent protein and 18 percent fat. It has dha and probiotics for digestion.

9. The wonderful coat of your dogs is due to genetics, outside living or do you give any supplements to improve coat quality?

I think good coat is a combination of genetics, food and environment. I give my competing dogs omega fish oil in their food and find it's wonderful for keeping their coat in bloom.

10. What would you advise to novice breeders?

Don't try and do it all at once. Take on one or two things and learn all you can about it and learn to do it well. Then move onto another area in dogs. Learn all you can from books, experienced breeders and seminars. It takes hard work, dedication and a willingness to learn from failure and disappointment. There will always be ups and downs. It's all about enjoying the ride.