Please follow the link to our big photo album from April 30th 2016.
Valuable class for every breeder!
Last minute travel plans – flight from Berlin to Helsinki – for one night to watch the Finnish agility championships near Helsinki. 21 Kooikerhondjes are entered! Great!
Thankfully Henna Palmunen and her friend Pia were so kind and picked me up directly from the airport together with Henna’s beautiful male Kooikerhondje Shanti, an 8 year old champion.
For your reference, there are currently 1031 registered Kooikerhondjes living in Finland. Last year, there were 54 Kooikers competing in agility and 53 of them also participating in confirmation. This means that about 10 % of Finish Kooikerhondjes are officially competing which is a very good number.
The trial ground is at a sports field surrounded by green grassy areas where hundreds of squared tall tents are put up for the competing teams.
The sporting ground looks busy, packed with hundreds of dogs getting ready for their runs and being walked and warmed up. Many spectators are sitting and cheering on the side of the rings. I am impressed how organized the crowds of participants appear and how little supervision and signs are needed compared to dog trials in the US.
We made our way to the ring and the first dog running is Mizy (Wishdecoy Sonya Paris) .Throughout the morning, I am able to watch Pyry (Wishdecoy River Olivia), Flow (Phoenix-Shila Van Youngmuskyteira), Ela (Lentaevaen Luppakorvan Liitolikka), Bitti (Wishdecoy Phantom Nicole), Elvis (Estaika’s Elpidus), Shanti (Callitris Girello Erminia), Inka (Bullbenz Kooi Ushi Geri).
The speed, grace, motivation and bond with the handler are beautiful to watch in every single Kooiker that starts. I can see different body types and shapes (sturdy body structures with heavy bones, long legged Kooikers, tall Kooikers, slim Kooikers, little undercoat, Kooikers with lots of coat, heavy and thin earrings). What I do notice is the group of young Finnish girls and women – very fashionable dressed – that own Kooikers and are competing with their dogs. I wonder if the breed is “in fashion” in Finland?
I am lucky to meet the president of the Finnish Kooiker Club Petteri Kerminen and Jari and his successful male Kooiker Robi (Tretex Kilroy) who is part of the Board and Officers (the handler, not the dog obviously).
Vendors sell products from one of my favorite companies “Hurtta” that produces outdoor dog gear made for the cold winters in Finland. Another vendor sells performance dog equipment and high quality “bringsels”. I use those for search and rescue training in the US with our two year old female Kooiker Waterbound Amica. It is basically a loop or strap hanging from the collar which the dog will pick up and retrieve to show that he found the missing person he was sent out to search for.
The Kooikers that I had met earlier in the morning are getting ready for their run and I am probably more nervous than they are.
Another highlight is meeting Tiina Vaelimattila, the breeder from Kennel Wishdecoy, in person. She is observing critically Kooikers out of her breeding lines. Several of them are competing in agility and some came to visit but are supposed to meet potential mating partners for the future. How beautiful is that!
Rain and with that a cold wind makes it a little harder to wander around. But within seconds the Finnish people are covered in thick rain gear and their dogs buried under professional coats and the event continues. Wow, I on the other hand, from California, need to be lent a jacket and I still start shivering.
Another unique moment is meeting the 13 year old Kooiker Callitris Eleazar Celeste, an agility and show champion. His offspring apparently moved to Alaska. What a beautiful boy he still is.
At the end of the day, I am so used to seeing Kooikerhondjes everywhere I look that I am able to distinguish certain lines with the help of my friend. I start missing my own three Kooikers that stayed home.
Back at the airport, – what a coincidence – we ran into another Kooiker that had just landed with his owner from Switzerland. We found out that I did visit his breeders last September.
Many people that are new to the breed wish to find a trustworthy and responsible Kooikerhondje breeder. You might be one of them and you might be asking yourself:
- “What questions should I ask my future puppy breeder?”
- “How can I find out if my breeder has sound knowledge about the specifics of this breed?”
- “How can I make sure that my future puppy will be healthy and coming from quality lines?”
- “How would I know that my breeder is not in for the money?”
While researching for a good Kooikerhondje breeder, make sure that there is a good way to connect in person, either by phone, email or for example Skype. If possible you want to see their Kooiker(s) in person.
Kooiker Traits, Health, and Personality
You might want to ask some of the following questions regarding:
- The typical personality of a Kooiker: “What is his/her temperament like? His he/she reserved or open and friendly to strangers? How does he/she react to other dogs? Are there any situations when he/she is anxious or uncomfortable and how do you manage those situations?” Ask the breeder if he/she knows what their personality is like typically for the breed and where those traits came from historically. Kooikerhondjes are naturally a little cautious and reserved which can come across as anxious, insecure or distant. They are sensitive to noises and usually have a strong bond with their owners. They used to work one on one with their handler in the duck “kooi” in the Netherlands. This is a quiet and secluded place.
- Health: “What health tests have you performed? Can I see the results of the CERF eye exam, the OFA patella exam, the Von Willebrand test and ENM test? Have you done any other health testing and why? What health issues do you see potentially in your dog’s pedigree? How do you balance them out? What health tests and results does the mating partner have? What do you know about ENM? What do you know about other health issues in this breed and how common are they?”
- The activity level and areas of performance: “What types of training have you done with your dog and what results can you show me? How does a typical day with your dog/-s look like? For how many walks are you taking your dog/-s for?” This will give you an idea what relationship the breeder has with their dogs and what he/she considers important and necessary for this breed. Some family pet Kooiker is probably used to less exercise compared to a performance dog who is participating in agility or search and rescue.
- Show or conformation results: “Have you ever shown your dogs at a dog show? Did he/she compete against other Kooikerhondjes? What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your dog compared to the standard?” Again, this will give you an idea about the breeder’s knowledge and experience as well as honestly. This is also an opportunity to understand the decisions that your breeder makes when it comes to choosing breeding pairs.
- Knowledge of the breed: “Please explain to me what the breed was used for in the past? Have you been to the Netherlands or have you seen a working duck kooi? Have you been to any Kooikerhondje shows in Europe? Did you get the chance to visit any breeders in Europe in person? How many Kooikers have you seen/trained in your life?” Some very involved breeders are in close contact to European kennels and stay on top of show results in Europe. A knowledgeable Kooikerhondje breeder should have seen this breed ideally outside the USA as well.
- Kennel specific questions: “How often do you have a litter? Are you whelping the litter or do you co-own and do the dog lives somewhere else? Do you breed other dog breeds? What is the minimal age of a stud/bitch used for breeding? How often is a female Kooiker mated in their lifetime? What is the recovery time between litters?” This will give you a good idea if the breeder has a financial interest in breeding dogs and if they have knowledge about other breeds. Many dogs are co-owned these days and live in families that work with the kennel owner and whelp a litter under their name. In my opinion the dog should have reached a minimum age in order to have a fully developed body and personality. There are different opinions out there but I feel that a bitch should have gone through two heat cycles and should have at least one normal heat cycle between litters. Some health issues won’t show up within the first 2 years of life and it is worth taking that time. I am also a strong believer that a bitch should not have more than 3 litters in a lifetime but others might disagree with me.
“How do you intend to socialize the litter and what training will the puppies receive?”
The first weeks of life are so essential and the breeder can make a true difference in the life of any puppy. A breeder who is interested in performance dogs might take that extra step and do a puppy aptitude test which will give a first impression on the temperament and drive of an individual puppy in a litter. Some breeders are devoted to socialize their puppies early around children, noises, other animals and new environments. It is even possible to start house and crate training at such a young age. Answers to those questions will give you an idea how invested the breeder is into raising your puppy.
Let’s stop here before I am getting carried away. As you can see, there is so much you can ask and what you should know about before deciding on a specific breeder. Please remember that this article reflects my personal opinion and is – by no means – considered to be a general approach for everybody. I would also like to encourage you to ask questions that go beyond the ones above – the ultimate decision where you are getting your new companion and friend from is still yours. I am happy to answer any other questions.