In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla is back for part two with Kate Graham from Katalyst Kennels about breeding detection dogs.
Science Highlight: Effects of maternal investment, temperament, and cognition on guide dog success
What is important to consider for pregnant broods?
- Appropriate exercise for pregnant broods to keep them fit, which is better and safer for whelping and recovery
- Gestational appropriate diet
- Puzzles and enrichment post birth can help dogs meet their enrichment needs while still looking after the puppies
What is important to consider for puppy raising?
- Avidog or Puppy Culture are great to follow for puppies, or a mix of both
Links Mentioned in the Episode:
Where to find Kate Graham: Website | Instagram | Facebook
You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at patreon.com/k9conservationists.K9 Conservationists
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Transcription thanks to volunteer Catherine Homan
Kayla Fratt (KF) 0:01
Do you have your own passion projects that you’d like to turn into a podcast? Let me tell you a little bit about Anchor. Anchor is what I use to produce this podcast, and it’s kind of amazing. It makes everything super easy. I am not the most tech-savvy person and Anchor makes everything running this podcast pretty seamless. It’s a free app that lets you edit, record, upload, produce, and distribute your podcast all from one place. You can do everything from adding an ad to make money, to getting the podcast pushed out to all your different podcast apps like Apple podcasts and Spotify. Alright with Anchor, you can also even add in music from Spotify, which is a new feature that I haven’t played around with much and is very exciting. And again, it’s everything you need to make a podcast all in one place. So to learn a little bit more, and to get started, download the free Anchor app or go to anchor.fm to get started.
Kayla Fratt 1:07
Hello, and welcome to the canine conservationists podcast where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs join us every week to discuss ecology, odor dynamics, dog behavior and everything in between. I’m your host, Kayla Fratt. And I run canine conservationists where I trained dogs to detect data for researchers, agencies and NGOs. Today is Part of our discussion with Kate Graham from Katalyst Kennels about breeding detection dogs. If you have not listened to Part One yet, please go back and find it. It is absolutely worth your time. And we are not going to reintroduce Kate or do another science highlight. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview with Kate from Katalyst Kennels.
Alright, well, welcome back to the podcast, Kate. Everyone is now hearing us a week later; it has been three minutes for us. Time is a construct. At the end of last episode, you were talking about arousal and drive and how needing to have a common language for this is so important. I think this is important just to the working dog and sport dog world in general and shelter dog world, gosh, like everywhere, but even more so when we’re talking about breeding. I had this anecdote pop into my head when you were talking about this arousal question. So there was this dog that I wanted that I absolutely fell in love with online. He was at the, oh gosh, the Carroll College Anthrozoology training program. So, students in this program live with and train and foster dogs and then the dogs ultimately get adopted out at the end of the program. There was this gorgeous Border Collie that was in the program. I drove three hours to go meet him and do some, kind of, ball drive assessments. Everything on his online bio sounded great. I took him out and I threw the ball for him a couple times. He like half-heartedly chased after it. And I was like, Yeah, I don’t think he’s the right fit for us. We’re really looking for high drive. His handler, who was a student, probably, 19, 21, 22, somewhere in there. She was like, well, we’ve done a lot of obedience around the ball, so he’s not crazy for it anymore. So, I think he’s still got the drive. And I was like, no, no. Like, he might have been mugging you for it before, but even if you’ve taught your dog to down stay and wait, when you throw the ball, what we’re still looking for is a dog that’s a coiled spring in that situation. It was just as interesting realization of like, oh, yeah, we’re looking at the same thing and you’re thinking that because you’ve taught some impulse control games or whatever, that has suppressed drive. When I say drive, that’s not something that should go away with an impulse control game. Right?
Kate Graham 3:52
Exactly. Exactly.You shouldn’t be able to obedience the love of their ball out, They shouldn’t be calm around the ball just because you’ve done obedience now.
Kayla Fratt 4:01
Yeah, both of my dogs won’t mug you for the ball. You’re going to end up bloody because that is important to me. Right? I mean, you’ll pull out a ball and Barley in particular will be perfectly still, but his pupils are the size of dinner plates. You move that ball and he’s moving with you. Right. And, you know, and part of that is also Border Collies. They tend to freeze, they follow movement, blah, blah, blah. I’ve said Labs do the same thing.
Kate Graham 4:28
Absolutely. Like my adult dog, so we can’t play like group ChuckIt, right? Because that just turns into a bloodbath, crap like that. That’s gonna go really south really quick. But we have a nice, beautiful, huge level field that we can play in, so it’s impulse control ChuckIt. Everyone sits and waits. It’s only the adults that actually have obedience in them. The youngest don’t get to play these games, but the ones that know what they’re doing. Everyone lines up, they sit, wait, throw the ball, let it fall, let it settle and then one can get released to go get the ball. Well, that’s still not them just… yes, they are sitting there, they’re staying because they have obedience. But good God if you’re in their way, when they go like you’re gonna get taken out at the knees and you’re going down. It doesn’t mean that they’re then half heartedly going out for the ball. They’re coiled enough springs, where if someone probably pokes them on the side just hard enough, they’re just going to implode. Just because they have some obedience doesn’t mean… I should still see every expression of that drive when the dog is moving towards its reward item or has been released to do so. So my dogs, my search dogs, typically are in a static, either a down and quiet or a middle and quiet position before they search because I want a dog searching with a clear head. I don’t let them just walk the whole way up barking, screaming, to wherever we’re going to start our search area. It’s a controlled manner to walk up there. Then you’re going to either be in a down and quiet or a middle and quiet to kind of collect yourself before I let you, release you to go search. That doesn’t mean they’re searching with any less drive and intensity because those dogs are still super efficient and very intense when they go out, but I don’t need that huge expression of arousal beforehand.
Kayla Fratt 6:17
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Again, I think this is the sort of thing that hopefully can be, communications and education wise, we just need to continue improving on it. Again, this is the sort of thing I see all the time and in our shelter dogs where people will email me and they’ll be like, Oh, my gosh, I’ve got this dog that I think it’s gonna be a great working dog. Are you interested in assessing him? And, sometimes within a couple of email questions back and forth, it clearly is high energy, yes. High arousal, for sure. But that drive isn’t there. And nothing against people who aren’t in our world. These words all seem like they should mean the same thing until you speak the language fluently.
Kate Graham 7:07
Absolutely. Absolutely. I have people who are like, oh, my super high drive dog. And, I’ve had people come over who are like, oh, I have really drivey dogs. I’m like, alright, yeah. My dogs will mug you a little bit in the yard with items. We can’t have balls and things out freely because it would just never end. But if someone comes over, they will absolutely find a stick or they will find a thing and say oh yeah, I’m used to high drive dogs. My dog plays fetch forever, too. I’m like, well, you’re not gonna stop now. They won’t stop. They’re like, Oh, they’ll stop when they get hot. No, they’ll heat stroke and die. They will put themselves in a very bad situation. Oh, no, they won’t. They won’t run over that dangerous thing to go get it and I’m like, yeah, yeah, they will. Like they will hurt themselves to get there. There’s a difference between high drive and a dog who just loves to fetch or loves to play. It’s not the same thing.
Kayla Fratt 8:02
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I’ve watched this happen now dozens and dozens of times with my dog, Barley. At first he’ll bring you endless toys, endless things. Anytime he’s coming into someone else’s house or they’re coming into our house, like the first words out of my mouth are, We have a very strict no fetch in the house rule. Do not toss it to him. Do not kick it to him. Do not tip it off of your lap. If he gives you something, hand it to him slowly and tell him to take it in a low, firm voice. If he brings it back to you, I’m going to take it away and put it on the fridge. That is what we have had to do and every time, people still. I’m not mad about it. It’s an instinctive thing that people do or habitual, reflexive whatever. Inevitably, at some point, again, watching the Super Bowl yesterday at some point, there was a couple of people who had not met Barley yet who looked up and they were like, I thought you were being a control freak about your dog. I thought you didn’t want your dog to have fun. I see what you mean. He will not stop. Yeah, yeah.
Kate Graham 9:14
And they start to get it and then they’re like how do you make it stop? And you’re like the item just has to go away; it all has to go away. But now you’re also marked as a sucker for life because, yeah. The dog just has to go away now. He needs to go have his time to do that because they don’t stop and people don’t understand. I mean you could take the toy away and they will come back with a piece of lint and be like throw this, this will work.
Kayla Fratt 9:41
One of the funny things is that on the flip side, when I first got hired at Working Dogs for Conservation, I was all nervous and excited the first couple days when I went to go meet these other dogs because I was like alright, now I’m gonna go meet the real working dogs. I assumed that they were going to be at a whole other level from Barley. A couple months in, I had this realization, I was like, oh, no, I already have a dog who was just as intense as these dogs. They had Mals that came out of the Green Beret Program. My Border Collie that I just got at a random shelter was on that same level. I think I’d heard so many people having the conversation you and I are having right now. I assumed that that meant that there was no way that my dog could possibly compare and he did. So, if you’re listening at home, there’s a chance that your dog is on this level. Most people who think that they have seen a working dog or seen a really, really high drive dog when they meet one of these dogs? It’s different?
Kate Graham 10:41
Right, and it’s not the I’m fetching, because I love to fetch, or I’m doing this because I love to do it. It’s that desperation of I’m doing it because I need to do it, and that becomes a whole different level for some people. It’s essentially, and I have a friend who talked, we talked about this regularly, we’re not, at least for our ideal detection dogs, I don’t know if I’m breeding the most sound dog in the head always. That probably is going to come out sounding weird. But I’m breeding a dog who essentially is obsessed to an unhealthy level with a reward item, who will hunt in unlikely and normally unproductive areas to be able to obtain that reward item, and who will do things that normal rational dogs should not do to obtain that reward item. So I think there is an element of we’re breeding dogs that are definitely not ideal pets, but they’re not the most normal dog in the world..
Kayla Fratt 11:44
It’s not rational or evolutionarily reasonable to have a dog who will forsake a fistful of chicken for a tennis ball. We talk about that some in the Border Collie world. I feel like I see it a lot in some other breeds as well. Sometimes we’re playing with fire with that, right. There are good ethical conversations to be had or interesting ethical conversations to be had. I do think there are good conversations that we should be having. Maybe we should be having more of even, as far as at what point are we overbreeding for drive. I think sometimes our Border Collies again, I just I talked about them, because they’re the breed that I’m in, they make it nice and obvious, because they are the ones that get so neurotic, and so, so sensitive, and again, not that our German Shepherds and our Mals and our Labs don’t do the same thing.
Kate Graham 12:54
I agree that Border Collies are a great kind of canvas to see that on. They may be a breed that we’ve been breeding for that extreme drive, maybe for a little bit longer, or maybe in a more concentrated segment, because of the work that they do and how long they’ve been doing the work that they’ve been doing. When we look at some of our Labs, or some of the other floppy eared dogs, which is just what I’m more familiar with, for detection work, they’ve been working in that realm for a relatively short period of time, so we don’t have hundreds of years behind them of saying we’ve bred them for detection work. It’s something that we will continue to create, I think, a better dog moving into the future as the demand for them increases, but we also need to make sure we’re looking at the fundamental characteristics of why we chose them in the first place. Our great hunting Labs, genetically, are predisposed to use their nose and be willing to go and hunt well, but we need to be careful with that because if we breed that hunt to an extreme, then we can have a dog who will forsake reward items or awards, just because they want to keep hunting and that priority…
Kayla Fratt 14:04
The only dogs I’ve ever seen do that have been labs. That doesn’t mean that’s the only breed that’ll ever do it, but the only dogs I have personally worked that have done that.
Kate Graham 14:14
Yes, yes. And you do see it on occasion, and I think we’re going to start seeing it a little bit more because we go from breeds that have traditionally been used for detection work where the hunt is something those dogs have been lacking a little bit more. A Border Collie isn’t genetically wired to hunt, a Malinois or a Shepherd is not super genetically wired to use their nose. That’s not a huge aspect of what that breeding program has been put on, whereas Labs and some of our Spaniels, they have been bred for centuries to use their nose and to have a good nose. And also just not to have that nose, but to use it for hunting and either to quarter or to range and be able to use that nose effectively and quickly go to their nose as a method of solving problems. That’s something the Labs and a lot of our floppies have; what sometimes they don’t have is that value in a reward item. That’s maybe where we need to be focusing our breeding programs a little bit more. Typically, when I have people raising Labs for me, I will say, you know, I’m not worried about the hunt. The hunt will usually be there, that we can focus on later on. What I am worried about is, does that dog have proper toy play and engagement? Does that dog have proper motivation for a reward item? And will they forsake the hunt and terminate the hunt when they get to their reward item? Because there are plenty who will get to the end of their hunt, get their reward item and either keep hunting with that reward item in their mouth or just say screw it to the reward item. Genetically it feels better to them to just keep hunting.
Kayla Fratt 15:55
It’s so nuanced. It’s so interesting. Even circling back, I think part of it with our Border Collies, and I’ll just pick on Border Collies, because that’s a breed that I can pick on the most is, it’s not just that they’ve been bred for hundreds of years for jobs and for sports. Herding is such an easy thing to map over onto our sports, but also, I think one of the reasons it leaks out so easily in our Border Collies is because when you think about what makes a good herding dog, and what makes a good agility dog, and therefore these really hypertrophy behaviors we’ve got in the breed, they’re also things that make it really hard for Border Collies to succeed in a lot of typical homes. Right? I think it’s a thing that in the breed bites us in the butt so frequently, and so obviously, because if you’ve got a dog who’s incredibly vigilant to visual changes in the environment, they’re very good at noticing changes in behavior of many, many species around them. They have a strong need to feel control and order. Those are things that don’t necessarily mesh well with being in a household with kids, or with pets, or these other things. As you’re getting these really good working or sporting Border Collies, it becomes very obvious when you’re starting to get some of these other behaviors as well that are just part of the package, and understanding how to work with that, and how to deal with that. And hopefully maybe how to breed the dogs that have the ability to work the way that we want, but aren’t ridiculous control freaks, who get incredibly stressed out by the fact that, you know, there are too many people in the kitchen and not enough people in the dining room.
Kate Graham 17:52
I think that’s huge, and that’s something where I’m always grateful to play in Labs, because typically, when we have a Lab who’s not going to make it for detection work due to whatever, maybe not enough drive for the toy, and maybe something environmental or something like that, at the end of the day, they’re still a Lab. I can still go out and group hike with like 18 dogs on our property and no one causes any issues, and you can have people over and no one’s in any kind of bad. Yes, I like more people-neutral Labs than most people do. I like a little bit more serious of a dog than most people are considering Labs to be, but they’re still fundamentally a Lab and it’s still kind of that framework where okay, if I have one that flunks, I can still place it out pretty easily and safely and feel confident that that dog is going to be able to have a good life. But I agree, with our Border Collies and even Malinois and Shepherds, the things that we have bred so excessively into those dogs can become really detrimental to trying to then either replace or rehome those dogs when they don’t work for detection work because we’ve bred them to have these certain characteristics that may work well for us detection wise, but make them really not suitable dogs for just living as a dog.
Kayla Fratt 19:26
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And especially when we start talking about our Shepherds, and we’re starting to think about the amount of voice that is bred into those dogs and the amount of teeth and bite and grip and those things are potentially even more problematic for a lot of pet people. Like Border Collies, I think generally what you’re gonna see is anxiety in the dog, which is a welfare issue. That’s the thing. We don’t want reactivity, that sort of stuff. But, again, when I see the Shepherds in particular, the amount of barking and biting is really really problematic for a lot of people. So yeah, it’s funny that you say that you’re looking for your Labs to be a little bit more people neutral and a little bit more serious than kind of what people think of as typical Labs. I think when I’m thinking about what I want long term in my Border Collies, it’s a little bit more Labby of a Border Collie. We’re looking for more so than your typical Border Collie. I want a little bit more independence, I want a little bit more sociability and neutrality with people versus some Border Collies are so, so stuck in their routines and so stuck in their order that that would be problematic for me. So it’s funny, I think a lot about like, and who knows, if I’ll ever do this, but Lab-Border Collie crosses, or Cocker-Border Collie crosses, and those sorts of other huntier and even more generally affable dogs. Most people wouldn’t call Border Collies an affable breed. But again, then I’ve got to start dealing with all these like F1 crosses.
Kate Graham 21:17
It’s amazing how just adding in a little bit of those crosses can sometimes create such an impact on a breed. I mean, we look at just like, phenotypically looking at outward appearance of Dalmatians that have had the Pointer cross in years ago, for the LUA thing. Those dogs I mean, generations, this has been, I’m not a Dal person, so I can’t say, but it’s been very many generations since this original cross. And you can still pick out in a lineup of dogs which ones are the Pointer crosses because their spots aren’t quite the same and things like that. So it does make you wonder a little bit. Could those traits from just a little cross generations down, maybe, you know, for us, it’s not the spots that are different, but maybe that is a little bit more affable of a Border Collie? Or maybe that is for us, for me a little bit sharper of a Lab in a good way? So sometimes I think those crosses may be the direction we have to go, but looking at doing them responsibly, and in a long term sense versus looking at it as I’m going to do a Lab Mal cross, which I hear about often enough, and if they’re floppy eared, hopefully, we’ll be able to sell them for detection work is seems to be the general consensus there. But it doesn’t always give us what we want. It doesn’t give us little pieces of a Lab that we like and little pieces of a Malinois that we like, but typically, they’re going to be pretty hardcore to one end or the other. They’re not going to fall right in that beautiful little middle piece.
Kayla Fratt 22:47
Yeah, just like what we were talking about earlier, where, if you breed a four out of 10, and a six out of 10 on a trait, you might get a lot that are kind of in that four to six range, which a couple of are the five that you’re aiming for. But breeding a two and an eight together, you’re not necessarily getting there.
Kate Graham 23:04
You’re probably ending up with more twos and eights, yeah,
Kayla Fratt 23:09
This is something I feel like I hear a lot in kind of hybrid or designer dog world. Again, I’ve got nothing against sport crosses, working crosses, and if you really want a Doodle, go for it. Great. I’m very much get the dog that’s the right dog for you. And if the doodle is the right thing? Sure. But I think a lot of times in the marketing of these crosses, we get this really interesting discussion. People are like, Oh, well, it’ll have the hypoallergenic coat of this and the great personality of that, and it’ll love water like this. A, you can’t predict that, and B, it’s totally ridiculous to assume that. I could take a Border Collie and a Cocker, and I could end up with a nervy sight-oriented, anxious dog that’s going to blow me off and quarter and wiggle everywhere. It’s just as likely you get all the worst qualities when, yes, of course, what I’m looking for is the happy scent-oriented, intelligent, intuitive cross between the two.
Kate Graham 24:18
Right, exactly. But it is so hard because we think that one plus eight is just going to equal nine and we’re going to end up with all our nice things in the middle and everything is going to be fine. A lot of times I think we do end up with the extremes on both sides, and we can be putting traits so we have dogs that are so totally different. I have a dog who’s maybe a little bit more nervy, a little bit lower drive, and I’m breeding it to this very powerful high-drive dog. Sometimes we end up with these weird nervy little dogs that then have all these feelings that they don’t understand because it’s just not lined up with what their genetics say should be happening and sometimes we end up with some really horrible stuff from that. I think we do need to look at breeding proper candidates to proper candidates. I’m always a fan of, we find the dog that will fit our breeding program, we don’t make our breeding program fit the dog. So I could have a dog that I love and personally could be very attached to, but if it does not fit my breeding objectives and goals, then I need to be the bigger person and acknowledge that and not use that dog in my program. Just because I love the dog doesn’t mean I can breed its faults out and hopefully make a better thing in the future. If it’s something minor, possibly. But for that reason, I’m really big on proving my bitches. So the broods in my program, I want to work, at least for all the detection side. So if I’m going to breed a brood with the intention of having a mostly, say, TSA litter or detection base litter, then I want to make sure that dog actually works herself. And not that she was evaluated at a year, and yeah, she looks like a great prospect, and she looks like she’d be a great working dog. If she was evaluated like that, great. But if she’s able to just go live in someone’s kennel or live with a pet person that I farm her out to you, and she’s fine, that’s telling me she’s probably not actually the working candidate that I thought she was. Because if she really was that working candidate, she wouldn’t be living super well with my neighbor down the street that’s just taking her on little walks and playing fetch in the backyard. So, I want my working candidates to work and I’ve been lucky that I have a really great SAR community around me, and working dog kind of community around me, that has been really generous in letting me put some dogs with some handlers with the understanding that I can get them back for breeding, which has allowed me to see those dogs progress all the way through training, certification, deployment. How do those dogs hold up to all those factors? Are they working in a status that I would like to see them work? And the true hallmark, would I like more dogs that are working like that? If I can say that for my brood, it’s much easier for me to have stud dogs out in working situations because they don’t need any time off when we’re talking about breedings for them. So, then I compare it with a stud dog that I also like the work on, and typically create a pretty consistent product. But when I have a brood who, yes, she might look like she’s a cool working candidate if we just take her out for a day or two and evaluate her, but there’s so much that stress and pressure does to a dog. I think there’s so much that comes up when the dogs on day three of an eval with a new handler who is also not confident in the ability. Does that dog rise to the occasion? Or do they kind of shrink down and fall apart? When we’re on a stressful deployment where adrenaline’s up and there’s all kinds of emotion, is that dog working at the level we’d like them to? Or is that dog going, Oh, my God, everything around here is weird and I’m really not comfortable with it? I want to see the dogs really go out and do the job that we’re trying to produce offspring to do. If the dam can’t do the job, then why am I thinking the puppies can? And I think as breeders we do need to do a better job, especially with our broods and our bitch lines of making sure that those females can work and work in a way that we like. I think we need to stop saying it’s good enough that they look like a good working prospect and instead put the time into making them be a good working, you know, seeing, testing effectively, can they actually do the job? For me, I have HR dogs, it works out great and a lot of my broods are human remains dogs. Because it’s a career where most of them are, if I need to take them back for three months for them to have a litter, it’s an HR dog at the end of the day. If they’re dead out there, the dog has phenomenal assets to find them, but we’re not talking life and limb. They’re already dead. Like we’re already past that point. So if the dog’s out for three months, and also that means we can call the dog that’s two hours away to come in, because it’s not an emergency at that point. So if you’re the HR…
Kate Graham 29:20
Exactly, exactly. It’s not, oh no, if we had the tracking dog, we would’ve found the kid. If we’re sending HR dogs out, you know, we’re pretty much knowing what’s going on at that point. So it works well for a model for me and I can still test those dogs and see how they work out and it’s been really helpful that way. But there have been dogs that we’ve not used for our breeding program because of that, because they look really great on paper. They look really great when they’re about a year old. Their health tests are great, but when we actually put them out with a handler and they’re doing the job, we’re seeing, okay, this dog maybe isn’t as resilient as I thought it was, or it doesn’t hold up for more than a day. It can work for six hours, but if we take it out the next day, again, the work is super flat, and it really can’t come back from that. So those are the things that I want to evaluate in my broods. I always think it’s traditionally much easier to evaluate in a stud dog because again, I can have a stuffed dog out working a full career, look at it at three, be like, really like everything it’s done so far, it’s looking nice, either collect it and freeze it, or do a breeding. That dog’s working career never needs to be interrupted. With broods, I think we get far more into the idea of like, you’re going to be a brood bitch, so you’re not really going to do anything except make puppies and kind of hang out. And again, if you’re a dog that can do that, is that my best working prospect? Because I don’t know.
Kayla Fratt 30:51
Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And, yeah, I really value what you’re saying.Totally agree. If I was looking for a detection dog prospect, and I was looking at a litter specifically because they had SAR dogs or whatever it is, in their lines. I would want the bitch to work just as much as I want the stud dog to work. As we were saying, I think that it makes sense to think carefully about the jobs for the females and making sure that that is appropriate.
Kate Graham 31:39
We need to, but then again, it’s hard. And I think, far too many times, we see a really young, talented female dog and so we just earmark her for breeding, put her to the side, don’t really do much with her besides. A lot of breeders will put her in a great home, and she gets to have a great life. But again, my working dogs, I can’t imagine if I had any other broods than I have; I have three broods that live with me. And I’m lucky to have a number of others that live with other handlers and in other homes. I can’t go two days without mine working. I can’t imagine putting this great prospect brood into a home where she’s just someone’s hiking buddy or pet. And if she’s living there comfortably, then is she really that great working dog that I was thinking she was? Because she’s not getting the work and she’s totally fine and happy. So, maybe this isn’t the prospect I needed to make my breeding program, you know, enhance and put that dog out that’s going to be working a full career and working those full days and those bigger search areas and be able to hold up to that.
Kayla Fratt 32:49
Unknown Speaker 32:51
Hey, I’m Taylor, and I’m the handler for Kepler, a Mini Aussie training for mussel detection work. Before k9 Conservationist, I didn’t even know about all the possibilities with dogs and conservation. Now I’ve jumped feet first into the training. I wouldn’t have been able to without the support I gained from being a part of the podcast, Patreon. My favorite support comes from the group call. I’ve been able to get alert training help and felt completely welcome even though I’m a complete novice to this kind of training. The group calls also helped guide my questions for my one-on-ones with Kayla. The information is invaluable and the community is kind. I hope to see you there.
Kayla Fratt 33:21
So, let’s pivot a little bit to talk about caring for the pregnant females and puppy raising and those sorts of things. What are some of the things that you’re thinking about once the breeding has already happened? I feel like so far we’ve been talking kind of about selecting dogs to even want to breed. But once once we’ve got a pregnancy or puppies on our hands…
Kate Graham 33:44
Yeah, so I’m really big on exercise for pregnant broods, appropriate exercise. So not super high impact activities, but keeping that brood fit. And I think there’s some research that’ll be published fairly soon, and there’s some research that’s been published previously, that discussed how much more effective broods are at naturally whelping letters when they are fit, as opposed to at a higher body condition score. So that is important. And I will say, you know, whelping tends to be a bit of a marathon. There are broods who might be whelping puppies for eight to 12 hours. I want a bitch that has the physical fitness to be able to sustain that comfortably without looking exhausted after hour four. So I do continue to exercise my broods, I’m really big on that. They do a lot of hiking, a lot of swimming, all the you know, lots of FitPaws stuff, just to kind of keep them in good shape throughout their pregnancy. And then there’s people who could speak far better than I can about diets through gestation and all of that, but essentially making sure they’re in a balanced appropriate ration throughout the pregnancy, that they’re getting what they need, that they’re not becoming overly fat that, they’re just gaining appropriate weight gain for puppies. The majority of it, most broods aren’t going to even look pregnant through that first 30 days that they’re expecting. It’s really that last half where things start to increase. So, exercise is a huge thing there. And that does continue when puppies are born too. So my broods, as soon as puppies are out, can resume kind of their normal exercise, again, avoiding high impact activities. And also making sure we’re very careful on ligaments. There’s gonna be a lot more laxity during gestation, and right after post whelping. We do need to be more aware that, that everything is lax, it’s meant to be more relaxed, to allow puppies to come out to allow everything to expand to where it needs to go. But because we have that laxity in ligaments, we need to be just careful of the dogs being careful themselves so we don’t have any tears or strains that we shouldn’t. That’s gonna go through general brood care. And then just mental stimulation, too. So most of mine do start to get the first week or so with puppies, they’re, they’re content to just take care of puppies, because that is an exhausting job and a great mom is really on it all the time. So they’re keeping themselves nicely content there. But pretty quickly, they want to get back to work again. And I do allow them to start doing odor puzzle things, even discrimination lineup things, things that can at least work their brain and let them be nice and content while they’re still taking care of that litter at the early stage.
Kayla Fratt 36:28
Yeah, yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And even thinking about the number of advertisements I’ve seen for human maternity fitness classes, whether swimming or yoga, whatever. Of course, we would want to do the same thing for our dogs. And of course, I’m not going to take a pregnant bitch and be like today’s the day I think we’re going to try wall climb.
Kate Graham 36:52
Sounds like a great activity for today. Yeah.
Kayla Fratt 36:57
I still want them to be active and healthy. And if nothing else, again, when we’re talking about working dogs, we need to make sure we’re keeping up with their energetic needs, and helping them stay, for lack of a better word, sane throughout pregnancy and puppy raising.
Kate Graham 37:17
Absolutely, absolutely. Just because they’re pregnant, yes, we need to maintain biosecurity and make sure we’re not exposing them to disease risks and things like that, but they don’t need to be in a bubble. I love free hiking with mine because at least then they can kind of push themselves as much as they want to. If you want to go run crazy zoomies through the woods, you can. If you just want to trot along next to me, you can. But they can at least get some exercise in that way. Even some of our treadmill stuff and some of the Fit to Work exercises, and Avidog actually has like a maternal during gestation, physical fitness type of exercises that they have set up. And I do think they help. I whelp a lot of litters in what I do. So I myself don’t have that many litters per year, I do two to three, but I whelp for a lot of other breeders in the community. And I also whelp for a couple of service dog schools that have many litters a year. So I whelp a lot of litters a year, and I will say I’d much rather whelp a fit brood. We can get through things much quicker, the brood is much more content through the process, recovery after is so much better than a brood who is exhausted by puppy three and I have to have someone hold up so that we can get her standing to pull puppies out and have her work with contractions that way. Whelping a brood that is out of shape is exhausting for everybody. And we have a much lower, you know, rate of neonatal success. We do end up losing more puppies, just because that brood can’t effectively push them out. So there’s research papers that can say it far better than I, more formally than I, but we know exercise does have correlation to to successful welding.
Kayla Fratt 39:05
Yeah, yeah, that absolutely makes sense. So you mentioned Avidog. Do you do Avidog puppy raising? Do you do Puppy Culture? Do you kind of mix and match?
Kate Graham 39:15
I mix and match Yeah, so I play little bits of both. I think both programs are really great foundations and have lots of really great parts in them. I mix and match to be what’s going to be appropriate for my dogs in my program and also where those puppies are going. So again, you know some of my litters that are very detection focused that I know are going to be my agency dogs, going to agencies that require a more resilient and more handler, resilient dog, I may not do some of the manding exercises or I may let them be a little bit punkier and let them think they’re pretty cocky little puppies from that young age. And it’s hard to say if those things actually make a difference in the long term or not. We don’t know. In my head, it makes me feel like I’m at least doing something to try to encourage the right things, so I continue to do it. But I think those programs both outline a really great plan for appropriately exposing and socializing puppies to new stimuli, which is very important at that young age. So, letting them see all types of new things in an appropriate time, in a developmentally appropriate time. So there are times during their development where we could probably expose them to tons of things, it’s not going to make a difference. It’s not sticking at that age, they’re not cognizant of it, it’s not helping. But there are other things we could do at that age, though, that may be helpful in the future. You know, early scent stimulation is one of those that I think is coming out a little bit more and more, and we hear more people talking about it. I’ve done it for quite a few litters. Does it make a difference? I don’t know. But it’s a sound theory, it makes sense on paper. And it’s one of those things where, with all of these early exposure things, it’s definitely not hurting. So even if it’s not helping, maybe as a two year old dog, maybe it’s not helping them operationally, but for sure, it’s not hurting anything. And if anything, it’s only maybe setting up some neural pathways that otherwise wouldn’t be explored. So I think all those things are good things to do. I think they’re essential things to need to do. I’ve pulled in a lot of different puppies from a lot of different environments. And actually, Arden, that I think you’ll be talking to in a podcast, or you may have talked to already, was part of a very small scale puppy raising project with me where we pulled in two dogs, completely different litters, similarish pedigrees, same birth date, different, very different litter raising style. So one was a litter raised in the house, raised with a lot of early neuro things and a lot of socialization. One was a litter raised in the kennel. Really, those puppies never really got in the house. They got all their needs met, but there wasn’t anything extra done with those puppies. And as they grew up, it was interesting to watch. They’re still young, and it’s a sample size of two, so it’s not enough data to actually look at anything in a broad sense. But that one that didn’t have exposure to things, he looks really nice as a puppy. He hit his fear phases so much harder than the one who had had all the early exposure. And again, not enough data to conclude anything, but it was very interesting to see that that dog looked the same and solid at eight weeks, ended up looking the same at 12 months. But every developmental fear period that they hit, the one puppy who had had early socialization kind of rolled through them a little easier, you could see him look weird at things for a day or two, and then he was fine. The one who was raised without all that early stuff, he hit each fear phase hard. It would be like a solid two weeks of like, oh my god, the world is melting, and then he popped out of it and was fine. But it was definitely a very drastic look between the two. So that was interesting to me, and kind of, at least in that super small sample size, supported my idea that it does not hurt and maybe these things that we’re doing are helping create a more resilient dog.
Kayla Fratt 43:26
Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And again, I think the tricky thing where I start getting curious now is, like I’ve seen firsthand in the shelter world so many dogs come through that are dramatically under socialized even at you know, like four months old or something like this. This happens not infrequently where, you know, someone’s got to litter at home, whether it’s an oops litter or not, they don’t sell all the puppies, and then they didn’t really do anything with him, they kind of just lived in the laundry room or whatever. And then at 4, 5, 6, 8 months old, they bring them to the shelter because again, it was an oops litter or or they just didn’t place them all or something. And a lot of times those dogs had really, really crippling anxieties and fears and phobias because they’ve been so under socialized. And what I’m curious about now would be really trying to do, and this would be a much more ethical study to do anyway because I don’t think ethically, we should do something like that intentionally to half of a litter of puppies, but it would be really interesting to look at like some of these formalized programs, and maybe someone’s done this and I just haven’t haven’t come across it yet, but the difference between kind of like a medium adequate socialization home, kind of what we would consider basic best practices versus these real like silver spoon programs. And really kind of seeing yeah, are all of these barrier challenges worth it?
Kate Graham 45:00
Right, are they doing something, are they creating resilience in the process? Yeah.
Kayla Fratt 45:04
Most people do the entirety of Puppy Culture, Avidog, or they’re kind of taking bits and pieces randomly. I don’t know if anyone has ever taken, like, let’s test each of these different components because I don’t think we know if Puppy Culture actually does produce better dogs, temperamentally as adults or makes teenagerhood that much easier or whatever, which both I think are absolutely worthwhile as outcomes. Right. Is it the manding? Is it the ENS? Is it the barrier challenges?
Kate Graham 45:42
Yeah, what part’s making the difference? Absolutely.
Kayla Fratt 45:45
And for the breeder, which parts do you cut out?
Kate Graham 45:49
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think looking longitudinally too, okay, so what is helping through? Yeah, is it just helping with a punky teenager? You know, did that program just make that easier? Which, as you said, is totally worth it. Did it make potty training easier? Which that in itself is worth pre training or something like that. For sure? Or is it actually creating operationally more successful dogs at three, four or five, you know, where they’re working out in the field? And I don’t think that research has been done, at least as far as I know, it might be in progress. That would be exciting. Yeah. But you know, are those things actually creating long term effects that can help us out? And at least to me, it’s one of those where I feel like they’re useful, I will continue to do them, because I feel like they don’t hurt. But I can’t really say when people say, Oh, does that make all the difference in the world? I don’t know. I don’t.
Kayla Fratt 46:46
I mean, and again, of course, it’s hard to tell because we’re trying to do everything right. So it’s not like we’re doing an experiment where we’re intentionally taking genetics that we don’t love and then putting the puppies through Puppy Culture to see if that can fix it, quote, unquote. Nor are we taking the best genetics in the world where you’re like, Oh, my God, this is my dream pairing, we imported semen from a dog from Austria, like we get to whatever. And then not doing anything with them? Yeah. Because that would be a fascinating experiment to run.
Kate Graham 47:15
It would be, it would be, but no one’s gonna waste that
Kayla Fratt 47:20
I don’t know if it’s ethical or practical.
Kate Graham 47:23
Right, exactly. No, I think it’s intriguing that way for sure. And, I mean, look at it, there are some successful dogs that come from really weird backgrounds where they’ve had very little, and I think there’s something to be said for those dogs that can be that resilient to their environment.
Kayla Fratt 47:40
Those are the genes I want!
Kate Graham 47:44
That you can come from that and be able to be that successful, like all right, buddy, like more power to ya!
Kayla Fratt 47:50
So my dog Barley, I have been on this mad quest to try to reconstruct his pedigree using Embark. I got him from a shelter, I did manage to track down his owner because I worked at the shelter. So I was able to do that. His owner has no idea where he got him. He just got him as a seven week old puppy in a Walmart parking lot. And now that I’ve finally tracked down enough of his other relatives, several of them were pet store puppies from Pet Land. Oh my god. I’m like, Oh my God, my dream dog might be like a Pet Land, puppy mill dogs, right? He might be a little Amish dog. Maybe not Amish? Because they’re from like Western Texas.
Kate Graham 48:37
Hah, yeah, that’s where I am in the country.
Kayla Fratt 48:42
But yeah, it’s just fascinating. And I don’t know, because I’ve also found there are other dogs that are closely related to him that come from great breeders that do sports line. So like, I don’t know. Right? But he’s related to both?
Kate Graham 48:56
Yeah. Isn’t that crazy? That’s very interesting.
Kayla Fratt 49:01
I mean, like he’s neutered, so it’s kind of a moot point. Although the main reason I’ve been kind of obsessed over this is like my, my crackpot dream would be to manage to find his like grandniece to breed to Niffler and then have a relative of both. And I don’t know if it’s going to be possible, because so few of his relatives have had pedigrees, because I think, again, they’re just coming from this not great place. But so many of them, again, having talked to their owners, they are the sorts of dogs I would want. It’s just fascinating.
Kate Graham 49:31
There’s something huge to be said about that. Yeah. And I think we have to look, too, we were talking the most successful dogs in the sport world aren’t always our most successful detection placements or the dog we would like. But we’ve got to think. So, I know what I like in a field trial line dog, and that is definitely not a successful trial dog. But the thing is, where do they go? Because no one’s paying to get the health clearances on this flunky wash out dog that’s not going to make anything. So usually it goes to go with some good old boy who can handle that level of drive because they will be able to just manage it through either E-collar pressure, or they don’t care if the dog’s being a giant jerk. Yeah, and so there’s that, and they’re just going to use them as a meat dog all the time, they’re gonna go use them to find as many pheasants as they can in the field, or to be able to go through, you know, icy water and go able to do all these deep retrieves that require a dog with a ton of grit. That’s what those dogs are gonna be used for. So they may be working in a capacity that I really like. But one, where am I finding them? Because they’re not being made public, those are not the dogs being advertised as stud, those are not the dogs being put out there. And two, then I have plenty of dogs that I’ve paid to put the health clearances on because I love the dog, yet no one else is gonna want to breed to it. Stud owners have approached and they’re like, this is the opposite of what field trial people would like. I’m like, but I love it. They’re like, I can’t dump a grand into this dog to get its clearances, because no one else is ever going to use it. No one wants that type of thing. And so in that case, I have paid to put clearances on dogs and have ended up with some really cool things that I like from it. So it’s been worthwhile. But you know, I think we do have to look at, like you said, those dogs that you’re finding from Barley’s pedigree are the kind of dog you would like. But is the kind of dog you or I like, is that going to be mainstream enough that other people are liking it, too? And is it getting bred, too, often enough to continue that line on?
Kayla Fratt 51:35
Yeah, yeah. And even if I’m liking a lot of the dogs from a Pet Land line, I did not have that longitudinal health testing. Even if I did track down his grand niece, and even if she had OFA excellent hips by some miracle, and even if, you and I were talking about epilepsy databases, like, there’s a very good chance those dogs wouldn’t be in an epilepsy database, you know, blah, blah, blah. So, it’s probably a long lost dream anyway.
Kate Graham 52:11
It’s an interesting point, though. I think, but also, as you go through and you’re isolating those traits that you really like from Barley and looking at that, you may find more dogs that maybe don’t have that exact pedigree, but are consistent in those traits and find something you like there.
Kayla Fratt 52:27
The nice thing is, I think you and I are both fortunate of being so in love with these breeds that are A) ubiquitous and, B) there are still a lot of people doing a lot of work with them. Right? I feel a lot for people who, like I was just talking to Lindsay of Science of New England and one of the dogs she works with is a wiener dog, a Dachshund. He’s an amazing tracking dog for her. But you know, it sounds like she’s probably had to get, I mean, and I’m speaking out of my butt here a little bit, because Dachshunds are so far from my area of expertise, but finding the good genetics in the US for working Dachshunds is probably a lot harder than it is for you and I to find that diversity or those nice working dogs with Labs and Border Collies. Or another example, I was just talking to a friend who really wants a Papillon for agility and Papillons are not unusual in agility, right. But there’s a lot of Papillon breeders that are mostly looking for confirmation and color, and pet dogs. And that proportion is way out of whack. And there’s just fewer Papillons than there are Labs, period.
Kate Graham 53:45
Right, right. And I think that’s it, like when you bring up, too, that difference between conformation and working ability. So when I’m looking at my end goal in mind for my breeding program, I am looking at working ability. Now working ability does encompass conformation. I need a very conformationally sound dog and athletic dog to be able to do the job that I need them to do. So I will get flack occasionally from people who are like, well, you don’t breed Labs that look like Labs, and I promise I’m not breeding them to look totally like something ridiculous, but I do have a lighter bone dog. However, I take a huge amount of stock in structural evaluation, to be able to say is this dog going to be able to hold up to the rigors of the job? I want a dog who’s still well angulated in the front and rear properly without any extremes and has a nice, short, supple top line and all those things that need to happen for an athletic, structurally sound dog. But if we look at my dogs compared to the Labs in a confirmation ring, besides a difference of 60 pounds, you know we’re looking at a super different creature. They’re not going to look alike at that point.
Kayla Fratt 54:51
I have so many people who don’t believe me when I say that he’s a purebred Border Collie because he’s short haired and whirled. I’ve had one dude totally mansplain at me and he was like that is a Husky Australian Shepherd cross and I was like, sir, it is not. Like it’d be so much hairier if it was. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. Labs and Border Collies are another good example of like, oh my god, the differences between the conformation and the working ring. I mean, showline Border Collies do not look anything like working Border Collies. And honestly, the working Border Collies don’t look much like the sporting Border Collies either. Like, it’s bizarre. As you’re talking, I pulled up your dogs again, and I’m looking at them and I grew up in northern Wisconsin, big hunting community. And these to me look like what I think of as Labs. Right? Because I’m used to being around, that’s like we grew up with. I had a dog out of, oh, gosh, I know her dad’s name was like Rowdy Blue or something. I can’t remember the kennel name, but she was out of champion hunting lines. And that’s what they look like. She looked honestly shape wise, Taboo, actually. Oh, yeah. Yep. She was just a Chocolate, but when she was in her prime, that’s the shape she had.
Kate Graham 56:23
Right. Right. I think there’s something where the two communities, we need to realize that’s the thing and not bash each other. So I don’t bash the show people at all. That’s what works for them. That’s the conformation line that comes from them. And because I breed Labs, I have a ton of pet inquiries all the time of like, I want a Lab. And I’m like, you don’t want this kind of Lab at all. But you want that kind of Lab. And there’s some awesome show breeders that I refer to frequently because they are breeding the type of Lab that your general person needs. And there’s a need for that. So I think we all have our place. Most people do not, I would not want, to have one of my dogs because it’s not going to be fair to the dog and it’s definitely not going to be fair to the family. But in the same sense, if we’re trying to take one of those really heavy conformation bred dogs and ask it to work with the stamina and intensity that we’re looking for our working line dogs to work with, that’s not fair, either. That’s not of course, not something they’re genetically designed to do.
Kayla Fratt 57:24
Yeah,and I think that brings us to what does need to be our last question, because I’ve now taken up more than twice as much time as I said I would. We could do this literally all day, but we shouldn’t. Oh, yes. It’s placing puppies, you know. So like, going back to Mya, the Lab I grew up with. They had an absurd litter. I think it was 14 puppies. Oh, my goodness. Yeah. And she was the one that, when we went to look at the litter and pick her up, she crawled into our lap and fell asleep, while the other puppies were hanging off of my pigtails. And the breeder was looking at the one hanging out by pigtails. He was like, Yeah, that’s the one I’m keeping back for hunting.
Kate Graham 58:07
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Kayla Fratt 58:10
And she turned out to be like, God, I wish I could have that dog again, knowing what I know now. She died in 2019 probably. She was 15 years old.
Kate Graham 58:21
Oh, that’s awesome. That’s a good life. Awesome.
Kayla Fratt 58:25
Yeah, an incredible, incredible dog. I think she could do the work that I’m doing. Right. Right. Absolutely. You know, she was probably a little bit much dog for us. So even with the placement that we were looking at being reasonable, she was a lot. So anyway, how do you place dogs? How do you, especially knowing what we’ve been talking about, about all these things being so non-predictive, things changing when they’re from one to three years old, even?
Kate Graham 58:56
Absolutely. So what I’m going to look at first is, are the genetics of the parents going to fit what my puppy placements would like? So when I’m looking at a litter for puppy placements, I typically have two kinds of lines that I’m playing with primarily. So, one is my line that I use mostly for my agency placements, and it is a little bit more of my grittier, tends to produce some more independently working, a little bit more of a screw you type dog that work, that just want to do their job, will do their job until they die, and please just let them be alone and do it. And those tend to work really well for my agency placements. They’re strong dogs, they think very highly of themselves, but not always great for my sport placements. So, then I have another line that I tend to look at a little bit more for sport nosework and even some SAR homes depending on where SAR falls on the spectrum of how intense they are within SAR and what they’re looking for in a SAR prospect. Dogs that are going to be working a little bit more as a teammate, instead of an independent contractor, dogs that will be willing to take feedback from their handlers a little bit more easily, and that do tend to have a little bit better of an off switch, too, and can just totally turn it off and kill. So I found the most like, I know I’m not going to produce that with my dogs that are super gritty. So I just kind of have two separate somewhat related, but have become fairly separate, lines that I play with for that. And so when I’m placing a litter, what I’m looking at, am I trying to get a sport prospect out of the super gritty detection litter? Because it might look okay at eight weeks, and I can convince myself that it’s going to be fine. But if that person comes in, they wouldn’t want to work the dad and they wouldn’t want to work the mom, then there’s a good chance that puppy, even if it looks like it’s a good fit at eight weeks, isn’t actually going to work out great for them.
So looking at yeah, is mom and dad really what they’re looking at for a working dog themselves? If that fits, then within the litter, I do tend to keep a broad range of placement. So in my like sport and SAR litters, I’ll have a couple of SAR homes, a couple of high-level sport homes, a couple of recreational sport homes, and maybe an active hiking home or something like that in the mix too. And then I do try to match up and place appropriately. So when I’m looking at litters for placements, I look at trends more so than I’m looking at an individual puppy testing day. So I use a like a stoplight system. From the time they’re about five weeks old, I expose them to new stimuli every day. And I’m recording kind of like a green, yellow, red, who is you know, green to go all about it, into it, who is yellow that day, kind of so-so, and who is red, does not want to interact with it does not want any part of it or is fearful of it, whatever. And so then I’m looking at these sheets from daily and whatever over a period of like three weeks and seeing okay, are there ones that consistently are always green puppies? Those puppies might be my better SAR prospects. Are there puppies that are always my red puppies? Maybe I don’t want to put that puppy into work, he doesn’t seem like he really handles novel things. Well, he consistently doesn’t handle novel things well, so I think he probably needs to go to that placement better. I do tend to have the final say that most, I do have the final say on where my puppies go. With an experienced handler and home, I will communicate and have that discussion together. So I’ll tell them what I’m seeing. They can provide any input they have, we can do any testing that they want to do, and then look at all those pieces of the collective whole to kind of make those decisions. With a newer handler typically, or someone who’s not as experienced in picking puppies, or someone who is just more comfortable with me picking their puppy, which is really what I prefer, I’m going to, kind of work through, I will give them my reasoning for my decisions and include them in the process all throughout. But we’ll be talking about why those placements happen. I’m not going to keep a full list of SAR homes, because I know not every puppy in that litter is going to be destined for the nurturing for SAR. So I like to keep a diverse list so that I have options to fit the puppy into whatever home I feel they’ll fit into best. And so that if it’s a puppy that’s showing it really doesn’t want to work here, we can put you into so and so’s home where you can hike and mountain bike and do all those kinds of fun things to meet your physical needs, but you don’t need to have the pressure of actually doing a job. So, I do tend to keep a diverse list. And we do have to take that all with a grain of salt because like I said, you know, as we’re moving through this domestic breeding consortium at John Hopkins, which has forced us to keep litters, not forced, but that’s their ask for data. Traditionally, I have puppies in those litters that I would have placed out at eight weeks or 12 weeks because I really feel they weren’t candidates. And some of those are seriously proving me wrong. So I am eating my own words and some of it and knowing that what I’m seeing at eight weeks is not always true, but I’m hoping through looking at trends, we can help make the most educated decisions possible. I think one day puppy tests can tell us some things, but also, you know, puppies are so fickle in that, you know, someone ate double their portion for lunch that day or something and we go to test them and they just look like a sleepy slug on the side when normally that’s the little rock star of the litter. Like they don’t tell us everything looking at them and just that short term. Yeah, so that’s my basic thing, keeping a diverse list and then looking through longer periods of looking at trends to see hopefully what will fit best where.
Kayla Fratt 1:04:50
That sounds like what most of the breeders that I’ve talked to do and seems like the most reasonable way to go. I’ve talked about this before on the show with Niffler’s litter. One of the things that the breeder did was she gave the puppies numbers as well as names and didn’t tell us which number correlated to which puppy. Which I actually asked her to do because I knew…so it was a really colorful litter. There was a blue merle, red merle slate merle, two black and whites, a black and white tri and a sable. Yeah, yeah. I asked her because I was like, I know I’m biased towards wanting a merle. I know that about myself. I know, I’m also biased towards wanting a rough coated pup. Because I prefer those looks. And so I asked her whenever she was doing her, she did kind of like weekly observation updates in our Facebook group, she numbered the puppies, and told us, you know, she gave them like a couple adjectives and some observations and whatnot, but again, didn’t tell us. So I was able to say, I’m pretty sure it was like four and seven, that I was like, based on all the writing that I’m seeing, these are the ones I’m liking. And it just so happened that I can’t remember which one, I think Niffler was four. It turned out to be Niffler, who was the color I wanted. He wasn’t the coat type I wanted, but actually only one of the seven puppies ended up being rough coded. Yeah, yeah, kind of weird. But, you know, c’est la vie. That setup was really helpful for me again, knowing that I was biased towards wanting to convince myself that specific puppies within that litter were going to be the right fit for me because of the look. And know that about myself. I know that’s a weakness. And I think most of us probably have that weakness. We tend to both as breeders and as buyers like doing what we can to remove that.
Kate Graham 1:06:48
It’s very important. And I think, too, because we’re in an age where, so many of our puppy people, at least for me, are not local enough to visit the litter all the time. Like many of them, I have a seven week old litter right now, they’re going across the country, they’re all over the place. So those people aren’t able to come in every week and really get to know the puppies and see them. They’re paying attention to either the videos that I have that I’m posting or things like that. And I do have to be careful because I get for example, this upcoming litter, the SAR home, and she really liked the puppy that always looks very engaging in videos and is the one right up with me and biting the camera and doing things like that. And she’s like that puppy looks awesome, like a rock star. And so when we are going through placement decisions and telling her who I justified, who I think would be the best fit for her, it’s the puppy that isn’t in videos as much because he’s usually typically off independently exploring, and he’s a super cool dude. But he doesn’t show well in videos because he’s off doing his own thing.
Kayla Fratt 1:07:56
Which is exactly what you’d want in SAR, right? You know, the dog is like, Yeah, I’m off 300 acres, no problem, Mom.
Kate Graham 1:08:03
Exactly, exactly. But on video that doesn’t look cool or fun or something, because he’s just off in the background, like taking off across the yard heading for the woodline. Yeah, so there’s things like that, that it can be hard to be look at videos and try to pick and that can be tricky. And it’s hard. I’ve had other people pick puppies for me from litters, and I’ve tried to be really good about just letting go. And at the end of the day, sometimes, my typical thing if I’m going to a field trial person and saying here’s, you know, what I’m looking for in a puppy. And typically, it’s, I want a puppy who’s not really a team, I’m not looking particularly for a team player, I’m looking for a dog to be an independent contractor. That’s what I prefer in a dog. I want all that intensity, I want that confidence. Oftentimes, I’m looking for the kind of bullyish puppy of the litter. A lot of times I’m saying, you know, the one that you want to send off first and like, that’s probably the puppy that I’m going to take.
Kayla Fratt 1:09:13
The one like oh my gosh, please. Get out.
Kate Graham 1:09:16
It’s hard looking at puppy testing and things. Even me watching videos of other people puppy testing, I have a hard time with it. You don’t see the subtle nuances of how that puppy is actually looking or just the vibe that they’re giving off because those things we can’t put into data numbers or metrics but they’re still there and they mean something. It can be hard having a puppy picked for you and I get that. I feel for people. It’s stressful. But you know, a lot of times it ends up you gotta trust the breeder. They’re the ones seeing those puppies every day. They’re the ones with those puppies every day. And at the end of the day, too, a good breeder is putting that puppy with you because they want the best placement for that puppy. I think sometimes we get people who think like, well maybe I didn’t have first pick. At least with me keeping a diverse litter, like I don’t do pick orders. I try to keep a diverse enough list that for puppy buyer A, their pick puppy is going to be a very different puppy than puppy buyer B’s.
Kayla Fratt 1:10:24
Right? It’s going to matchmaking and less like, there’s not a ranking of like, one through six best puppy. Right?
Kate Graham 1:10:33
Right? Exactly. It’s more of yeah, this puppy that’s gonna go to the SAR home is definitely not the puppy I want to put in the competitive agility home. They just don’t. The two things aren’t one in the same.
Kayla Fratt 1:10:45
Yeah, yeah, that makes a ton of sense. Well, I could talk to you for another couple hours, I’m sure but I really do need to let you go. It is lunchtime for me. Thank you so much. If anyone has forgotten from the last episode, can you remind people where they can find you online?
Kate Graham 1:11:02
For all the social stuff we are Katalyst with a K, so Katalyst Kennels on Facebook, KatalystK9 Instagram. Email is always the easiest way to reach me personally. It is [email protected] I’m always happy to talk working dogs, working Labs in particular. Love that.
Kayla Fratt 1:11:23
Yeah. Well, great. Thank you so much, Kate. And as always listeners, you can find us online at k9conservationists.org You should join our Patreon if you are hoping to get into the field of conservation detection dogs, whether you’ve got a brand new puppy, or unexperienced dog, or anywhere in between, we’ve got all sorts of cool offerings over there to help everyone learn together. Thanks so much for listening, and we’ll talk to you again soon.
Kayla Fratt 1:11:49
Are you on Patreon yet? If you love this podcast and want to support it in the long term, Patreon is the way to go. I spend hours per episode researching guests writing out questions, recording interviews, posting on Patreon to engage with our patrons about all of those, cleaning up the audio and putting together all of the promotional materials. Even with the help of volunteers. This is an enormous task that takes up a ton of my time. And right now I’m not paid for it for just $3 a month you can support this show while also gaining access to our exclusive detection dog training video help calls which happened once a month, our learning club calls which are currently quarterly but I’m hoping to move to monthly and a lot more. You can join the fun over at patreon.com/canine conservationist or using the link in our show notes. You also may want to share this with anyone else you know who is interested in getting involved in the field of conservation detection dogs, because this is hands down the lowest cost way to get as much mentoring and assistance and joining the community of other professional and aspiring conservation detection dog handlers. And you’re gonna really enjoy it. See you there.