Breeders’ Voice — Kerrie Kuper, Karasar Whippets
Another amazing Breeder Owner Handler joins us in celebrating our Master Breeders. Breeders’ Voice is fortunate to share 50 years of breeding knowledge and experience from Kerrie Kuper, Karasar Whippets. Please feel free to share this knowledge with friends and fellow exhibitors. Kuper offers absolutely rock solid, time tested breeding principles and cheer-leading for those who would follow in her footsteps.
Kerrie Kuper on 50 years breeding Whippets
BV: Give us the 411. Your background as a breeder, what got you started in your breed, your mentors, other interests, etc.
KK: My parents started competing with purebred dogs in the late 1950s in obedience with a standard poodle. My mother eventually learned how to be a dog groomer and decided to try the breed ring, starting with an Italian greyhound. The IG ended up not to be show quality. Then she purchased a Whippet in the middle 1960s.
He didn’t end up quite the show quality that the breeder wanted for my mother, so she acquired a Whippet bitch, who ended up to be CH Seven League Sunrise. She was eventually bred and our first champion came from that first litter born in 1967. Our first champion was Karasar’s Silver Sassafras. I actually showed her to her very first best of breed from the bred by exhibitor class, where she won breed over two or three specials. She went on to finish with multiple breeds and group placements. All of our current dogs are down from that first litter born 50 years ago.
My parents acted as my first mentors, along with many other people over the years, including Margaret Newcombe of Pennyworth kennels. Margaret and her mother were the only mother and daughter team to both own best in show winners at Westminster. I have learned from many mentors over the years. I have been very blessed that people have taken the time to help me learn about the breed, answer my questions and help me evaluate puppies. People in many different breeds have shared their dog knowledge. My other interests include family and community service. My family is taking up more time in the past year and many dog shows have had to take a back seat.
BV: You have consistently produced successful dogs. Let’s talk about breeding a “family” of dogs. Type, style, breeding plans, how you got from point A to point Z….
KK: I got from point A to point Z by not being satisfied. Ever. Always trying to improve each generation. I picked the style and type of dog I liked and tried to improve on them and turn them into my ideal Whippet. I feel each and every dog is my own special, personal work of four-legged art.
I actually work with a couple of different types within my line, but they basically have the same look. I found that you can’t always have all identical-looking dogs, otherwise you breed yourself into a corner. I make breeding plans a couple of generations ahead, generally about three generations. Temperament and health have to be first and foremost in breeding decisions of course.
BV: What do your most successful pedigrees look like?
KK: My most successful pedigrees have generally been half-brother to half-sister breedings. I do a lot of line breeding and try to concentrate on a certain litter or dog that I admire. I am a firm believer in line breeding, as long as you know the line you are working with. I am fortunate that I have seen most of the dogs in my pedigrees. It makes it so much easier to know what you are going to get.
BV: Are you working with a prepotent sire? A powerful dam line?
KK: I’ve been working over the years on establishing a successful bitch line and I believe I have for the most part. We have 5 generations of breeder owner handled AKC multiple best in show winning bitches that are also top producers and ROMX qualified. I believe I’m the only AKC Whippet breeder that has had two different number one whippet bitches, CH Karasar’s Preference ROMX ( # 1 Whippet 1995 & 1995 Pedigree) and CH Karasar’s Artistry ROMX ( # 1 Whippet 2008 AKC all systems) that have both went on to produce two best in show winners themselves. We have many other records too numerous to go into here.
Recently I’ve been trying to concentrate on a stronger male line. I don’t know if I will live long enough to be successful at it, but I’m trying. I have a never-ending need to strive for different accomplishments.
BV: What is the secret to your success (in general terms) and how did you arrive there?
KK: I think the secret to my success, in part, is just showing up and not giving up. A lot of hard work, being honest with the quality of the dogs you’re showing and trying to always improve each generation and keeping myself honest. I am fortunate to have wonderful co-owners and a husband that supports all of this and helps keep me grounded.
You also have to be realistic about your handling ability. I’m fortunate I’ve been able to handle the dogs myself, which I enjoyed very much. Generally, they perform well for me. I enjoy the challenge of teaching them to like the ring and to show for me. Nothing makes me happier than to get a wonderful performance out of one of my dogs.
BV: Give us some idea of the struggles… Dead ends or pedigrees that didn’t pan out, health/temperament issues that caused a reset of the program and how you handled it, the breeding that looked incredible on paper and was a disaster, like that.
KK: I’ve had my share over the years of litters that didn’t turn out the way I would’ve preferred. But they always made wonderful companion pets for their owners. So to me, that is success.
I had a litter out of one of my best in show winning girls that was basically a repeat on paper of another very successful litter. The litter consisted of, I believe, 3 or 4 puppies and not ONE was what I considered show quality. I was horrified, as the other litter with nearly identical pedigree was wonderful. Now many breeders would have spayed and NOT bred that bitch again. I didn’t. I bred her later to her half- brother and she produced a MBIS winner in her next litter. She went on to be a ROMX (10 Champions for our American Whippet Club) only having a small number of puppies in each litter. That experience taught me a lot. I have repeated breedings that were not as good as the first litter, and have had repeats that were better. The old saying, “man plans, god laughs” really applies to breeding dogs. NO matter how you plan and anticipate, you never know what can happen.
I’ve always tried to learn from my mistakes and try to improve the next litter and generation, never giving up. One has to be realistic and expect issues to come up. When they do, you try something different and move on from there. If you have a health or temperament issue come up, with a stud dog for example, you eliminate that dog from your breeding program and move on from there, not breed the dog again and don’t offer the dog at public stud. To do otherwise, to me, means you do not have the breed’s best interest at heart.
BV: Your best mentoring/suggestions/tips/reminders for current and aspiring breeders?
KK: Never be satisfied. Always try to improve each and every generation. Don’t let failures get you down. Move on and try to improve the next litter. Don’t believe everything that everybody tells you or everything you read on the Internet (ha ha). Ask questions from people that have been successful and LISTEN to what they have to say. Don’t be afraid to approach someone and talk to and learn from them. Most people are glad to help. Never stop learning and never stop dreaming. Keep temperament and health as your number one priority.
BV: What are your future plans? What are you still working on or want to achieve with your dogs?
KK: After 50 years, future plans are limited. At this point in my life, what I want to achieve is helping other people be successful. I need to pass the torch, so to speak, to the younger generation. I hope to help and encourage them to enjoy the dogs as much as I have. I’m never satisfied and will continue to try and produce my vision of the perfect Whippet.
BV: What is your strongest encouragement to breeders everywhere?
Don’t give up. Don’t let the naysayers dictate how are you doing things. Stay true to your vision, but be realistic