362 — Joseph Vergnetti: the Art and Science of Dog Breeding

Joseph Vergnetti: the Art and Science of Dog Breeding

“Breeding is Like a Recipe, You Need All the Ingredients On Hand”

Host Laura Reeves and Joseph Vergnetti in Puyallup, Washington.

So says Joseph Vergnetti, master breeder at Dassin Poodles. Vergnetti talks about the presentation, line-breeding and outcrosses, and the differences in the varieties.

In partnership with Ellen Charles, Vergnetti has been voted Breeder of the Year twice by his peers and was selected Non-Sporting breeder of the year by the American Kennel Club. They have produced more than 300 champions across all varieties of poodles.

Starting Young

Starting with a toy poodle that he learned to trim by himself at 10 years old, Vergnetti has successfully bred Boxers, Great Danes and American Foxhounds as well. He apprenticed with professional handlers in his teens, including Ted Young Jr, then went to work for Wendell Sammet, Ale Kai poodles.

“Wendell was hardest worker in the world. Everything was very precise,” Vergnetti said.

It was during this late ‘60s, early ‘70s time frame, that the trimming and presentation style of poodles changed dramatically, Vergnetti said, with the “spray up” becoming more and more important.

“Today it is a little over-done,” Vergnetti said. “They are almost a caricature, way over the top. Hairspray and excessive presentation has taken over. In a way, I think poodles are a victim of their own beauty. There is a normal dog (construction) under all the hair. That’s very important.”

Differences in varieties

Miniature poodles are Vergnetti’s favorite, he said, adding that “Miniatures are smart. They’re the perfect size. They know what they like and what they don’t.” He noted that miniatures often have more work ethic than standards. They were originally truffle dogs and circus dogs. “They don’t take much (grief) from anybody.”

Breeding planning

When breeding dogs, you need to have all ingredients, like a recipe, Vergnetti opined. The Dassin program generally maintains seven or eight stud dogs and an average of 10 bitches… “It’s important to have the dogs you want in front of you,” he said.

The Dassin Farms facility features a four-story-tall barn for a kennel building, Vergnetti said, with 50-60 runs and 72 windows all around.

“We can see the dogs all day, every single day. We take hair off the puppies to see the bodies. You can see temperament. We evaluate them every day on their own,” Vergnetti said, which he adds is how they make decisions about which dogs to keep.

279 – Brian Cordova on Poodles, PCA and the Definition of “Poodly”

Brian Cordova on Poodles, PCA and the Definition of “Poodly”

Miniature Poodle breeder Brian Cordova visits with host Laura Reeves about all things “poodly,” PCA (hint, Christmas in April!) and meeting “god.”

Poodle Club of America, currently hosted at Purina Farms in Missouri, in the early days was an outdoor event on the East Coast, for many years in Maryland. Cordova said the decorations at Purina Farms will make it seem like the dogs are being shown at a park, but with the convenience of being indoors.

Poodles, while attracting luminaries of purebred dogs, can be controversial, Cordova said, because of the trim. The continental clip, which served a function for the breed when retrieving waterfowl, is just window dressing he added.

“Ignore the trim and look at the legs and bones and what you’d judge on any other dog,” Cordova said. “The dog has to be sound. The rest of it is just fancy. When you say ‘poodly,’ people know what that means. It’s carriage and distinction.”

Cordova shows Cha Cha, Ch. Bragabout Dancing Mistress to RWB under “god” Anne Rogers Clark, at PCA. “Cha Cha was a group winner from the classes and was RWB here at PCA in a Gigantic entry of toy bitches. She was defeated by a Delorch bitch from Am. Bred who then won BOV handled by Diane Artigues,” Cordova said.

Cordova remembers his singular visit to the home of Anne Rogers Clark, while he was an apprentice for legendary handler Tim Brazier. The team was showing Clark’s Poodles at the time. There, on “god’s” refrigerator, was a picture of Cordova with Mrs. Clark’s dog.

“It was spine tingling,” Cordova said.

Much of the excitement in Poodles today surrounds the Standard variety, but Cordova said miniatures used to be the popular variety.

“There would be hundreds of (miniatures) entered everywhere,” Cordova said. “But PRA blindness decimated the variety. They really took a tough turn.” Fortunately, he said miniatures had largely separate gene pools for black/brown and white colors. Breeders were able to cross the color gene pools to help clear the problems and build back. When testing for PRA became available, Cordova said that made a huge difference for the variety.

Cordova shared PCA memories going back 30 years of dogs and people. He vividly describes a memory of standing on a field dripping in sweat, watching miniatures, while the judge ran two outstanding bitches of the day against each other.

275 — PureDogTalk’s “News” Report for Monday, April 1

All the News That’s Fit to Record

Welcome to Pure Dog Talk’s “News” Report for Monday, April 1, 2019. I’m your host Laura Reeves.

We start today’s show with a brand new report that the Labrador Retriever, America’s most popular dog for, like, a million years running, will be the star of the show at a specialty featuring more than ONE THOUSAND Labs, all wagging their tails in sync, at the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac. This mind-boggling event, held April 8-12 in Fredrick Maryland features, amongst any number of amazing opportunities to be bruised by a Labrador tail, a *stud dog auction* —- just think! High bidder wins what?? Swimmers!!!

Here at Pure Dog Talk, twice a week we bring our listeners all the news that’s fit to record in regards to our canine companions. And next on the list of major announcements for today is the GALA Poodle Club of America *hunting* entry! Before the Labs even finish up in Maryland, the Poodles take to the field in Missouri! Listen in next week when I talk with an actual goddess of hunting poodles!

Hunting Poodles Come to Missouri

Anyone who ever had any doubt, Poodles are *clearly* a superior species! This is clearly proven by their ability to carry themselves with dignity no matter what kind of crazy trim their owners opt for… But also because Poodles can earn titles in BOTH a spaniel hunt test (flushing) AND a retriever hunt test (retrieving), in addition to working certificate tests, and, for those who just can’t believe a floofy show dog can be a bird dog too, they offer the opportunity for field aptitude evaluation!

We promise this will be better than reading the Mueller report! PS I know a WHOLE bunch of my fans are “in” to murder podcasts… just *sayin* !!! While I KNOW the organizers will work hard to make this a “genteel” exercise, facts are facts…. Bird dogs’ (of which poodles are one) *natural instinct* is to HUNT and DISPATCH prey for dinner….. “Dog murders duck in Missouri” is a headline for which you should be mentally prepared…

PCA says: Bring your dog in a flat buckle-type collar and your dog’s favorite toy and see if training to be a retriever is for YOU! We’ll supply the information  and any other  equipment such as long lines, birds (big and small), wings, bumpers, duck calls, etc. We’ll start by outlining the basics of retriever  training,  move on  to play retrieving  with your dog  and  continue  with an  introduction  to birds. Come  watch Poodles at work on land in the morning,  experience the basics of retriever  training at mid-day and stay to watch Poodles  tackle the water in the  afternoon. Be sure to bring a chair and water for your dog!”

In 2017 *34* poodles were entered in the national hunt tests. So the next time you see a poodle all dressed up with places to be in the show ring, shaved and sculpted and sprayed to the nines, remember that half those 34 dogs passed their tests, even at the master level, and of those, four were also show champions! And THAT is NOT an April Fool’s joke!

Meanwhile, in one short month, on May 1, we’ll be celebrating National Purebred Dog Day, a day we enjoy the diversity of our breeds like the Pug, a small version of the Mastiff used in battle, though the Pug had the unique position of attacking ankles and not horses, according to NPDD founder, Susi Szeremy.

We also celebrate Spinone Italiano, which my mother and I saw for the first time — sometime in the ‘80s — in the international encyclopedia of dogs and proclaimed “LOOK! It’s what happens when you have an accident with the wirehair and the Clumber”!!! And no, they are NOT ice cream cones!

Speaking of Clumber Spaniels, www.National Purebred Dog Day.com is the place you can go to find out, for SURE, that these really *aren’t* called Cucumbers, Clumsies or Cumberlands….

While we celebrate all that is great about purebred dogs, please remember that from flea catchers for Victorian ladies to Gazelle catchers in the Sahara, purebred dogs developed FOR A PURPOSE… Sometimes with direct intervention from people and sometimes in a very hands off way, but always **for a reason**….. Plain and simply, To work with and for humans in a long standing partnership that dates to just after the Clan of the Cavebear … or thereabouts.

Purebred dogs create living, breathing wormholes to the past, giving us a glimpse through the shrouded mists of time. Every day they teach us about geography and history… about Greeks and Phoenecians and Eqypt and Africa, about China and Tibet….. about the power of inheritance in a way Ancestry.com will never be able to touch.

So, while ALL of this is going on we’re RIGHT in the midst of one of two phenomena in purebred dogs known as “nationals season”…. Now, rightly, you attend your breed’s **national** as in national specialty, not as in “I’m going to nationals” ACK! BUT, when you are lined up to attend many nationals in a row as a handler or judge, March-May and September-November are *chock a block* with 90 percent of the 190 breeds’ national specialty shows and/or performance events.

The spring and fall equinox, like actual clockwork, bring national specialties… often at the same *exact* time on opposite coasts (speaking from experience as a handler) but *sometimes* at the same time and place (thank you to all the dog show GAWDS, speaking as an up and coming judge who wants to learn more stuff, preferably without going bankrupt).

And all y’all Pure dog talk listeners KNOW why it’s so important to attend your breed’s national specialty?? Right?? You’ve listened to Eilleen Hackett on this topic. You’ve read the copious tomes of writings on it from yours truly, your humble host… right????

And NO it’s not for the shenanigans! It’s not for the ribbons either!! Both may or may not happen. But what will *always* happen at national specialties is the chance to see a LOT of dogs. Dogs you didn’t breed. You might be glad or sad about that, but there is not other time or place to see as many dogs of as many styles. The family reunion that is a national specialty may include a few too many of those relatives that make you wish you were adopted (or glad you were). But there will ALWAYS be those special people and friends that you only see once a year. And hell, maybe even make a new one. It won’t kill you.

Like any good news organization, here at Pure Dog Talk, we occasionally offer something from the “opinion side” of the house. Let me close out today’s breaking news with this thoughtful commentary written four years ago by your humble host…. But sadly, JUST as applicable today.

In a world gone mad…

Everything is politicized, polarized and pontificated upon. Discussion and moderate are words rapidly disappearing from the English language in this country. Fear and loathing lead the way in every media outlet. Difference, whether of opinion or appearance or culture, is vilified. Even presenting rational, educated commentary makes one a target, so few are willing to deal with the consequences of speaking up. Leaving a vacuum filled with more hatred and divisiveness.

So, we turn to our dogs.

Yet even within our sport, we see the effects of a society spinning ever faster, seemingly on the verge of losing control entirely. Nastiness within clubs, within breeds, towards judges, handlers and other exhibitors. In a world gone mad, no good deed goes unpunished.

Sitting down at the dinner table as a family, without television or electronic devices, and discussing everyone’s day, school lessons, work day or just life in general is considered old-fashioned, out-dated, unnecessary and impossible what with all the important stuff everybody has to do. In a world gone mad, Heaven forbid someone should miss out on “liking” the proper post or sketchy flash or outrageous birdcall.

So, again, we seek out our dogs and dog family. Yet, I once went to dinner after a show with six people. Outside of ordering food, there was utter silence at the table, as each diner texted the person next to them or across from them or Facebooked, tagging the person next to them. Awkward rules in a world gone mad.

A random kid shoots up the community college in my hometown. It happened the same day as a national where I was showing a dog I believed to be quite competitive for the big ribbon. In a world gone mad, this perfect little show dog lost his composure and focus and his chance at the breed win. I whined and moaned and gnashed my teeth over the unfairness of it all. Right up until I got a call from my mom that the world really had gone mad in Roseburg, Ore. Suddenly one ribbon or the other didn’t seem all that important anymore.

Fight back against the world gone mad. Do the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do. Help people who will never be able to return the favor. Give back to anyone who has ever helped you. Compliment people. Be genuinely happy for someone else’s success. Get over yourself, you aren’t all that important. Kiss your dogs on the nose, whether they win or not. Quit your bitching and get out there and help people who are volunteering to put on an event. And, in a world gone mad, cut the umbilical cord of electronic facelessness and learn how to interact with humans. Perhaps, just maybe, love really IS the answer.

As always, this is JMHO.

Thank you for joining us here on the special APRIL FOOLS DAY edition of Pure Dog Talk. Thursday we return to your regularly scheduled programing of highly serious, educational and informative podcasts.


91 – Dog Show Grooming, Poodle University, Online Handling and Allison Foley

Dog Show Grooming, Poodle University, and Handling All Online with Allison Foley

Allison Foley has started Leading Edge Dog Show Academy to mentor exhibitors online for dog show grooming, junior handling, and handling for adults.

A top Canadian handler known for her Best in Show Poodles, Allison has teamed up with her film student son to create a professional quality video series “on-demand”.

Poodle University

Poodle University is the first dog show grooming series with 8 courses:

  • Knot Your Average Top Knot
  • All Sprayed Up
  • Ultimate Guide to Poodle Top Knots
  • Poodle Puppy Trim
  • Continental Trim
  • English Saddle Trim
  • Poodle Prep
  • Poodle Handling

Junior Handling

A Junior Handler herself, Allison holds a near and dear place for training juniors, so she created Junior Handling 101.

Dog Show Handling for Adults

The beginner handling course is now live, with more to come.

Just Started, Much More Dog Show Grooming to Come…

But What About … (insert breed)???

YES!  Cocker Spaniel Grooming and Kerry Blue Terrier and much more breed specific dog show grooming is on it’s way.

Pure Dog Talk will announce new releases before they are live and give you first access.

Leading Edge Dog Show Academy

Pure Dog Talk listeners receive a 15% discount at checkout for a limited time.

Allison Foley showed her first Poodle in Junior handling when she was 7 years old. Fast forward from there to her winning of more than 550 All-breed “Best in Shows” on various breeds, but Poodles are her passion!

Having been a professional dog handler since 1987, Allison not only brings a wealth of knowledge to her lessons but also her whimsical view on life.

Allison is the President of the Canadian Professional Dog Handlers Association (CPHA), the Vice President of the Canadian Kennel Club Foundation, the Junior Handling Representative for the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) in Nova Scotia. She also writes for several dog magazines, worldwide.

More tips and courses are available at Leading Edge Dog Show Academy.