I decided from the beginning that all our Collies would live in the house with us. The Collie is so emotionally attuned to his people that isolating one in an outside pen with little human contact seemed cruel to me. I know other breeders manage this somehow, and humanely, but I just can’t do it.
So…we operate under limitations regarding the number of dogs we can have here at one time. As I write this, we have five; I’ve been up as high as seven. The upside is that our dogs aren’t just socialized – they seem almost human. The Collie is exceptionally high in “emotional IQ.” In relating to humans, they are uncannily sensitive to our moods, body language, and tone of voice. That’s what makes them such excellent companion dogs. Keeping them in isolated quarters, other than occasionally confining them to a crate overnight or crate training a puppy, frustrates this fundamental instinct in a Collie.
I like having a manageable number of dogs, too, because I can handle the level of care they deserve from me as their solo caregiver (my husband helps out too.)
The dog food industry is largely unregulated. For every dog food recall you hear about, somebody’s pets have died from eating the food. I once read that bloody sawdust from the floor of a slaughter facility can be counted as “crude protein” on a dog food label! Okay, that was enough for me.
I feed my group a diet I call “hybrid homemade.” It’s a mixture of a raw egg, sardines, canned pumpkin or ground carrots & apples, cooked liver, beef kidney, and various animal muscle meats – pork, poultry, beef, and venison if I can get it. I make raw meals and freeze them in advance for everybody. That’s 150 meals a month. But I do not have to deal with picky eaters! Nobody turns their nose up at dinnertime. I enjoy their shiny coats, healthy skin, and clean teeth. This diet also reduces the volume of their defecation, which is small, hard, and almost odorless in a raw-fed dog. I’d rather make dinners than pick up the poops from five large dogs on the lawn!
I’m not a purist about this. I add some kibble to each dish (we currently feed Purina Pro Plan.) The kibble is for carbs. Carbs are a controversial topic among raw feeders, but my professional handlers tell me lovely coats grow better if there is at least some kibble in the diet. And since my raw formulation makes up the main part of the meal, I know they are getting great nutrition.
I have a “beauty parlor” on the Dog Level of my house, right next to the Whelping Room. I do all my own bathing and grooming. Going over each dog from nose to tail shows me any issues as soon as they start. Prevention is better than cure, as they say.
The baby puppies start nail clipping right in the whelping box at one week of age, once a week. Their little nails are needle-sharp and can scratch Mom as they nurse, and I want her to nurse her babies as long as it’s comfortable for her.
Everyone in the litter gets grooming table time starting at four weeks, to give them a positive start on a discipline they will need for the rest of their lives. As my puppies grow, I will brush them with a soft baby brush so they get used to the sensation. Then we will start with Dremel Training. The puppies must permit their nails to be ground, and the sound and the vibration takes some getting used to.
I start taping ears when puppies reach six to eight weeks of age. That forward tipping of Collie ears rarely comes naturally and contributes mightily to the lovely Collie expression. I train new Collie owners, too!
Attention, attention, and more attention. Yes, all this would spiral out of control if I tried to keep every pretty Collie that has tempted me! That is why I keep my census of adults low and only breed one to two litters per year. Happy, healthy, sociable, mannerly, and oh-so-loved.
You know, I don’t compete against other breeders.
Among Collie breeders, those who are members of the Collie Club of America, there is a camaraderie. That’s because we all, at one time or another, need the help of other breeders. Also, the shared experience and encouragement of other breeders when we have a nice win or a pretty litter of pups helps through the tough times.
Every breeder has their unique vision of the perfect Collie, and within the guidelines of the Collie Standard, each is a little different. Some prospective Collie owners will be attracted to the energetic and athletic Collie whose parents have an alphabet soup of performance titles behind their names! Others might be looking for a calm beauty to grace their couch, or a bouncy, playful dog that will entertain their kids. Collies come in all those categories.
So, to whom might a Whitehall Collie appeal?
Judging from the homes graced by a Whitehall Collie in the past nine years, most were looking for a healthy, happy puppy with classic Collie “type” and an endearing, charming personality that makes them a dream to have in their home. That’s what I was looking for when I went searching for our first Collie, and that’s what I breed for today.
Early on in my Collie breeding adventure, I was attracted to the style and temperament of the Milas Collies, developed by Lynn Butler of New York. Lynn is an artist, author, and professional photographer and has been breeding Collies since 1968. Her dogs developed an international following and a striking family line with much success in conformation competition. They are known for majestic arched necks, luxuriant coats, striking outlines, friendly faces, and peaceful, loving temperaments. That was the direction I wanted for my breeding program. You can see photos of the magnificent Milas dogs on their website, MilasCollies.com.
I have linebred my bitches to the stunning Milas studs exclusively for the past 5 years, and the “Milas Touch” is very obvious in our resultant generations. I am doing some cautious outcrosses at this point to obtain some elusive virtues, but the unique features of the Whitehall Collies breeding program will remain consistent.