‘Classie,’ GCh. Marlex Classic Red Glare, and Armando Angelbello entering the BIS ring at the 2014 Westminster show. Photo courtesy Jeffrey Hanlin.
Dogs in Review: How did you become involved in Miniature Pinschers, and how did Marlex Miniature Pinschers begin?
Armando Angelbello: I wanted a Doberman, but at the time, my wife was afraid of big dogs. While at the library researching breeds, I came across Dr. Boshell’s book Your Miniature Pinscher. I found the breed for us, and little did I know then how it would change our life. We acquired our first MinPin, ‘Taffy,’ in 1985 from a local breeder to be our family pet. I found a training class a few blocks from home and signed her up for what I thought would be obedience-type training. It turned out to be a conformation class. While it was not what I expected, Taffy and I took to it, and what she lacked in quality, she had in attitude. Subsequently, Taffy was entered in a few local shows, but I had been studying the breed and promptly realized she was exactly what we bought, a pet. So I retired her to the couch with seven points and began my pursuit of a quality show puppy. My search throughout the country for a breeder who would give a novice a chance led me right to my hometown. This is when I met Ann Dutton (Sanbrook kennel), who is still considered among the most successful MinPin breeders in history, and Mrs. MinPin to many. She gave a serious novice a chance, and I acquired my first show puppy, ‘Ricky,’ from Ann in 1986. Ricky (Ch. Sanbrook Silk Electric) went on to win the National Specialty three times and became the second-ranked top-producing sire of all time with 74 champions. Two years later I acquired our first show bitch from Ann (Ch. Sanbrook Swept Away, who happened to be Ricky’s daughter, and subsequently became a ROM producer as well with nine champions). This Ricky daughter was linebred to the top-producing sire of all time, Ch. Carlee Nubby Silk, and our first Marlex litter of one bitch was whelped. She became Ch. Marlex Electra Madness, herself a ROM top-producing dam of 10 champions.
DIR: Where did your kennel prefix Marlex come from? How many champions have you bred under this prefix?
AA: I came up with the kennel prefix Marlex by extracting and combining letters from our family first names, namely (ARmando), my wife’s and daughter’s (xioMARa and lisaMARa) and my son’s (aLEX). We have bred and co-bred more than 100 champions.
DIR: What do you look for when evaluating a young Miniature Pinscher? In your opinion, what will change over time and what will not?
AA: It’s a lengthy process from the time they’re 8 weeks old up until the show prospects are at least 5 months old. Early on, it’s mostly all about assessment of breed type and temperament and measuring to assess adult height prediction (DQ if under 10 inches or over 121/2 inches). If a puppy has a pleasing head at 8 weeks, generally it will stay that way. Conversely, a not-so-pretty head will generally stay that way also. I look at the overall quality and attitude first, then dissect the key pieces of breed type that define the whole, i.e., square body, level or sloping topline and high tail set, arched neck and how it blends into shoulders, up on leg, how it self-stacks (position of legs and carriage). If desired topline and high tail set are not evident early on, they will not be there in adulthood. Temperament is very important. Generally, a bold and fearless puppy will have the desired show temperament to show off its virtues. On the other hand, a shy or reserved puppy will generally not make a great show dog, no matter how good it looks at home. There are exceptions, of course. Movement is best assessed after 4 months of age, when you can gauge conformity to a sound, hackney-like action. If they don’t have a desired level of front lift and wrist bend with reach and drive, it will not get better with age.
DIR: What makes a Miniature Pinscher a great one?
AA: A great one must not only exude breed type and possess impeccable hackney-like movement, it must be highly spirited, self-possessed, the King of Toys. We had such fortune to exhibit one of the greats, GCh. Marlex Classic Red Glare (‘Classie’), who holds the record for most Best in Shows by a Toy dog in history, with 133, and National Specialty winner three times.
DIR: What would you like judges to pay more attention to when evaluating your breed?
AA: A procedural recommendation: Of late, judges have been asked to request the exhibitor show the dog’s bite. I would recommend for the MinPin, notoriously known not to be good on table examination, that the judge request the exhibitor show the bite at the conclusion of the table examination rather than at the beginning. Invariably, if done at the beginning, you have to restack an already challenging breed to hand stack on the table.
In evaluating our breed, keep in mind it is not a one-dimensional breed defined solely by its unique, hackney-like gait. There must be breed type in looks and character, as well.
DIR: What was your most memorable win? We know there have been many, but which one still makes your heart pump faster when you remember it?
AA: A most memorable heart-pumping moment was entering the Best in Show ring at the 2014 Westminster show with Classie at the end of the lead, in the midst of the hoopla, darkness and spotlights on the dogs, and the thunderous noise.
DIR: Finally, if you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?
AA: I would, but in dogdom, as in life, we don’t get do-overs. We live, learn, make mistakes, learn some more and so on. In the process, one hopefully achieves fulfillment of dreams and/or satisfaction in the pursuit.