Inside the Mind of Michelle Santana, Foxfire Doberman Pinschers

An interview with the 2012 Winkie Award Winner for Breeder of the Year: Part Two.

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Dogs in Review: What qualities do you admire most in a judge?

MIchelle Santana: Honesty and integrity to oneself to do the best possible, and to choose the right dogs for the right reasons. I feel when you judge, it is about the whole dog — assessing and rewarding virtues and penalizing faults accordingly. We can’t totally discount or count in a dog to our breeding programs based on one fault or one virtue they possess because their progeny will inherit many things from them. Why would it be different with judging?

It pains me when we have judges who focus singularly on any one part of the Doberman standard (i.e., finding the shortest and squarest, fits-in-a-box Doberman in the ring). And all too often the dog is actually under square and inherently stick straight on both ends, hence the square, boxy illusion they are smitten to pin. The Doberman is about angles (front and rear) as much as it is about square. Our standard calls for a 45-degree layback of shoulder and a 90-degree angle where the shoulder meets the upper arm. Don’t be fooled by the illusion of square when it is that way because it lacks the angles to make it a Doberman! Learn about the angles, proportions and balance a Doberman should possess so you aren’t one of the many who just judge our breed by what singularly looks like a box.


Dogs in Review: What differences do you see in the judge of today as opposed to those you showed your dogs to in the early years of your career as a breeder?

Michelle Santana: I was just discussing this query over the weekend with an accomplished Boxer breeder and handler. We were reminiscing about judges of yesteryear who were true dog people. AKC had a large pool of judges who were accomplished in their acquisition of dog knowledge and husbandry. Before judging, many were licensed handlers who had managed large strings of dogs or kennels that rounded out their knowledge. Others had been breeders who produced outstanding dogs over many generations and years. They had the gifted “eye” to find our best dogs of any breed.

Today we are often faced with walking away from the ring shaking our heads, wondering what the heck a judge is doing judging our breed. We were discussing how our “DNR” (Do Not Re-enter under) list is sadly sometimes longer than the “drive to the ends of the earth to exhibit to” list


Dogs in Review: What are your most important considerations when selecting a stud dog?

Michelle Santana: As much as I’d like to say it is some scientific formula, it is oftentimes nothing more than a pitter patter of the heart! Albeit it is invaluable to have the decades of traveling with specials (and nationals) behind me that have taken me to places far and wide, with access to see many of the Dobermans in pedigree of today. When I look at a dog, I not only see what is in front of me, but often a “road map” of the many, many dogs that make up a particular dog’s pedigree.

In addition, I have a very good breeder friend who is an engineer by degree. We laugh that he breeds with his protractor in hand, assessing each little nuance as if it’s an architectural design. We muse to each other how I am more the “artiste,” with a paintbrush in hand, stroking the canvas I sit in front of. I just get a feeling — I see a dog, and I get goose bumps. I know innately I want some piece of that dog. And then I set out to find the bitch in my own breeding program that will best utilize that piece (also taking into account the health test puzzles). So, I guess it can be said that I breed from the gut. My “creations” are the result of my mind’s eye, with brush in hand and a canvas as my backdrop. I “paint” what I want to see in my yard and at the end of my lead!

From the July 2013 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Purchase the July 2013 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine.


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