Buddies Breeder – Debbie Howe
We recently caught up with Buddies breeder, Debbie Howe, who is based in Langport, Somerset.
We asked Debbie some questions to find out more about her breed of choice, the Swedish Vallhund.
How long have you been breeding for?
‘I have been breeding Swedish Vallhunds for almost 3 years now, but historically I have bred German Shepherds.’
Why this breed?
‘I first met the breed when showing German Shepherds back in 1994 and instantly knew one day I’d have one. It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally decided ‘the time was right’.
I was incredibly lucky to find myself the very proud new owner of the 2011 top winning puppy in the breed and from that point on I was hooked. Alfie was everything I wanted from a dog and so much more.
Vallhunds have absolutely no idea they’re a ‘small’ breed. Everyone thinks they have the smartest dog but Vallhunds take smart to a whole new level. They are incredibly intelligent and quick-thinking. They’re also amazingly loyal – the only time I lose one of the pack, is when they’re so close to my heel, I forget to look down. Their size is perfect, and they make incredible lap warmers/pillows/foot warmers. Oh, and they have this amazing ability to run through muddy fields yet return home spotless. I am certain they are Teflon-coated as the mud just doesn’t stick.’
What is the best thing about the breed?
‘There are so many good things it’s hard to narrow it down, but for me I love their loyalty, intelligence and their sense of fun. Their size makes them manageable for young and old and their almost feline approach to their personal hygiene and lack of ‘doggy’ smell are all additional bonuses.’
Worst thing about the breed?
‘When they moult, they seriously moult and I constantly ask myself how can so much hair come out of just one dog! And when more than one throws their coat at the same time, well you just don’t see us because we’re under a mountain of cream-coloured fluff (their undercoat is light-coloured and very thick to protect them from the extreme weather in their mother country).
They also benefit from being reminded as puppies that barking ‘in moderation’ is fine as their inherent watchdog function can lead to excessive barking at visitors etc.’
What is the best thing about being a breeder?
‘Probably a sentimental cliché, but being able to hand over a well-planned, well-reared, healthy pup to a new owner and seeing how happy they are with their new pup makes it all worthwhile.’
What is the worst thing about being a breeder?
‘The actual whelping is always an anxious time. There are so many things that could go wrong, and I don’t think I really start to relax until the pups are in their third week and are starting to grow into proper little dogs.’
How many litters do you have each year?
Vallhund girls are renowned for being ‘choosy’ about their seasons and in general only have a season every 6-9 months. I would only consider breeding a litter when I am looking for a new pup, and as I believe in giving each pup at least a couple of years to develop, breeding revolves around this.’
If you could have any other breed, what would it be?
I have previously owned German Shepherds and have only recently lost my old girl. I would never rule out another Shepherd and Vallhunds are very sociable and mix easily so it would be possible.’
How long have you been with Buddies?
‘We’re newcomers to Buddies. We were introduced by a fellow Buddies breeder club member when taking our girl for her scan prior to whelping. We’re very impressed with the service so far, from the initial introduction throughout the gestation period and following on post-whelping, Buddies have maintained excellent and approachable contact. I have been pleased to share Buddies information and cover with new owners and feel confident that they will be well-supported in the future.’
Any other achievements you would like to share with us?
‘First and foremost, we’re very proud of our little pack and how accurately they represent this very ancient breed. The Vallhunds of today have barely changed from the Vallhunds that can be seen in history books and I feel this is something breeders before us can feel extremely proud of.
We have only a very limited gene pool as the breed was brought back from near extinction in the early 1940s, but careful and considered pairings and ongoing worldwide cooperation between breeders, should secure the breed’s future. Social media has been massively beneficial in bringing international breeders together.
On a more personal level, we’ve enjoyed incredible show successes with our veteran boy Alfie (Ch Starvon Veni Vidi Vici ShCM) winning numerous Best of Breeds, Group placings and Best of Breed at Crufts 2014. The dam of our recent litter ‘Rain’ (Pepperthyme On A Rainbow) and our Swedish import ‘Leica’ (Danga’s Diva X-Dotter of Valaller) have also gained their Stud Book numbers and have qualified for life for Crufts. We are hopeful our new pup ‘Quinn’ (Valaller Rainchild) will also carry the Valaller flag both in and out of the show ring.’
A huge thank you to Debbie for sharing her knowledge and love of this fabulous breed.