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Festive Finale to the Dog Showing Year

The Ladies Kennel Association (commonly known as the LKA) is the last major championship dog show of the year for the Irish Wolfhound community, along with many other dog breeds. It has always been a popular show and an opportunity for friends to have a last get together and exchange cards and gifts and is also a qualifying show for Crufts for many of the breeds in attendance. The LKA 2015 had a great entry totalling 74, consisting of both UK and European dogs and this show bucked the trend of many other championship shows this year with only a limited level of absentees (compared to even breed club shows, where absentee rates have been over 50% in some cases). As well as the festive atmosphere at the show, undoubtedly another big draw was breed specialist judge, Maggie Holder (Mascotts) who was delighted to award Best of Breed and the Dog CC to Louise Pinkney’s homebred Hydebeck Imperial Ruler JW and the Reserve Dog CC went to Julie & Chris Amoo’s Sade Tyrion. Top honours in the girls were awarded to the Dukesarum Kennel, whose bitch, Dukesarum Aoife gained the CC and the Reserve CC was taken by Sue Wilkinson’s young girl, Jessica Kate Roan Inish. Debbie and Roger Tebbutt’s lovely puppy, Brachan Dolig Wen Caredig earned the Best Puppy title and Best Veteran was awarded to our own 9 year old Hermine von der Sillerquelle bei Heliodor. Maggie said that she had a fantastic day judging and was constantly delighted with the hounds shown before her:

It was a privilege to judge the Irish Wolfhounds at LKA 2015, I can’t remember ever judging an entry of such quality, where every class gave me challenges and I was spoilt for choice in most classes. I was very impressed with the males, in Postgrad Dog there were dogs I liked which were not placed, the first three in Limit Dog are fine examples of the breed, and my bitch line up was so good that I would have been happy to award CC’s to the Puppy Bitch, Junior Bitch, and 1st and 2nd in Postgrad Bitch along with the Limit winner. There were some very promising youngsters and the veteran winner was quite lovely, being fit and well at 9 years old. My stewards were extremely efficient, keeping everything flowing smoothly and there was a great atmosphere ringside mainly due to the presence of the cake ladies. A memorable day for me, thank you to everyone for your entries.
— Maggie Holder

As well as the top winners there were some fabulous personal achievements for many owners and handlers; Caroline Sheppard’s and Amanda Brown’s huge boy, Ned (Draugfara Taren) was placed first in Open Dog class and simultaneously also gained his Stud Book number (subject to KC confirmation) - a massive milestone for a massive hound! Home grown boy, Bertie (Bonaforte’s Earl Grey) also impressed and gained a second place in a very strong Postgraduate Dog class and Jo Hughes and Miles Kendrick’s youngest Wolfhound, Draken, also ranked second in the Junior Dog class and rounded off a successful showing year for Bonaforte’s Illuminati. Pauline Ashby’s lovely girl, Ashgroave Burleigh Oakey, was also placed second in Junior Bitch class and was sired by another member of the Bonaforte Kennel, Backwoods Samuel von der Oelmuehle. Delightful to see a whole batch of very promising puppies being shown. Lesley and Steve Bradley’s gorgeous girls took 1st and 2nd place in Minor Puppy Bitch: Glengail Ggeraldine At Floydian owned and handled by Debbie Treadwell and Lesley and Steve’s, Glengail Ggwendolyn. There was another pair of litter sisters showing in Puppy Bitch, belonging to the Dukesarum Kennel, amongst some other stunning youngsters bred by renowned Kennels, Rainster and Ravensbeech. Puppy Dog class offered another opportunity to see Sonali Das Purkayastha handling the lovely boy belonging to her and her father, Ravensbeech Romanus Among Neckrebagh. Congratulations to all the Wolfhounds shown this year at LKA, they are all winners in their own right and there are often amazing stories behind many of these dogs. Some of these hounds have overcome great adversity to achieve show results, some have survived serious illness and injury and some have been liberated from appalling situations to go on to flourish in their new homes. These personal stories make just being at the show a massive achievement for the dogs and their owners and the histories of these hounds bring a tear to our eyes - tears of joy. Finally, this time of year is a time for reflection for many of us and all of us at the Bonaforte Kennel have remarked on how much we have enjoyed the social side of the shows over the last months and we could not finish without mentioning and thanking the sensational ‘Cake Ladies’! I think I can speak for everyone in our community in saying a huge thank you to the dedication, talent and generosity of the 'cake ladies'. Not only do we all appreciate a slice of carbohydrate-fuelled delectation, but it is what the cake represents; owners, handlers, breeders, judges and even just visitors joining together on a social level at dog shows. For this reason it has been a great year around the show ring and we sincerely hope this trend continues. There is nothing better to break the ice and meet new people, calm down a stressed dog handler or show your appreciation to someone else, than a slice of cake. As well as offering cake to everyone, the Ladies decided to do a ‘flash raffle’ at the LKA of a superbly decorated Christmas cake, made and donated by Carole Kelly. The raffle was drawn on the day by IWRT Treasurer, Roger Tebbutt and the raffle raised a staggering £150.30, in only a few hours, for Irish Wolfhound Rescue and the actual cake was won by a delighted Sacha Dolling. Irish Wolfhound Cake Ladies - we salute you!

Season’s Greetings from All of us at Bonaforte Wolfhounds

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Raises More Questions than It Answers

Questions still remain unanswered as the Irish Wolfhound Health Group issued a statement to their Breed Members!

Although the identity of the person who posted on Facebook last night is still open to debate, the whole episode brought two issues back into conversation.

Firstly my situation with the Irish Wolfhound Club, which has yet to be correctly addressed by the Club, despite being directed by the Kennel Club to review and revise the situation, is still on going. So, yes, the question is still to be answered, am I in the Gang or out of the Gang? It is my belief that if the Club has not followed procedures (ignoring for a minute their initial letter, which was poorly worded and without foundation) if the rules have not been followed which clearly they haven't, I am of the opinion I am still a member of the IWC. Although the IWC had a meeting over a week ago, my letter could well be in the post, (only been waiting for a response since July)?

Secondly, and most tragically of all, it has brought into question as to whether all breeders are heart testing, not just the once, but everyone annually, despite it being a rule of the Irish Wolfhound Club:

Rule 20. Agree that all hounds used for breeding take part annually in a heart testing scheme approved by The Irish Wolfhound Club: the minimum requirement being examination by stethoscope, ECG and Ultrasound Scan.

Anyway, despite rules and regulations, where perhaps some will only get a rap on the knuckles for disobeying them, whereas others are severely penalised for committing no offence whatsoever, what about the situation some are creating or have created regarding the health of our hounds. There is no excuse not to heart test our hounds these days as the Irish Wolfhound Health Group have been extremely pro active in making testing readily available to all, but this scheme will only be successful if everyone continues to heart test, and more importantly re-test, and breeders should be leading the way in this. No matter who or where that heart testing is carried out, it is still our firm belief that all heart testing results should be publicised and this was indeed the unanimous decision at the health seminar last year.

So thank you, whoever you are, for raising these issues again, it’s our hounds that matter and not the lip service we are seeing. Actions speak louder than words, heart test your hounds, re-test your hounds, if you want to be in our club!

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Why aren't we sharing our Heart Test Data?

The professionals are telling us, nay begging us, to share the heart test data. Transparency is required, they all say, and this will help the breed go forward, enabling breeders and owners to make informed choices. Yet this isn’t happening! Astounding, it is astounding.

We have the top experts in the country advising us what to do. We have Nottingham University bending over backwards to help us. This alone is certainly something other breeds would give their hind teeth for, yet what do we do? Argue about the meaning of the wording on a test form. Equivocal, yes we have been told it means re-test, we have been told it means that it may be something, yet it may be nothing. If it is something then do you really want to take the chance and put your hound’s life in danger. No of course not, well I hope not!

Why aren’t we sharing? Because we feel there will be shame attached to our lines and kennels? However there almost certainly will be shame attached to all of us in the history books if we don’t share now.

Breed Clubs I am beseeching you to put this on your agendas, and do what is right for our breed.

We Care, We Share

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‘Vulnerable Native Breed’

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‘Vulnerable Native Breed’

There has been a great deal of interesting discussion in the press and on social media recently around the general topic of Wolfhound breeding, especially with the Kennel Club’s announcement that the breed now finds itself on the ‘Vulnerable Native Breed’ list, with 2014 seeing only 282 Wolfhound puppies registered in the UK. Various explanations as to the origin of this drop in popularity have been proffered, but there does seem to be some general agreement on the key factors of line-breeding, genetic bottlenecks, smaller gene pools and importing breeding stock from abroad. However, there are other factors to consider which contribute to the whole topic and which could exacerbate the current situation.

The Popular Sire Effect In my opinion the ‘popular sire’ effect can and does create genetic bottlenecks and over time history repeats itself, not just in our breed, but in others too. We can all see why a popular sire is used; people like what they see and want a bit of that to rub off on them. However, it is what lies in the hereditary genetics of the popular sire which is the issue and these issues only tend to become apparent once the dog has aged and it is too late. Certainly in a numerically small breed, such as the Wolfhound, overuse of a popular winning dog creates its own set of problems and even without the presence of any inherited health issues, overuse of any one dog will reduce the opportunity for genetic diversity.

Breeding Endorsements The other issue which I perceive to have been a drawback in many ways, is the unbalanced way in which breeding endorsements have not been lifted. The breeding restriction is there to provide protection to both the breeder and the dogs. However, restrictions have sometimes been used to dictate who can and cannot breed. Whilst it is the right of every breeder to impose restrictions, surely when dogs are showing great health and longevity and are a good example of the breed, then those restrictions should be lifted? In addition there should be more conversations to engage and mentor new breeders with such stock? I totally believe in the need for endorsements as it allows the sensible amongst us to monitor the health and progress of the progeny and at the same time monitor the dam and sire. There is a point, however, when you have some of the “facts” in front of you and it is apparent the endorsement could and should be lifted. I agree we don’t need a ‘free for all’ approach to breeding and breeding indiscriminately is unwise for the inexperienced - we need balance. It seems we have failed in this country to adopt a more sensible approach with endorsing, but have instead overtly micro managed the situation.

Importing to Widen the Gene Pool What is apparent in the UK is that Wolfhounds have three main issues that affect breeding decisions; heart problems, osteosarcoma and lack of fertility. These have had a very damming effect on the breed lines in this country and have narrowed the gene pool considerably. As a results many breeders have decided to look elsewhere for their hounds and have imported dogs from Europe and further afield. This, in essence, is a positive step to dilute what we have. However, importing is not without its own pitfalls. Yet, if a lot of the imported stock comes from the same background/kennels/lines then that is ultimately creating a new small gene pool, within an already small UK gene pool. We are now beginning to see a diversification of imports and this should be actively encouraged to try and dilute our gene pool. It's not a guarantee of health and is just as important to show due diligence regarding health matters. Without the assistance of some of the larger European kennels being prepared to export their dogs to the UK, the breed would have been in much greater peril than it currently is. Let’s hope that those who have imported will start their own carefully thougth out breeding plan.

Hobby Breeders versus Stocks-people If we didn't have larger stock kennels in the uk, who breed for a living, then our breed would have long been on the endangered list. Very few hounds from these kennels go on to breed and sadly those owners which do take the plunge and breed with their hounds, are typically not breeders that show their dogs or health check? What we have also seen is a lack of new people coming into the breed and being mentored by the experienced members of the breeding community. This, in hindsight, should have been a priority and the few newcomers that have been mentored, have seen this success in their kennels and in the show ring. What is encouraging at present is that one or two newcomers have had the foresight to acquire hounds from European kennels before embarking upon their own breeding programme, which can only be a positive in reducing the effects of the very narrowed gene pool? In the Wolfhound community of yesteryear the breed, like many others, was dominated by a handful of very large Kennels, where the breeder had a great variety of dogs to choose from in terms of breeding stock and there was a greater awareness of the importance of ‘stocksmanship’ and the showing of dogs was a means to an end to identify dogs for breeding. The trend for large Kennels has gone full circle and now the majority of breeding is carried out by smaller ‘hobby’ or 'amatuer' breeders with a far scaled down level of dogs available for breeding. Whilst downsizing does have its advantages-not least in not mass producing a specialist breed it does not necessarily have an advantage in breeding from a wider gene pool. With fewer dogs in a Kennel to choose from, automatically breeding activities become restricted, in truth, if we are the custodians of the breed, should there not have been the foresight to the longer term effects of losing larger kennels and their stock? Unfortunately, the smaller hobby breeders, like all of us, get older, downsize property and don't keep as many dogs and ultimately will discontinue breeding. Therefore, some lines naturally die out. "Show entries have also shown a decline over the past ten to 15 years, and sadly along with numbers there has been a decline in quality overall". This is an interesting comment from the Wolfhound writer in DogWorld, as the dogs from the larger stock based kennels are not bred into the smaller hobby breeder stock nor did they have an impact in the showring, so the decline in the show stock must be from within the smaller breeders stock- is this comment a reflection on today's breeders not having wider choices to breed from especially when issues of kennel type and line breeding are factored in?

Breeding for Health or the Show Ring Line-breeding has always been a contentious issue, but it does have certain advantages as it is a more reliable way, in certain regards, of predicting how litters will look and for limiting possible health issues. Unfortunately, this approach to breeding also has some serious downsides. There are various papers now written on the subject of line-breeding and the general concensus is that line-breeding ultimately creates a decline in the breed, often referred to as an ‘inbreeding depression’ which we are now seeing. Frequently we hear the comment that some hounds are easily recognisable as coming from a certain Kennel. At first glance, this appears to be a positive comment as clearly that Kennel has been successful in consistently breeding a particular ‘look’, however, what is also evident in such a statement is that there would appear to be very little genetic diversity in that Kennel? Therefore, such practices will only ultimately contribute to a new genetic bottleneck. By moving away from traditional line-breeding practices and lowering breeding coefficients, automatically we would see a positive effect on genetic diversity and also a step towards improved health, but only if breeding choices are based on health tested and health annotated breeding stock and not solely on show ring success. Several warnings have already been issued regarding breeding for the show ring, but the allure of success in the ring seems difficult for some breeders to resist. If the breed is to survive then all breeders must look closely at their strategies and benchmarks for breeding and inevitably some success in the show ring may have to be sacrificed for the sake of producing healthier hounds? It is hard not to breed with a good looking dog or bitch, who has fertility problems or potential heart issues, but it is vital to remove these hounds from our breeding programmes as these health issues are being bred into our UK lines. These are just two of the problems we can actively avoid by being sensible and not just using our hounds for the sake of it. The fact is, that is all we have and we want to continue years of our lines …. but what lines, if they are diminishing and we are having problems?

Another important factor when discussing health of our hounds is disclosure and use of health testing schemes. We already have some excellent testing schemes available at subsidised rates in the UK, the most prominent being the heart testing scheme run by the IWHG. Despite such testing being offered at a hugely discounted rate, there is often poor take up by certain breeders and owners, which can only negatively affect the overall health status of the breed. The reluctance to health test in certain quarters is compounded by a similar reluctance to disclose data and therefore make this valuable information available for others, so that informed decisions about future breeding programmes can be made. Transparency is the key to this problem and concealing health issues pertaining to a dog or within a Kennel is a very short term and thoroughly misguided approach and will ultimately only quicken the demise of the breed. Some very good health schemes are not going to have full impact without the information being shared. Today’s breeders need facts to take the breed forward and to not waste precious time in basing breeding decisions on false information.

Conclusion Within the UK we now appear to have a ‘closed shop’ situation with Wolfhound breeding, which has been further compounded with aspects such as endorsements and the level of micro managing, resulting in the breeding stock being severely diminished amongst the 3,000 Wolfhounds. Existing breeders, fearing for the breed, still seem to make it even more difficult for newcomers wanting to start a kennel, exacerbating the problems into a downward spiral of poor genetic diversity and health. As a hunting hound in modern day United Kingdom it isn't necessarily a total negative element to be on the vulnerable list. Limited numbers of puppies born and available each year will help in making sure puppies have the right homes to go to, with people who are prepared to live with a large hunting dog, which is of paramount importance. However, it would be prudent to have a way forward to protect the breed and to enhance health and increase longevity and by not looking at the bigger picture the breed is now at a vulnerable stage.

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Crufts 2015 ...…..it’s the taking part that matters!

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Crufts 2015 ...…..it’s the taking part that matters!

As with any world renowned event, there is always huge publicity surrounding all aspects of Crufts and this year’s competition was no exception. Naturally, as with any competition, the results are important and the winners are to be congratulated as they have achieved one of the highest accolades in their field. However, the old saying, although it may be a cliché, still holds true and Crufts is not just about winning, it is the taking part that matters. In the excitement of the day itself, it is easy to forget that the majority of dogs and handlers have worked hard to qualify, just to be there and for many being awarded a place in a class is secondary to the sheer thrill of being involved in the ’greatest dog show on earth’. In recent years Crufts has taken on a more social aspect as many competitors are delighted to meet up with friends, some of whom they have not seen since the previous year, and breeders get the chance to see their progeny in the show ring. For us at Bonaforte Wolfhounds this is the main focus of the day and we are overjoyed to not only see some of the hounds from our Kennel in the big ring, but to also be at the NEC surrounded and supported by owners and friends of the Kennel. It is these people that make the day such a hit and we would not usually embarrass them by naming individuals for their help and for going above and beyond the norm, but there are always exceptions! We wish to thank those friends who helped out tremendously by looking after dogs when their owners were in the ring and to those supporters who gave up so much time to take photos and record the day’s events for those who hand their hands full. A personal vote of thanks to Cathy Bateman who was a total trooper and assisted us all massively by handing out cakes and other things. We also wanted to express a sincere thank you to Caroline Sheppard, a dear friend who came to our assistance in an hour of need - Caroline shot into the ring during the Postgraduate Dog class to help Lady Katie, who was struggling to keep up with the somewhat blistering pace set by our judge, Goran Bodegard. As some of you know, Lady Katie actually has a heart condition, but she was determined to show her lovely boy, Sid (Bonaforte’s dark Sid von Moon), at Crufts. After the initial few laps of the ring moving the dogs all together, it became apparent that Lady Katie would need some assistance to continue and so Caroline rushed to her aid at a minute’s notice. Despite the fact that, in the end, Sid only wanted his mum to handle him, Lady Katie and Caroline made a cracking double act as they escorted Sid around the ring for his triangle and we are very proud of all 3 of them. Thanks again to judge, Goran Bodegard, for suggesting that Caroline ‘track’ alongside the hound and his handler, it was a very kind gesture on his part and allowed Lady Katie to fulfil her dream of handling her beloved Wolfhound at Crufts. This is the essence of Crufts - people joining together to celebrate our wonderful hounds. Another lady that we are exceptionally proud of is Zena (Hermine von der Sillerquelle bei Heliodor) who competed in Veteran Bitch class with Tina Barron and was placed second in a strong line-up. Her success in the ring was even more special as it was watched by her breeders, Viola and Wolfgang Mueller, who were sat ringside. Zena's granddaughters were also competing that day, the beautiful Ava (Bonaforte’s Enchanted at Ravencrag) and Nigella (Bonaforte’s Aishah). Huge congratulations to all on their performance in the ring and also the way in which they conducted themselves outside the ring - you are all a credit to the Kennel. The success of the Bonaforte Kennel is based upon teamwork and an event like Crufts really does bring this home. We simply could not achieve the things we have without the support of our owners, friends, colleagues and the dedicated professionals who are involved in the other aspects of the Kennel, particularly the health testing activities. At an event like Crufts the Bonaforte family seems to grow even bigger as our friends join in to make the day extra special and go out of their way to make even the most nervous owner feel welcome and an integral part of the proceedings. On a personal note, there is nothing better than standing in the ring, waiting for your turn, and being waved at by a host of smiling faces, some of whom you have not seen for a long time and some who you have never met in the flesh until that day!

Cupcakes and Wristbands We are delighted to say that the Wolfhound cupcakes were once again a big hit at Crufts this year and our helper handed out 70 cakes to people outside the ring, and sometimes inside the ring too! In fact, Crufts and cake seem to go together so well that the amazing baking ladies in the Wolfhound community really do surpass themselves and share all manner of culinary delights and Amanda Brown’s, Fiona Dawson’s and Andrea Joyce’s delicacies are the stuff of legend and almost as highly sought after as a red rosette. Another big hit this year were the Wolfhound Raising Awareness of Heart Health wristbands. These have previously been offered at heart testing sessions at the Bonaforte Kennel. They proved to be very popular at Crufts too with many Wolfhound owners who were unable to attend Crufts requesting a wristband and even overseas owners asking for information (to receive two free wristbands please send a stamped addressed envelope to the Broadholme House Farm address). Anyone that would like 2 wristbands can also send a £1 donation to the same address and all proceeds will go into our heart research fund (please see website shop for details). We are delighted that the idea has since inspired others in the Irish Wolfhound community to copy this excellent idea and produce wristbands with proceeds going to a charitable cause. Although they are relatively small, the wristbands are a huge symbol of the bearer’s dedication and commitment to the heart health and testing of our hounds and they represent our determination to take the breed forward for the future - Happy, Healthy Hounds.

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"I like the science but not the art."

I have just got off the phone after chatting to a friend about a dog, and how it's put together: it's conformation balance, amazing pedigree etc.  Although we like the dog and all it's individual attributes, angulation, lines, head, chest and so forth: after a long discussion, we decided that yes it was very nice, but when everything came together we weren't that inspired.  Hence my quote of the day.

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Reminder of the Oelmühle Rescue Offer

Follows is an extract from a letter sent in June 2014 by Jürgen Rösner of the Oelmühle Kennel, Germany to the Irish Wolfhound Club in the UK

“I am also very distressed to learn that apparently, dogs from my Kennel, which were sold in good faith, appear to have been unfairly treated and that there is evidence “of their onward sale to unsuitable homes”. …………..I would like to express my sincere apologies and deepest regret that this situation has arisen. Like any breeder, I am always keen to ensure that my dogs go to suitable homes and are treated properly (in accordance with point 10 of the IWC’s Code of Conduct for members), but ultimately we have to take buyers at face value and hope that they live up to our expectations. ....................................................................... As several members of the IWC Committee are also breeders and have exported (and imported) hounds over the years, I am sure that they will appreciate just how difficult it can be to keep track of dogs in another country, however, the important aspect at this stage is of course the welfare of the dogs themselves. With this in mind, I have asked my good friend and colleague, Carla du Rose of the Bonaforte Kennel to assist on my behalf and she has kindly agreed, should the need arise, to accommodate any Oelmühle related dogs at her own excellent facilities………. I understand that Carla has already performed a similar service with a re-homed dog from a European breeder that had connections to Liz Thornton’s bloodlines and thankfully that hound has been successfully placed in a new home. It is also important to note, and I would like to inform both you and your members, that the Oelmühle Kennel has over the past thirty years, rescued many Irish Wolfhounds that were exported from the UK to Germany and other European countries. Such rescues were done sympathetically and quietly, without fanfare or fuss, and always with the welfare of the animal as the first priority.  Some of these dogs remained at Oelmühle and some were placed in knowledgeable homes, as befitting their needs.   At this time I do not wish to name the kennels involved, but amongst them are several well known UK breeders, who all exported hounds in good faith to what they obviously perceived as good homes.  The point I make is that I am not alone in exporting a dog to what later proves to be an unsuitable owner ............................................

Be mindful that the offer mentioned in this extract above was made in June 2014 to the UK Irish Wolfhound Club and still stands; therefore, any Oelmühle related hound (in other words a dog with an Oelmühle parent or even grandparent) that requires help or assistance is unconditionally welcomed by the Bonaforte Kennel. Carla du Rose will happily offer sanctuary to any Oelmühle related Wolfhound that needs re-homing on a permanent or temporary basis, no matter what the circumstances or status of the dog. In addition, any such dog will be afforded the same services that are already offered to Heliodor and Bonaforte hounds including free heart testing, fostering, support and advice, assessment and onward placement in a suitable home. All services are offered completely free of charge to the current owner and related costs will be borne by the Oelmühle Kennel. As such, this strand of Wolfhound rescue is entirely separate to the Irish Wolfhound Rescue Trust (IWRT) and in no way incurs any cost to the IWRT or depletes its Wolfhound Rescue funds.

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PLEASE GET YOUR WOLFHOUNDS HEART TESTED, EVERY YEAR, FOR AS LONG AS THEY LIVE!

Charlie’s Story - It is not an uncommon event these days to hear Irish Wolfhound breeders and owners talking about heart disease, heart testing, equivocal test results, testing normal/clear, re-testing, heart monitors, Doppler, ECG, Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). To many people, although these terms almost constitute a different language, they have fortunately become so frequently aired that they nearly become a casual and distanced discussion, topics that seem somehow a million miles away from our much loved hounds. I use the word ‘fortunately’ because this current state of affairs is a huge, positive step forwards for anyone involved in the breed (and many other breeds); the mere fact that the whole issue of heart problems in our dogs is now an open conversation means that we will make practical advances in improving the quality of life of our Wolfhounds and also extend their life expectancy. Many owners already in the breed are familiar with the regional heart testing scheme run by the Irish Wolfhound Health Group and the great importance we all place upon getting our hounds tested every year and thankfully, even those dogs diagnosed with some heart issue/abnormality do go on to lead happy lives with or without medication. For the unfortunate owners of dogs whose diagnosis is not as good however, these results can signal the start of a very painful journey and one which always culminates in great sadness.

Any dog owner whose pets have been affected by serious heart conditions bears an almost tangible scar as a result of dealing with the illness, in the same way that other terminal conditions like osteosarcoma leave their mark. The following story is not designed to cause distress or upset, nor is it intended to scaremonger or seek pity for those involved, it is merely a personal account of the devastation that these illnesses can cause.

We were the proud owners of 2 Neapolitan Mastiff bitches, one we had raised from a puppy and she was then around 2 years old and the other girl was retired to us at the age of 12 years. The older bitch took ill one morning and it appeared she had suffered some kind of stroke and had become paralysed from the neck down, so we had no option but to have her put to sleep. She had been with us for 6 months and we knew she had enjoyed a happy life prior to that and certainly she had a good time with us too. This left our younger bitch on her own and at that point in our lives we both worked full time – my husband working days and myself working 24 hour rotating shifts. The younger bitch became lonely without her companion so we set about tracking down a new friend for her. Luckily someone we knew had taken a dog back that was originally sold as a puppy and then after 2 years the owners had decided that they did not want the dog anymore and did not have time for him. We went along to see this male and we instantly fell in love and brought him home with us, much to the delight (eventually) of our bitch. Charlie was a huge dog, even by breed standards and a stunning looking boy with the sweetest temperament, but straight away we noticed he had some rather unique quirks. His stomach seemed a little swollen and he would frequently fall asleep whilst still sat up! He took a few days to settle in and so we left it for a week or so before taking him to our own vet to register him and get him checked over. Our vet on this first visit was the senior partner of the practice and familiar with the breed and he checked Charlie over and advised us that he thought the swollen stomach may be worm infestation and prescribed worming treatment and started a new course of vaccinations as we did not have any vaccination history for him. Things seemed great with Charlie for a couple of weeks after the first trip to the vets, but his swollen stomach did not seem to go down so we made another appointment. On the second trip we saw a different vet and she checked Charlie over and then announced that there was a problem with his heart (this was back in the 1990’s and my husband and I were not familiar with heart conditions, probably not a bad thing at this point).

A conversation then took place which focused on where Charlie had come from and the vet’s opinion that the previous owners should be prosecuted, meanwhile I was stood looking at a dog I now utterly adored and wondering what this all meant? We were given a diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy right then and there and informed that his swollen stomach was a result of fluid leaking from his heart valves into his body. Nothing else was discussed and we were sent away with tablets (diuretics) “to remove some of the excess fluid from the body”. I don’t remember if this diagnosis was confirmed with x-rays, EKG or ultrasound as the next few weeks all seemed to blur into one. The only other thing we both vividly remember about that visit was being told that Charlie, at the most, had 6 months to live...............we were both in tears way before we left the consulting room. For the next few weeks we tried to get on with things and we gave Charlie his diuretics every day and he seemed to be improving a little and not as tired and lethargic as before. There were 2 main dramas that we dealt with on a daily basis at this point; firstly, the diuretics worked very well and every afternoon, whoever was home first, faced an ocean of urine when they walked into the house – the whole ground floor was literally swimming in the stuff. Secondly, although some of the fluid was being removed with the medication, a fair amount still remained in his body and as a result Charlie snored. In fact he snored so loudly that even our neighbours could hear it at night (we lived in a semi-detached house) and complained about it! His distended stomach acted like a drum and his snoring reverberated on a massive scale and I ended up at the GP with chronic insomnia for the first time in my life.

Eventually the diuretics seemed to stop working and so on another trip to the vets we were advised to bring Charlie in once a week to have the fluid ‘drained off manually’. So every week that’s what we did and it was not until the penultimate occasion that I found out what draining the fluid off manually actually entailed – I was horrified! The vet had decided that it was better to drain Charlie off outside in the paddock at the back of the surgery, due to the sheer amount of fluid that would have flooded the theatre floor otherwise. As I walked around the car park next to the paddock I saw my beloved pet with 2 rope slip leads around his neck, one lead being held by a vet nurse on one side and the other lead being held by someone else on the other side – a game of ‘push me, pull you’ seemed to be happening and in the middle was the vet inserting syringes into Charlie’s stomach and then pulling out the plungers to allow the fluid to gush out. It is an image that will haunt me to the end of my days.

We soon found ourselves having to have the fluid drained from Charlie on an almost daily basis and so we asked another vet in the practice for advice. He was very sympathetic and understanding, but we pushed him to tell us the realities of what could happen. The vet advised that, as we were both out at work some days for a few hours and Charlie was at home, then there was now a distinct possibility that the fluid would build up and he would drown, but that the drowning may take a few agonizing hours. It seemed at this stage that the decision had been taken out of our hands and we let Charlie go on this final visit and yet again, we were all in tears, even the vet.

What happened to Charlie was incredibly distressing and if we had known at the time, I’m not sure we would have chosen the path that we did. Although Neapolitan’s have a breed predisposition to DCM and other heart disease, they were not routinely heart tested and I believe are still not routinely tested even now (it is only a recommendation and not a requirement on the Assured Breeder Scheme).

My message in recounting this traumatic part of our life is a simple one: if you understand just one thing about heart disease and heart testing in our much loved Wolfhounds, understand how utterly devastating this disease can be and anything we can do to help reduce it or even eliminate it completely MUST be done.

PLEASE GET YOUR WOLFHOUNDS HEART TESTED, EVERY YEAR, FOR AS LONG AS THEY LIVE!

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Liz Thorton (Mochrashounds) spoke at the The Irish Wolfhound Club Educational Seminar

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Liz Thorton (Mochrashounds) spoke at the The Irish Wolfhound Club Educational Seminar

The well attended Irish Wolfhound Club Educational Seminar today was very suitable for both newcomers or prospective judges as advertised. 

Coffee and biscuits awaited us on our arrival and the talk commenced promptly.  

It was heartening that Liz Thornton ( Mochrashounds) started her talk by emphasising the importance of fitness and function. I could not agree with her more, and to me this is paramount for our beloved Irish Wolfhounds, whether they are pets or show dogs or both.  Your sighthound is a hunter and to catch the rabbit he or she has to be healthy and fit. 

Our speaker also highlighted the fact that bad mouths are on the increase, could this be mother natures way of telling us that they are not being used as intended.  Those powerful jaws, along with their fitness and strong hind propulsion is there so they can hunt and fend for themselves. 

The second important question was asked by Gary Bee, “Why are there two breed standards - The Kennel Club and the Irish Wolfhound Club?”  

A question we all needed the answer to.  Liz eloquently advised us that they judge from The Kennel Club Breed Standards and that is a description.  However the essence of the Irish Wolfhound they feel is better described by The Irish Wolfhound Club Breed Standards. 

Comparisons were made between the Irish Wolfhound (Jan Pain’s - Ravensbeech ) and a Deerhound, ( Mr Mrs Pursglove’s) Two beautiful hounds and very patient. 


After a short break we were organised in groups and had  4 dogs to go over, with a CC judge to help us.  Our first dog was Diane Redfern’s Rainster Rory, fine and majestic.   Mrs Pursglove was especially helpful and informative with our group when we moved on, explaining and demonstrating extremely efficiently and clearly the chest and forequarters.  We then progressed to a lovely bitch, who’s chest and forequarters are her strength, Jackie Morris very kindly moved her for us too. Our next dog was supervised by Jean McDonald-Eliot, and she had us comparing the spring of ribs with the last hound we went over.  We all found  this comparative discussion very informative. 

What I personally found challenging was the fact we did not see the hounds move first. I am use to movement being my tell to both the construction and also the strengths and weaknesses of the hound. So having looked first at the outline and balance, the hands had to help you with the rest. When Jackie Morris (Amarach) very kindly offered to move her girl for us outside after lunch I was back in my comfort zone.  Like the hounds, movement is everything for me and today confirmed this.  The hands are helpful, but the eye for movement is the key for me.  

It was very nice to meet and greet those we only know from Facebook and very nice to meet new people, especially those who have been in the breed for many years and are keen to share and reassure.  Having the expertise there today was extremely helpful.  Especially to hear and see their different methodology and preferences.  Such a shame Dagmar Kennis-Pordham (Solstrand) could’t make it today. 

We all took a certificate home with us which was a nice touch, and can be added to the CPD collection. 

Big thank you to everyone who made today possible and of course to the lovely Irish Wolfhounds, who bring us all together. Finally, great work going on in the kitchen too - Pauline Ashby (Ashgrove) et al.  and a good chance to catch up.

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Breeding Protocol – Points to consider before breeding your Heliodor/Bonaforte Wolfhound

There are many things to consider and take into account when contemplating breeding a dog such as an Irish Wolfhound. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but all the points are crucial and should be examined in great detail before proceeding:

Experience – what experience do you have of breeding dogs and whelping and rearing puppies? Breeding any type of dog can have pitfalls and Wolfhounds are renowned for being one, if not THE trickiest breeds on the planet. They do not make a good breed to be a starting point as every stage from mating and conception through to the birth of the puppies and their upbringing is fraught with difficulties. Even Wolfhound breeders with years of experience often still face huge setbacks and lose entire litters of puppies.

Facilities – is it essential to have the room, equipment, time and people to breed and rear a Wolfhound litter and an experienced vet on standby. The bitch will need a clean, quiet and separate place for whelping and you will also need to have separate areas for her and the puppies at various times of the day and night, away from all other dogs in the household, visitors and family members. Having a litter of puppies will seriously impact upon your life and you will be greatly restricted for the whole 8 weeks the puppies are at home, plus a week before they are born. For the first 3 weeks minimum, the puppies and their mum cannot be left alone for a second and must be watched constantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This typically means that at least 2 people will have a full time job just puppy sitting and when they are not watching the puppies that person will be sleeping! Breeders will go through an enormous amount of bedding materials, disinfectant, food of various descriptions, worming products, antibiotics................................and many other items.

Finance – there is no getting away from the fact that breeding a litter of Wolfhounds is an expensive business and breeders must have a financial buffer in case of complications, as well as the anticipated costs. Most people contemplating breeding a litter expect costs such as the stud dog fee, some puppy food and perhaps some bedding material, but there are many other hidden costs which can quickly mount up, not to mention unexpected vet bills if the bitch or the puppies has complications at any point. A bitch that we bred ended up having a Caesarean after getting into difficulty during whelping and 2 weeks after the puppies were born she also developed very bad mastitis, had to be hospitalised and undergo emergency surgery; the resulting vet bill was over £4000.

Health – any bitch or dog, which is being considered for breeding, must be in optimum health and fitness. All our puppies are endorsed when sold as “progeny not eligible for registration” and your puppy contract will outline the requirements for this endorsement to be lifted. Essentially the bitch/dog must pass a veterinary inspection and be given a clean bill of health in a written report, plus she/he must also undergo a 3 stage heart test (within the last 12 months) carried out by a veterinary cardiologist and be tested clear/normal on both aspects. The reasons for such stringent testing are obvious; you must ensure that the Wolfhound does not display any defects or illnesses which could be passed onto the puppies. In addition, a fit and healthy hound will cope with the stress of mating and rigours of whelping much better than one that is unfit. However, please be aware that pregnancy in dogs has many of the same hazards as pregnancy in humans and there is always the possibility that the bitch may die during whelping or afterwards! As well as the health of the parents, the puppies state of health must also be taken into account and puppies must be liver shunt tested before they can go to new homes, vet checked, wormed from 2 weeks of age and then every 2 weeks after that and ideally at least first vaccinations completed before they leave you.

Owners – if all goes well and a beautiful litter of puppies are reared then obviously the majority, if not all, of these puppies will go to new homes. Whilst the breed is highly sought after due to the small amount of puppies produced each year, finding good homes for puppies is never easy. As a breeder (because that’s what you become when you breed a litter) you have a huge responsibility to find suitable homes for the puppies and also you must be prepared to have puppies come back to you at any point. Could you accommodate one or even several puppies coming back to you at 10 weeks onwards?

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My dog is possessive of his food, what can I do to prevent this?

When dogs are in a pack, they have a pecking order, and your puppy for the first weeks of its life will have had the protection of its mother, and her ranking.

When puppy enters your pack, i.e. your family, you must ensure that puppy knows his place in the pack’s ranking order, your family. Puppy must therefore learn that all humans are higher ranking than it is.

The last thing you want is for your dog to start playing boss, starting to protect what it considers to belong to him, i.e. “its” food, “its” toy or “its bed. The last thing you want is to be bossed around by a dog who thinks he is in charge.

What steps can you take to prevent this happening?

You eat first - this is exactly what would happen in a pack, the alpha dog/bitch eats first. Feed your dog at a set time each day - preferably a quiet time. Make your dog wait quietly for their food. Ensuring they are in the sit position. Place food in the bowl. Hold the bowl in front of the dog and place it up to your mouth and pretend to eat. To ensure also that the dog recognises you as the pack leader has eaten, lightly spit in the bowl on the food. Still ensuring your dog is sitting and calm, place the food down on the floor - holding on to the bowl. Do not allowed him to eat until you say so. Remove the food bowl once he has finished and walks away.

Do not feed at the food table, this breaks the pack code.

Repeat this until you feel confident that your dog knows that you are in charge.

I hope this helps you understand how your dog thinks, and by understanding you can help him. He is just acting out his natural instincts. Help him re-focus and establish his true order in the family. The family pet.

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We Own One of ‘Those’ Dogs! by Ali

Ali has kindly written a piece for the Bonaforte Blog about Presto. Fortunately for all of us Presto was a singleton, and thank goodness for that. Don't get me wrong he is adorable, one in a million, very kind minded, very loving, but as Ali says just everything happens to him, he is a walking calamity. This is the story of Presto so far, and without doubt there will be more to come. Thank you for sharing your journey to date!!!!

Whilst chatting to a friend at the IWS Limit Show on Saturday I suddenly realised that many people are unaware that we have ‘one of those dogs’. Let me explain further; as most of you know, Hector is our first ever Wolfhound, but we have owned other giant breeds for nearly 20 years, particularly St Bernards and Neapolitan Mastiffs. We lost our beloved Bernard, Gandalf (AKA Goose) in 2011 very unexpectedly and so when Presto arrived a few weeks later it seemed like fate and he ended up coming to us. The first few months with Presto (more commonly known now as HP) were great, if a little noisy as he loved playing with Hector and Mack (our remaining Bernard), but he began to grow into a lovely looking puppy and we were delighted with our new addition. However, HP rapidly seemed to develop a knack for being ridiculous and for being clumsy and so we had quite a few bumps and scrapes with him as a youngster. His trend for chaos and destruction seemed to grow on a par with his legs and so by the time we got him into the show ring he had already notched up quite a few minor illnesses and collisions. Naturally, we tried desperately to keep him safe and well and he has always been extremely well looked after and received the best nutrition, exercise and medical care. I should also say at this point that his breeder (and her husband) has been superb in her support and utterly amazing in every respect and we have become very good friends (largely due to us needing to support each other through HP’s antics, I think). By the age of 8 months it became apparent that Presto is indeed ‘one of those dogs’. We all know someone in our lives who seems to have the most terrible run of bad luck and whom things happen to on a regular basis that just seem to be totally unfair. Well the same is also true in the canine world and every so often (hopefully just once in your lifetime) a dog comes along that falls foul to all sorts of medical conditions and whose run of bad luck appears never ending – we have HP! I always refrain from actually listing Presto’s dramas as it makes such depressing reading and there have been a few occasions along the way where we all were holding our breath to see if he would recover (I am keen not to dwell on those occasions and to keep moving forward for my own sanity, more than anything else). HP also has a taste for the exotic and so some of his issues are quite rare and worth putting down on paper. Carla and I will certainly do that through the website blog [http://www.bonaforte.com/blogl-irish-wolfhounds], if nothing else it may just help somebody else should they be unfortunate enough to be going through something similar. At the time of writing this article Presto has upped his game plan recently and we have had quite a run on medical stuff the last few weeks including: affected movement from ongoing results of HOD (a condition he developed at 8 months where an infection got into the top of his femurs), Orchitis (one testicle swelled up due to trauma, but has now shrunk to the size of a walnut), a nasty bout of gastroenteritis (after he ate something that he and Wally dug up in the garden) and a nasty upper respiratory tract infection (that we managed to get to in time to prevent it developing into full blown pneumonia). Remember, this is just the recent stuff and by no means an exhaustive list! At this point you’re probably thinking one or several of the following: 1) That dog is a walking disaster and a complete jinx 2) It must be down to bad breeding
3) The dog must look like a train wreck by now 4) Bet that has put you off Wolfhounds for life 5) Your vet bill must be horrendous Well in reality, none of the above are true, but we are very grateful to Presto’s insurance company as they have never quibbled over anything and also have not put his premium up dramatically this year. HP still looks absolutely lovely and we have recently added Wally to our household, so he has not put us off – well not yet! As for the ‘bad breeding’ comment, well that would be a cop-out on our part (and completely bogus) to attribute Presto’s medical issues to his parents or indeed his DNA and none of his illnesses or injuries can in any way be caused by his breeding. All of Presto’s dramas could have easily happened to any dog and I’m sure they have happened to other dogs owned by other people, it’s just that HP likes to have more than his fair share of them. Depending on your outlook on life in general, you could deem us to be some of the unluckiest people on the planet in owning such a dog and certainly, at times, we do end up on an emotional roller coaster with Presto and it can be exhausting. However, without Presto, we would not have learned so many things about him, the breed or indeed ourselves and so we are grateful to him for that. Presto has taught us an awful lot in the last 13 months and there may come a time when he doesn’t pull through and bounce back with his usual zest and determination, but we will deal with that too, if and when it happens. Just writing little articles about some of the medical stuff and also writing this helps enormously and at least it puts HP’s antics to some use? So next time you see us out and about or at a show just smile and put a friendly hand on my shoulder and say that you understand that ‘we own one of those dogs’! By the way, goes without saying, that if you ever want to know anything about any of his medical conditions, just drop me an email or give me a call – we’re always happy to help. Ali

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