Interview with Young Breeder • Joe Borges
Published in Best in Show Annual 2020
Q: Thank you for doing this interview with Best in Show Magazine. Please tell our readers how you got involved in dogs?
A: My parents bought a female Dachshund two months before I was born. “Rumba” was on my side throughout all of my childhood. My dream was to have a beautiful fawn Boxer male, but my mother decided otherwise. In 2004 we had our first Chihuahua, a lovely long-haired male born in Switzerland called “ Virgil Jacot de Guillarmod “. He was originally supposed to be a family pet. A few months after selling him, Sonia Chavarria-Cestrone (Virgil’s breeder) encouraged us to show him in junior class.
I started to show him in his breed-ring and in the Junior-Handling-ring. I learned a lot during the Junior-Handling training sessions we had at every dog-show with Sonia’s step-daughters Justine and Estelle. I have been lucky to be on many Junior-Handling podiums with Chihuahuas.
When my Junior-Handling period was finished I began to show some dogs for family, friends and breeders around Europe. I collected some nice results at the World Dog Show, Euro Dog Show and Crufts. All throughout this period I have been lucky to meet trustworthy people from around the world who have been (and still are) on my side. I do not need to mention their names, they know they are important for me and have my respect.
These experiences gave me the opportunity I have today, to lead a weekly Ring-Training lesson at my local kennel club. This year I will judge the Swiss Junior and Show Handling Championship and I am very excited about this appointment. Last year I judged more than 100 Long Coats at the Midland Chihuahua Club (UK) Open Show and I was supposed to judge the Smooths this year at the British Chihuahua Club (UK) Open Show but *CoronaVirus* has decided otherwise.
Since 2019, I am a FCI student-judge for Chihuahuas, Chinese Crested Dog and Little Lion Dog. It is a responsibility and a project that is close to my heart.
Q: Why do you breed Chihuahuas ?
A: Breeding is for me a small-scale activity, but always done seriously. Breeding is also for me a way to perpetuate the breed. Of course you can see hundreds of Chihuahuas in the street of a big city, but how many of them are from reputable and serious breeders trying to keep and respect the original breed heritage? The answer is few, very few. I decided to breed Chihuahuas to try and produce decent dogs and for the social aspect around it. I cherish the “puppy-period”. I love to spend time with puppies, socializing them, training them to walk on leash and bringing them around to discover the world. I do not pretend to improve the breed, but rather trying to perpetuate it for me is a beautiful purpose.
Q: Which are your priorities when breeding.
A: My priority is to breed Chihuahuas with a Chihuahua Look and a Chihuahua temperament. I try to breed and select dogs according to the breed standard and to my vision of it. I will endeavour to breed dogs that are a correct size for the breed, a dog with the breed characteristics without exaggeration and with a good temperament. My goal is to be happy and proud of the average quality of the litter, it’s why I will never buy or select producers who do not meet my expectations. I could never breed dogs that no longer look like Chihuahuas just to keep up with current sale trends. I am very sad when I see “breeders” focusing only on short muzzles and special colors. Producing a puppy for show is not the only priority. The first priority is to breed healthy companion dogs. I keep in mind my responsibility when I produce puppies, especially on finding exceptional homes if I cannot keep them. We must keep in mind that all of the puppies sold to families as a pet are the real ambassadors for our breed.
Q: How many dogs do you keep in your kennel and do you co-own dogs in some other households or families?
A: I never had a lot of dogs at home. At maximum I had five adults plus puppies at home. Having a small number of dogs is a question of lifestyle. Our Chihuahuas come with us on holidays, in restaurants and to our friend’s barbecues. We have always kept our veterans with us until the end. Sometimes I wish to have more dogs, but I have to consider the amount of quality time I share with the ones I have.
Q: How do you evaluate your breed quality in your country and other countries in Europe, and rest of the world?
A: Switzerland is a small country. The number of Chihuahua breeders here is very low. I do not know the exact number but probably less than ten active breeders in the country. For such a small number the quality is average. We often have breeders or passionate exhibitors who do interesting matings or import. It is very important to stay connected with other countries when you are a living in a small place like Switzerland. I have never been out of Europe but I have already seen some American, Asian, Australian and South American dogs in our European rings. I can only say that excellent and poor quality is everywhere. You can find serious and devoted breeders in every country. We have to keep in mind that our priority is to improve and retain the quality. Breeding is a collective art without borders. Do it for you and for others.
Q: Of which achievements in the ring are you most proud?
A: Of course I’m very proud of every big win, even more in a breed like the Chihuahua’s where the entries are often very large. A real achievement I am proud of is when I share a perfect moment in the ring with my dog. Everyone who has shown a lot will know that every show is totally different and emotions are too. Sometimes you can win but without feeling very proud, maybe because the dog wasn’t perfectly connected with you, maybe because you were a bit more stressed during the day or maybe because something disturbed your mind during this moment, etc. Sometimes you “ loose” but you have nothing to blame, neither your dog or yourself because the job has been done perfectly. You were in a perfect mood and concentration, the dog had fun and you did too. I will never question a judgment. I accept the game and keep my spirits up for the next day. To summarize my answer, I will say that I am proud every time when the dog and I perform without a hitch and without regret.
Q: Of which achievements in the breeding are you most proud?
A: I would like to change the word “proud ” to “ happy ” for this question. The Chihuahua is not the easiest breed to breed. They are quite small, they have quite big heads and even if they are the smallest dogs in the world they may have notable differences in sizes at birth. It’s for this reason I will say that I am happy when I have a litter without complications. When the mother is still in top condition after birth and when the puppies have stable and average weights. Compared to some breeds, the Chihuahuas is not as “fixed” as others. Breeding a homogenous litter in type and size is really something that makes me happy.
Q: Which 3 dogs in recent years, not from your kennel, do you most admire?
A: Born in 2008 : Ch. MistyMeadow’s Orlando Furioso “LUCA”. Luca is owned and bred by the Cochetti’s family in Italy. I like his size and substance. He is a dog that fills so many required characteristics of the breed. He has an excellent temperament and something else we must not denigrate is that he aged well. At 12 years old today he is still in perfect condition. He is alert, lively and has amazing pigment for his age. In addition to his successful show career, Luca is a significant producer in the breed. I have been lucky to meet some of his off-springs and to show some of them. Born in 2009 Ch.Copymear Celebration “CARLA”. Carla is the most winning Smooth Coat Bitch of all time in UK. She has won 52 CC’s. Bred and owned by David Reece in the UK. She was a real jewel and a real icon for the breed. I’ve been lucky to meet her at Crufts. She was a real showgirl, always on the starting block ready to fly in the ring. Large eyes and ears, beautiful glossy coat, a swift and fluid movement from a body full of substance and a shinning soul. She was a real “Eye-Catcher” . I will always keep in my mind the magical feeling I got when feeling her in my hands. The last dog I want to mention is a dog I have never met in real life, but I have seen so many pictures of her and heard so many stories about her that it’s like I have met her in another life. Born in 1991 Ch. Griotte de la Lumière de Sigiria “GRIOTTE”. Griotte was bred and owned by Monique Rossi in France. Anne Leplat and Monique Rossi had an important impact on the breed in France, mainly by being pioneers in the importation into France of dogs from the UK. Griotte is a daughter of an English import – Ch. Chipperlake Anthony and a French mother Biguine De La Lumière De Sigiria (herself a result of mating two English dogs.) Griotte is the type of dog we see less and less of these days. A compact bitch with a real Chihuahua size, without exaggeration of type, lean lips, dark round eyes, a perfectly shaped apple dome head, a clean outline with correct quantity and quality of coat. All these points surrounded by an amazing temperament. A real showgirl who has continued to win some best of breeds from the Veteran class.
Q: What do you think are the strong points and weak points in the breed today?
A: As I just write, I find it more difficult to find compact dogs in both varieties. Many of the dogs I see at shows (and mine too) are often too long. Using the sentences “ It’s OK for a female” and “He is long but he is young, he will look shorter after maturing”, is good for our morale and general optimism, but we must remain attentive on this point. A well proportioned puppy will be a well proportioned adult, a long puppy could improve but will stay long.
Another important point for me is the temperament. A Chihuahua must be a big spirited dog in a tiny body. I think that the question of temperament could be an actual weak point and an actual strong point. It depends on the lines and on individual dogs. Anyone who has been in contact with many Chihuahuas know how some of them could have an easy and strong temperament and others could have an irregular and sometimes stupid temperament. I like to see happy and confident dogs in the ring. The charismatic little ones are the ones we like to see in main rings representing our breed.
Q: Do you think judges generally understand your breed well?
A: Yes, I assume that qualified judges have sufficient cynological experience and have been fairly validated by their Kennel Clubs. We will always meet judges who do not share the same opinion, but that is also the point of going to the exhibition. Anyone who goes to an exhibition agrees to be shaken up in their ideas and to receive a new opinion.
Q: Which judges would you consider ‘specialist’, meaning that their understanding of the breed is deep enough that their opinion should represent a point of reference to breeders?
A: I cannot mention all the specialists we have in the breed. A good Chihuahua judge is someone who is able to understand the breed and their history. By history I mean the recurring topic we have in the breed : the molera. The “soft-spot” they have on the top of the head is a historical breed characteristic. At the end of 2009 this characteristic had been listed as a disqualifying fault. A good judge is someone that understands that we cannot change all of the breeding stock with a snap of the fingers. Obviously we do not want to see extreme moleras covering all of the skull, but a small and regular molera must be mentioned but not disqualified. This subject must be understood by the judges but also by veterinarians who are sometimes alarmist with neophyte adopters. A judge who has enough experience in judging, in breeding and/or exhibiting Chihuahuas, knowing the specific historical points and are able to have a soft and patient hand when examining them could be called a “specialist ”.
Q: Finally, please share with our readers what makes your breed so irresistible?
A: They are irresistible because of their expression and size. If you have Chihuahuas living with you, you can clearly see so many qualities about them. They can be seen as a dog, cat, human, a lazy marmot, a heating pad, an electric battery, a psychologist, a clown, an arrogant comedian, a pitying child, a quiet shadow, a security alarm and so many other things! I like the idea of having a small dog with many faces.
You have to always keep in mind that the Chihuahua is a dog in its own right. It’s small size does not make it an accessory. He needs education, activities, social connections with other dogs and of course love.
I would like to add that my mother tongue is French and it is not always easy to express myself so clearly in another language. I hope you have managed to understand the meaning of my ideas in the answers. Thank you for this interview and for taking the time to read it. Joe BORGES, “Bellyss” Chihuahuas, Switzerland.