Spotlight on Jean Blyth

Question: Having been in the breed for eighteen years now,
how do you feel it has progressed?

Answer: An exhibitor, returning to the ringside after a twenty year absence would be astonished at the large number of expertly presented, eye-catching dogs, with glamorous coats sweeping the ground as they move confidently and freely around the ring. While I doubt if there is that much essential difference between the best dogs of the past and those of today, except
in preparation and presentation, it is true that the quality is far deeper now so that the lower classes often have more good dogs in each than were in the whole entry years ago,
and many of yesterday’s winners would have to go cardless today. The breed has been fortunate in having a number of dedicated kennels with the facilities to bring in new blood, to try new matings, to run on young stock and to campaign their dogs extensively.
Dominant top winning sires have been widely used with a great deal of line breeding, and as a result there have grown up divergences in type, obvious to the eye and differences in balance, head shape and even in coat colour, but all within the laid-down standard.

Question: What are the features you feel are the most important
when (a) planning breedings?, (b) selecting puppies?

Answer: (a) My guiding rule has been to plan positively, that is to bring in and to set in, the features that I feel are essentially correct and that I want to appear in my puppies, rather than
negatively discarding stock with good points for the sake of some things I do not like, always of course not repeating major faults or problems. No dog is perfect and a good dog with one poor feature is far better in my book than a nondescript one with nothing bad but nothing good either. One can breed to a better skull shape or tailset if the main balance and construction are pleasing.

(b) The computer that is in my brain must do the work for me because I seldom analyse my puppies at an early age, but rather prefer to look at them as a whole, eating, playing, even sleeping, and often say “I like that” without thinking, and sometimes not knowing, why. I suppose I look for the puppy that ‘fits together’ well, that is strong on its legs and just ‘looks right’. I picked Chussenkuan, Fresno and Hackensack as well as Dusty like that, so it must work for me. My mother and grandmother bred and showed dogs in a small way, there were always animals about the house and my father came from farming stock so it may be bred in me.

Question: What do you consider to be the major problems today?

Answer: The major problems stem from the fact that Apsos are young in terms of selective breeding to the modern standard and have come to us from a huge area where there must have been many variations in type. We are extremely fortunate in that they are a hardy breed
with none of the hereditary diseases that plague many other breeds, maybe partly because they have no major abnormalities, apart from the bite, bred in.

As far as breeding the perfect prototype of the standard is concerned, the chief problems must be sizes and mouths. Variations in size can be the result of hybrid strength but I would point out that
size has never been stabilized. Many of the early champions were oversized. Some very small dogs are also produced that are as exaggerated in their way, especially in lightness of bone and
“prettiness’, the standard does require a ‘sturdy’ or ‘solid’ dog, not verging on the toy. I would not condemn an oversized or undersized dog, provided it is correctly proportioned and balanced
but excessive length of leg combined with shortness of back can throw a dog out of type and must be guarded against. One of the difficulties here in selecting a puppy lies in the varying growth
patterns. I sometimes despair over getting and holding the perfect bite. My old fifteen year young girl has a perfect bite and correct dentition still, which cannot be said for every mouth one looks at today. But still we persevere trying to produce the required abnormality.

In all lines there has been a great improvement to coat texture. No longer do we often see the duo-coat, correct over the shoulders but a mass of frizz over the hindquarters. The frizzy, wavy coat has almost disappeared, no longer do we see exhibitors in odd corners spraying and powdering each layer in turn to straighten out the crinkles and frizz. Gold coats with no brindle factor are often full and soft in the puppy stage but harden as the dog matures.
Pigment has improved in that pink noses with light eyes are not often seen. Hernias too, are far less, never a problem in the American lines as in this country. In spite of some close inbreeding
of my import and English lines, I have yet to see any Spaniel, flat coats or prapsos and only linked with one English line have I met any shortening of tails: I would be the first to admit round
eye which can no way give the correct Tibetan expression, so hard to describe but easy to recognise. However, heads can be improved. While I feel that the ugly shovel jaw, far undershot in bite -where incidentally there is a great early loss of teeth – and very narrow head is equally undesirable, selective breeding should, in time, produce the perfect skull, bite and expression – at least we can go on trying!

One point of disagreement frequently occurs, that of correct movement with comments made by those who have never gone over the dogs nor seen a cut-down dog move, ringside criticism is not of much value in a coated. Intrepid and Liteline both had hips x-rayed before they
came to me and both American and English experts commented on the high standard of their hip structure. Incidentally, one of the reasons for the early experimental freezing of Spark of Gold’s sperm was the excellence of his back assembly. To my knowledge no problem
associated with hip structure has come from the imports mated to my stock. As to movement itself. The dogs I remembered in my early days in the breed moved with plenty of drive, soundly covering the ground easily, but a stilted action with a short stride and minimum
use of the back legs has crept. My own Ch. Zako had his movement and he was not the only one. The Orlane dogs use their hocks, driving with power but completely in rhythm with the front assembly. Their outstanding top lines prove this, held immaculately standing
and on the move. There is no excess energy at the rear giving the dreaded ‘flick’ but there is, as there must be, a follow through and the faster the dog moves the more pad it must show. All of these facts are difficult to see in a heavily coated dog, but Clovis and Cassidy both clipped down can prove the pint. It may be of interest to note that having lived in the Yorkshire Dales until recently and having a kennel built on a steep moorside, my dogs had ample
opportunity to demonstrate their ability to move on rocky and rough terrain. The dogs I was campaigning were not allowed to climb of course but many, many puppies were sold to families whose pastime was hill walking and who often called at the kennels after a long and tiring hike with their adult Apso still ready for more.

Question: What advice do you offer to breeders of Lhasa Apsos today?

Answer: Be positive, don’t be kennel-blind and aim for what you see as the perfect Apso not what you feel will win in the ring. Study the breed carefully, read all you can about the dogs of past years, talk to all the experienced breeders, visiting their kennels if possible, go to as many shows as you can, in fact, soak up all the knowledge possible. Look at your own stock with a critical eye, getting a friend to give her honest opinion, look at the dogs behind the possible studs and what they and others from the same line are producing. Having done all this, forget it and follow your hunch! I have been so lucky in my breeding programme in that I have been
able to work with a complete outcross and have had the opportunity to try out matings. I think you must be positive always, aiming for the chief features that you feel are essential, even if in so doing you have to accept some faults which, when the positive is established, you can work to improve.

Question: What are your feelings on Breed Specialist judges and All
round judges when judging at breed level?

Answer: I am sure both are needed to give the detailed as well as the general view of the breed. One of the advantages of growth in numbers and successes in the big ring is that most all rounders do at least recognise the Apso now. Our present system does not allow the young or novice judges to gain experience and so increase the pool of specialists. Some method of teaching and testing as is the way in many countries could be the answer removing any question of pressure or favouritism. The ways of the Kennel Club in choosing who is passed to grant CCs are quite incomprehensible.

Question: Do you feel that politics are involved at the breed level
or at Dog Shows in general?

Answer: Dog fanciers are of two kinds: those whose prime interest is in trying to breed the perfect animal, using the show ring as a test of their success, and those whose one desire is to be top of every line. The first group can admire a beautiful dog shown by a rival exhibitor while the second hates to be beaten by anything. It is from the second group that the ‘politics’ spring and envy leads to questionable actions and backbiting and unkind gossip that can do a breed so much harm. Competition is so keen in the big ring that a weak or unsure judge may be influenced. However, I am sure that a good dog will succeed and cannot always be kept down. No one has
ever tried to bribe me although I have had calls meant to frighten, but there must be many subtle ways in which suggestions can be made to judges. Maybe I am too dim to see them and enquiries about using my stud dogs just before I am due to judge are not so innocent after all! Judges at breed level are fundamentally honest and odd placings are the result of poor assessing rather than dishonesty.

Question: In order of importance, what do you look for when you judge
Lhasa Apsos?

Answer: I look for type, sound construction and temperament in that order. By type I mean especially balance, skull shape and expression. Eye shape and colour, size and shape of lower jaw and bite will be right if the correct Apso look is there. A winning dog must be able to move freely, using its rear assembly strongly and holding a level topline standing and on the move. Above all I try to judge positively giving credit for the good rather than penalising the poor.
Even the best dogs have faults, none are perfect and to condemn an exhibit otherwise of top quality for one feature not to one’s liking is a sure way to mediocrity.

Question: Give us your opinion of the English versus American

Answer: This is an entirely artificial controversy introduced by those who cannot know the history of the development of today’s Apso and could do more damage to the breed than any other factor. The breed is Tibetan, originating in this country and others in the West, from a very few imports. New blood must be introduced from time to time, no longer can it come from their native land. There have been at least a dozen Tibetan, European and American imports that have contributed to the modern Lhasa, all have played their part although it is from America, from the Hamilton, Licos, Kinderland, Anbara, Marlo and Orlane dogs that the greatest influences have come. The successes I have had with the Orlane dogs must come chiefly from the clever
line breeding behind them, enabling them to pass on the very qualities I felt my kennel needed, but it is also due to the sound, typy bitches and dogs that were awaiting them in England, many of them already carrying outcross blood. For example, Fresno, a bitch that few breeders have been able to fault, has behind her dam, Hardacre Bhu-Sun, from the Kinderlands line and from whom she takes the texture and colour of her coat and her perfect mouth. It should also be remembered that two bitches came with Intrepid. One died two days out of quarantine, the other, Orlane’s Liteline of Lamplite, mated to Intrepid, produced Cascade, Clovis, Cassidy and the new Singapore Champion Cody, among others. Cascade, thus all American in breeding, sired champions in this country before going on to become a great influence in Northern Europe, and can be found in the top winning stock of many of the leading English kennels. Sound, well constructed stock with flair and showmanship, not in the least exaggerated, has come from mating Zako to the American bitch line. No one should be aiming to breed ‘American’ or ‘English’ dogs, all are Lhasa Apsos. There can be very few dogs alive today who carry solely the blood lines brought to this country by Hon. Mrs. Bailey. Surely the aim should be to weave the various strands together to produce your interpretation of the perfect specimen.

Question: What made you decide to import a dog from the USA and what
particularly drew you to the type and kennel from which it came?

Answer: My first sight of the Apsos in the ring at Westminster was heart-stopping, so many beautiful dogs all immaculately presented, so many gold coats sweeping around the ring, proud heads held high, all moving freely, a really lovely picture. I already had a strong kennel at home, I has made up two bitches and a dog the year before but there were qualities that were missing in my line. I met Joan Kendall there, went home with her and talked dogs all through that
night. She understood just what I wanted and I could see her stock certainly carried the qualities I so much admired and Intrepid and Liteline were the result. She wrote me many letters before they actually arrived and I shall always be so grateful for all she taught me and for her courage in sending me Intrepid. He was the product of her many years of clever breeding and his influence on the breed has been tremendous.

Question: You have shown and made up the Saxonsprings Lhasa Champions
owned by yourself, what made you decide to place Fresno and Hackensack
with a handler after they gained their titles?

Answer: Geoff Corish took over Fresno after much heart searching. She used to take the breed easily with me but then became temperamental in the big ring, especially when handled by male judges. I just knew she was good enough to go to the top but we were not in tune and she would not give for me. I felt a spell with a male handler might be the answer. She fell in love with Geoff, felt he was what she wanted and fluttered her eyelashes at him. He fell for her and
the love affair continues. When she was retired to produce her litter I felt Hackensack, always my favourite, should have his chance. He had often been held back for her during her ‘Top Dog’ year. My only back up was Sue Roberts and although she was a great help at shows she was needed to look after the boarders. It is very difficult to campaign a top dog and a young team without help at the shows and that is why Geoff took over although Hank has always lived with me and I got him ready before the shows.

Question: What for you was your most memorable win?

Answer: It must of course be Crufts, nothing can quite touch that, although as Lesley Howard said “you want to do it all over again and have time to enjoy it”. As a breeder I must also be proud of Fresno as she had to win many Best in Shows to gain her Top Dog title.

Question: Did you find any particular resentment from others after
your tremendous success?

Answer: It is sad that all success in any competition brings out jealousy and spite but one learns not to be too hurt. The majority in the breed took great pride in Hank’s success and there are very few who are not Fresno fans. My greatest joy has come from the pleasure that Hank’s win has given to people in other breeds who love the sight of a beautiful creature and to so many do lovers who never go to a show but watched him on television. It is seldom that any criticism
of my dogs is levelled directly at me. I hope I take what is constructive because surely this is a way to learn, but I do find that which is reported to me second or third hand most hurtful and
disturbing chiefly because there is no opportunity to reply. All my dogs can always be seen and examined, it is most helpful to go over one’s dogs with a knowledgeable breeder, sometimes one
finds new faults as well as virtues!

Question: How many Champions has Saxonsprings now produced?

Answer: I think the total to date is fourteen, several of whom have gone on to gain their titles in Scandinavia, Western Europe and America and there are six or seven abroad who left before becoming champions at home.

Question: Which other Lhasas, not owned or bred by yourself, have
you particularly admired?

Answer: It was Ann Matthews’ Apsos, including Tungwei and Puti who first attracted me to the breed, but I can still remember the beauty of Bobette and Hera, the latter especially I remember seeing at one of the early shows at Oxford. Of all the beautiful dogs I saw in the States the one I most admired, with all the qualities I most wanted, was Am.Ch. Orlanes Brandywyne, mother of Intrepid and daughter of the great Am.Ch. Barcons the Avenger. All the top winners of the past
years, including Alexander, Piperman, Gregor, Bhu-Sun, Hitchcock, Malcolm and Pepper were good Apsos, correct to the standard, who had the extra something which made them stand out.

Question: What do you Lhasa Apso breeders of the future will remember
as your greatest contribution to the breed, or haven’t you achieved it

Answer: I should like to feel I was instrumental in weaving together a few of the various strands and I feel very proud when I see winning dogs in whose pedigree my prefix appears, but it is also good to think of the many puppies from Saxonsprings, free from major faults, whose
beauty, love and charming characters have given so much pleasure and let so many people appreciate our lovely breed.