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A Conversation with Kyon Kennels

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We are digging back into the archives and bringing you this interview from our June 24th, 2015 issue.

Name: Karin Klouman
City: Mono
Province: Ontario
Kennel Name: KYON
Years Breeding: Golden Retrievers since 1970/ Norwegian Buhund since 1989

What attracted you to your breed? 
In the late 1980s I had been breeding Golden Retrievers for almost 20 years and I felt the time had come to diversify, by adding another breed to our KYON breeding program. Since I was also raising 6 children I absolutely wanted a highly trainable dog that was as family-friendly and kind-hearted as the Golden Retriever is.
I was at the time quite involved in the dog-show scene in Canada (with my Golden Retrievers) and so was drawn to the Norwegian Buhund, since I have always liked dogs that are beautiful to look at — and I was acutely aware of the Buhund in Norway doing quite well as show-dogs. The Buhund was furthermore a natural choice for me because after twenty years of breeding a ‘popular’ breed I felt I wanted the challenge of promoting a dog that was a complete ‘unknown’ in Canada. Additionally being a livestock farmer at this time I was also interested in looking at breeds in the herding group. Finally I was interested in preserving my cultural heritage: I grew up in Norway and my maternal grandparents always had a Norwegian Buhund as their dog of choice, and I remembered these dogs with much fondness.
In fact my kennel name (KYON) was the pet name my grandparents had used for ALL their Buhunds. During my childhood (in the 1950s and the 1960s) the Norwegian Buhund was a somewhat common breed in Norway. It was especially well known as a versatile farm dog and most small livestock-farms at this time had a Buhund. However, as farming practices changed over time – and especially as the smaller farm-holdings were closed – there was less need for the Buhund.
Some competitive herding enthusiasts also started using the Border Collie as their ‘working dog of choice’, being taken by this breed’s speed and intense drive… and so from the later 1960s the Border Collie had indeed begun to out-compete the Buhund at herding trials and as the favored farm dog for larger live-stock holdings. The Buhund being a Nordic breed, has a much different style of working and is more of an independent thinker/problem-solver and so it fell out of favor in Norway among those that wanted fast and reliable herding dogs. Therefore, when I wanted to diversify my Kyon breeding program and add another breed it was natural for me to choose the Norwegian Buhund, since I realized this was a dog-breed that was acutely in danger of extinction. It has, since then, become my mission/passion to try to save this very ancient breed.

How many years have you been breeding and exhibiting? 
I have shown Golden Retrieves in Canada since 1976, when I immigrated to Canada from Norway. I had shown my Golden female in Norway before this time and also bred my first litter while living overseas. I imported my first two Norwegian Buhund’s in early 1989 and I started showing them immediately, but obviously first exclusively at rare breed shows. Through a lot of hard work and lobbying, by myself exclusively, the breed was finally fully CKC recognized in 1995 and since then I have regularly shown my Norwegian Buhunds at CKC as well as occasionally at AKC shows.

Did you have a mentor in your Breed? 
Malfrid Byrkja of Leite-Gard kennel in Norway: She also has bred 4 of my imported Buhunds Leite-gard’s Dristig-Per Kyon, Leite-gard’s Godemine Kyon, Ch. Leite-gard’s Trofast Peik Kyon and finally my current most senior boy (15 years old) Ch Leite-gard’s Frode Jarl. Malfrid knows the breed extremely well, has bred Norwegian Buhunds for many decades and I have admired her dogs greatly. She was always willing to answer many questions in the beginning when I wondered about so much and felt kind of lost. However, Malfrid is elderly, now in frail health, and she lives in Western Norway… and so we have only spoken on the phone or via letters; we have never met, nor have we communicated via email/facebook. I was in fact the very first person to import this breed to Canada- so there was nobody here that I could use as a mentor. I also imported my Buhunds before most people used the Internet. I had to rely a lot on my own instinct and personal knowledge of the breed. I was a member of the Norwegian Buhund Club in Norway and poured over their newsletters, carefully reviewed pedigrees and studied the photos of all the various top winners in Scandinavia. From growing up in Norway I also have the benefit of having a firm understanding of correct type and I very much try to stick to that in my breeding program.

Do you believe Judges have a good understanding of your breed? 
Since this is such a rare breed the judges have some difficulty discerning what is correct type. However the Buhund in general is an exceedingly sound, balanced dog and most all-breed judges can pick out a well- structured Norwegian Buhund. When it comes to the finer details, however judges unfortunately do not quite understand the Norwegian Buhund. It helps however, that some of mine have won all breed Best in Shows, and that these have been advertised extensively. I do think in Canada we have an overall uniformity in type that I find lacking south of the border.

If you did a Judge’s seminar on the breed today, what must All Rounder/Judges be looking for when judging this breed? 
Judges should remember that this is supposed to be an agile, athletic and squarely-built herding dog of balanced, but not exaggerated angulation – able to keep working all day long without tiring, and they can be either black or wheaten in colour, preferably with minimal white markings. For those of wheaten colour this should be a CLEAR as possible. While some black tipping in the coat is permitted, it is not desirable; the clear wheaten colour should be the predominant impression – this can correctly range from a light creamy shade to a rich sandy gold. There are some Buhunds that unfortunately are short on leg and/or long in body, this destroys the overall balanced square look that is breed typical. Also to me head and expression is very important. Round eyes, is a predominant fault in the breed. Light eye color also destroys the soft and alert expression of a typical Buhund. This is not heavy-headed breed, the head should appear to be somewhat refined, wedge-shaped, lean and not too coarse, however never ‘snipey’ either. The eyes should be quite dark and almond shaped.

In as few words as possible describe the essence of your Breed? 
Typically a very friendly, highly trainable Nordic herding dog with incredible problem-solving abilities, always agile, alert and athletic.

What is the most defining physical characteristic of your Breed? 
The Norwegian Buhund is a typical Spitz dog, slightly under middle size, and of good bone, squarely built with a fairly smooth-lying coat and erect, pointed ears and tail carried high and well curled over the back. This breed should overall be sturdy looking, but should never be clunky nor a coarse dog, it must always possess some elegance. The occasionally seen fine-boned weedy-looking Buhunds are also very incorrect. A good Buhund is a striking-looking dog of superb balance and should turn heads wherever he goes!

Put the following in order of importance to you, Breed Type, Soundness, Temperament and why? 
All 3 are extremely important and frankly completely intertwined, but for me soundness in mind and then in body is my number 1 and 2 criteria, since without soundness in mind and body you do not have the ability to fulfill the Buhund’s number one function, which is to work and without working ability you do not have type. An aggressive Buhund is very un-typical they should ALWAYS be sweet and sociable dogs, yet courageous when the situation requires that. The Buhund generally is a slightly softer breed in temperament, but it should never be nervous. Their softer and therefore highly biddable nature should make for an ideal family pet and an incredibly easy dog to train.

Fault wise, currently what needs the most improvement in your breed? 
We have some Buhunds south of the border, that are dog aggressive and this is a serious fault, which needs attention. I have turned away such females that have come here to my boys for breeding, since I consider this trait highly untypical for this breed; all Norwegian Buhunds should be highly sociable and very sweet dogs- always extremely fond of babies and children, and get along with other dogs and all other animals. I can have all of my girls together here without any quarrelsome behavior occurring, my two older boys Jarl, 15 years and Tomba, 8 years old are also best buddies. A young intact male might act a bit ‘macho’ towards other intact males that come onto his territory, especially while he is breeding, but that should be the extent of any issue.
Otherwise we have some Buhunds that are getting far too long, this is often seen combined with a steep front and an over-angulated rear. These structural faults result in a pronounced lack of balance, which again affects movement, often with an incorrect ‘kick-back’ in the rear and high-stepping fronts, and such structural issues makes it unlikely for the dog to stand up to a full day of herding. Otherwise I do see some Buhunds that have a coat that is too long and soft, the Buhund coat should be relatively short and lying fairly close to the body… Open soft coats are not weather proof and the Buhund should be able to work in all kinds of weather, in rain, snow or shine.
Regarding type faults I personally really dislike the heavily shaded black tipped Buhunds. The standard specifically states that the colour should be self coloured and as clear as possible, but in the US even some of agouti colour have been shown, as well as some Buhunds with so much black tipping that they resemble a wolf-sable and these color patterns are highly incorrect.
To be clear you can most certainly love and also work a Buhund of any colour, but not all Buhunds belong in the show-ring. This was mostly a working breed in Norway for many centuries ever since Viking times, and foremost of importance to farmers was herding-drive and train-ability, they often could not care less what actual colour the dogs were. However since the early 1900s a concerted effort has been made to stay within the preferable colour range and overall type, and so I find it rather dismaying that in North America the same effort is not being made to ensure this uniformity in type and colour. In Norway a wolf-sable or an agouti coloured Buhund would be excused from the ring. That does not mean it might not still be working at herding sheep, mind you.

What is the biggest misconception about your breed? 
That this somehow is a ‘yappy’ breed. Norwegian Buhunds are vocal in nature, but unless you leave them unattended in the back yard for hours at a time or keep them tied to a chain they are not nuisance barkers, certainly not if they are trained properly.

What are the health concerns in your breed?
This is an extremely healthy and ‘hardy’ breed with a strong longevity. The main struggle that Buhund breeders has to face is hereditary cataracts, as well as the so-called ‘Buhund eye (nuclear granules that do not impair vision). Of concern to me is also the fact that so many Buhunds eventually die from cancer. Most pass well into their senior years, but still I worry about the familial link to cancer and I am concerned that with our relatively small gene pool this eventually can affect longevity if we do not pay attention to this issue.

What do you believe to be the best dog you have bred? 
Oh this is a hard one! I have bred so many top workers on both sides of the border (MACH, OTCH and Herding dogs) and also many top winners in the show ring, even all breed BIS winners, so it is very hard to pick my very best one.
SIV (Am/Can BIS Gr Ch Kyon’s Freidige Siv HC) co-owned and shown by Dawne Deeley is a phenomenal female. I have to say that the breeding that resulted in SIV was from two fabulous group-winners that complimented each other superbly; my home bred Ch Kyon’s Freidige Heidi bred to my import Ch Treholmen’s Drillo, these two combined started a phenomenal line, I personally owned two of SIV’s full sisters (Ch. Kyon’s Freidige Tora and Ch. Kyon’s Freidig-Lita). When you come upon a combination like Heidi bred to Drillo this can do wonders for any breeding program, and I have been so happy to see this line carried successfully forward when my girls were again mated. Tora when bred to my current import and wonderful multi-group winner Nor/Can Ch Valtaurun Tomba, Kimura produced the lovely multiple Best in Show winner IDAR, BIS Am/Can GCh Kyons’ Bold Norseman also co-owned by Dawne Deeley and campaigned by Doug Belter.
Several other top winners such as Idar’s litter sister, multi best puppy in show winner Ch Kyon’s Bold Nordic Queen. I am also exceedingly proud of a son of Lita’s, Georgina Cornell’a, AESIR (CH. MOTCH Kyon’s Freidige Aesir DD. RA. CGN. AM RA. ADC. SGDC) as well as one of the American top agility Buhund females MACH2 Kyon’s Sweet Morgan La Fey MXS MJS MAD JM HCT, handled and trained by owner Diane Lange.

Do you inbreed, line breed or outcross in your breeding program? 
I mostly line breed, occasionally outcrossing to keep my gene pool from getting too narrow. I have over the past 25 years imported many a male from Norway to keep the gene pool as wide as possible.

What dog of your breed, would you have liked to own? 
I would have loved to have owned Nor Champion Hakon den Gode av Leite-gard, a brilliant male in Norway in the 1980s, who really put the Buhund on the map as far as being competitive in the show ring. He also was an extremely productive sire and he overall influenced the breed for the better,in both type and structure and sweetly biddable temperament.

Do you prefer Specialty Shows or All Breed Shows? 
In an ideal world I would prefer Specialty shows, but for Buhunds in Canada we have as of yet not had a single Specialty show, so I would have to say I instead thoroughly enjoy the Canadian all breed shows. However, I do wish we had more competition on the breed level. Almost all of my dogs have gotten their titles with group placements – or group-wins– and this has set the bar extremely high, of course.

What advice would you give a newcomer to your breed? 
Look for a clear and precise image of the ideal Buhund, and always keep this in your mind when you breed. Always be honest about the faults of your dogs, but never focus on faults specifically – remember there is no perfect dog! Instead look at the whole package and focus on the strengths. Be strong enough, however, to not compromise on health and temperament and breed only from specimens of superb health and the breed-typical sweet disposition. Remember also that you can love an incorrect dog just as much as the stunning breed-typical example. However, loving a dog does not mean that you should necessarily breed this dog if it is an inferior specimen. There is a temptation when you have rare breed – and especially one in danger of extinction- to think that all dogs should be bred, regardless of quality.
Going down this road will in fact not ‘save’ the breed, but rather hasten its extinction. The best way to ensure a breeds viability in the long term is to only breed from superior dogs of exceptional type and temperament and to always keep in mind the original function of the breed, which in the Buhund’s case is herding.

The current population of our Sport is aging, we have so many successful breeders who are slowly winding down, are you worried about the future of your breed?
I am extremely concerned with the welfare of the Norwegian Buhund in general. This breed is nearing extinction, as there are so very few breeders consistently breeding these dogs across the world. I would so hate for this ancient and valuable breed to disappear.
In regards to the sport of showing dogs I am also concerned about the lack of numbers we are generally seeing at dog shows these days, what the solution is I am not sure, perhaps fewer dog shows altogether? I do think that the couple of years when we had as many of 6 shows in one weekend was quite detrimental to the sport, people just got too tired of it all to remain engaged. Also I do think we need to make a concerted effort to be friendlier to newcomers. We all began somewhere most of us had kind mentors, who shared their passion with us. Perhaps these days we are rushing around and rarely are people staying to watch the judging past the time their dog is in the ring.
There is a lack of interest in sharing of opinions and information that is regretful. As far as the Norwegian Buhund is concerned I do hope that this rare and most ancient breed can become, more well known and although I am not wishing for ‘popularity’ per se, it sure would be wonderful if some younger breeders could also be interested in carrying the torch forward.

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