In our June 17th 2020 issue we had a conversation with David Fitzpatrick of Pequest Pekingese.
1) David, you are also well known as a Professional Handler who showed numerous other breeds. Do you still exhibit other breeds, or concentrate solely now on showing your own Pekingese?
I do on occasion. I still have a few long-time clients that I’ll finish a dog for. Now that I’m in my mid 60’s, it’s my time to show my own dogs for pleasure.
2) Some breeders have another breed, many simply just as a housedog, do you have another breed?
I’ve had a few Maltese since the late 70’s. They make wonderful pets as well. Many have finished, 2 were Best in Show winners and accounted for three Breed wins at Westminster. I have also owned Pugs, Chow Chows and Griffons.
3) How did you become involved in the Pekingese?
As a teen I would have loved to work with any breed. It just happened by chance that a lady not too far from me raised Pekes and showed toy breeds. I wrote her a letter and before I knew it I was in demand, and on the road to shows. Making $5.00 a day it was all so exciting for a 14 year old, with a thirst for all things dog.
4) How many Pekingese do you usually keep?
I try to keep it at 20 adults, I’m not always successful and numbers rise and fall. I like to have 10 bitches that are productive, my stud dogs and a few hopefuls.
5) When you were beginning, did you have trouble finding a breeder who would sell you a dog?
I was able to buy a female from Mrs. Horace (Alice) Wilson. She was a lovely lady who took a liking to me, and sold me Cherry Blossom of West Winds for $50.00. Cherry was the best companion a teenager could have wanted.
6) Was your first purchase a dog or a bitch? Did you finish its championship? Was that first dog your foundation?
Cherry Blossom won a few points. She enabled other Pekes to finish their Championships. She did have two litters but she did not prove to be a foundation.
7) Did that first breeder you purchased the Pekingese from mentor you along the way?
Mrs. Wilson did mentor me a bit. I have to say I was mentored by many, and tried to study the successful breeders and handlers. I figured they must be doing something right to have the good dogs and be the winners.
8) Fast forward to today, you have successfully produced a family of dogs, that are known worldwide. People everywhere can recognize the “Pequest” type, what do you attribute your success to?
Perseverance, you have to roll with the bad and the good. No one has all good luck or hopefully all bad luck, so you have to keep going forward with your plans. I’ve been fortunate to have had good dogs made available which contributed to the kennels success. I always had a lot of respect for Bill Taylor and I’ll ask myself today, what would Bill think of this dog? My friend Bert Easdon’s Yakee dogs have contributed immensely to the quality of the dogs, and I’ve learned a lot from him. I’ve always been of the mind if you do right by the dogs they’ll do right by you.
9) Describe the Pekingese in 3 words?
Quality, Character, Lionlike
10) What to you is the ultimate hallmark of the Pekingese?
To me it is their character, whether high quality or low quality the character is there.
11) What are the “must have” traits, you must have in the breed?
My priorities are body shape, front assembly, head, temperament.
12) With Pekingese being such a different breed in make and shape, do you prefer a bitch that is larger for whelping purposes?
I usually prefer a decent size bitch as they usually possess more of the characteristics I’d like to have passed on. I want large heads, good bone and body. I don’t think a large bitch can whelp any easier than a medium sized bitch. It’s often a family trait to whelp easily. I do think very small females are often not good breeding stock.
13) Some breeders have bitch’s that only free whelp, others automatically do a c-section, what has worked best for you?
I often use my intuition. There are bitches I feel aren’t going to put forth the effort, others I feel can if given the chance. There are many that can whelp. But, you stand the chance of losing puppies in the process. If you think this might be your best litter ever I would plan a section.
14) Is exaggeration a problem in the Pekingese?
Pekingese are exaggerated. Any breed can be too exaggerated and it’s often rewarded in the ring. As a breeder you try to stay true to type and have everything in the right amount.
15) What are the acceptable colors?
All colors are acceptable if they have black pigmentation. A black mask or marking are not required.
16) Are there differences in temperament between the colors?
The whites I find, are game and energetic. They are a lot of fun. The blacks I’ve known, have been a bit aloof and quirky. The other colors are the same.
17) In many breeds, well-known breeders share stud dogs with like-minded breeders, is this something you have done? Do you think this could be done successfully in Pekingese?
I don’t feel there are like minded breeders in Pekes. I prefer to have my stud team in house.
18) Is the genetic pool in the breed strong worldwide?
I don’t know what you mean by strong. There needs to be more genetic diversity in my opinion. It’s hard to achieve as the world seems to concentrate on one family of dogs, and others wither away. I’m generalizing.
19) What do you find to be the hardest thing to improve upon in breeding’s?
Body shape, fronts, temperament.
20) How many Champions have you bred?
100 AKC Pekingese Champions, 23 AKC Maltese Champions.
21) How many Best in Show Winners have you bred or co-bred, or co-owned to date?
I think 18 in the USA and a few in other countries. I’ll be updating my website in the future and could be more exact.
22) What dog of the past, and what bitch, in your breed would you have like to have owned?
The male Ch.Yakee A Dangerous Liaison, and female Ch.Velspring’s Velvetina.
23) Do you often keep more than one female from a litter? One may be the superstar in the show ring, and a sister who you do not show. Do you often find the bitch you didn’t show turns out to be a better producer?
I’ll keep as many as I see fit. If the dam is a good producer, I’ll often try to keep several daughters. Often the bitches that have the show careers miss out on their most productive years.
24) Is there any genetic testing required for the breed?
Our parent club, does not recommend any testing. Pekingese are one of the oldest breeds and have been around before veterinarians. The biggest problem is degenerative disc disease. I think it used to be breathing issues and eye problems. There were heart issues at one time, and that line died out.
Note: For Our Readers: A Matter of Head Shape. The term brachycephalic derives from the Greek word “brachy” which means short, and the word “cephalic” which means head. Put the two words together, and you have “short head.” The term brachycephalic is therefore used to depict dogs who feature a short and wide skull and a distinctive pushed-in face.
25) We are currently seeing Foreign Kennel Clubs and Animal Rights groups, attacking and wanting to change our brachycephalic breeds. What are your thoughts on this, and how do we protect the breed standards, and our dogs?
In the USA, the parent club owns the breed standard. In the UK the Peke breed standard was changed, and I at first thought it was horrible. But, I now feel the dogs are healthier and breeders are still breeding correct Pekes, but paying more attention to nostrils, eye health and the ability to move.
Personally, if the standard here was changed I would still breed what I felt was correct even if I could not exhibit them.
26) Those breeders who have a brachycephalic breed, know that these breeds with large heads go through many head changes from puppyhood to adulthood, faces finish, jaws widen, nostrils can be affected while teething etc. etc. Some veterinarians are quick to want to do surgery, how do you advise your companion puppy people?
I always try to emphasize to contact me if there are any problems, and we can discuss the best way to go forward.
27) You have had success with several bitches, it is not easy to show a bitch which has seasons, coat blows etc. Do you tend to show your bitches for shorter periods of time?
It is not easy to campaign a female. They do blow more coat and are a bit moody. A male wants to please more consistently, and in Pekes generally is a more impressive specimen. The bitches are the backbone of the kennel and I feel it’s more important to carry on with producing the next generation.
28) Which do you personally find make the better show dog dogs or bitches?
29) Many people think showing a Pekingese is one of the hardest breeds to show, do you agree and why?
It’s like most things if you don’t know what you are doing it’s difficult. For me, it’s second nature. Most handlers think it looks so easy, you just walk slow. Then one day they help you and they realize it’s not as easy as it may look.
Pekes are very independent and they are not in the business of being people pleasers. They also require a lot of care and attention at the shows. If you’re not up for a challenge, don’t get involved with Pekes.
30) The current population of our sport is aging, we have so many successful breeders who eventually will be slowing down, are you worried about the future of the Pekingese?
I’m not worried about the future of Pekingese. I worry more about the future of the world. Many breeds need good breeders to carry on. A few top breeders can revitalize a breed and keep it on top. That said, I think today young people getting involved in purebred dogs tend to fancy easier breeds. Pekes are rising a bit in popularity here in the states, and I’m pleased for that. I don’t think they will ever regain the position they once held.
31) We have all heard the complaints that Pekingese have become too heavily coated, how do you respond to this?
I don’t respond to complaints. The Pekingese coat is its crowning glory. Whether modestly coated or heavy coated the most important thing is to have a good dog under the coat, and that the coat be in good condition. If the dogs shape is completely obscured one should discretely rid it of some coat to reveal the dog. A Pekes coat should appear natural and healthy looking.
32) Describe the routine of a dog you are actively showing?
I try to give the dogs as much freedom as possible when home. They don’t ask to go to all the shows and be crated and fussed about. When home I try to give them a lot of outdoor time weather permitting, walking in the yard and on the driveway off lead following and enjoying their life. Grooming of some sort is daily, but I try to leave them be and let them be dogs.
33) You have had so many memorable wins, Westminster, AKC National Championship, Morris & Essex, National Specialty Wins. Every one of these awards are exciting and huge. Was there one maybe due to circumstances, or sheer surprise that stands out in your mind?
I’ve had the good luck to have been in the group at the Garden 22 times. 21 times with Pekes and once with a Yorkie.
It’s always very exciting, as are all the major shows and truly I’m excited to have my dogs win at any show.
That said Wasabi going Best in Show at the AKC National this past December was a total surprise. That award is usually reserved for dogs that have been campaigned heavy and dogs at the end of their career not the beginning.
It goes to show what can happen if you have knowledgeable and confident judges that just want to please themselves, and a very good dog. It was the one dog show my dogs had not won, so it was and still is a thrill. Bill Taylor always told me “the best is yet to come”. I did not really believe him, but now I know he was right.
34) What has been a loss in the ring you still remember vividly?
I tend to be forward thinking and get over any loss quickly if not immediately. There’s nothing worse than people who have been so lucky, acting like bad sports.
Years ago I had a dog that won the Toy Group at the Garden and the next year he was defeated in the breed. The judge probably picked the best dog on the day and in any event, it was their choice. There was just a lot going on during that period that I should’ve never been involved in, in the first place. I remember it more for the life circumstances at the time more than the loss.
35) The whole dog world “family” was devastated and heartbroken for you, on the loss of your gorgeous male Ch.Pequest Feel The Burn, who had such a stellar career ahead of him in the ring, and probably in your breeding program. Can you talk about Bernie as a dog, your feelings, and did you have any of his littermates, or young sons and daughters out of him, which gave you something to move forward with?
That was a great litter. The stars lined up and produced Bernie, his sister Primrose, and two other fine champions. He was without a doubt a great little dog, and I prefer not to think about him. His sister is due to whelp next month, so maybe some good will come. He being young, was not used at stud yet.
36) If you could give a new judge to the Pekingese breed one piece of advice, what would it be?
Study the history, read some of the excellent old breed books. Talk to successful people and be mentored, but then develop your own opinions which can always be evolving. I have never judged where I have not learned something by the end of the day.
37) Many judges want to see dogs come out in the ring and strike poses, bait, etc. I do know this baffled and annoyed Mr. Taylor, “They are not bloody Dobermans.”
He thought it was below their dignity. What are your thoughts?
A posing contest can be a great way to judge if you don’t know the breed standards, or if the judge likes to show off. Any breed should show correctly for its breed and temperament. I don’t think decisions should be made entirely on showmanship, a judge’s challenge is to evaluate breeding stock. They should not allow themselves to get caught up in, smoke, mirrors and razzle dazzle.
38) We also see judges who crouch down and are in the Pekingese’s face while on the table? Your thoughts?
It depends on how it’s done. You should be able to get a closer look if you want without spooking the exhibit.
39) You have had the honor of judging Pekingese as a breed specialist, will you pursue your judging license?
I always think I’m too busy to chase seminars etc. That said, I do enjoy the challenge of judging and thinking quickly on your feet. I’m doing the National for the second time this October, I’ve done two championship shows in the UK and have had other assignments that I enjoyed. For a non-licensed judge, I’ve had a fair amount of judging experiences, and I do enjoy it. My main goal and priority, is to try to keep breeding good dogs.
40) For a new person who wants to become a breeder, what is the best advice you could give to someone?
Do your homework. Try to obtain the best bitch available and breed up. Set goals, do you want to breed just champions or do you want to breed dogs with outstanding virtues. Find a mentor but don’t get married to them, observe successful people and learn from them all. Don’t expect overnight success and enjoy the experience.
41) We have lost many of the breed’s most respected elder breeders, what is one piece of advice given to you that you still carry with you today?
I can’t think of one specific piece of advice, people are always so generous with their knowledge. some good sayings are;
“Good mothers produce good mothers”
“Sell a dog on the ground, buy a dog on the table”
“No tail, no dog”
“Breed to the sire of the good dog”
“Walk slow or I’ll break your legs” LOL
42) Have you been receiving more puppy inquiries since the Covid-19 Pandemic began, with so many people being home full time?
Yes, the puppy inquiries have increased. The public seems to be focused on purebred dogs during Covid19 and hopefully they will as well post Covid.
43) When the shows ended in March due to the Covid 19 pandemic, you were and still are ranked the #1 Dog of All Breeds in the USA. Do you see any part of the 2020 year being salvaged?
Life is slowly getting back to business here in the states. Dog shows appear to be starting again to some degree in August. I imagine there will be more cancellations and we will learn more and see how it goes when they’re held. Hopefully members of our dog show family will keep well.
44) Besides staying busy with the dogs, what hobbies do you enjoy?
I like to follow Politics here and internationally. I read, garden, collect, like to travel, eat and drink like most good people.