Meet Jane Chopson
Ch. Chauffeureds Evita Bero
Please tell us how you got started in Danes?
My parents started breeding Danes on the East coast before I was born so I literally grew up with the breed. I am told I went to my first dog show when I was several months old. They used the kennel name Blue Oaks, not because they bred Blues but, because it is a common Oak tree in the Sacramento Valley where they settled after World War II. I was born in Sacramento. I showed in Junior handling (yes it was called Junior handling back then) and when I was 12 my father allowed me to show one of his dogs. Although he used professional handlers on the ones he wanted to win I was allowed to show more and more as my skills improved. For many years I only showed for family and friends and did not begin handling professionally until I was in my late twenties.
What colors did you have?
My family bred fawns and brindles.
Who were your mentors?
My parents and Isabel Karkau of Rebelro and Don Gauthier who drew the original illustrated standard. Those four along with so many, many others who I have learned from have guided my journey in this wonderful breed. I find that I continue to learn subtleties and nuances all the time. Over time my perspective has changed and I realize some of what I may have believed 20 or 30 or 40 years ago I now see differently. I think that is good and that we must continue to grow based on the experience we gain.
Were there any particular dogs that you admired , or thought represented what you wanted to breed or own?
There have been a number of Danes that I really admired. I thought Ch Honeygold von Overcup and Ch Abner Lowell Davis were really two of the best I had ever seen when they were competing. I also loved the presence of the handsome black dog Ch Rodanes Noble Othello. The two bitches Ch Madas L of Marydanes and Ch Jessica Davis were both really outstanding. The Brindle dog Temple Dells Odin v Branstock was and is still my favorite brindle. I loved the temperament and soundness of Ch Sheenwater’s Gamble On Me. Ch Brierdanes Indian Amber was a standout with a beautiful headpiece. I also thought that the harlequin Ch BMW Ruffian was really one of the most beautiful Danes ever bred. In addtion I thought the bitch Ch Giant Steps Front Page News was really very beautiful. Of course I would be remiss not to also include Oscar. Since I knew when I first saw him he was what I wanted to own and show.
What was the name of your 1st Champion?
The first Ch I bred was Ch Doce’s November of Blue Oaks who I bred in my late teens. She was from the first litter I was a breeder of record on.
The litter was heavily linebreed on Ch Dinro Taboo who I greatly admired. I handled and finished dogs my father bred and that Isabel bred before that however.
When did you start professional handling?
In my late twenties.
Have you handled any dogs that you were particularly fond of over others? Why?
That is a hard question because there have been many that I was very fond of for different reasons. The bitch I showed in Juniors CH Helga of Blue Oaks was the first dog I got to show and I love her to this day. BISS Ch Rebelro’s Rommel, who I won my first Working Group with, was a very showy dog who loved doing it and made me look better than I was is still a standout to me. I loved the attitude and showmanship of BISS Barnette’s Twinkle Toes who I specialed in the early 80s. The same goes for Ch Fireside Poppy. BISS Ch Tiffany Danes Can Can was also a real treat to show. She would just stand out at the end of her lead saying look at me. Although not shown as Specials two of the sweetest Danes I have ever handled were Ch Phoenix Zara Thustra and Ch Brier Rika Ruffled Feathers. They both were wonderful to travel with and I would have happily taken either one home forever. The two harlequin bitches Ch Chauffeured Lotus Elan CD/CDX/UD/UDT and Ch Chauffeured Carmen Giha were also particularly charming dogs. BISS Fireside Sierra Sailor In Port, who was the last Dane I had living with me, will always hold a special place in my heart for his sweet gentleness. BIS/BISS CH Servadia Electa Kahnson of Thor (Kahn) had the temperament I think every show dog should have. Kahn was not only a beautiful dog but a clown and always gentleman. He was the first Dane I won a Best in Show with and is behind three other Danes I have been fortunate enough to go Best In Show with. They are BIS/BISS Am/Can Ch Penadanes Daynakin Solitary Man (Troy), BIS CH Bellemarc’s The Painter of Light (Kade)and BIS/BISS Am/Can Sasdandia Vitags Frozen Asset HOF(Oscar). Both Troy and Oscar also won the Great Dane Club of America’s Top 20 event.
BIS/BISS Am/Can Ch Penadanes Daynakin Solitary Man (Troy)
What do you consider your greatest success to date? Your greatest challenge?
I assume you mean greatest success other than just surviving the dog show world all these years. Even though I am getting old and have seen just about all of it I still am excited to see a class of new puppies I have never seen before. I think that keeping the enthusiasm to keep doing it week in and week out no matter how hot, cold, windy, muddy or frustrating it may be is a success.
I would have to say the career that I enjoyed with Oscar last year is my greatest success in the show ring. He ended the year as the Number 1 Dane in both Breed and All Breed points. He is a multiple Best In Show winner and also won the GDCA Top 20 last year. He is in the GDCA Hall of Fame. When I first saw him I knew I wanted to show him. At that time he was still on the East Coast. I introduced his breeders, Steve Stevens and David Vitagliano, to Lorraine and Glen Matherly and eventually we were able to work out an agreement to buy him and bring him to California. Lorraine, Steve, David and I all co-own him and I handled him. We had a great ride with him and I am sure it is one none of us will ever forget.
I think there are two great challenges in sport of purebred dogs. One involves our own attitude and behavior. The challenge is to remain positive and not become jaded or bitter at disappointments. Because although it is a sport with great highs it is also can be one with great heartbreaks. I have seen a lot of good and bad dogs and a lot of good and bad judging and known a lot of good and bad people in the sport but if the good is what you focus on you will find the sport much more rewarding. In other words it is better to talk about what is good about a dog and not what faults they have. It is better to find good judges than complain about bad ones. It is better to always try to build on the positive. If one can do this chances are you can enjoy the sport for may years.
Of course this does remind me of a story. A couple of years ago Dick Schaefer and I are sitting ringside watching a Winners Dog class and the first dog moves. I said “oh my God look at the awful top line on that dog when he moves”. Then the second dog moves and I said “oh look at what it does with its front feet it looks like a Mixmaster”. At that point Dick says to me “Jane aren’t we suppose to be more positive about the dogs”? So when the next one moved I said to Dick “look how perfectly that one paces. I am not sure I have ever seen a dog pace so perfectly”.
The second great challenge is to find a really good or great dog. Handlers, Breeders, Exhibitors and Judges all face that same challenge. It is not easy because there are not too many out there and you have to know it when you see it. A judge friend said to me not too long ago after staring a class of Specials for some time “you know sometimes when one doesn’t look like all the others it’s not cause they are wrong it’s because they are right”
Ch. Bellemarc’s The Painter of Light
Would you like to Judge?
I enjoy judging and have done many Specialty Club Sweepstakes. I have also judged the GDCA Top 20 and Futurity. I have done Sweeps in Canada and a number of years ago judged the Great Dane Club of Mexico’s National Specialty. I have also judged the Mastiff Club of Americas Tournament of Champions and the Giant Schnauzer Club of Americas Top 20.
Do you currently have a dog?
I co-own two Danes. They are Oscar and Ch.Double D’s Daynakin Party Brew a 12 month old Oscar son who I will special next year. I also co-own several Dobermans and one, Ch BIS/BISS Foxfire Love Monster, is currently in the Top 5 Dobermans. Living with me I have a twelve year old American Cocker “Rootie Kazootie” and my new black Field Spaniel Ch Promenade Perfect Alibi “Josh”. Josh is already one of the top Fields in the country at 17 months.
Ch Double D’s Daynakin Party Brew
Ch Promenade Perfect Alibi
Do you think all dogs should be health tested? If so what tests?
Yes I am a big proponent of health testing. I think it is not only important with breeding animals to know what a dogs status is but I think is just plain good animal care for all Danes. If a dog has a heart problem early detection and proper medication can prolong the life considerably. If the dog has a hip or eye problem there are life style modifications that can ease the situation. Thyroid problems are also easily treatable. I think that ALL Danes should be screened for hip dysplasia and have regular cardiac, eye and thyroid assessments.
BIS/BISS Am/Can Sasdandia Vitags Frozen Asset HOF(Oscar)
What advice would you give to someone just starting in Danes?
1. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN, READ, READ, READ, READ and get to know breeders and handlers who have had real success and a long history in the breed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t just become part of one little group. Seek out and talk to as many people as you can especially those with differing perspectives. Sometimes breed specific Handlers in Danes can be particularly helpful as they can sometimes offer a broader perspective since they are involved with animals from multiple breeding programs
2. Learn to see and value the whole dog not just particular parts.
3. Never underestimate the importance of temperament in showing or breeding dogs.
4. If your first dog is not good enough to finish spay or neuter it and start with a better one. Many people make the mistake of trying to begin a breeding program with a poor or below average animals simply because it is their first dog. If you cannot finish the dog it probably should not be bred.
5. Be sure to seek out the advice of others in regard to breeding your animals. Different perspectives help you make sounder decisions.
6. Don’t believe most of the excuses you hear for why dogs don’t win. Common ones being the judge won’t put up owner handlers or won’t put up handlers or won’t put up color or won’t put up uncropped dogs. The simple truth is most of the time when dogs don’t win it is because they are not of quality or are poorly trained, poorly conditioned or poorly presented. A good dog who is well trained and well conditioned and well presented will win a lot of the time.
7. Remember the standard says Apollo not Hercules.
Get a good photo of Michaelangelo's statue Apollo and study it for it's strength and power coupled with grace and elegance. Try to translate that to you vision of the ideal Great Dane.
8. Explore all aspects of activities with your dog. Maybe conformation showing is not for you. Maybe agility, obedience or tracking is something you and your dog would enjoy more. Or maybe you want to do it all.
9. Take the care of your dog very seriously but never take the showing of your dog too seriously. KEEP IT IN PERSPECIVE. Tell yourself “this is just a dog show there have been thousands before and will be thousands after”. I like to tell people “we are just showing dogs here not curing cancer or working on world peace”. If you frequently get upset showing your dog this may not be the sport for you.
10. Lastly don’t make the mistake after several years of thinking you know it all. I have done this all my life and believe me I don’t even come close to knowing it all.
This can be a wonderful sport. It can give you so much. Some of my closest and oldest friends are people I met thru the sport of dogs. The sport has given me the opportunity to travel all over the country and out of the country. I was fortunate to serve on the Board and as President of the Great Dane Club of America. This was an experience, while not always easy, that gave me the opportunity to give back to the breed that has given me so much. Hopefully as a newcomer you will be as fortunate as I have been to not only enjoy each dog but to enjoy the sport itself.
BISS Barnette’s Twinkle Toes
What do you think we need to improve on in our breed? What about mix color breeding?
The longevity of the breed is a problem that cannot be ignored. Certainly a Dane will not live as long as a smaller breed but we do need to be concerned about the fact that Danes do on the average appear to die younger and age more rapidly that they did 40 or 50 years ago. I have often said that there is one thing we could do that I believe would increase the lifespan of the breed if we did it consistently. That is to never breed to a stud dog that is not at least 5 years of age. We could not do it with Bitches because bitches obviously do best bred younger. I know it may not really be practical to do this consistently but I do believe that by breeding to dogs that age well we can impact the health and longevity of dogs.
We also need to improve shoulders in the breed. Of course this is a problem in many working breeds right now but it is one we need to pay attention to none the less.
I also think that we see fewer fewer and really good head pieces in the breed. By good head pieces I mean dogs with good head length, with parallel plans and deep broad muzzles. Many Danes today do not have proper muzzle depth instead they have lip that hangs down over the under jaw. I call them fooler heads. They appear to be deep muzzled but upon closer examination one finds there really is no under jaw just lip.
I also think we need to remember the Dane should be tall and square not long and low. The proper body proportion called for in our breed standard is not consistently seen in today’s ring.
Mixed color breeding is a term that needs some definition to begin with. If you mean breeding that deviates from the GDCA Color Code I think some deviation is correct and some is not. For example breeding Fawns and Brindles to Blacks from Black, Fawn and Brindle lines is safe and will not produce mismarked puppies. It is Blacks from Blues that it is generally wisest not to breed to Fawns and Brindles. The GDCA Color Code also does not adequately address the breeding of Harlequins and Mantles. There are in fact mismarked dogs that can be used in a harlequin breeding program with success. All in all this is a very complicated issue and not one I can adequately address here. The GDCA did develop a Guideline for color breeding some years ago and it laid out which breedings were desirable from the standpoint of producing correctly marked Danes. Lastly we must remember that on occasion an experienced breeder may do a breeding that in fact is not desirable from a color standpoint because they wish to incorporate conformation traits in their program that they do not feel they can otherwise obtain.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in danes over the years?
On the average they may be bigger than they were 40 or 50 years ago. It is also interesting to note that no old Danes books mention bloat as a problem in the breed. In fact the first Dane I knew to bloat was when I was in my early teens and it was very unusual at the time.
Danes in different parts of the country have also changed. Some of the regional differences have blurred as use frozen semen and flying dogs has become more common. But no where in the country do we consistently see the overall quality that we saw in what I feel was the breeds real heyday of the 1970’s.
Jane Chopson and Peter Gaeta
Great Dane Review would like to thank Ms. Chopson for anwering these questions for us.