An interview with Deborah Brunell, Breeder of Merit, Holly Farm Labradors
Deborah Brunell does it all. She breeds, grooms and trains her dogs to perform at the highest levels, including the Westminster Dog Show.
Kuranda: How do you train a dog to perform well at a show?
Deborah Brunell: A show dog needs to focus on you and when they’re moving they need to look forward. They need to trot next to you not jump around or walk or canter when you let them on a little bit of a looser lead, let the judge see their stride. When they stand still, they need to ‘stack’ which means all four feet are in a square with the back feet back a little bit. Depending on your dog’s conformation you need to show that dog the best way. Maybe they’re a little bit long backed so you don’t stretch them out too much because the back will go down a little. You know how a Morgan horse stands with it’s front legs way forward? You don’t want them stretched out like that. They really have to outshine the other dogs in the ring.
There’s a discipline to it all. “A lot of clubs have ‘matches’ where you have a lot of classes, just like in a show but it’s practice, so they can get used to having other dogs around. You go to big events like Eastern States in West Springfield and there’s three or four hundred dogs there. They’re noisy and barking so they have to get used to all of that and focus on you. It does take a lot of time. The judge examines them. They need to stand still. It takes time to prepare them for that couple of minutes in front of the judge. I work the young ones every day or every other day at least.
Kuranda: Do your show dogs live in your home with you?
Deborah Brunell: I rotate the dogs so that every 2 days, the dogs that are in the kennel come in the house and the dogs in the house go into the kennel. Every kennel has a Kuranda Bed. The floors are matted also. When I travel, I put a Kuranda bed in a crate. I have a few older dogs that stay in the house. They don’t need to go in the kennel any more. They’ve done their job. They’re retired.
When I have puppies in the Kennel, after they’re about 5 weeks old. I take the legs off the Kuranda Bed so it’s not too high off the floor and when I put that with the puppies, they learn a little bit about a raised surface, they get on and off that. They all pile on top of that to go to sleep.
Then I’ll put the legs on they think it’s a ball to get up there and jump off and all that kind of stuff. I put Kuranda beds outside in some my outdoor pens so they’re not laying on the ground.
Kuranda: I understand you were quite successful in the Equestrian World. Tell us about it.
Deborah Brunell: After we got married we started showing on the quarter horse circuit all around New England. I did that for 28 years. My daughter showed also. Sometimes we’d travel in a camper. It’s a whole different deal. I rode a lot. I rode every day. Hunt Seat and Western. I did do stadium (tall) jumps as a kid but I kind of lost my nerve to do that. I qualified in Oklahoma for the Worlds in Hunt Seat Equitation for about 3 years in a row. I’ve been amateur champion in Mass, New Hampshire and New England several times. I’m very competitive. My friends say I’m even competitive with them so I have to be careful. Now it’s different, I just trail ride for pleasure.
When my husband and I moved to our current property over 34 years ago, our first Labrador, Holly, of course accompanied us. She enjoyed our walks on the 10 acres as we tended to several horses and chickens. At that time I was satisfying my competitive side showing Quarter Horses all over New England with Holly by my side. Unfortunately Holly passed a year after moving here. So that's when we named the farm after her. A bit of her remains in every pup's registered AKC name starts with Holly Farm.
Kuranda: Have you trained any dogs for other activities?
Deborah Brunell: I've trained dogs for the field, Obedience, Rally, Therapy dogs, and companion/ therapy dog for a young girl battling anorexia.
Kuranda: Tell us about Zoe and Oakley, two of your best show dogs.
Deborah Brunell: Zoe and Oakley....two of my special girls. Zoe is a AKC Grand Champion and is part of my foundation stock going back 30 years. I call her the ever ready bunny, loving every minute in the ring. She was born on Thankgiving Day 13 years ago and still going strong. Bred by me. In 2017 Zoe was Best of Opposite after 3 litters at Westminster. A very proud day for me. Equally as proud for Oakley, who I also bred. Her titles are many...MBISS GCHS. It means Multilple Best In Show Specialty Grand Champion Silver. She was Select just behind Best Of Breed at Westminster in 2020. Very special girls who gave me their all and more when I asked.
A show day starts with a good grooming, keeping my nerves at bay, and letting my Lab know I have the utmost confidence in them. Keeping them happy and showing them like it's me, my beautiful Labrador Retriever.
Kuranda: Why do you recommend Kuranda Dog Beds?
Deborah Brunell: Here at Holly Farm Labradors, the dogs rest well all on Kuranda beds and have for about 20 years The beds help prevent calluses on their elbows and eases arthritis on old dogs. I find pressure points on the elbows and hind legs are greatly relieved by the design. They are durable and easy to clean. Parts are available separately and requires only 2 tools to change them. It's the only bed I've ever used because I know Kuranda beds are the best.
Kuranda: I understand that you are a Breeder of Merit. Can you tell me what that means?
Deborah Brunell: The Breeder of Merit Program is open to all purebred dog breeders and offers a host of benefits, including;
- Can provide proof of Parent Club required health testing on sires/dams of litters
- Have met their commitment to ensure that all their puppies get registered.
- Recognition levels are tiered using numbers of titled dogs produced.
Kuranda: Who Can Participate in the Breeder of Merit Program?
Deborah Brunell: In order to be accepted into the program a breeder must:
- Have a history of at least 5 years involvement with AKC events.
- Have earned AKC Conformation, Performance or Companion event titles on a minimum of 4 dogs from AKC litters they bred or co-bred.
- Be a member of an AKC club.
- Certify that applicable health screens are performed on your breeding stock as recommended by the Parent Club.
- Demonstrate that 100% of the puppies produced are individually AKC registered.