By and For People Who Shape The Sport Of Dogs







Patricia "Pat" Hastings

“The More We Learn” Judge

Interview conducted May 2009 by Publisher/Editor, Barbara Andrews


Approved for: Working, Non-Sporting and Herding Groups plus several Terrier breeds. Her initial breed was Poodles.


Patricia "Pat" Hastings shares the real Tricks Of The Trade; from picking puppies to how to win in this exclusive interview with the Puppy Puzzle lady herself. Do you know what the topline really is and what it signifies? How to "stack" a puppy? And how not to do it? Pat does...


I was delighted to see Pat at the NC Tarheel cluster. We quickly warmed to our favorite subject. Not a lot amazes me nowadays but Pat Hastings has forgotten more about structure and movement than I ever knew. Better yet, she’s incredibly gifted in being able to quickly convey a complex subject in word pictures that make sense.


I had hardly arrived home when I received her book Tricks Of The Trade and the Puppy Puzzle DVD. My library reflects a lifelong passion for books. I’m pretty picky about who and what I read but I really got into the materials Pat sent. A book review followed as naturally as day follows night. Readers get solid information from the very first page, no flowery prose or superfluous words, Tricks Of The Trade is all meat and potatoes. A "tell all" book that does!


I was only half way through the Tricks book when I stopped and called Pat to see if she would grant an interview. Her judging and seminar schedule is always full so we are honored to present this interview with “the puppy puzzle” lady herself, Mrs. Pat Hastings.


My first question is, can we get a seminar schedule so people can make plans to attend? My next question is for those who find travel difficult and may be on a limited budget, which of your educational tools would be the best to start with?

I'll send you a seminar schedule but you can always check the most current information on my website Just click on "seminar schedule" on the home page.


It is very difficult to recommend any individual product as everyone learns in different ways. The "Puppy Puzzle" DVD is a great tool for visual people that learn by watching, as it shows all of the steps to evaluating the structural quality of 8 week old puppies. The "Tricks of the Trade" book has a very good chapter on the puppy evaluation system with wonderful skeletal drawings to aid in the understanding of structure. The rest of this book has been described as "Hints from Heloise" about dogs. It is written in a fashion similar to what we get from radio and television known as sound bites. It is very easy to read and understand but it is not for just the beginner. We thought we knew what we were doing until we started this journey into the litter evaluation and we quickly learned we knew next to nothing. The "Puppy Development" book describes all of the mental developmental stages puppies go through and what needs to be done at what ages to end up with great adult dogs. I really believe that if every breeder and every buyer read this book, we could cut the dogs in rescue and shelters tremendously. We are currently working on a new book which will probably be titled "Structure in Action" which explains how structure impacts the dog, particularly in performance events.


When we talked in Raleigh, you said topline is where movement starts and stops. I had never thought of it that way but you convinced me in about 2 minutes flat! Please give our readers a glimpse of what you told me.

To begin with, let me say that all dogs have faults, but the only way we are ever going to improve the quality of our dogs, is to learn what faults they have and what they can lead to, so we can pay attention to them in our breeding programs.


You can not fix anything if you don't know that needs to be fixed or what it will take to correct it.


Breeders may try to breed for a correct topline but they need to realize that the topline is not a heritable piece of the dog. The topline is a symptom of the structure.


If the topline goes down; if there are any holes, dips, give, softness etc, that is an indication that something is wrong with the structure of the front assembly.


If the topline goes up; if you have any type of a roach in a breed that should not have a rise in its topline or if a dog is high in the rear in a breed that should not be high, then that indicates there is something wrong with the rear structure.


Very simple to remember: down = front problem up = rear problem.


BJA: Do you still find time to do litter evaluations for breeders and if so, how can that be arranged?

Oh yes, I still do litter evaluations and continue to learn from every one of them. I average about 350 litters a year. Just call or email and we'll try to work you in. There is only time for about half of the requests, so I ask people to call as soon as the pups are on the ground.


I do the majority of the litters at my home but do fit in numerous ones on the road. If I come to you, I ask that you not show to me for 6 months.


I know you are generally opposed to repeat breedings on the basis that we should always seek to improve a breed but when a mating is proven to be really extraordinary, would it not be a service to the breed and to other breeders to repeat it so as to increase the gene pool for that dominant combination?

I believe that every breeding should be a forward step. Repeat breedings do not create progress or improvement, they just create the same. A bitch has such few litters in her, that repeating wastes one of them. If you have a breeding that really works, the next time, try something close. A brother, son, nephew or someone closely related to the dog you liked the results from. Maybe those extra genes you bring in might produce even better.


Repeat breedings don't give you any options down the road to bring your line together but by going to a close relative you may have many addition options for the future.


Of course there are always exceptions such as if you are breeding to get a bitch and instead end up with a full litter of great males, then maybe I would try again. But to breed to get more of the same, to me, is foolish.


There were so many handling gems in your Tricks book I thought about calling Brinks to protect my treasure. Like not backing up a dog in the ring because they always back up cow-hocked. The section on baiting was especially enlightening. What is the worst mistake handlers do with bait?

Today the biggest mistake with bait is that handlers (professional and others) use it like food instead of bait. It is not to be fed, it is used to entice and as a reward. NOT LUNCH.


One of our writers was a horse show judge. We ran an article on cavallettis because very few dog people know how useful they can be and even fewer know how to set up the spacing for each dog. Care to give us a couple of hints?

When you use cavallettis with horses they are used above the ground to teach the horse how to pick its legs up but that is something you never want to teach a dog. With a dog, you always want to use them on the ground.


You measure the dog at its withers and lay the cavalletties ( I prefer using pieces of white PCV pipe) on the ground, the same distance apart as the dog is tall. This is a dog’s most comfortable stride so if you want to increase his stride you slowly move them further apart to make the dog use and condition those muscles necessary for reach and drive


Chlorophyll and vanilla are tips every exhibitor or stud dog owner can use. What similar tip first comes to mind to save dog and owner frustration?

There is a product that was not available (as far as I know) when we were handling and breeding that is absolutely a magic solution for all males when bitches are in season.


It is made by a company called Natures Odor and Germ Control (NOGC) and it has the fancy name of "Pet Powder". It is a very fine powder such as corn starch that you sprinkle on the rear of a bitch. You can have a kennel or motorhome full of stud dogs and when you use this on any bitch in season, not one of the dogs will ever notice. You have to reapply it each time after she urinates and the male must not be allowed to be close enough to actually touch the bitch.


I am such a believer in this product that I have it available on my website.


As a judge, what is the first thing you look at when your class has assembled?

The proper silhouette is critical to me. Length to height and length of leg to depth of body is such a critical part of breed type. If you can not identify the breed solely by its silhouette it is lacking in type.


Following that, I draw the 3 imaginary lines that create Mother Natures natural balance points. This of course is always in line with their standard.


Would you like to have a go at the oldest question in dogs – type vs. soundness – and which is more important in the show ring?

A breed standard is a blue print which allows the dog to do the job for which it was bred so you can not separate type and soundness because if the dog is not structurally sound enough to do the job it was bred for, then it totally lacks type.


What is the most annoying thing an exhibitor can do in your Breed ring?

Not to be kind and fair to their dog. Heavy handed handlers absolutely turn me off.


What is the smartest thing an exhibitor can do in your Group ring?

Great question and one I have never thought of. I really don't think the exhibitor could do anything to influence the outcome of a group. But not staying on your toes could cost you in the end. All dogs have exactly the same amount of time and attention in my ring so if you let me see the dog not at its best, it might end up costing you a placement.


What was your very first purebred and what would you own now if you could only have one dog?

My first purebred dog was a white Toy Poodle. I currently own just one and it is a Doberman bitch who is my best buddy.


Please tell our readers what is uppermost in your mind at moment or at this time in the history of the sport.

Of course it has to be all of the anti-dog legislation and the power of PETA. We ALL have to band together and quit thinking it is never going to happen to MY breed. Sticking our head in the sand is never going to solve anything.


My good friend Bob VanDiver, just came up with a fabulous simple idea that could help immensely if we all did this starting today. "AR" should not be referred to as Animal Rights but as Animal Radicals. If this became a normal phrase and the national press picked it up, maybe the public would learn and realize on their own that these people are not about animal welfare. If the public was behind us I think we could easily win the battle.


Pat, what is the one best piece of advice you can give to a breeder?

Breed to your standard. We should not feel these dogs are ours to change as we choose but to take care of them and pass them onto the next generation in as good of or better shape than when we received them.


Always remember, "The more we learn, the more our dogs benefit." EST 2005 095.134

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