Interview with Aly Bell, Breeder of BallOFur Pomeranians and Infiniti Japanese Chin
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Aly Bell: I live in Venus, Texas, which is about 40 minutes south of Fort Worth. I’ve been in dogs 15 years, breeding for 13.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Aly Bell: I started my Pomeranian program using the name BallOFur, since Pomeranians are little balls of fur, especially as puppies. When I began breeding Japanese Chin, I used Infiniti because I was always drawn to the infinity symbol. When Adrienne Wolfson joined me in the Japanese Chin program, we combined her longtime kennel name, AzureStar, to form InfiniteStars Japanese Chin.
I have 5-6 adults of each breed. It is a very small program since I am a professional handler and spend a lot of time on the road, so I can only keep the best and do my best to make very smart breeding decisions.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Aly Bell: In Japanese Chin, my foundation dog, “Grant,” GCH We-Syng Pleasantly Grand, certainly gave me a solid foundation in the breed. We kept two of his daughters, both of which have given us lovely puppies no matter what they are bred to. Our tri-color girl, “Ava,” CH Touche’s Who Do You Love at Skoshi, was left to us by Sharon Cotten. She has continued to produce quality puppies that have been able to produce well themselves.
In Pomeranians, I started my program over a few years ago. I purchased a bitch from John Rogoskey whom I named “Alice,” Johnnylicious Down the Rabbit Hole. She is a daughter of GCH Silhouette’s Stark in Winterfell, and when bred to GCHS Silhouette’s Seeking Nirvana, “Cobain,” produced three lovely boys that all finished their championships; two are multiple Group winners, with one of those being a Reserve Best in Show winner and Best of Breed winner at Royal Canin 2022. Cobain certainly changed the face of my breeding program, but Alice also left me with two lovely daughters that I hope will continue her legacy in the whelping box. When one of those girls earns that last point, Alice will have earned her ROM.
What are some of the unique challenges with breeding a Toy Breed?
Aly Bell: We don’t get very large litters, especially my Pomeranian girls. We are lucky to get three or four to choose from, and I have had many singletons requiring C-section deliveries, despite changing many factors to try to reduce that. Because of this, I have to be very careful of which breedings I do, and remember that I cannot keep a dog from every pairing “just because.” There are a lot of disappointments when a dog from a hopeful pair does not turn out to be something I can keep, as so much planning and money go into each breeding. As travel with dogs gets more and more difficult and costly, I really have to think ahead on what will be the best breedings for each girl, and have alternates just in case things go wrong.
Do I have specific regimens for feeding, immunizations, health & wellness?
Aly Bell: We vaccinate starting at 8-9 weeks. We do keep babies and moms separate from everyone else until they’ve had their first shot, and we do not let puppies go outside till two shots have been given. A lot of potential puppy buyers ask about house-breaking when they inquire, but since I do go to dog shows and we are in a country area with a lot of loose dogs, it just isn’t worth the risk to let our puppies go outside before they’ve been vaccinated. Other than that, I just keep them on a good quality food, and add supplements and probiotics as necessary.
Are there specific challenges inherent to traveling with a Toy Breed? Any tips you can share?
Aly Bell: I think traveling with Toy dogs is certainly easier than travelling with a larger breed, since we can fit them under the seat of an airplane. Most hotels allow small dogs, so we can usually get in where other breeds may be outside a weight requirement. I do recommend making sure that your Toy dogs know how to potty on pee pads, just in case finding grass is difficult.
Is my breed suitable as a Performance competitor? Are there any advantages? Any disadvantages?
Aly Bell: Pomeranians make excellent Performance dogs! They are smart as a whip, eager to please, and very energetic. I have seen Poms excel in Agility, Flyball, FastCAT, Rally, and just about anything you can imagine.
The Japanese Chin is not quite the ideal breed as a whole, but as an individual dog, there are certainly Chin out there that love to perform in this arena and are very trainable. They are highly intelligent, but some are more outgoing than others. You just have to be mindful of temperature extremes if they are being particularly active.
Is there reason to be optimistic about my breed’s future? Any words of caution?
Aly Bell: I have seen tremendous improvements in many aspects of the Pomeranian since I started 15 years ago. Coats have improved greatly, and I believe American breeders are very conscientious about healthy coats as well as health in general. My caution would be for the judges to please be aware of breed type. The ultimate hallmark of the breed is the unique high head carriage. A Pomeranian that cannot maintain its carriage should never be awarded at top levels of competition.
In Japanese Chin, we are still struggling with low numbers but it seems that this is improving slowly. My word of advice to breeders here is: “Do not be afraid to share your dogs.” If you are too protective of “your line” to the point of refusing to share with new people or someone else simply because they work with someone you don’t like, the breed will soon be in trouble. We need to be open to sharing our dogs so as not to limit the gene pool.
My word of advice to breeders here is: “Do not be afraid to share your dogs.”
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Aly Bell: Yes, in both breeds. We have many people dedicated to preserving our Breed Standards.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Aly Bell: My two Cobain sons, “Johnny” and “Paul,” have certainly given me some memorable wins. Johnny is multiple Group-winning BISS GCHS BallOFur’s Happiness Is A Warm Pom. Paul is GCHS BallOFur’s Maybe I’m Amazed. Both of these boys were in the Top Ten the same year, and both are mulitple Group winners. Paul is a Reserve Best in Show winner and was awarded Best of Breed at the 2022 Royal Canin show, as well as Select Dog at one of the pre-shows. Those are definitely my most-winning Pomeranians that I have bred.
In Japanese Chin, we have a lovely young tri-color boy we call Mr. Perfect who is going into his second year as a Special in 2023. He is already a multiple Group winner at two years old. We are very excited about his future.
How is showing a Toy Breed different than showing breeds from the other Groups?
Aly Bell: As someone who started showing Toys, and is learning to show bigger breeds, I can tell you it is very different. You have to be so in tune to the dog through the lead. I play around with tension a lot to “feel” how the dog is moving. If you move a dog at the wrong speed, you can really screw up their movement. And while this is true in any breed, I see a lot of all-breed handlers struggle to get the pace and speed right with smaller dogs. There is also a lot of emphasis on expression, which can be a challenge as some dogs just don’t have that “I’m a statue” gene. Of course, this still can vary from breed to breed, but in my two breeds it is very important to show correct expression.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with one of my Toy Dogs?
Aly Bell: My first show dog, “Punkin,” has traveled with me his whole life. This dog has been my co-pilot for tens of thousands of miles, making friends with people everywhere we have gone. He’s had his picture taken in so many drive-thru windows by employees, and he also used to come to work with me at a nursing home where he brought joy to so many residents. I think any chance I get to share these dogs with the public and bring a smile to someone’s face is a good day.
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