A Conversation With........ Linda Arndt
The Great Dane Lady
Pansy Pug and Linda
Since childhood, Linda has been fascinated by Great Danes and under the name Blackwatch Kennels, she spent years as a professional breeder and exhibitor of champion Great Danes and Pugs. She has co-bred many dogs with Phil and Jane Gray of Owlwatch Kennels, Muncie, Indiana. Linda has been very heavily involved in canine nutrition, research and feed trials as it relates to nutritionally caused bone diseases, and the effects of high calorie diets on the growth of large and giant breeds. The first large/giant breed dog food developed for growth was Eagle Natural Pack dog food and it was developed as a direct result of Lindas' own research, analysis and feed trials.(Eagle Pet Foods under the ownership of the Cocquyt Family prior to 2009).
Her Blackwatch Puppy Feed Program and Blackwatch Adult Feed Program are used by many of the top breeders, in large and giant breeds, in both the USA and overseas.
Although formally trained in the Fine Arts and working as a University Professor for 34 years, Linda Arndt (otherwise known as 'The Great Dane Lady') has spent the last 40 plus years devoting her time, energy, creativity and passion, to help dog owners learn more the unique challenges of owning a large and giant breed dog.
'The Great Dane Lady' is also in high demand as both a writer and lecturer and holistic pet food and supplement formulator. Linda has had articles published in premier magazines such as GreatDane Gazette, The Great Dane Reporter, DaneWorld, Great Dane Review, and interviewed or quoted in Whole Dog Journal, Pet Product News, Animal Wellness and numerous animal health and many breed specific magazines.
She also conducts seminars and lectures for AKC All Breed Clubs, Breed Clubs and Training Clubs, and has been one of a panel of experts presenting seminars on the K9 College Cruise in 2007 and 2009. She works as an outside nutritional consultant for numerous holistic pet food and pet supplement companies and works closely with veterinarians to help solve nutritional based health problems.
Lindas' website, www.greatdanelady.com is an amazing resource for all breeds, but specializes in large breeds, with an unbelievable amount of information, articles, and research presented in a straightforward and down-to-earth way. If you own (or are thinking of owning) a large breed puppy/dog, this interview is a 'must read'!
Sue Koranki - Interviewer
Q : As an academically trained and accomplished artist, can you tell us what led you to become so involved in, and to devote so much time and energy to, the study of canine nutrition?
Linda: Well, the year I was born my parents purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the thing to do during that era, I suppose to get a jump start on your child’s education. I know for Volume 7 - "D" (for Dogs), was read over and over again. Recently, I was cleaning out closets and came across Volume 7. "Damascus - Education" was printed on the binding. I don’t know what happened to the other volumes and don’t remember even looking at them as a child, but this one had traveled with me for 60+ years tucked away in a box.
In the middle of this book, on page 495 was the section entitled; DOGS. The pages were worn, taped, glued and yellowed from being looked at over and over as a child. One page in particular was in disastrous condition, hanging by a thread and in the upper left hand corner was a photograph of a fawn Great Dane. I had also earmarked the Collie page. I asked my mother if we could get a Great Dane, we had always had a dog or two and I loved them dearly, but I was fascinated with this magnificent creature. Whenever I asked, the response was always the same "when you are grown and you have your own house, then you can get your own Great Dane".
My nagging request always fell on deaf ears, so I learned to live with and loved a Toy Manchester Terrier. She was my best friend and confidant and constant companion for 18 years. When I was 12 and became employed, I started saving my baby sitting earnings to someday buy my own Great Dane. Of course growing into my teens, a portion of my earnings had to go toward Aqua-Net hair spray for my “ratted, smoothed and flip-up hairdo”; after all, it was the 60's!
Voted Best Hair Class of 1964 - Flushing High School
In 1969 I left college in Michigan to go to San Francisco to finish my undergraduate degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. It was there I actually encountered my first real live Great Dane in person. There was a man walking on Fisherman's Wharf with this huge, black, male Great Dane and I was mesmerized by this magnificent creature (the dog, not the man). I remember standing there with tears in my eyes at his breathe taking presence thinking some day, some day, I will have my own Great Dane. Now that I had actually experienced being in the same space with a real Great Dane there would be no turning back.
It was that afternoon I decided as soon as I graduated from graduate school at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and secured a university teaching job, the very first thing I did was buy a Great Dane. All these years I had saved up $500 just for this purpose - thank God the hair styles changed in the 70’s because we went from using 4 can’s of Aqua-Net hair spray a week to ironing our hair like Cher, that meant ALL my Aqua-Net money was banked towards the purchase of my own Great Dane.
In the summer of 1973 I was offered a position as assistant professor at Ball State University. During the months before I was asked to teach summer school at Edinboro University near Erie, Pennsylvania. My undergraduate professor Donna Nicholas had invited me to Edinboro to teach her summer classes and also told me about her friend in the psychology department that had a litter of black Great Danes. Well, I could not stand it, I just had to see these puppies and the money was burning a hole in my pocket. I was not in town 2 hours before I begged Donna to take me to see this litter of puppies. As we drove down the road this gorgeous black Great Dane female , even by today standards, greeted us at the end of the driveway. My heart stopped. That night I came home with my first Great Dane, a 4 month old black female named Neige, which in French means snow. I loved that dog more than life itself. I had waited what seemed a lifetime for her and when I lost her to bloat at a young age, it almost destroyed me. I mourned for a year as if this dog was my own child. It was a horrible loss I was not prepared for after waiting so long for my own Great Dane.
She was a handful though, never socialized properly from day and she and I had to learn together how to make her be a good citizen of the breed. She was smart, learned fast and so she went to the university with me daily, slept in my office, visited in my classroom and became loved and known all over campus for she was truly a gentle giant. She made me love this breed so much- they are a part of my heart and soul and the impetus for my dedication to all canines and what I do today in helping others learn how to provide wellness and longevity for their pets.
Years later I realized the reason Neige came into my life was to challenge me to learn all I could about what made the giant breeds so compelling, so exotic, so magnificent yet so fragile. Her episode with bloat was truly one of the worst I have witnessed yet to this day and I am tormented by the fact that I could not help her in her horrible pain. I knew nothing about bloat and the veterinarian I was using at that time knew even less. I read one article in Dog World and kept asking him if this could be what they call Bloat. When I realized he did not know and I heard him on the phone with another colleague asking what this could be, I decided then and there, no matter what the outcome, I would never again rely on another individual to know what was wrong with my dog. I would never again be afraid to be assertive, to ask questions and push for answers when needed. That day my dog died, I became an advocate for my breed and all canines, it was a defining moment for my future in dogs.
To this day I tell people when you look for a vet, it has to be a vet that is approachable, one you can ask questions, share articles, dialogue with, without their ego’s getting in the way. They must accept that you will work together and share information for the benefit of the dog's care because no one specializes in specific breeds. You have to have a vet (and your own physician) that is willing to make phone calls to other resource people if you ask them. You have to have someone that is not put off when you want to seek a second or third opinion. In short.. you have to be your dog’s advocate for health, because they are totally dependent upon you in every way. If you have a vet that is approachable you have won half the battle. I can deal with a vet or physician making a mistake or misdiagnosis a problem, as long as they are not condescending, as long as together we make decisions with as much information as we can bring to the table.
How do you find a vet like this? Start by sending a letter to every veterinarian, not clinic, but individual vet, in your area telling them what you are looking for in a veterinarian. Those who do not take offense with your letter will call you back and be willing to work with you. Then I suggest you make an appointment - and pay for it- just to introduce yourself to your vet. Leave the dog at home..this is an important dialogue between you and your potential new veterinarian. I have worked with my vets for 40 years, that is a long term relationship -we have been through a lot together, learning in the process. But there is a trust there you can never replace, so it is worth investing time and dialogue with your new vet..they are a vital key to your pets wellness and longevity.
Me and the breeder friends in our area are so blessed to have such intelligent, skilled and compassionate veterinarians at Country Acre Animal Clinic in New Castle, Indiana. Kent Wisecup DVM, Rob Rich DVM and Nathan Rich DVM are the most wonderful people and veterinarians that I have ever had to work with in the pet health care industry. They are NEVER taken for granted. I hear horror stories every single day from breeders and owners. Likewise I know dealing with breeders can be very difficult and requires some real skills and patience on the part of the vets, because we are often demanding because we are so passionate about our breeding programs. I wish my breeder friends in other areas of the country were as blessed as we are to have vets like Nathan, Rob and Kent. But we love our vets, without them we could have never been successful in showing, breeding and raising dogs and I always give them credit in my seminars, lectures and interviews.
Together, we have learned so much about dogs in general and giant breeds in particular over these past 40 years. I have owned other breeds along the way; Borzois, Whippets, Shelties, and Pugs, with a rescue Beagle thrown in there for a year, and most recently a wonderful Collie that makes Lassie look dull by comparison! I have learned if you can feed and raise a giant breed, you can raise anything else. They are by far the most difficult creature to get up to a year of age – they are a freak of nature that is for sure, but they are worth every bit of effort.
The loss of my first Great Dane Neige, really set in motion what I do today with my educational nutritional website www.GreatDaneLady.com. The loss of my dog to bloat made me take responsibility for learning as much as I could about this breed and it‘s health problem and to search out a quality veterinarian clinic.
I guess that answers the question…. I have always had 3 parallel lives, first and foremost an educator, which is carried over into my dog website and seminars, and a professional artist (examples of work are at my website see left index bottom), and a professional dog breeder involved in conformation and obedience. But being an artist and a creative thinker has been a tremendous asset , it has played such an important role in solving dog nutritional and health problems.
My gift is that I am a Teacher, and teachers are born, not made. And I am also a "conduit" for knowledge and information, and when people come into my life I am able to connect them to other individuals to help facilitate their journey. I also know I have been given the gift of being a terrific creative problem solver, and that I am curious and hungry for knowledge and then I want to share it with others - and with this ability I have developed www.GreatDaneLady.com.
It is 40 years worth of articles, research and information, an educational website based in common sense, research and practical life experience for our puppy buyers, fellow breeders, pet owners, and pet care professionals. I never realized how many people on this planet read this website. If it saves one pet's life, it has accomplished my goal.
Three Generations at Blackwatch
Q : You founded Blackwatch Great Danes Kennels in 1973, and produced conformation and obedience Champions over the years. In my experience, good breeders strive to improve their chosen breed, aiming for their own idea of the ‘perfect dog. What did you see in your minds’ eye as the perfect Blackwatch Great Dane?
Linda: We are very fortunate in Great Danes to have one of the most detailed, verbally and illustrated, AKC Standards - which is our guide to preserving and developing our breeding programs. Some breed Standards are so vague it is next impossible for a breeder to know what is “correct type” for that breed. Therefore, you have different breed types in the show ring and judges end up putting up what they like, as opposed to what is the best example of the breed.
So, to say I breed for a specific "type" of dog, is inaccurate. What I say is, we really try to work with the breed standard in mind when selecting stock for our breeding program. It is important to me that the breed “looks” like the breed standard, that there is NO mistake it is a Great Dane at first glance. And that it has that "presence" about it, that is grand, noble, kind and gentle, yet they must function as a good pet and family watch dog. Beauty, Brains, and Function are critical for the whole package in this breed. Of course genetically healthy stock, with correct temperaments should only be used in a breeding program.
As an artist, I have noticed many breeders that do not have an “eye for a dog”, tend to prefer dogs that look like the original pets they started with – using that as the “model” for type. But that is not wise because for most of us, our first dog was strictly pet quality in terms of breeding stock and often lacked breed type. So hopefully, people will not use their first pet as their “standard” to breed by and they continue to mature as a breeder, working toward the breed standard's guidelines.
You know we could talk for hours about the responsibilities of being a breeder - but I know we have many things to discuss. I will say one thing about it. If you can't do it right, then don't do it at all. Be a part of the solution, do not be making more problems by having litters when you have not studied the breed long enough to make good decisions about the breed. I tell young breeders, enjoy your first Great Dane, learn all you can about the breed, go through obedience, go to dog shows and watch..study for about 3-4 years then if you want to breed, invest in a reputable kennel to mentor you on this journey. Remember if your dog wins in the ring, it does not make you a winner. If your dog loses, it does not make you a loser...the showing is a game, a man made game. But breeding, that is serious business, it effects living beings and YOU are responsible for every living creature you bring on this earth. Do it right or don't do it at all. (enough of that soapbox).
You know, years ago I developed a graduate course for the Art Department called “Visual Vocabulary” and the premise is, everyone sighted has a group of preferential images, colors, shapes, forms, textures that they are drawn to and this dictates most of our choices in life. People usually do not even know they have this internal Visual Vocabulary, so in this class we set out to determine what each individual’s Visual Vocabulary is, and how that translated to their art work and to everyday life, including their choices in their environments, vehicles, life mates and their pets!!
So, knowing everyone has a set of images they are automatically drawn to in life can be a negative thing when it comes to breeding dogs- if you are not aware of it. People will put their own “spin” on breed type based on what they visually like as opposed to working toward the Breed Standard that has been set up by the Parent club to preserve and improve a breed.
Q: Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, however temperament is less subjective. Do you feel that an emphasis on conformation (for showing) is at odds with the overall betterment of a breed?
Linda: This really depends on the breed itself, because some breeds really encourage performance work as well as conformation. In our breed I am proud to say we have a large number of individuals involved in performance work; obedience, agility, rally and service etc and this number is growing. I think now there is even more encouragement to have multi-functional animals, not just beauties, but those that can do what they were bred to do. You will always get a few breeds that get extreme in the breed type and bred only for looks - the current day English Bulldog comes to mind.
Today there is little use for a Great Dane to take down a bear or wild boar, thank goodness, but they have certainly adapted well to lounging on the couch, your bed or sitting in the back seat of the mini-van and guarding groceries while I run into Target! Temperament is the most important thing to me as a breeder. I want our dogs to be good citizen of the breed at all times and that means not only good breeding choices, but lots of hard work on our part during the developmental stages (under 10 weeks). It is imperative to make sure they are handled, socialized, exposed to things, people, sounds etc. before they go to their new homes. Before our dogs leave us, the work is done and the owners just need to stay the course with consistent reinforcement of the things we have already put in place. Being a good citizen of the breed means you can take your dog in public without the fear of someone getting hurt, where people have the opportunity to be in the presence of one of the most magnificent creatures on earth.
For 20+ years I took a Great Dane to the University with me every single day I went to work. I had a daybed in my office next to the studio classroom. The students love the fact that there was a Great Dane in the room while they worked and interacted. It made an environment that felt safe, friendly and comfortable to work in, a place that fostered relationships and an atmosphere where it was ok to take healthy risks to grow and to learn.
But over the years, the university environment changed, it went from an seat of higher learning and making human connections, to a large corporate mentality - then there was no tolerance for animals on campus. Fear of potential lawsuits was first and foremost above all else. Teaching in both environments taught me the importance of the human/companion animal connection and was the beginning of my disdain for the large corporations and their bottom line.
Even now we see how they have moved into the pet food industry focused on gaining control of the small independently owned companies who focus on relationships instead of marketing an image. But that is a whole other discussion. To this day when I run into former students they talk about the dogs I brought to school and how comfortable it made the classroom environment for learning.
Q: Many new owners get very excited at the thought of bringing a new puppy into their home, and don’t do enough research before rushing out to buy one. For people interested in owning a Great Dane, what would you say are the most important things to look for in a breeder, and in a puppy?
Linda: Oh boy, even I have been guilty of that one !! Here is where the Visual Vocabulary comes into play again in making decisions. The reason people gravitate to a specific breed is, they usually like the looks of a dog, it is something visually about that breed that attracts them. Even though the function of the breed may not be in line with your needs, it's the physical characteristics - the LOOKS people gravitate to first. I will give you my own personal example of choosing a dog based on looks doesn't work. (kinda like dating).
The other breed I wanted as a child was a Collie and I was devastated when I did not win the “Name The Puppy” contest and to win a free Lassie puppy. I just KNEW I was going to win one of those puppies, after all I had come up with the best names like “ Queenie, Blackie, and Princess." I just knew I was going to win in spite of several warnings from my parents.
But I was WRONG, the night they announced the Collie puppy was going to some kid in Ohio, that I didn't win the puppy, I threw a fit. As Joe calls it "I went buck" I flipped on the hysterical switch and you'd a thought my mother was going to blow a gasket I could see every vein in her neck. “Straighten up young lady” yelled my mother. " Snap out of it or I'll give you something to cry about". I just could not believe it. I was so hurt and so darned mad - as mad as an 8 year old can get, that I decided then and there, that someday I will get my own Great Dane AND a Collie too, so there... I’ll show’em!! .................and the rest is history.
Years later I purchased what I thought was the next best thing to a Collie, it was a Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound), after all it was just a taller, thinner, flatter version of a Collie right? WRONG --- Boy was I wrong, there was no way my Borzoi would save me if I fell down a well, lead me home if I got lost in the woods, or drag us out of the house if it were a’blaze like Lassie did. All that dog wanted to do is run...and it had no intention of returning either. The sight of a squirrel a mile a way was all it took to trigger that dog and he was gone in a shot. That is when I learned to read about the history, the function and the temperament of a breed before I get one. I soon placed both my Borzoi's in loving homes and realized not to buy a dog based on the looks ever again. (As a side note, I now have a 3 year old Collie and he would save me if I fell down a well!).
So many dogs end up in the shelter or rescue because the people have no idea what they were bred for or what special requirements then may have to make you a good pet. So I always tell people, investigate function and temperament first and forget about the looks, make that secondary on your list.
Q: You were heavily involved in creating the Eagle Pack Natural dog food and several others in their lineup. Can you tell us a little about that, and why this particular food was the only one that you wholeheartedly recommend up until 2009?
Linda: Yes, in the early days of owning dogs and trying to learn about showing and caring for them, I had friends that expressed the same fears about growth problems, bloat and short life expectancies in this breed. When I lost my first Dane to bloat I dedicated my energies to understanding why and how it happens and how to feed them so they could live longer. This meant much research analyzing diets, doing lab tests, running feed trials. The whole thing just gained momentum and a life of its own by the late 80’s.
In 1986 I ran a 6 year national survey in my breed and out of that came some information from 5200+ dogs with developmental orthopedic issues and it showed us how diet influences growth in these large/giant breeds. It also showed us how important it was they develop in a slow and even growth pattern so we did not have to deal with developmental diseases. I sent the 6 year research report to several dog food companies, but only one company was really interested and it was Joe Cocquyt, the original owner/founder of Eagle Pack Pet Foods. Joe was very interested in developing the best performance pet foods (Eagle Original - blue bag) and he felt these giant dogs had very special needs that obviously no one had address in the industry. So he saw this as a challenge and took a genuine interest in the information I had collected, and was willing to develop a food as well as fund long term feed trials on Great Danes.
Joe Cocquyt called and asked me to meet him at Denny’s in Kokomo the next day for lunch and out of that meeting Eagle Natural Pack was born. What we needed as breeders was a food for large/giant breed puppy growth that was moderate on all levels. We needed a multiple protein based diet ( to build good muscle mass) with a moderate fat content, which equaled moderate calories. It was a food with a 23% protein and 12% fat, and 360 calories per cup, so it was easy to manage amounts fed. Then calcium levels were 1.3% - 1.6%, ideal for strong bones to support the mass that they develop within the first 6 months. And lastly a source of trace minerals (micro minerals) which are critical to run the body's metabolic system, yet it is something many companies don't even consider in the design of the foods. We still have the best results in feed trials with this combination for large/giant breed growth. ..and of course in measured amounts, NEVER free choice feeding. Eagle was sold in 2009, shortly after Joe Cocquyt's death, and I left the company two month after it was under new ownership, due to philosophical differences. I am not interested in working for any company that focuses on "image" over selling nutrition.
But, I am please to say that in April 2009, I presented my information to Texas Farms Inc., makers of Precise Pet Foods and they have embraced this concept and allowed me to work with them in updating their previous line and then developing their new Precise Holistic Complete Large Breed Puppy and Large Breed Adult and All Breed Senior Formulas. They also funded feed trials on Great Danes, which I managed, before the food was launched in October 2010 at Super Zoo, and it went on to be awarded Best Pet Food 2010 by Pet Business Industry Magazine. I really thank Kirk Young the VP of Precise Pet Foods for his trust in me, his dedication and visionary mission to make a quality holistic food that we can count on. I have profound respect for him and in this industry, I can't say that very often.
The first feed trials ever done long termed on giant breeds was not done through a University, but funded by Joe Cocquyt of the former Eagle Pet Foods. And it is the ONLY company to long term feed trials on giant breed puppy growth, which involved several Great Dane litters across the country, for up to one year of age. The success was remarkable and that information was valuable in developing the PHC Large Breed Puppy and Adult formulas! That trials were over 25 yrs ago and we have less growth problems today, now that we have these foods available. Dogs can develop orthopedic disease on any food if feed too much, it is a matter of intake vs. output, but better quality foods have quality ingredients, usable minerals and micro-minerals, which are very much needed for slow even growth and continued wellness for our pets.
I am a staunch supporter of the family or independently owned smaller companies that are built on relationships not on marketing campagins, propaganda and gimmicks. Where employees work together with a common purpose and there is a sense of humanity and connectedness. As a business owners ourselves, Joe and I have always found if you do the right thing, do the best you can for the benefit of the whole, the resources will come, but not at the expense of the pet's health. In this industry (dog foods and supplements) I will only endorse family or independently owned companies with " a purpose and a heart and a willingness to give back to the pet community in someway".
Q: I get many questions from new puppy owners on a daily basis. A topic that arises pretty consistently is the incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines in young puppies. You have come up with a regime that helps to prevent this. Can you tell us a little about this?
Linda: Many years ago I went with a friend while she took her granddaughter to get a vaccination. As we waited in the office the nurse gave the little girl a glass of orange juice. I thought she was being polite but she said “it helps prevent a reaction, we have found they are not as tired or lethargic after if they have Vitamin C supplements or drink juice 20 minutes before the shot”. This really got me to thinking about the detoxification process and how important antioxidants are in preventing vaccine reactions, not only in humans, but pets as well, so we started using Vitamin C in our dog’s diets in the late 1970’s. As the years went on and the more I learned, the more important I realized it was to have a nice cross section of antioxidants (not too much of one kind to cause a pro-oxidant effect), but a good array of antioxidants to keep the body cleansed.
About 28 years ago I was interested in the enzyme research of a fellow colleague Dr. Eugene Wagner. He was involved in the detoxifying properties of dietary enzymes on patients that were on chemo and radiation treatment. This led to research on mice exposed to exposed to high radiation levels. The detoxifying properties of these dietary enzymes were so powerful, that only 2 of 200 mice in the research died of radiation poisoning. In other words dietary enzymes stopped free radical damage in its tracks. We later co-authored a research grant on Co-Q-10 and on Dietary Enzymes for pets
Because of these results I started using Dietary Enzyme in all my feed protocols (and for myself) in order to cleanse the body at a cellular level. They provide the anti-oxidant nutrients necessary for the body to repair itself. I have used them, lectured about them and written about Dietary Enzymes for 28 years and they are at the basis of my CORE 4 Philosophy of Wellness, which I talk about at my website. Dietary Enzymes are different than digestive enzymes, both of which I feel are critical to wellness, but they each do a different job. So the use of Vitamin C and dietary enzymes became a staple in the Blackwatch Feed Programs and is a natural way to help prevent vaccine reactions in our dogs.
Purdue research, funded by the GDCA shows us it is the bovine carrier in vaccines is the problem for dogs, and spacing vaccines apart is important too, plus backing up the system with Vit C and Dietary Enzymes helps to detoxify and prevent reactions. Thankfully with this protocol we have never had a vaccine reaction, be it seizure or auto-immune reaction.
For 28 years, these dietary enzymes have been the foundation of my Blackwatch Feed Programs and Core 4 Philosophy of Wellness. If you read nothing more at my website, please read the article on the CORE 4 Philosophy of Wellness - it is the most important bit of information at the whole website.
In summary, there are 4 supplement/nutrients that I feel are critical to human and pet wellness and disease prevention - and they are: probiotics, digestive enzyme, dietary enzymes and a pH restorer. In the CORE 4 article I discuss each of these in detail and now to put them back into your diet.
Q: Many large and giant breeds have a tendency towards developing bone and joint problems. There is a genetic component, and prospective puppy owners should only buy from breeders who have their breeding dogs undergo the appropriate health screenings. However, environmental and dietary factors can also cause these kinds of issues, what do you think are the most important things the new owner of a large breed puppy can do to help protect their pet?
Linda: First do your homework - make sure the breeder that you are buying from does health checks and they are willing to give you copies of the results before the sale of the dog. When people ask me about finding a breeder, I tell them if the breeder is not showing dogs, chances are they do not know what is going on in that particular breed - they are just not involved with breed clubs, the parent club and not in touch with the problems and positives going on in the breed. Quality breeders try to stay involved in their breed - they are focused education and on preservation and improvement first, and that takes being involved, showing, going to the breed's nationals show each year to stay on top of things if you are going to be breeding dogs.
Don’t buy from a breeder that sends the puppy home before 8 weeks of age – it’s too young and don’t take a checkbook when you go look for a puppy and don’t buy to try and save a puppy from a bad breeder, this never works out well especially with the giant breeds. Also never buy two puppies from the same litter, they bond to each other and never need you and unless you know a great deal about training and animal behavior, I never suggest getting litter mates. They may be a cute matching set at 25#. But at 150# with no manners, they are NOT cute to anyone.
Now, nothing in life has a guarantee- even with health checks – but you can minimize your chances of problems and optimize your dog’s chances of survival and living a longer comfortable life, if you provide them with nutrition that supports the whole system, not just parts of it. Based on my feed trials over the years and personal experience, I do NOT feel HOD, OCD or Pano is genetic. When I can create these “conditions” with a shift in nutrition then reverse them, they are not genetic in my opinion.
I do believe some forms of Hip Dysplasia are genetic in that the parent's structure did not compensate each other, so it could simply be an “engineering problem”, the parts don’t fit. We see this sometimes in bites when breeders put two very different types of dogs together, say a slight headed bitch bred to a very heavy headed stud (more mastiff type), there will be a significant problem with bites as the head pieces are too dissimilar and create structure problems. This puzzle part and that puzzle part do not fit together….that’s all. So in that respect it would be genetic, but not necessarily GENETIC, if you get my drift. Besides it is never a good idea to breed when dogs have glaring faults - it takes too many generations to correct them.
I know of one breeder who is in her 80’s and still active in showing and breeding in Finland. Since the importing of Eagle Natural Pack (prior to 2009), her dog’s percent of hip dysplasia went from 42% in the 1980’s to 6% currently in 2009. Yes, nutrition can play an enormous roll in what is often seen as genetic. The study of how nutrition affects genetics is called Nutrigenomics. That is why I am adamant about using the CORE 4 Supplements in the Blackwatch Feed Programs, regardless if feeding raw, semi raw, homemade, or top of the line dry foods.
Q: Another common topic concerns allergies in dogs. It seems that more and more dogs are showing allergic responses to food and other substances. What do you recommend puppy owners do to prevent their pup from suffering the misery of allergy symptoms?
Linda: Now we have a topic that is 3 hour seminar - I will try to keep it short but it is one of the most important questions you have asked me, as it affects all of us- humans and our pets all breeds and sizes... but before we discuss it we need some background.
In the statement before I said,... we need dietary enzymes to put the living component back into our processed diets of today. It is the living component in the dietary enzymes – that cleanses the body of toxins at a cellular level. The dietary enzymes also takes the load off the pancreas and other vital organs in the body - I think of it as the Hepa Filter for you body.
Every raw food item has within it, the enzymes needed to digest that particular food. BUT when we cook, store, or process that food, it destroys the dietary enzymes in it. This means the pancreas has to work overtime to make more enzymes needed to digest our food. Diabetes today is a result of a pancreas not being able to make enough enzymes for all the processed food that we eat. Western diets include more processed food than any diet on the planet, and consequently we have more diabetes than any country as well, because we wear out the pancreas by not eating enough raw, unprocessed foods. This is true for our dogs and cats!
Now with today's technologies we can put these important dietary enzymes back in our diet and the pet's diet by using a supplements of whole sprouted foods that contain dietary enzymes.
When our system lacks critical “living enzymes” in the diet, there is a breakdown at a cellular level and this includes the gut where 70% of the immune function takes place. A body detoxifies or cleanses itself with the many antioxidants it takes in from raw sprouts, whole ground grains, fruits and vegetables. Then the toxins leave the body through excrement, urine and the skin; which is the body’s biggest filter organ. When these toxins work their way out on the skin it changes the pH of the surface of the skin and this cause itching and scratching (and secondary infection).
When it starts to spiral out of control, off to the vet and they generally see it is a problem of inflammation with perhaps a secondary infection, and gives a diagnosis of a “food allergy”, when it may not be an allergy at all. It is a due to a body that is not getting the nutrients needed through "living food/dietary enzymes" so the body can detoxify itself to stay healthy and neutralize all the free radicals in the body that cause premature aging and disease.
Research shows that allergies are actually very few, but if you ask most veterinarians they will tell you they see many dogs with allergies. Working with vets on these cases, I have found most skin issues diagnosed as allergies are in fact due to systemic yeast over growth in the gut (Candida Albicans or a Systemic Yeast Infection).
This is how the routine goes, a dog (or cat) comes in the clinic with itching, scratching, ear infections, bladder infections and the dog is put on a prescription diet (grain based) along with steroids and antibiotics for a secondary infection. It works for a while then the cycle starts all over again, because this solution is only a bandage, in fact the temporary bandage is actually making things worse in the long run.
This is what needs to happen. We need to kill off the yeast overgrowth in the gut, detoxify -clean it out of the body, and reseed the gut with multiple beneficial bacteria , which then crowds out the fungus when it tries to grow. A good meat based diet is critical in keeping a healthy pH of the gut too.
When the gut is over grown with yeast/fungus, it is called 'Leaky Gut Syndrome', where the overgrowth has broken down the mucus lining of the gut and the toxins leach out of the intestinal walls into the bloodstream, making these toxins go systemic (all system). The main by-product of Leaky Gut Syndrome is the yeast die-off, which produces toxic waste called mycotoxins, which has been shown in human research to effect thyroid function. So allergies are very rare, but systemic yeast infections are the biggest health problem today, not only for pets, but for humans as well. It is now being recognized, but only if you have an alternative therapy physician or holistic veterinarian. Recognizing this problem is the issue.
Sometimes what appears to be a food allergy is actually a contact allergy - something the dog has come in contact with in their environment. There are also inhalant allergies as well. Some of the things that cause contact and inhalant allergies can be carpet products (sprinkle kind), like Carpet Fresh. I know of a breeder who spent thousands of dollars trying to figure out what was wrong with their show dog and it was a reaction to Carpet Fresh. Tide detergent, as well as other detergents can be a very big problem if used on dog bedding. Just wash bedding in bleach, no soap and NO softeners which can trigger respiratory reactions particularly in young animals and children. No fabric softeners on bedding used for your new litter either.
Any aerosol sprays, like air freshener and especially Lysol and other kinds of disinfectants are very hard on animals and children - learn to clean green and do without these chemicals. Yard, flower, bug sprays and sprayed fields in agricultural areas…all of these things can cause serious contact allergy reactions. And lastly, swimming pools with chemicals/chlorine can also be a serious problem for skin and coats.
What I have found is the best route for pet owners is, if you have a dog that you suspect is allergic to something:
1). Do an assessment of your cleaning supplies and yard supplies first to rule that problem out.
2). Get a T3 and T4 thyroid test done and if low normal ask your vet to treat the dog with medicine for it.
3) Change the diet to a single protein and single carbohydrate food.
For this purpose I like the Precise Sensicare Lamb/Rice formula or Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet formulas - Lamb/Rice Formula or NutriSource Grain Free Chicken or NutriSource Grain Free Lamb or something from the Nutrisca Grain/Potato Free diet, because these do not have potato the diets. (For yeast issues we must avoid sweet potato, potato and tapioca components)
Then if the change in diet does not turn the dog around within 2 weeks, then more than likely it is a systemic yeast issue and not an allergy and we have to start the yeast balancing process. In addition to thyroid testing I recommend what Dr. Becker states:
"I do immune testing to measure his immunoglobulin levels (IgG, IgM and IgA). Generally these levels are low in a dog with constant yeast overgrowth. If your dog is producing healthy levels of immunoglobulins, he should be able to overcome almost any infection, and particularly an opportunistic yeast infection."
Also now there is food sensitivity testing that can be done at www.Hemopet.com which is Dr. Jean Dodds and she is also the one I suggest read the thyroid test for systemic yeast issues.
If it is a yeast issue then we need to look at the Blackwatch Yeast Removal Program , which involves the use of the Skin Recovery Kit #30 from www.firstchoicenaturals.com To read more about this problem go to my website and read my article: A Mini-Course in Systemic Yeast.
Q: Large or giant breeds are also vulnerable to another very serious condition called Bloat or Torsion. Many owners are unaware of, or unfamiliar with, this problem and this can have fatal consequences. I understand that you’ve had personal and heartbreaking experience with this. Can you explain to us the symptoms of bloat, what to do if you are concerned that your dog is experiencing these, and what can be done to prevent, or at least reduce the risk, of it occurring?
Linda: First, all breeds can bloat and torse (stomach and/or spleen turns). It is more of a problem in large breeds, because many large breeds (giants) do not handle stress well, they are often not fed as well (they eat more food than tiny dogs) and this can all add up to a breakdown in the dogs system, causing a change in the pH of the gut. This then allows pathogenic bacteria and yeast to overgrow in the gut causing a gaseous buildup an then bloat/torsion.
Last week I talked to a woman who’s dog has bloated 3 times, she said when the dog was stuck with a trocar (to let the gas out in an emergency situation before operating), she said “Linda, it smelled just like yeast and so did the dog’s breath!”
Yes, I feel there is a disruption of the normal flora of the gut due to the pH and overgrowth develops which causes bloat. This is why Probiotics are critical to keeping the incident of bloat down in these dogs. Stress is always the trigger, sometimes it is unseen stress – it can be hormonal as well, this is why intact dogs and bitches are more susceptible to this problem. Hormones fluctuate during seasons and can change the body’s pH balance in the gut and there you go..... overgrowth of pathogens and bloat. Recently I had friends who were getting ready to do a breeding of the older male and the repo vet wanted them to give him a shot of testosterone before the breeding. Although the dog did not know he was going to be used for breeding that afternoon, ten minutes after the shot was administered the dog bloated. So pH of the gut is really something that needs to be tended to and using meat based foods and probiotics are important for maintaining that pH.
Nutrition is a part of this puzzle. I do not approve of grain based diets (listed first on the ingredient panel), especially grains that are feed grade grains or livestock grade which are found in grocery store level foods. (Utilitarian and Premium Level foods) they lack nutrients and are high in gluten.
I do not have any problem with #1 Human Grade grains used as a carbohydrate component to a food in moderate amounts. Especially whole ground brown rice and whole ground oats both of which have nutritional components for detoxifying the body and fighting free radicals damage and cancers. So feeding a meat based diets (manufactured kibble or manufactured raw or dehydrated raw) with or without quality grains is important and then using the CORE 4 supplements as added insurance, gives us a better chance of our dogs being healthy. Remember, stress is the trigger for bloat and that can manifest itself in many ways; hormone changes, boarding, loss, moving, environmental changes, family changes, weather related anxiety, diet..you name it and nothing in life is a guarantee, but at least you know if you are on a good feeding program, you are doing all that you can do to keep them healthy.
It is important to have a vet that is knowledgeable about bloat and can do the surgery and has an emergency clinic, because when this hits -- time is of the essence – literally you have to get them to a vet immediately! Discuss all this with your vet ahead of time as a precaution. Here is a link with the symptoms of bloat. Any dog owner should know this, not just big dog owners.
Q: Great Danes are obviously ‘your’ breed, and your love and respect for them is clearly immense. They’re very impressive dogs, but I would imagine that owning one has its’ own unique challenges (as of course is true with any breed). Do you have an opinion as to what sort of home or environment is most suitable for one of these beauties?
Linda: I have always had a couple breeds at one time, but I am most familiar with the challenges of large and giant breeds. I have owned Pugs for years, shown some and had a few litters – I currently only have one retiree. I used to take at least one Dane with me everywhere when I would travel, but it got be a problematic because if they get sick and you are out of town, or they bloat, good luck finding a clinic that will take them. These dogs don’t board well, which is why most Great Dane owners have dog sitters. Boarding kennels don’t like to take Danes because they get stressed too easily making them a potential bloat case in the making. This breed does not handle stress or change very well at all, they are so people oriented that even when well socialized, they are still big babies.
The kind of homes for Great Danes need to be one where owners that can spend a great deal of time with them, make them an integral part of the family and keep them well socialized. They need room to play so a large fenced yard is critical for wellness and keeping up muscle strength as they age. The need to be crate trained so they crate is viewed as their den, a happy place, never a place for punishment. Then if they do get sick and have to be at the clinic, they are not stressed to be confined in a crate or kennel pen.
I have had other breeds, like my current Collie who is wonderful, but he is much more of a “working dog”, he needs a job and in spite of his classy pedigree, he is much more of a “Dawg” than my Danes – a Dane is like having a special needs 4 year old. They can be needy..oh so needy….and sitting on your lap is a Great Dane thing – it’s genetic, not learned. Sitting in the back seat of the van, on the bench at the vet’s office or on your lap that is a Great Dane, they think they are little lap dog. Here is an example of the difference between my Great Dane, Rafe and my Collie, Zoom.
Scenario: I am getting ready to go into town. They both are "on point" wondering if they can go with me. I tell them.......... "Boys, go to the other room, you are underfoot, I am trying to get dressed". What do they do?
The Collie has a look on his face as if to say - "Ok mom, I'll go do something else till you need me." And he goes to the other room and grabs a toy out of the toy box and keeps himself busy.
Now the Dane...well, has a look on his face as if he has just lost his best friend...he moves closer to my face and he stands there staring at me, even after a second command "Go to the other room".... this is what I think is going through his mind.
"What? Go to the other room? Why? What did I do wrong? Don't you love me anymore? You're not going to leave me are you? Can I go with you? Do you love me? Am I Good? ......and therein lies the difference in the breeds.
Great Danes need much more attention and interaction than many breeds, so if you don't have the time, patience and inclination to constantly reassure your Great Dane that they are loved and beautiful and special and the center of your universe, get another breed - a Beagle comes to mind.
Right now we have a 5 week old singleton puppy (only 1 in the litter) and her socialization process has to be different because she has no siblings. The bad thing is she gets all our attention, which she will expect as an adult. All she wants to do is be held…we have probably babied her too much, but gosh what are you going to do – she is so precious……but when she is 100 lbs at 6 months and wants to crawl up in the lazyboy with someone, we have problems!
There is something about Great Danes, they always want to be near your face, their presence is like that of a human being – they take up that much space, when you talk to them their face is often eye level to yours. When you lose one, you know it, there is an enormous presence and energy gone from your home, it’s like losing a human. They don’t take the heat or the cold, they must have comfortable bedding available to them, they are not like a beagle where you can let out to play and know they will be just fine.
This breed, like all giants are fragile, people think because of their size they are sturdy, but they are not. Dogs are genetically meant to be about 40-60 lbs tops, when you get out of that size range then orthopedic and heart issues do occur. This is why diet is so critical to keeping these dogs healthy and long lived. Giant breeds are a freak of nature and man has intervened by making them giants and making them fragile. When I started in Danes, a 5 year old dog was very old. Now it’s nothing for a 10 -12 or older Dane to still be active and it's because we know how to feed them better and have access to good foods and supplements.
Having a Dane is like living with a special needs child, so know that before you ever venture into owning one. Everything has to be bigger. A bigger yard, car, bed, crate, food bill and vet bill and more attention. All require more, more, more to house one Great Dane properly. But along with their size goes their huge, sweet heart and if you are up for the ride, it makes them all worthwhile.
Q: Finally, Linda I know you are very heavily involved in educating dog owners. You often give seminars and lectures, and have been featured in many well-known publications. What is on your ‘to do list’ for the next couple of years, any up-and-coming projects or new ventures that you’d like to share with us?
Linda: I retired from the University in 2006 – hoping for more time to research, write and work in the studio. That never happened, in fact I have never been busier with seminars and developing supplements and holistic foods plus Joe and I have a business. Who in the world starts a business at this age??. It's been a busy time for us, but great! I am hoping for more time to do those things in the future months, like work in the studio again.
Joe and I have gone on two of the K9 College Cruises where I have presented seminars, that was so much fun and I can NOT underscore the importance of breeders going on one of these seminar/Cruises - it is the most concentrated amount of knowledge you will get in one 11 day time period, not to mention the valuable connections.
The preparation for the seminars is extremely time consuming, then the seminars, then the interaction with dog breeders – it’s so rewarding and educational - I learn so much too. But I am not doing any more seminars this year because there is a huge project on the horizon and I am blessed to be asked to participate in it. The timing is right, the climate is right for the industry, but I can't say much about it right now....but Joe and I are thrilled to be part of this great endeavor that will help all breeders and veterinarians. As soon as I can I will announce it on my website.
I need to revamp my website with the most current nutritional information and that in itself is a long process. People want me to write a book, that’s going to wait! I also want to get back in the studio and work, in fact I just started a series of collages and work on them in between research and seminars.
So, I have much to do –I am interested in new science of Nutrigenomics, which is the science of how food effects genetics. I try to develop my feed programs to support dogs with all kinds of conditions and heritable diseases, be it epilepsy, diabetes, heart problems etc., and there is a nutritional way to ease the pain and suffering of these dogs. I love finding visionary products and test feeding them and there is such exciting things coming down the road. This is what I am doing with my Feed Program and Supplement Kits to work to try and prevent some of these health issues before they start.
We have found people have great success with the Blackwatch Feed Program and the CORE 4 Philosophy, which is the article everyone should read for themselves and their pets. It works, we know it works after 25 years of breeders and pet owners feeding their pets this way.
So.... that’s what I am doing and right now I can’t wait until May so Joe and I can bring the pontoon out of storage, no computer no iPhone, just quiet days floating on the lake with good food, wine and good friends, where nobody knows 'The Great Dane Lady'..... where I am just plain ole Linda.
Distributors for the CORE 4 Supplement Kits and Yeast Removal Program Kit
plus other supplements Linda has designed for pets.
For Nutritional Consultation Appointments with the Great Dane Lady -1- 765-284-8288
Ch. Blackwatch Bravado of Lore - 3 Generation of Champions at Blackwatch
Blackwatch Lark of Owlwatch 9 months - Blackwatch Puppies at 8 weeks.
Blackwatch Noblesse Oblige and sister Blackwatch Tamiannan
Blackwatch Solitary v. Owlwatch and Blackwatch Uno of Calico Rock
Glasgowhills Zoom of Blackwatch & Belmark's "Joey" - Ms. Pickles in a Dane Nest.
Ch. Lira - going Best Puppy at the GDCA National at 12 weeks of age.
Ch Ariels Lira V. Black N Owlwatch owned by Linda Arndt, PJ Gray and Angela Riley
Below is her son "Glenn"
Sweden Champion Owlwatch Summer in Sweden - Glenn
Bred by J P Gray, Linda Arndt and Angela Riley
Joe and I On The K9 College Cruise where I presented seminars in 2007-2009
My latest babies below:
Charasmatic Creme De La Cream - 6 months
below - Charasmatics Ms. Fancy Pants - 4 months
Breeder: Jocelyn Smithers - Charasmatic Persians