Brian is one of a kind breeder. His unique approach in selection, breeding, and nutrition has produced several Champions and Grand Champions. Brian has successfully applied his scientific background to optimize the nutrition of his dogs over the years. In this interview we discuss how did he start feeding raw, his current standards, and the tips and tricks that will help anyone starting feeding raw an expert!

                                                          

 

RC: For those readers who are not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself

Brian: Growing up, my dad bred Dobermans and English foxhounds. He’s a large animal veterinarian who worked with E. P. Taylor, who bred Northern Dancer, the first Canadian-bred Thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby (more about Northern Dancer here). He also bred award winning Black Angus. So my connection to shows and breeding came from the thrill of growing up in a family that is involved in events that made history.

RC: Do you do anything else other than dog breeding?

Brian: I have a PhD in biomedical sciences  and work in the biotechnology industry. I am mainly involved in oncology drug trials for women.

RC: Type of breeds that you have?  

Brian: I am currently exclusively breeding Whippets.

RC: What makes this breed special and what do you like most about them?

Brian: Whippets are gentle and friendly breed that is very active and require a high level of exercise.

RC: What resources would you recommend for readers to know more about this breed?

Brian: The Canadian Kennel Club is the best starting point. Also, going to dog shows, seeing the dogs in action, talking to breeders who actually compete will give you a much better idea about the breed and any issues that you should be aware of before you make this kind of commitment. 

RC:  Any health problems or concerns that someone should watch for? What particular tests they should ask the breeder to provide?

Brian: I always start by doing a full health check for my dogs. I ensure from the breeding that they are free from any eye and hearing problems, which are an issue in whippets. I also do a yearly advanced cardiology testing done by a board certified cardiologist that clears them from any heart problems. As whippets are considered sight hounds they are more prone to heart issues. This is an added expense and effort that I go through to ensure that my puppies are in the best health condition. Also, I will not my dogs breed from a male who has not been cleared from any of the genetic predispositions. These efforts might not necessarily eliminate the problems but I will at least be upfront about it and not bury my head in the sand and pretend it is not there. 

RC:  Which selection criteria that you follow (general)?

Brian: The health and temperament are the two main critieria. I always breed to the standard and never breed to fad. Whippet have an s-shape, you look at the top of the dog and it should match the bottom of the dog. There is only one hard angle which are hocks, which comes down at 90°. Everything else should be a curving S, from the neck to the back and then on the other side of the dog. Nowadays, you’ll see whippets that do not have the S shape and are way too big compared the breed standards. My male dogs are 20-21 inch so they can compete anywhere; many breeders have 22 inch dogs which are too big to compete internationally.

By adopting zero-compromise methodology I breed dogs that win. I always emphasize sound breeding and a healthy diet. Having said that, every breeder will face issues no matter how good they are and how good the testing was.  

RC: Why raw? Was there a special reason you started feeding raw?

Brian: As I said earlier, my dad bred dogs, and he used to feed them raw meaty bones 3 days a week, which was the best method available at the time, while the other 4 days he’d feed kibble. He’d notice that the dogs would develop dandruff. Instead of removing kibble he’d feed more kibble and supplement with fish oil, kelp, and other stuff. I also did something similar to that starting off, until 1988 when I was breeding Old English Sheep Dogs, which have a very sensitive stomach. When I fed them more than 35% protein they’d end up with a diarrhoea and now you have a hairy dog with a mess at the back end! That is when I started moving away from raw and experimenting with the BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones And Raw Food). But that was too much organs (especially liver) with no bone mix which made sheep dogs more sensitive. What I ended up doing is cutting up a whole chicken and serving it up to them with no organ meat, which as you may guess made their stool too firm. So after some trial and error I found the right balance that works for them. 

RC: So after all these trials did you finally find the right balance that works for you consistently?

Brian: Having the scientific background I was able to apply the same observational methods to raw feeding. Now I constantly feed 80:10:10. I go with 80% protein (muscle, heart, green tripe), 10% ground bone, and 10% organ with no more than 1.5-2% liver.

RC: Do you add or use any supplements?

Brian: Most of the time I do not. I mainly rely on the green tripe to provide my dogs with the value. You want to make sure that your tripe smells and you can see the green grass blades, which is when you know it is good! I pay attention to the hair and nails. For example, if nails are flakey that means your dogs need magnesium. In any case, winter is the only time I supplement with berries and dried fruit. In the summer time, they know the right grasses and eat them. I had a male that would go next to raspberry bushes and stand there for an hour picking ripe raspberries even though they are too sour!

RC: How do you feed pregnant dogs (percentage, amount, protein)? Which supplements do you recommend? 

Brian: I do not change anything. I basically let them self-regulate. They’ll eat their regular meals and one day they’ll stop! Then they’ll start eating again the next meal.

RC: How do you wean puppies and start them on raw?

Brian: I start them as soon as I can. What I emphasize is the immunization at the beginning as I have seen a lot of breeders opting out and then their puppies will come down with parvo. I start with the puppy series and make sure they got their boosters. After that I only measure antibody titers and make sure they get a booster only when they need it. Of course I maintain rabies as required by law. This will ensure that the dogs are protected while not being over vaccinated.

For feeding I learnt from experience. I used to over-supplement the puppies with liver. Puppies only need more food and not more organ.

RC:  What is the difference in feeding adult Vs puppy?

Brian: I basically feed them the same ingredients but a bit more food. Again, at the beginning I thought they needed to be supplemented with this or that but after much experimenting it turns out all what they need is a bit more food.

RC: Thanks so much for the information and the time Brian! Where and how people can reach you?

Brian: The best way to get in touch with me is on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/brian.dopson