Michelle Neff had graciously provided us with an interview with respected Breeder Fran Lass
Fran with 7 week old Rocket
Where did you grow up? Did you have dogs as a child?
FL: I was born and raised in Golden, Colorado. Our only family dog was a boxer named BUMPS…..
MN: Do you have any children?
I have one son who is 44 years old. He has chocolate labs that he uses for hunting, but they are also house dogs – that he learned from mom….
MN: When did you get your first Great Dane?
FL: 1965…Found an ad in the local paper. $50 sell or swap. Went to see puppies, and only the fawn father was on the premises – they gave us some phony excuse about where the mother was….said they would forward AKC papers…..Uh huh……never saw them – but for $50 what did I expect???
This dog grew up to be 95 lbs full grown, had a pointy head, no mask, and about 29 inches tall at the shoulder. He had a lot of black overlay, and he ended up with an eye disease Called Pannus which a lot of German shepherds have I was told, so we suspect his mom was a shepherd…--
After attending a local dog show I noticed my dog didn’t look like the dogs in the ring- hummm says I, perhaps I should do some research. One day in 1968, upon arriving home from work, I found a lovely 4 mo old fawn girl from von Riesenhof breeding laying under my kitchen table with a big red bow around her neck, - a gift from my now ex-husband.LOL--- oh what he started…..!!
Ch. Lagarada's Cover Girl, ROM
MN: Have you always handled your own dogs or did you start out using a handler?
FL: We in Colorado in the 60’s and 70’s were all novices – we had nobody to teach us so we all showed our own dogs – we stumbled through it and got better at it as time went on.
MN: Over the years, which dogs have been your top producers and or winners?
My top producers:
- Ch. Sunnyside Lagarada Timber -- sire of 8 champions
- BISS Ch. Lagarada’s Megan, ROM -- dam of 9 champions
- Ch. Lagarada’s Cover Girl, ROM—dam of 9 champions
- BISS Ch. Lagarada Rocwind XXIV Gold, ROM, HOF—dam of 10 champions.—GDCA 2001,2002 – Top Brood Bitch
- BIS-BISS AKC/BIS-BISS Can. Ch. Lagarada Reach For the Starz, CGC, ROM, and 2002 GDCA Top 20 winner.- sire of 33 champions (18 AKC) . Also GDCA top 20 winner in 2002.
- Ch. Lagarada’s Timberline Gold, ROM – - sire of 34 champions, 22 AKC
- BISS AKC/UKC/Int’l Ch. Lagarada’s Aspen Gold, ROM, HOF- sire of 48 champions, 30 AKC
- Also GDCA 2005 top stud dog , GDCA 2006-winner of stud dog class, and GDCA 2007 – sire of Top 20 winner.
My top show dogs: (not necessarily better then the others, but they liked to show)
Kara, Travis’s mom was a group winner and always fun to show.
Rocket is probably the best known show dog – Cindy Kelly and Amy Thurow were his handlers… Cindy showed him for almost 4 years and won the gdca top 20 with him .
AKC BIS-BISS/Can. BIS-BISS
Ch. Lagarada Reach for the Starz ROM CGC
My favorite dogs to live with:
My boys: Mac, Cache, Deke, Timber and Travis.My girls: Megan, Cege, Phoebe, Cinders, Passion, Mora
MN: How many champions have you bred/owned?
FL: To date I have personally bred or co-bred 44 champions, and finished 2 more that I bought.
MN: How many years were you in the breed before you finished your first champion?
FL: 20!----- My first champion was a bitch named Sadie. Ch. Lagarada’s Mercedes O’Lorcain. (she was a Von Raseac/Hauerdane combination). She finished in 1985.
AKC BIS-BISS/Can. BIS-BISS
Ch. Lagarada Reach for the Starz ROM CGC
MN: What dogs are you showing now that you feel are as good or better as the dogs you mentioned?
FL: My Mora, BISS AKC/UKC/Int’l Ch. Lagarada’s Forever More and her Son, Lagarada Windy Hill’s Mystery Man.
MN: Any other exciting accomplishments ?
FL: I was GDCA Breeder of the year in 2001, and in 2002, a dog I bred and sold to Mr. Ozeki in Japan, became the #1 all breed dog, he was Jap BIS-BISS Ch. Lagarada’s Special Agent Mulder
Ch. Sunnyside Lagarada Timber
Do you feel that the breed today is in better or worse shape than when you first started?
FL: I believe it’s about the same, - there are different types and styles that come and go each year but overall in health and conformation I think it’s about the same. We have better ways to treat and diagnose health problems today – and are working on genetic markers. When I first started in Danes, hip dysplasia, and bloat were the biggest problems and they still are, even with the advent of
OFA screening and all the research into bloat. I think we know more about heart disease, addisons, and things like that now because of medical advances, but I believe many of the previous dogs who died probably had those things and there was no way to test for it.
akc BISS/UKC/Int'l Ch. Lagarada's Forever More
MN: Over the years you have co-owned and co-bred with others. What advice could you offer to someone considering this?
FL: Know your co-owners well, and always use a contract. Even contracts mean little or nothing in matters of disputes- it’s a matter of honor
Ch. Lagarada's Aspen Gold ROM, HOF
BISS Ch. Lagarada Rocwind XXIV Karat Gold, ROM, HOF
MN: Who were your mentor’s in the beginning?
FL: Hazel Gregory and Brucie Mitchell were the breeders I got to know. Both ladies judged here in Colorado and sat for hours talking to us after the Shows – we were all so new and green we listened for hours and asked so many questions I’m sure both ladies were pretty sick of us – but we did learn a lot from both of them. And Hazel told us there would be many 5 year wonders along the way, and sure enough I’ve known many….and I was bound and determined I wasn’t going to be one….
MN: What is the best piece of advice you could give someone just starting out in Danes?
FL: Research pedigrees, look at photos, find the color, the type of dog you want . Then talk to breeders and find someone willing to stick with you and help you as you go along. Always buy the best you can, don’t go with a bargain with poor structure or a poor pedigree and think you can build on it.
A bitch will be the foundation of a breeding program so do not cut costs on getting a good one, and don’t be in a hurry…So what if you have to wait a couple of years to get the breeding combination you want, - in the end that wait will pay off.
MN: Do you have any plans in the future to apply for your judge’s license?
FL: I have had my paperwork almost ready for some time, (almost is the opportune word)… I would very much like to judge the GDCA Futurity, I would consider that an honor.
MN: Do you think our current health testing is benefiting our breed?
FL: I think we need to take advantage of any health testing that is offered,
I know some think it’s only good on the day it is done, and I have had vets tell me that, but when it’s all we have, then I think we must do it. Then if something comes up that you tested negative for, at least you tried.
It’s a known fact you are against mixed color breeding. Will you tell us why?
FL: The fawn/brindle breedings that have been done with blacks have produced some very nice blacks to continue on with, and actually today some of them are better than the fawns and brindles, however, now that there is a good base I do not see the need to continue on mixing the colors. And : The mixing of fawns/brindles with blacks means eventually there won’t be any color pure fawns and brindles. Do we want that to happen?
MN: What do you think is the main conformation problem with our breed?
FL: I’m concerned about both fronts and rears in our breed, we see so many in the ring that have no extension and end up pounding themselves with their up and down motion. Croups at the wrong angle have been a problem ever since I can remember , and there are a lot of under or over angulated rears, some dogs kick out a back leg to the side when moving.—but none of that is anything new to anybody.
We have a great variation in our breed, everybody seems to interpret the standard to fit the dogs they have at home.
MN: Anything non conformation/standard related?
FL: I do not like the loss of a black mask on the fawns and brindles that I am seeing. The classic look of a fawn and brindle to me is that full black mask extending almost to or past the eyes.
Another increasing problem is the amount of eye conditions that exist today, involving cataracts, eyelashes, eyelids, nictating membranes covering too much of the eyes, etc. Somehow we have to get a hold of this not just for show/breeding reasons for we do have a pet population out there who would like to have some healthy dogs that can see properly.
We also seem to be having an epidemic of sterility/poor semen quality in stud dogs across the country for some reason also, and this could lead to the downfall of our breed . I’ve had it happen to my own dogs and I have no idea why.
And just as a side note: I wish the parent club would go back to the old drawings of the standard. Those were ideal.
Lagarada Windy Hill's Mystery Man
MN: Thank you for your time
FL: Your welcome, it was fun.
FL: I would like to say Thank You to those people who have bought my puppies, or bred to my stud dogs, without all of you none of what I have accomplished would have ever been possible . I appreciate those who have dogs who were never shown as well as those who did show their dogs, in the end it's the care and the home that matters. Also, my thanks to those stud dog owners who have allowed me to use their dogs and incorporate their lines into mine...and to the people who sold me dogs and trusted me with their puppies.
We all need to remember those who came before us and created the background of what we have today - without them we'd have nothing., - it really does "take a village".
Many thanks go out to both Fran and Michelle for taking the time to do this interview for us.