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Breeder Spotlight: Judy Descutner

On a 200-acre family farm in Hickory, Pennsylvania, Judy Descutner has bred, raised, and shown quality purebred dogs and horses for more than 40 years. She is an AKC Breeder of Merit, a title given by the American Kennel Club to “responsible breeders who have gone above and beyond on health issues, temperament, and genetic screening, as well as to the individual care and placement of puppies in responsible homes.” 

It’s a highly coveted title. But it’s easy to see why Judy Descutner has earned it. She approaches breeding with the utmost care—occasionally producing litters of Whippets or English Cocker Spaniels—but focusing chiefly on the Barbet breed.

Commonly used as hunting dogs in France in the 16th century, these water dogs were becoming a rare breed. In fact, the Barbet breed had become nearly extinct after the World Wars. However, with the “…efforts of a very devoted few, the old breed is slowly being reborn as a dog for the future,” according to the Barbet Club of America. As you can probably guess, Judy Descutner is one of these ‘very devoted few.’ From 2009 through 2018, Judy served on the Board of the Barbet Club of America, as President, Vice President, Secretary, and Newsletter editor over the years. She also served as Vice President of the United Barbet Club.

When asked how she became involved with the Barbet, Judy said:

“In the mid 1990s, I became aware of a great looking curly water dog called the Barbet. At the time, there were less than 5 Barbet in the United States. Although I joined the Barbet Club of America, the lack of available dogs made acquiring one an impossibility at the time. I kept my eye on the breed, and, as the North American popularity of the breed grew and the Canadian Kennel Club granted full registration status, I was able to purchase my foundation bitch in 2009 from Florence Erwin of Mississauga, Ontario.” 

“This fuzzy little black mop has changed my life in ways I never imagined. Claire [my Barbet] and I have traveled extensively attending dog shows, Meet the Breeds events, and a television appearance. With a lot of help from the International Barbet community, we arranged a breeding with frozen semen that I imported from Switzerland. I went to Paris and attended the World Dog Show. Every day is filled with phone calls and emails concerning the breed. Claire is the first Barbet in North America to win a Best In Show. Plus, she is completely smart, sweet and fun to be with. I am proud to have helped our American Barbet through their efforts to be recognized by the American Kennel Club.” 

With an obvious passion to further grow the breed, it is Judy’s careful and patient approach to breeding the Barbet that makes her a respected member of the breeder community. When asked about her breeding philosophy, Judy says:

“Breeding is a complex puzzle of health and genetics, and we [Judy and her husband] focus on the whole dog. We continually strive to create our ideal of the Barbet; a joyous, healthy, smart and beautiful member of the family. We don’t often repeat breedings or keep our own stud dogs. We study pedigrees and network with breeders across the globe to stay abreast of the state of the breed.”  

One of the tools that Judy started using to help make the best breeding decisions is the Embark for Breeders Dog DNA genetic health testing. In a recent Pure Dog Talk podcast she was featured on, Judy spoke about the health and longevity of the Barbet:

“Based on what we are seeing, they [Barbets] have had standard health issues of some hip and eye issues. We all started doing [Embark] genetic testing on them and discovered that 40% of them were carrying PRA-prcd*. Fortunately, very, very few carriers had been bred to other carriers when we learned this. It was through Embark testing [that we discovered this] because we were all testing for the Dilution gene because there was a litter born in Canada that unfortunately had three bad Alopecia cases in a dilute coat. That’s what we were all looking for, and then we found out about the PRA-prcd, but it was just so nice to have known it back then. And now it’s so easy to work around it when you know what you’re working with, so absolutely the [Embark] genetic testing was huge.”

Because of Judy’s work, along with the efforts of other Barbet advocates, there are now approximately 650 Barbet registered with the American Kennel Club, [2]. And despite constant puppy requests (demand for the breed is rapidly growing due to the dog’s wonderful temperament), Judy Descutner remains steadfast in her responsible breeding approach by breeding purposefully. She now utilizes Embark’s Matchmaker to see true COI of her potential breedings.  

Descutner’s success with Barbet includes the first two American born AKC champions, 11 CM titles, 8 Best in Open Show winners, and performance titles in 7 events.

*Progressive Rod-Cone Degeneration, or PRA-prcd, is a form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in which the photoreceptor cells in the dog’s retina degenerate. In the Barbet breed, 43/154 dogs are PRA-prcd carriers.

Learn more about Judy Descutner’s journey with the Barbet breed. Tune in to the Pure Dog Talk podcast, episode 383.

Want to manage the genetic health of your breeding program? Get the Embark For Breeders Dog DNA Test

 

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