ATI’s interview with Jill Grenaae Written and Interviewed By Pamela Levy
PFD link to this interview.
We want to thank you, Jill, for your years of dedication to the breed. The kennel name Tatong is behind many top winning Danish, American and international dogs. We would love to know how you became involved or started with Australian Terriers?
First of all I want to thank the ATI and the Aussie people of Denmark for the honor of being awarded an ATI Lifetime member – Thank you!
A friend of mine bought an Aussie puppy back in 1979. At that time we were studying and living in Copenhagen and wanted a small dog that could go everywhere with us. One we could take with us on the bus or train or could be transported in the basket of my bicycle. Having met my friend’s Aussie puppy the choice was not hard and in July 1981 our first Aussie, Emma, entered into our lives. Unfortunately Emma was quite a nervous dog; she loved other dogs, but was not comfortable around people she did not know, so when she was a year old we decided that she might benefit from the company of an older dog with a more even disposition. Emma’s breeder knew of another Aussie breeder who had an adult female, Sam-Zu Ngulati, for sale on breeding terms and the rest is, as they say, history. Ngulati was a lovely bitch with an outstanding temperament and as she turned out to produce equally lovely offspring, she became the foundation of the Tatong Aussies, primarily through her son MultiCh Tatong’s Silver Moondancer.
Looking back, I did not choose the breed as much as it chose me. Firstly I stumbled over the breed by chance and secondly I had no option but to breed two litters from Ngulati if I wanted to have her. Also the first puppy I kept from her was one that the family that was supposed to have her “forgot” to pick up when the time came for the puppies to leave home so somewhere something had really decided that this was to be my breed. This “forgotten” puppy ended up staying with us and, by the way became my first champion.
How many years did you show Aussies?
I began showing Aussies in 1980. The first dog I showed was Emma, our first Aussie, and when she won the bitch ticket and BOS at her first show, I was hooked.
How many years were you involved with breeding Aussies?
Our first litter was born on June 29th, 1985.
How many litters did you breed?
I don’t know; I never counted litters, but according to the DKC database, I have bred a little less than 400 Aussie puppies in about 25 years.
Do you know how many champions you have produced?
That I DO know – 78, several of them with multiple champion titles.
Do you enjoy mentoring other people in the breed?
I do and mostly when the “student-mentor” relationship turns into a friendship and the student into an accomplished breeder.
Have you mentored anyone from another country?
Yes, several and it has been a pleasure.
Who were the people who mentored you in the breed?
Betty Bryde of Mariendal Australian Terriers and Ibeth Carlsen of Ibeth Aussies were my mentors. They were both dedicated to the breed and I know that, even if she can no longer keep dogs, Betty still is. I had two lovely dogs from Ibeth, IntCh Ibeth Orange Blossom and IntCh Ibeth Mister President that are both behind many successful Tatong Aussies. From Betty I got a wealth of knowledge about the breed. Betty is a dear, much loved friend and a breeder whose opinion one would be a fool not to value.
What do you look for in the bitch to make her worthy of your breeding program?
A happy, outgoing, even temperament, good health and correct breed type and anatomy – in that order. It has been my goal to get all in one package so to speak, but it is my firm belief that, first and foremost, no dog with a faulty temperament should reproduce.
A very good friend of mine says that an Aussie should be a terrier first and then an Aussie. I completely disagree and I do so because of the unique disposition of the Aussie. I love that this breed is bold and forward, but it should never be so to the point of stupidity. This is why, unlike many other of the terrier breeds, Aussies thrive in packs and are so easy to keep.
What do you look for in the stud dog to make him worthy of your breeding program?
I look for the exact same things as in a bitch. An additional thing that really comes under health is that both should be able to reproduce naturally. Now that I am involved with another breed that has marathon whelpings, I can see how privileged I was with the Aussies. Aussie bitches are great whelpers and the dogs are good studs that usually have their timing exactly right.
How did you learn to groom?
I learned grooming from Ibeth Carlsen.
Have you exported Aussies and to what countries if yes?
Yes, I have exported several dogs – just off the top of my head to: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Italy, Croatia and The US.
Have you sold Tatong dogs to many people in the US?
I have had the pleasure of selling dogs to several breeders/good friends in the US: Sheila Dunn of The Farm’s Aussies, Angie Cross-Bly of Sundog, Jerry Walsh of Pineterri, Cheryl Mechalke of Araluen, Mrs. Edla Cummings of Edwyre.
Are there others elsewhere in the world that you helped start with showing and breeding?)
Yes, I have helped breeders in France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands, Italy and of course Denmark. All have started breeding with dogs from us.
Have you imported Aussies?
Yes, also several. From The UK, The US, Sweden, Finland, Norway and The Netherlands.
A few stand out in particular, among these, two bitches from Finland, IntCh Selendia Blue Moonshine, a daughter of our own Silver Moondancer and bred by our good friend Pia Lindqvist. The other Ch Avocation Double Action, a beautiful red, bred by another wonderful friend Orvokki Lämsä. Double Action proved to be a wonderful producer that gave us several lovely champions. From England I had Ch Elve The Flirt. I got her when she was three years old. She had only a few puppies and sadly got diabetes at the age of 7, which is why the few puppies she had were never bred but she was a lovely dog that, with the proper treatment, lived to a very old age despite her diabetes. Writing this I still miss her even though she has been gone for several years now; she was a real character. The two daughters The Flirt produced here have, luckily, both been healthy. One is still active as an agility dog at the age of 13 and the other is the head of her pack at 14.
Do you see a difference in personalities between dogs from other countries and Danish dogs?
No, but I see differences in personalities between dogs from different breeders of course reflecting what the breeder values.
Did you find it difficult to produce a nice natural tail?
Docking was banned in Denmark in 1992, which was well before I stopped breeding. I absolutely hate the curled up tails, so I selected for tails that were as straight and short as possible and I don’t think it was a problem at all.
Can you describe what a good natural tail should look like?
A good natural tail should be quite similar to a Cairn Terrier tail, carried at approximately 90-80 degrees with the back. I will accept a tail that is carried a little gaily, but never curled.
Did you have a few favorite Aussies that you owned or bred?
MultiCh Tatong’s Silver Moondancer (Intch Ibeth Mister President x Sam-zu Ngulati) and MultiCh Tatong’s Crocodile Dundee (Ch Asterix x Ch Tatong’s Obiana) are my absolute favourites among the dogs that I have owned and bred, but also dogs owned by others such as MultiCh Tatong’s Red Oak (Ch Sassatown Gianni Schicchi x Ch Avocation Double Action), IntCh Tatong’s Dr. Jekyll (Ch Selendia Galaxy Kid x Ch Avocation Double Action),
“Galaxy Kid” Ch Selendia Galaxy Kid (Breeder Pia Lindqvist, Owner Jill Grenaae)
“Konsta” Ch Tatong’s Eclipse of The Moon (Owner Orvokki Lämsä)
Ch Tatong’s Eclipse of the Moon (IntCh Tatong’s Silver Moondancer x IntCh Ibeth Orange Blossom), IntCh Tatong’s The Exorcist (Ch The Farm’s One Hell of a Devil x IntCh Tatong’s Red Orient Ruby) and his son Ch Tatong’s Don Corleone are among my favourites.
“Leo” Ch Tatong’s Don Corleone (Owner Agnethe & Paul Dietrich). Photo: Markus Wallden
Two dogs I also want to mention are IntCh Golden Moonraker du Clos de Windorah (IntCh Tatong’s Silver Moondancer x Ch Dare Devil’s Neelah Nyhree)
“Bailey” IntCh Golden Moonraker du Clos de Windorah (Breeder Muriel Froelich, Owners Jill Grenaae, Pia Lindqvist)
and Ch Devil in Disguise av Falchebo (IntCh Tatong’s The Exorcist x Ch Tineetown The Queen O’Hearts). I was fortunate enough to be able to have the pick of the litters when I chose these two and they each stayed with us for a year or two until they went to their homes in Finland and Sweden respectively. I am proud of both these dogs that have done wonderfully in the show ring and as studs as well as been great companions for their owners.
Ch Devil in Disguise av Falchebo (Breeder Marte Falch, Owners Jill Grenaae, Tina Nordgren, Ida Nordgren)
I have owned several lovely bitches, special favourites have been Ch Avocation Double Action (Ch Moomba Red Butch x Ch Avocation Red Kamilaroi),“Blue Moonshine” IntCh Selendia Blue Moonshine (Breeder Pia Lindqvist, Owner Jill Grenaae) IntCh Selendia Blue Moonshine (IntCh Tatong’s Silver Moondancer x Ch Sinimarjan Abigail), IntCh Ibeth Orange Blossom (Ch Ymsens Yarrangobilly x Ch Ibeth Calypso Queen), Ch Tatong’s Bloody Mary (Ch Tatong’s Red Mustang x Intch Ibeth Orange Blossom), Tatong’s Cruella De Ville (IntCh Tatong’s Silver Moondancer x Ch Avocation Double Action), Ch Tatong’s Fickle Finger of Fate (Tatong’s Inner Circle x Tatong’s The Devil’s Daughter). All time favourite was the litter sister of Ch Tatong’s Red Mustang and Ch Tatong’s Motown Sound. Her name was Tatong’s Red MG. She held no titles, except for that very personal one as my “Once in a lifetime dog.”
Looking at the question again I see that you ask me to mention “a few favourites”….these are perhaps more than just a few, but being used to thinking in pedigrees, the thought of one dog reminded me of another and since they have all been much loved, it is hard to choose.
Who were they and why were they your favorites?
“Smiley” IntCh Tatong’s Silver Moondancer (Owner Jill Grenaae)
Elaborating on them all will be too much, but my all time favourite is Tatong’s Silver Moondancer. He was a fantastic dog in every aspect. How often do you get a wonderful show dog, a super family dog and an amazing stud dog in one gorgeous package? Having been a breeder for over 25 years I can tell you: “Not often.” Smiley, as he was called, can be found in many, many pedigrees the world over and with good reason. He produced beautiful, sound offspring and I was so fortunate to be able to breed and own a dog like him. Another of my favorites I want to mention is IntCh Tatong’s Wrapped in a Riddle (Ch Bearstep’s Tonganoxie x Ch Tatong’s Fickle Finger of Fate), Owner Irene Thye, Kisamba Aussies. I also want to mention another favorite Ch Selendia Galaxy Kid (Ch Tasdale Kraka Kid x Intch Selendia Disco Dancer.)
“Sally” IntCh Tatong’s Wrapped in a Riddle (Owner Irene Thye)
How has the Aussie changed since you started breeding?
When I began breeding we sometimes saw some quite nervous and aggressive Aussies, mainly among those not registered with the Danish Kennel Club. This has changed radically over the years and luckily all for the better. More focus is on the dog as part of society and as such more attention has been placed on temperament. Today, thanks to dedicated and serious breeders, the Aussie is considered a happy and outgoing breed here.
Do you think the Aussie has improved?
Yes and no. This is a small breed that is very sensitive to fluctuations. One serious and accomplished breeder can have a huge effect on the overall quality as can, unfortunately, one less accomplished and less serious, so I think that overall a breed as small as ours will have its natural ups and downs as breeders come and go. In general I think that the breed is lucky to have some very dedicated fans and breeders such as the people involved with this newsletter. You have the potential through this media to have a great impact on the breed by educating and bringing breeders together from every corner of the world and that can only benefit the breed.
What concerns you about the Aussie of today as it relates to conformation and health?
Temperament is always a concern of mine. Please, please breeders, do not just look at pretty pictures on web sites, but get to know the dogs you choose to breed from.
Another concern is of course diabetes. Most cases of diabetes in the breed seem to be type 2 with late onset, but as one breeder of Welsh terriers once remarked when we were discussing this: “Many Welsh Terriers live to 14 or older and hardly any get diabetes.” Diabetes is a problem in Aussies and it is great to see that some breed clubs choose to support research into this.
With regards to conformation, I think the breed, like SO many others, could benefit from breeders being more focused on fronts and overall movement. An Aussie should have sufficient upper arm, a good layback of shoulders and a keel/forechest. It should NOT have a “leg in each corner.” If the front assembly is correct, the dog will also have a nice flow of neck into shoulders instead of a marked 90-110 degrees angle of neck to shoulder, and the movement will be nice and floating.
Ch Devil in Disguise av Falchebo Photo: Kenneth Holmberg
Illustration of how correct anatomy translates into correct movement.
Finally I think we see many dogs that could be better proportioned. Many are very long and very low – I have bred a few myself.
What have Aussies added to your life?
First and foremost the Aussies have added many wonderful contacts and friendships to my life. It may sound strange to mention this before the joy that the dogs themselves have obviously brought, but dogs have a short lifespan however much we wish it were different. Never-the-less almost every one of the dogs now gone have resulted in a great friendship with a breeder and/or owner; to me that is the greatest addition the Aussies have made to my life.
2007 saw the birth of our last Aussie litter and in 2009 we handed in our kennel prefix Tatong. Besides Aussies we had then, for a couple of years, also been breeding Labrador Retrievers and since I had become more and more involved with training and doing field work with the Labradors, I realized that I just could not breed both Labs and Aussies; it was simply too much work having both breeds. Also the many years of grooming has taken its toll on my hands and shoulders, so all in all it seemed like the right time to let go. We now have two 9 year old Aussies, Ella and Victor, that will probably be our last, but after more than 25 years of breeding I think I am allowed to say I have done my bit. Besides, there are so many skilled and clever breeders out there who do great work with their Aussies and it makes me confident this breed is in very good and capable hands.