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Meet the breeder
– Anne & Alan Webster (Asquanne Cocker Spaniels)

Foundation of black (solid) lines, l-r: Sh Ch Gemma of Asquanne; daughter, Sh Ch Asquanne’s Senevieve; daughter, Sh Ch Asquanne’s Ghia

When did you first become involved in dogs?
As a child, we always had a Cocker Spaniel as a family pet. When I married in 1960, my husband’s grandmother was a well-known breeder of Yorkshire Terriers and Papillons (affix Obelisk), so as a consequence I was used to hearing ‘doggie’ talk in the family.

Did you research before purchasing your first puppy? How did you establish your lines?
My husband and I purchased our first Cocker Spaniel with my maternity grant! She was a blue roan/tan bitch and eventually with very limited advice we mated her, here was our first litter of five dogs and one bitch. The bitch we retained and started showing at the local sanction and open shows. Very soon the red cards were piling up and with lost of help and support we were delighted to make our very first show cocker into a show champion. We continued showing/breeding our parti-coloured cocker spaniels, and ‘made up’ a black/white ticked dog, Sh Ch Asquanne’s Oman). However, in the late 1970s we became quite fascinated with the solid coloured Cockers, and so added our first black lady to our camp! We purchased her from Denise Barney (Cilleine) and so she became the very strong foundation bitch of our solid lines – from Sh Ch Gemma of Asquanne and subsequent generations of breeding, we have bred 11 black champions and one red.

Photo by Russell Fine Art
Sh Ch Asquanne’s Gonzales, sire of nine UK champions

What are the origins of your prefix and what year was it registered?
The origin of our a affix was from the name of a road where we lived at the time – Asquith Boulevard – removed the ASQ and added ANNE, and so registered our affix in 1966 as Asquanne.

What new blood have you introduced over the years?
Always conscious that new blood and the gene pool needing to be extended in a breeding programme, I was showing in Ireland and noticed a very striking, well-made, true-to-type black/tan male dog. Upon enquiring as to his pedigree, the blood lines were different, but from a dedicated and consistent breeding programme over the years by his breeder. In the next two years, two of my bitches boarded a plane to Ireland, and both produced some wonderful pups from this dog, and proved a great asset to our breeding programme.

How do you select a stud dog?
I am quite convinced that to take on any new blood lines, you must have established your own ‘type’ first, but equally ensure that those new blood lines are from dedicated blood lines also. A ‘mish-mash’ pedigree will never produce a true type. Therefore, when considering any stud dog I will only use that stud dog that is from established blood lines, where I can see that a real ‘type’ is produced consistently. I am always aware of temperament and possible hereditary problems. The mating with the dog from Ireland worked particularly well for us and produced our very famous black bitch Sh Ch Asquanne’s Grainne (37 CCs) and Sh Ch Asquanne’s Gonzales (12 CCs) and to date the sire of nine UK champions.

Has any particular dog impressed you over the years?
The dog that has impressed me over the years is Sh Ch Lochranza man of Fashion, a dog before his time – he could be shown in the ring today and win top honours. The height of his showing career was 20 years ago.

Which has been your own favourite?
A difficult question, as they all have their special place, but if I have to name one then it has to be Sh Ch Asquanne’s Grainne – as she could anticipate our every move.

How do you select a puppy?
We watch them play – eat and their general day-to-day attitudes. Choose at approximately 8-10 weeks.
What are your opinions about type and movement in the breed today?
Type is generally good, but varies in depth of quality. Exhibitors frequently using the dog that is currently winning than thinking ‘behind’ that dog. Movement is sound, but not always the busy merry cocker that should be associated with our breed.

Do you think we can learn from our fellow breeder’s abroad?
No. Most of the really good Cocker Spaniels abroad are imported or descended from our blood lines.

What has been your biggest thrill?
Our biggest thrill was winning our first CC and going on to win 150 CCs.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Failing to complete the title of a lovely black/white bitch, Asquanne’s Europa, 2 CCs and 2 reserve CCs – she was rarely in full coat.

How do you see the future development of the breed? Have you any advice to pass on?
Listen to your breeder and stud dog owners – they can remember the dogs of yesteryear, and suggest possible positive moves for good reasons, do not perceive advice as a ‘witch hunt’. Always mate your bitches to a dog for a really good reason, not just for a litter of puppies, ask yourself ‘why’.

Sh Ch Asquanne’s Omen, pictured in 1983