LINDEN, Alta. – Mirjam Hofman dreams of introducing Swiss mountain dogs to the Prairies.
Hofman had her heart set on owning and breeding Appenzeller Sennenhundes when she and her husband, Auke, moved to their poultry breeding farm near Linden.
Appenzeller Sennenhundes are herding dogs that need work to do and space to run.
“This breed needs a good owner who knows how to train dogs and is always confident with what you are doing,” she said.
Auke had owned a crossbred as a boy and when that dog was gone, he and Mirjam, newly married, found a purebred to work on their Dutch farm.
The tri-coloured medium-sized dog is considered a rare breed with a black body, tan legs, white feet, a white blaze down the front of the face, a white Swiss cross pattern across the chest and a tightly curled tail.
They are herding dogs with strength and intelligence but are also family oriented. They started out working on European farms as livestock herders but have branched out to police work and search and rescue operations.
The Canadian Kennel Club does not recognize the breed so Hofman registered her first litter with an Appenzeller organization in the United States.
She estimates there are 50 to 100 registered dogs in the U.S.
The Hofmans capped off considerable research two years ago by buying a breeding pair through a Belgian breeder: a female, Linda, from Switzerland and a male, Quinn, from Germany.
The dogs were tested for general health, temperament, hip dysplasia and sound elbows before flying to Calgary from Frankfurt.
Seven puppies, weighing about a pound each at birth, were born last August in the Hofman’s new kennel, called Appenzeller at Townview.
Hofman is now training the dogs in obedience and agility classes, where they excel in following orders and learning to jump into, over and around obstacles.
“They are so talented. It is in their genes,” she said.
Hofman uses hand signals, finger snaps and voice commands. The dogs are ready to follow orders, whether on the alert for intruders or lying down quietly on the kitchen floor.
A club was established in 1906 to protect the dogs and officially recognize the breed in Switzerland. They were named after the country’s Appenzell region.
Sennenhunde means the dog of the alpine dairymen.