Lydia & Leah's "Pat Hastings" Evaluation Encounter

by Lydia Castellanos


(The following is an email I received from Lydia Castellanos about her newest Chambray addition.)

I have received numerous correspondence about this article, so following Lydia's contribution I have included some of the emails and also my answers to each.

I am not a super-expressive person, so I am not sure if you understand how much I appreciate the help that you so graciously provide.  I have told you many times that I really want to learn all I can, not only of showing, but of what it is all about been a true dedicated Labrador breeder.  This is something that I really want to do in my lifetime, (and I am not getting any younger).  And, you as a great teacher, put up with all my questions and show ring clumsiness.


            You know that I have other labs which I love dearly, but which have not been right for breeding for one reason or another…  When you offered me Nikki, I loved her face but was concerned if I could conquer her hesitancy and fear of things; you told me that she would be OK, and I believed you, I took her home, although I was afraid that she would not overcome all her hang-ups.  Well, she did; I invested lots of time and love on her and she has blossomed, and now she provides me with a lot of love and support.


            I wanted another puppy, one that I could have early on her life, and I had a long standing deposit with you on a future black girl that could be a good foundation for my kennel.   Events, as they often do, take different turns, and while waiting for that black litter, I got to witness the birth of the “Divas”,  got to see them from their first day in person, and from then on, weekly during classes with Nikki, and daily on your website.  I fell in love with “Surprise” when she was two weeks old, and I want to believe that she liked me too…I don’t think that you knew that I loved her, not as I like all puppies, but loved her enough to change my mind from black to yellow.   I saw her as an outstanding puppy, and heard you (even before you knew that I wanted her), telling everyone that this was the best litter that you had ever had, and how special they all were.


            I knew that you had many more people interested in the puppies than you had puppies, so I was elated when, after finding out that I wanted the puppy, you offered me the chance to actually select the puppy that I wanted.  I knew that the litter was special, and I knew that Surprise, (now Leah), was one of the highest rating, but at the time that I selected her I did not know that she had scored the highest under your evaluation; I only knew she was the first in my heart…


            When Ms. Hastings’ seminar “The puppy Puzzle” was announced, I was anxious to attend it, for many reasons; I had heard about what an excellent teacher she was, and how reliable her method appeared to be, and as I always, want to learn more about dogs and how to improve the species, I was immediately ready to take it; also, I was interested in having her evaluate Leah, to learn what her strengths were, and also her weaknesses and how to look ahead for improvement.   To my eyes, she was perfect (if a bit stubborn…), but I wanted to hear from a professional completely UNRELATED and unbiased towards the puppy.  Relax, Sandy I am not telling you that you are biased, but after all you are the proud “dad” and see through the eyes of love.

So, I was a little disappointed when she asked for 8 week old puppies, knowing that Leah would be over that age.


            I was completely absorbed by Pat Hastings’s method; it is founded in a way that my mind understands; her structural explanations were an eye opener in so many ways.

They allowed me to see the reason for movement, carriage, power, and provided me, lacking your years of experience with a physical method that I could follow to evaluate the potential in very young litters.  I wanted right then and there even more to have her go over Leah.  It was scary, during her demonstration the problems that she found in the 5 puppies presented.   Again, I was not expecting her to find any major faults in Leah, but as you have told me many times “there is no perfect dog’, I wanted to know what areas there were to improve.


            When I found out that she was also a judge in the Show, I asked her if she was willing to look at my puppy, and she very graciously said yes, provided that we could do it when it did not disrupt the show schedule.  I was surprised that you seemed a bit reluctant for me to have her evaluate the dog, and I know that you told me several times “don’t be devastated if she finds faults with the pup”.  Man, I am very pragmatic, I love Leah, but I can accept constructive criticism.  So, Sunday noon, we took Leah to Ms Hastings, set up an examining table, and went on with the show…Pat is a teacher also; from the start, she explained to me where and why I should stand, how to hold her, where to place and hold the collar and why.  She started checking the bite, and I told her Leah had lost already a lot of her baby teeth, but not all had started to come out yet; she said “no problem, the buds are there, and I can see the holes where they used to be”, and she pronounced the bite perfect.  Then she went at the speed of light, probing, pushing lifting and rocking Leah from the front to the back.  When she finished she looked at me and told me “this is a very good puppy; do you know what you have? at this stage this puppy has no faults whatsoever, she is perfect,  you are very lucky.”  Then she turned towards you, and she asked you: did you breed this puppy? (She really would not have needed to ask; by that time you were “shinning”, and you told her yes, and that she was the pick of the litter.  Did you hear her ask you “why did you let her go?”., I heard her….


            Sandy, I was not worried about what she would find, I trusted you, I knew that you knew, even when you were worried…Thank you for Leah. LOL



My answer to Lydia

I also attended the Pat Hastings seminar, in fact I was the one that brought it up to to the club to have her seminar as part of the weekend of shows for the Greater Miami Dog Club's 60th Anniversary Dog Show. I was not fearful of her evaluation, as I know without a doubt what a good Labrador Retriever should be, I was more apprehensive of what you would feel if you didn't hear exactly what you wanted to. When you have been into Labradors for as long as I have and in as many capacities, you learn to remove as much personal feelings as possible from the entire process, not so with 99% of my owner/partners. The majority of those with my dogs, tend to "fall in love" with your own dogs and most will lose sight of the mission, "for the betterment of the breed".

During her seminar, Pat evaluated many puppies that had been brought in by several breeders. As she manipulated each puppy and before she said a word, I had already "seen" where the evaluation was going to go with each puppy and also saw the look on each of those breeders as Pat went item by item of what was "incorrect". Each of those breeders came expecting to "hear' something totally different and each was totally devastated by Pat's verdict.

Even our dear friend, Andrea with Jeter never expected to hear the negatives that Pat decreed upon her top ranked Rat Terrier,  even though at my training classes I had covered those exact same short comings in Jeter. Hearing it so cold turkey, strikes deep down in one's emotions and this is what I feared most with your request to have Leah evaluated.

Of course I was beaming with pride as she pronounced Leah, "As good a puppy as they come!" I was also elated for you to have such a great start in this fancy of ours. I remember the first 15 years of bumbling and fumbling around from 1970 to 1985 because there were no mentors to lead anyone around, All that precious time that was wasted is the reason that I persist with the Partners Program, hopefully those that join will benefit and will also add the Betterment of the Breed.


Hi Sandy

I have followed your successes over the years and have always been amazed at how you place your best. Your method goes against all conventional wisdom and Pat Hastings' comment after her evaluation "why did you let her go" shows that even the experts are also perplexed with your placements. Don't you ever regret placing certain dogs with certain people as can be seen in today's Labrador ring, doesn't it sometimes come back and bite you where you know where!



Hi Betty

Ooucchh!!!!!!!! Yes, that dog has bitten me many times! The way I see it is that the "good apples" far out number the "bad apples" that do crop up once in a while. It is very unfortunately that people forget their "part" in a "part"nership where they have been specially considered for a placement, then take advantage of all that the Partnership provides, to have them pull out stakes and become contrary to the betterment of the breed motto, it does hurt, but be gone with you if you don't fit in. I will continue to do things the way I have because the success speaks for itself.


PS: To avoid anymore emails with comments to this last reply, I will add to the last sentence "I will continue to do things the way I have because the success speaks for itself AND because there are so many more people that benefit and are extremely satisfied with the Partners Program for the Betterment of the Breed. The "GOOD APPLES" are 10 to 1 versus the *STRAY APPLES".


PSS: Since I am into the positives and do not dwell with negatives, notice that I changed from Bad Apples to Stray Apples!


Hi Mr. Herzon

How do you choose who your best puppies are placed with?


Hi Linda

Sleepless nights and sequestered days! The period from 6 weeks to 8 weeks when the litter is placed in the new hands of those patiently or maybe not so patiently waiting is pure torture for me. Yes, those 2 weeks are the most grueling time of all I do that pertains to dogs! It is a drawn out process that includes several visits to the farm for those under consideration, interviews on the phone, two way emails long enough to fill several files. The feel out process is an ordeal to say the least, but at the end it is trust on my part that clinches the deal.


PS: I have also received several comments to the above email response. It is very important to "place" the correct puppy into the right environment. For the Show Puppies, it is not about the extra money, it is about perpetuating the great qualities into the next generation and the only way to do that is in ensure that those new owners fully appreciate that they have been specially chosen for that mission and will consider taking those great prospects to the next level, either as part of the Partners Program or independently. For Pet Puppies, it is about matching temperaments and personalities of puppies and owners that will have the best chances of success.



What method do you use to validate your evaluation and selection process?

Tony C.


Hi Tony C.

First of all, nothing is fool proof. However nothing speaks better than success that can be validated. Take the litters of 2007. I documented the entire evaluation process with a series of short essays starting at 5 weeks of age on all litters and concluded the series with a 6 month evaluation of all puppies that had been evaluated at 5 and 8 week's of age. It is all in writing at the Reference Library, all documented before hand so that now at 11 month's of age results for those puppies can be validated at the Now Showing section or by visiting each puppy's page.

The highest rated puppy at 8 week's of age was a female named Charm  She is now 11 months old and has accomplished more in a very short period of time than many dogs that have been showing for years. As a 4 month old, she won a Best In Match Puppy. At her very first weekend of AKC shows at 7 months of age she took a Winners Bitch, Best Of Winners for a 3-Point Major and recently won a Winners Bitch, Best Of Winners for 2 points and a Best Bred By Exhibitor and Group 2.

Charm's littermate, Rocky  another high rated puppy from 2007 has taken the Florida matches by storm, winning 6 out of 8 matches, with Charm winning a match and Bailey another littermate winning the other match. Rocky has also won a UKC Best In Show and also his UKC and International champion's titles.

And of course, we now have the Pat Hastings' evaluation of Leah that concurs with my evaluation of her as being "It doesn't get any better than this!"

So the proof is in the pudding.




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