Instagram - @samchixolo
ENTERING THE DOG WORLD
I wanted a dog for as long as I can remember. My parents only let me get one when I was 14, because they didn’t want the care to fall on them. Then they were shocked when my dog became my life and I was involved too much. Ah, can’t please parents.
Sammy was a white fluffy big boy, who taught me so much about dogs and life. Through raising him and reading books about dogs I learnt about the first psychological concept (e.g. positive reinforcement). I was amazed by the learning theory and behaviour modification and decided that is what I want to study. He was a scared puppy to begin with, but ended up being a real happy-go-lucky. His smiling appearance and friendly attitude invited strangers to make contact. I’ve seen first hand the impact he had on me and random passers-by and my dream became to help people through the power of dogs. I wanted to explore and research the human-dog bond.
After I completed my studies in Psychology I was lucky enough to bring that dream to life. Sammy became a certified therapy dog and one of the first school dogs in the country. We worked in a special school on some groundbreaking projects of dog-assisted education and reading with dogs. Soon my first hairless dog, Loesje, got certified and worked at that school too.
Those experiences led me to a job in the UK where I was working on developing animal-assisted interventions. Later my personal focus became dog wellbeing - all the aspects of the way we work with them and the way we live with them, from what we feed them onwards. Their wellbeing is the priority in everything I do.
HAIRLESS BREEDS LOVE STARTS
Jumping back in time. I have first seen a Chinese Crested on a magazine cover in 2004 and was like: “Omg, what an ugly dog.” You know, the usual reaction. So I completely understand if people have it when they first see my dogs. And there’s hardly anything more satisfying than turning them over after letting them spend some time with my dogs.
I didn’t realise at the time, but I think subconsciously I fell in love with hairless breeds, because of my parents’ OCD with cleanliness. They were constantly complaining about all the hair Sammy was leaving behind.
Back to the magazine cover - every time I took the magazine in my hands, I was looking at the picture for longer and longer and once suddenly something clicked. I started searching for information, visited dog shows and got in contact with breeders all over the world. But the more you learn, the higher your expectations become and it took me 8 years to get my first. I had big hopes for her, I wanted to show and breed her.
Unfortunately, the excitement didn't last long, she got a disease, likely genetic and I didn’t want to pass that on. My world crashed. But it seems she had a different purpose in life and became a wonderful therapy dog instead. I’m grateful that eventually she got an opportunity at the assistance dog charity I worked for as well. For a long time she was the only small dog and needles to say, the only hairless dog that ever worked there. She was also one of the first 5 dogs in the UK who passed the Do as I do exam (advanced training method based on social learning).
ON THE LOOKOUT FOR ANOTHER DOG
Jumping back in time again, since Loesje’s diagnosis I have been looking for another Crested girl, this time a true hairless, because I really dislike shaving and I wanted a “zero maintenance” dog. One you just “wipe with a cloth and voila,” as I often joke. But these became extremely rare in that breed and when you find one the structure is usually not the best. My eagle eye didn’t help either.
Luckily, somewhere in the middle, I’ve spotted Giovanna’s Lorenzo when he was still a puppy and was amazed by his appearance. Until then the breed didn’t appeal to me - turns out because the ones I was seeing on dog shows back in the day were not true to the type, they were poorly structured, not what the Xolo should really look like.
MY FIRST XOLO
I started researching and their history sucked me in with their links with the Aztecs and the meaning they had in their culture. So then in 2018 after 6 years of searching for my next dog, I got Cielo. She was the first in all those years who looked like I want the puppy to look like and the only one I believed in so much to decide she’s going to be mine. And I wasn’t disappointed. I still admire her every day.
I have to admit, she came like a tornado and turned our life upside down. Loesje was the complete opposite, always so calm and meditative, so this was a bit of a shock at the beginning. Like climbing out of her puppy pen when she was left on her own for the first time - even though Loesje was at home too. But we learned to live with each other and her intelligence is one of a kind, I love figuring out what’s going on in her mind.
So much that last year I started teaching her to talk using buttons (you can see the videos on our IG profile.) She must be the first Xolo being able to do that. And she’s not just using words but forming sentences as well! We are only just discovering what dogs are capable of, both, cognitively and emotionally, something some of us have felt in our hearts for a while and something that will inevitably shape the way we treat them in the future. They deserve better.
I have to admit it’s not something we focus on currently, although she still used her board to communicate even after her delivery. Our focus is 100% on our first puppies who I’ve waited 18 years for!
HERE COME PUPPIES AFTER 18 YEARS
After 7 years in the UK the uncertainties in the world made us move back to Slovenia. Cielo turned 4 and I knew it was now or never. Make the lifelong dream come true. And I couldn’t be happier with the way the pups are developing. All are love bugs, all are playful and we have worked hard on their stimulation and socialisation from early on. They’ve been meeting new people of all ages nearly every other day since week 4, been on trips, visits, events and new places, met some friendly dogs and cats. Hopefully I don’t need to mention specifically that dogs are our family members, the pups were born and grew up in our bedroom. They also had a special equipped playroom and outside area. I really hope all this is going to give them a good foundation for a happy life.
I’m also grateful to the moon for how good of a mom Cielo has been. After handling the delivery all by herself, including doing an amazing job at cleaning, she was still nursing at 3 months and playing with them full on. I thought when their teeth come out at 3-4 weeks she won’t want to do anything with them, but she’s been extremely caring and also counted them all when she came back from her longer walks, before they could join.
Although it’s been hard work (I’ve felt like I’m working two full time jobs), they gave me immense joy and since Cielo has done such a good job and has given me a wonderful keeper, hopefully I can continue to contribute to the preservation and improvement of this fascinating breed. I’m just not sure I’m strong enough to deal with certain aspects of it.
Anyway, I think it’s safe to say now that not only is Cielo of a great type (everyone is surprised when they see her in person and learn she’s only 5.5 kg of pure muscles - they expect a much bigger dog), but also a great producer. We’ve got three pups, all with amazing structure and I couldn’t be happier.
We bred to a nice boy who two weeks after the mating became European Junior Champion and Best male on the European Championship. Cielo has got three championship title (and one CAC away from fourth), but they don’t mean much to me as we all know nearly any Xolo can become a champion and gather lots of titles if shown long enough as there’s not a lot of competition, except on Euro/regional and World dog shows. What I need to see is great structure, good movement, solid temperament and health tests. All of these put together are quite hard to find.
I personally don’t really enjoy showing, but on the other side don’t want to send my dogs with handlers and none live close enough so they could develop a strong relationship and practice regularly. Because the bond in this breed is crucial, usually they don’t work for everyone.
As I’m finishing this piece, we’ve already been on their first show with the puppies (as visitors) and my keeper was an absolute star, I hope she continues to be such social butterfly and can’t wait to see what’s ahead of us.
I’m hoping the pup's families will accept them for who they are as typical Xolos (primitive dogs with big emotions they need to learn to control), and give them what they require (we all know they are not for the faint-hearted, right?). And equally that they themselves will make their families happy. This is what this breed is good at anyway - once you build trust what they give back is otherworldly. There’s been many enquiries, but it’s not first come first served with me, I need to feel that the match is right. And egoistically, I’d prefer to keep them close. They are my first, after all. Does it ever get easier?