7th April 2020

Craft / Debbie Kendall

100 Dog Breeds and their Terrific Traits

33 6 mins 0

IIt’s no secret the Good Life Society/Some Good Ideas team are obsessed with dogs. Truly loyal. Friends there in desperate times of need, wagging tail, expectant gazes of unconditional love. Debbie Kendall is on our level.

The printmaker and illustrator behind The Enlightened Hound, who from her attic studio, accompanied by her muse, a Portuguese Water Dog called Figo, makes prints and cards for people who love dogs. She talks us through the idea behind her 100 Dog Breeds print series.

It’s thought that humans have been deliberately influencing the appearance and genetics of dogs for at least 5000 years, as representational art from this time depicts physically different kinds of dogs being used for different purposes by humans. For example, sighthound type dogs were being used as hunters and heavy mastiff type dogs for guarding.

Apart from some genetically isolated ancient breeds, specific dog breeds are a fairly recent development in dog history. It’s only in the last 150 years that the notion that dogs should be mated only with others of the same kind came into being, creating what we call pedigree breeds. There is no definitive answer as to how many dog breeds there are, though the World Canine Organisation currently recognises around 340 breeds.

Though all dogs share over 99.5% of their DNA with wolves, that remaining half a percent of non-wolf DNA accounts for the huge variety of sizes and shapes we see in dogs today. Along with that physical diversity, there is of course the wonderful assortment of desires, traits and instincts that together help to form each of our dog’s unique characters.

As a printmaker and illustrator whose work is all about dogs, I was inspired to try and capture the essence of 100 different breeds in the form of an illustrated poem – though I use the word ‘poem’ loosely as my verse is not a highly developed linguistic form of great beauty! When I discovered the word “Doggerel”, meaning a “simple, often amusing verse with an easy and sometimes irregular rhythm” I knew that I had found the perfect title for this range of prints.

For each breed, I wrote a verse of simple rhyming couplets, between 6 and 12 lines. Written from the dog’s point of view, each one is intended to be a playful, warm-hearted and humorous interpretation of what it means to be a dog of that breed.

Words and hand-drawn letters have always been a part of my prints. I love the quirks and colloquialisms of the English language with its curious idioms and turns of phrase and I try to use these in the verse whenever possible.

It was fascinating to research each breed and discover their unique history and personalities. I spent a lot of time talking to owners on forums online and searching out people who own a particular breed to get their insight. Fortunately, one of the things dog owners like to do best is talk about their dogs… their stories are endlessly funny, heart- breaking, surprising, wonderful and moving.

I’d then set about drawing each dog and writing the verse. It was quite a challenge to distil the character of each breed into less than 100 words and one of the surprising things I discovered was how few useful words rhyme with the word ‘dog’!

I wanted to try and make each breed completely unique, without using the same phrases. Whilst different breeds are very diverse, there are many traits that are common to virtually all breeds – loyalty, love, faithfulness, devotion – so it was not always easy to find ways to communicate these universal doggie qualities in new ways. Similarly, there were habits that were common to several breeds, like chasing small prey, which are an integral part of a breed’s character that I needed to find different ways to portray.

I also didn’t want to feel limited by the word ‘breed’ in deciding which dogs I wanted to write about, so also included in the series are a smattering of crosses (lurcher, labradoodle, cockapoo and cavapoo).

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the humble mutt and not forgetting the majority of the estimated 1 billion dogs in the world still mate opportunistically and without human intervention, I also wanted to write a ‘mutt’ doggerel verse, although illustrating this one was tricky as they all look so different!

It’s also possible for people to choose a few words to personalise their prints which are handwritten in pencil underneath and the dedications I have written have bought me to tears on more than one occasion! I love making things that dog lovers identify with and for this series of Doggerel prints I’m often told “That’s spot on!” which is praise indeed!

The prints start from £20, unframed.

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Debbie Kendall

Debbie Kendall, printmaker and illustrator behind The Enlightened Hound, who from her attic studio, accompanied by her muse, a Portuguese Water Dog called Figo, makes prints and cards for people who love dogs.

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