Larisa & Michael Hotchin - Passion & Commitment to Excellence

We are dedicated to the preservation and heritage of the Welsh Terrier.

This is demonstrated in breeding quality dogs, being proactive in health screening, showcasing the breed in many venues to increase public awareness, and taking an active role in helping others.

Our quality has been recognized consistently in the show ring, since our start in 1999.  We are proud to have owned, to be the breeder of, many Champions, American champions, American Grand Champions, Specialty Winners, Best in Show Winners, Champions in many countries outside of North America, and a number of Welsh Terriers that were recognized as being the #1 in the breed.  We have won Best of Breed at the US National Specialty on Montgomery Day (Parker!).  And, we are also the breeder, and owner, of the top BIS winning Welsh Terrier in Canadian history – Joe!  In some cases, these winners have 5 generations of Specialty Winners behind them, of which 4 were home-bred by Darwyn.

Joe at Westminster
Top BIS winning WT in Canadian History; GCH Darwyn's I'm Not Arguing That (Joe)

Commitment to excellence comes from who we are, and is seen is all aspects of our lives, before we met in 2005.

Unlike many in purebred dogs, neither of us were ‘born’ into the sport.  It is truly a passion that has developed.  Breeding and showing top quality is primarily driven by Larisa, however, Michael is very supportive and important in our success, and daily lives.

Our dog revenues do not finance our lifestyle – we are both retired from successful corporate careers outside the world of show dogs.  Michael’s university training was in Pure Math and Computer Science.  This blends well with Larisa’s University training of Economics and Business Analytics, and her subsequent corporate position in Senior Management of a world-wide bank.  Unlike many ‘bankers’, my team specialized in analytical database roles that were considered world-class within the banking industry.  This mind-set has helped to develop an analytical, and observation / fact-based, foundation to the Darwyn breeding program.  Our background outside of dogs has enabled us to keep in mind that, while this is felt as being very important, dog showing is, in fact, a hobby.  It’s not curing cancer, or solving world hunger.  Spending more on showing and dog health, than our puppy revenues, certainly means that this is not how our lifestyle is financed!

Best of Breed at the US National Specialty; CH Darwyn's Webslinger (Parker)

Demonstrated Commitment to Help Others

I didn’t start out with this focus, but this is a reflection of who I am and what my value are.  Both of us actually.

It is what I have always done in my life, in each of the areas that I have put focus on over the years.  I seem to develop expertise in areas that catch my attention, and I tend to became known as a SME – a subject matter expert – in that area.  When I do, I share the knowledge.  When I was a teenager, I rose up the ranks in Army Cadets (I ended up being a Company Sergent Major, and went on some really interesting trips and experiences).  In that role, some would be clearly focused on their relative ‘power’, while I always helped out the junior cadets, when I saw someone struggle or wanting to learn more.  When I was in the height of my career at the bank, in Senior Management, I still worked closely with front-line or junior staff and provided one-on-one support and information, when I saw an opportunity to help.  I don’t put on seminars or lectures, but I have been someone that many people have turned to for advice.  In each area, I am no-nonsense, factual, and well-researched.  People know that the information they get from me is honest, well-thought through, and researched.  If I don’t know an answer, I say that.  Also, since I am always trying to improve, I change what I do based on new observations and facts that I learn.

With respect to the Purebred Dog Fancy – the conformation and breeding world, I have demonstrated through my actions of helping many people over the years (including many people that do not have the financial means to acquire this elsewhere, and minimal “payback” to me directly).  I have provided:

  • top quality Welsh Terriers to others, including novices (well known that this is not at all common and highly unusual in this ultra-competitive “sport”);
  • hard to come by, but very useful, knowledge and insights;
  • donated a lot of my time over the years to help others succeed, through teaching others trimming, conditioning, presentation skills, breeding, whelping and raising puppies support;
  • donated a lot of my time over the years with advice on how to train their dogs, helping others live enjoyable lives with their dogs, many of these people who have dogs from other breeders;

Helping others succeed by sharing knowledge is how I have been in all aspects of my life, even in ultra-competitive sports areas.

We Enjoy Living with our Dogs

We like to say that we are pet owners first.  We just like living with really good looking dogs, that also do well in the show ring!  We have dedicated significant portions of our home and property to provide outstanding care.  When we take trips, they are usually connected to a dog show, event, or we have specific plans on using our RV that has been customized to accommodate multiple dogs.  Once in a while we take a trip without the dogs, but that isn’t common.  Many times we decide to do a ‘staycation’ and enjoy our lovely home and property.  Day trips are also usually organized around including our dogs – we have taught a number of them how to Paddle Board with us, or join us on our small boat.

We Live near Vancouver, Canada. Close to the US Border

When you look at our accomplishments, please keep in mind that we are Canadian.  We are active in both Canada and the USA, and have been since the very beginning, in 1999.  We have spread ourselves, our dogs, our time and our resources, across 2 countries.

This makes a difference when you look at overall results.  While we know that it affects year-end results, most of our competitors don’t do this, and most people won’t factor this in, we still do it.  We want to actively participate in both countries.  We are proud of our many successes, in both of these countries.

Now, I am also spreading myself even thinner in the dog world, since I have become more active in performance sports with a few of my dogs!  But, I like it all, so I want to do as much as I can.

We Started with a Quality Girl from a Top Kennel

I imported my first girl from England in 1999, Honey – American & Canadian CH Saredon Mistress Nora.  She was from the well-known Saredon Terriers, in England, from Judith Averis.  Her sire had won Best in Show at the huge, and prestigious, CRUFTS show — Supreme Champion Saredon Forever Young.  I did not appreciate at the time the significant privilege that I had with being able to buy this girl (she wasn’t inexpensive!).  The opportunity to buy her, import her to Canada, and to get some knowledge from the late Judy Averis, blows my mind today.  I am forever grateful to her.  I showed Honey myself, trimmed her in the evenings, and traveled to shows on my weekends (I worked full time as a senior manager in a bank in downtown Vancouver and had a 2 hour commute, each way to work).  Honey, finished her American and Canadian Championships and was recognized as Canada’s #1 Welsh Terrier for 1999!  I even took Honey to the huge Montgomery shows (how silly was that, I was only in this sport for 2 minutes!), but that experience was wonderful. It was the famous “Mudgomery” year, as there was so much rain, and the grounds were, well, muddy.  I even lost a shoe while I was showing her in the ring!  But, I have gone back every year since, only missing one year, a year when I had puppies expected to be born on Montgomery day.

When Honey was about 3 years old, she had her first litter for me, starting the next phase of the Darwyn kennels.

Honey was the first, of many, that became Canada’s top Welsh Terrier over the years, representing Darwyn.  Most of them were bred by us.

I am proud to be recognized in the show ring with wins as an owner-handler (a few photos here).  Over the years, I have also worked with a number of good professionals in helping showcase our dogs (photos shown on the individual dog pages).

When we campaign a dog, we work with professional handlers, however, Larisa has also done a lot of the conditioning and presentation of the Darwyn dogs herself.

Puppy Management is Critical to our Success

We raise each of our puppies as if they will be our own companion pet, as well as our next Best in Show winner.  In 2015, I discovered the Puppy Culture approach.  I was already doing many of their recommendations, but I embraced their thinking, and added many of their protocols for my puppies.
We love to see our dogs do well with those that get them – both companion pet homes and appropriate show homes.   I often get asked if I sell companion pet dogs.  The reality is that the majority of puppies raised go to great companion pet homes.  I work with only a few select show homes.

I do partner with some of my companion pet homes to be the family of some of my retired show dogs.  These dogs still participate in my breeding program, and are very important to the future of the breed.  Instead of ‘sharing the love and attention’ here with us, they have a family to call their own, for a more enriched life.  This also means that more dogs are available to be placed with homes that are looking for a dog.  I do this on a small, select basis.  For those that have worked with me, they have told me that it was enjoyable and rewarding.  We are appreciative when we work with people in this way, and we reflect that ‘win-win-win’ in a way that it’s not just a one-way benefit, in most cases, we have reduced the price significantly to reflect that we also see value in this relationship.  But, since we are a small volume show breeder, these opportunities are not always available to those looking!  It is done on a select basis.  In many cases, it is done after the show career is finished, so that the show trim (which is significant amount of work to do it well), is not a burden on the new owner.

As a breeder, we also try to develop connections between pet owners, as well as ourselves.  These shared experiences, have resulted in some of our pet owners developing life-long friendships, beyond just having the dogs in common.  This is one reason why I prioritize previous Darwyn owners for a future puppy first.

Finally, our breeding in general is done with a focus on preserving the breed’s unique characteristics.  We do this with a focus on healthy, sound and home raised puppies. When you see a Darwyn bred puppy, you can be confident that a lot of thought, love and attention, went into that dog, and the owner was selected with much consideration.

Larisa with a litter of pups

Active in Breed Clubs

Long time, active, member of the US National Breed Club:

I have been active with the US Breed Club, Welsh Terrier Club of America (WTCA) since the very beginning, 1999.  I have always taken a leadership role on new and developing health tests and information, even when the information was personally uncomfortable and I had to work through some things with my own dogs.  I continue to do this, and my dogs are some of the first CHIC qualified dogs in the US Health Registry – OFA . The online breed club health questionnaireis something that I am particularly proud of.  I helped develop and implement this, and now I do the annual analysis of reports that come in.  This questionnaire is available for any Welsh Terrier owner to fill out for their dog, when they experience a health incident or, unfortunately, a death.  Over the years, I have volunteered in other capacities for the club.

I have turned down “sweepstakes” judging assignments for the US National Specialty many times, but that is not out of lack of interest, but the fact that I LOVE going each year as an exhibitor – we call it Montgomery weekend – the MECCA of Terriers exhibited each year.  It is held near Philadelphia (USA), and is a 4 day event.  On that note, I have supported the US National Specialty with an entry every year that I have been involved, and only missed attending it once!

Long time, active, member of a large Canadian Terrier Club:

I have been very active with the BC All Terrier Club, since the late 1990’s.  This club has been in existence for over 50 years, and has been considered one of the largest and most prestigious Terrier Clubs in Canada.

I have been a volunteer board member in this club in almost every role.  These include Show Chairman, Membership, Web Master, Meet the Breeds Organizer, as well as President.  While I was President of the BCATC, we were hosting the largest terrier entry shows of all of Canada!  This has been an outstanding experience, teaching me many facets of clubs.

I have been active with All-Breed Clubs:
I have also helped out many clubs over the years with volunteer efforts.  I have helped in show set-up, tear down, paperwork, donated many prizes over the years, and done well over 100 hours of volunteer Ring Stewarding.  I regularly get called to help Ring Steward, when I am not actively exhibiting.  My attention to details has been an asset in this area!

I was on an active track towards my CKC Judges License:
With being interested in learning, it was natural for me to attend seminars on other breeds, and learn about the judging process.  For years, I attended weekly judges seminars, dedicated to a different breed each week.  I also made a point of attending many specialized AKC Judges Institute seminars that I traveled for (Orlando Florida; Portland Oregon, Puyallup Washington; Philadelphia, PA).  I was just curious and I found that I always learned something new and interesting and could apply many new things into my own breeding program.  I have often been asked to evaluate other peoples litters, and to judge Sanction Matches and Sweepstakes.  I decided to take the official CKC 101 course, and had an official mentor.  I learned about the process, and the 100+ hours of volunteer Ring Stewarding really helped.  I even carved out time every year that I went to the Montgomery shows to meet a new mentor of different terrier breeds and learn about their breed, while watching their breed specialty.  I had more than qualified to apply to ‘write’ my CKC exam to submit for a CKC Judges Permit, but decided to put that ambition on hold.  I chose to do that simply because I am still very active, interested and devoted to my passion – breeding and exhibiting.  I believe that it takes a lot of time to do both well, especially all of the travel that is required in judging, time that I want to keep available for my dogs, exhibiting and my family.  So, since I am still relatively young, I can focus on judging later.  We’ll see if that comes back up again for me in the future!

While I am no longer actively seeking to be a judge myself (right now), I am grateful for all that I learned in this process.  It broadened my perspective on so many things, and I believe that I am a better breeder today because of it. I learned something new and interesting at every single seminar and mentor ship situation.

A few of the trophies we have been awarded from the BCATC (Top Dog of the year is just one of these that we have been awarded over multiple years, with different dogs)
Larisa at the famous Morris and Essex show; Fun with the hat theme

What's Next?

“It’s pretty good, but not perfect yet!”

Someone else was quoted as saying the above, but this statement, honestly, is my mantra for breeding and exhibiting.   While the perfect dog, based on the written conformation standard, will never exist, we still try.


There is still so much more to learn!

I have gone to dozens of seminars, read many books on these subjects, constantly researching topics, discussed at great length with many ‘old-timers’ in the breed and purebred dogs, and am always on the look-out for new information.  I take this new knowledge, and adapt what I do.  It’s a continual improvement process here.  With Michael’s scientific mind, and my analytical approach, we are always pushing our boundaries of what we do, seeing how we can improve things.

Performance Sports!

I have been increasing ‘my dabbling’ in some of the performance sport activities, and training … trick dog training ideas, lure coursing, nose work and dock diving just to name a few.