AMERICAN BULLMASTIFF ASSOCIATION, INC. Q&A
The best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? My advice to those who are beginning in the breed is to be mindful of the quality of the Bullmastiff that they have to move forward with. Showing or breeding for convenience sake rather than what is compatible in the pedigree, virtues or faults, can be unfortunate. Showing and breeding begins with honestly evaluating the dogs being used as breeding stock and considering health, temperament and records in the stud pen and/or whelping box of the pedigree. Breeding and showing mediocre dogs that have little or nothing to contribute to the gene pool can be devastating not only for a breed- ing program but for future of the breed as well. As an AKC Judge, what is my opinion of dog shows today and how do I see the future of the sport? There are too many shows and not enough good judges. There should be more opportunities for youth/junior/pee wee events as they are the true future of the sport. My ultimate goal for the breed? We have had some lovely dogs who have made positive contributions to the gene pool, dedicated owners who have achieved historical firsts and fanciers who have championed health research. What has been discouraging is the number of Bullmastiffs in rescue situations. The ABA has spent an exhausting amount of money removing dogs from neglectful/abu- sive situations and restoring health to those who deserve far better than what they received. We have an excellent volunteer network to foster and provide the funds necessary to help these dogs through fund raising efforts, fostering, transporting and positive identifica- tion at shelters. The breed will always need dedicated fanciers at the ready for situations such as these. Breeders are becoming more aware of health issues that plague the breed and are more diligent in screening and selectively breeding to avoid them. Not always, not all breeders, but still a majority. The Bullmastiff will continue to increase in popularity as it has already in the past ten years. Breeders and owners need to be very aware of the risks that are involved when a breed is positively or negatively cast in the public eye. We should all consider ourselves stewards of the future for the dogs we love. We have globally man- aged to protect and ensure the welfare of the Bullmastiff for the generations ahead. My favorite dog show memory? I have won our national spe- cialty twice with the same bitch, the first to be awarded by an all- breed judge (Anne Clark) and breeder judge (Jack Shastid). Ch. Ladybug’s Lady Caitlin, TD was the first to win the national as a dual titlist and she won three Best in Shows in a row at one cluster. To date, she is the winningest bitch of all time (#3 Bullmastiff) with seven all-breed best in shows, 64 group placements (28 group one), 96 best of breed out of 124 times shown. Outside of the conforma- tion ring, I enjoyed tracking. With Cait (the fourth of the breed to earn the TD), I worked very hard to get her to retrieve the article as Bullmastiffs are not natural retrievers. At the end of her TD track, she indicated the glove, picked it up and started to bring it to me. I was so excited to get the pass, I grabbed it out of her mouth and shot my hand up as required. So much for all the work to get her to retrieve! In my lifetime, I would like to see our breed longer-lived than what it is now. We have some afflictions that were unheard of when I first started in the breed almost 50 years ago. Progressive retinal atrophy, cardiomyopathy, sub-aortic stenosis, renal disease, hypo- thyroidism and orthopaedic problems such as elbow dysplasia were rarely identified. It was not unusual to have dogs living well into the double digits of 12-14 years of age. Now, we have dogs dropping dead of cancer as young as two years old. As a rapidly growing, heavy-boned breed, the Bullmastiff can be prone to joint problems if it is not carefully managed as a young puppy. There are oppor- tunities to participate at the national specialty by donating blood for the Broad Institute at MIT and the AKC has the wonderful Canine Health Foundation. These particular groups are very keen
or approached from the rear. Do not discount puppies or juveniles who are unsure and a bit hesitant in the ring, but never compensate an adult who acts shy or timid. Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? Bullmastiffs excel and compete in performance with those breeds that are considered high achievers in those events. They are will- ing, capable and intelligent with an occasional stubborn streak. With the compatible owner and family, they delight in pleasing and participating in those activities that especially require the physical and mental capacity to do what they were originally bred for. We have CT, UDX, UT and many other high end titlists now in the breed. These same dogs could easily accompany the Gamekeeper for weeks, months and years. Owner-handlers are now winning in the Breed, Group and Best in Show rings. Bitches are getting their long-deserved recognition and instead of being retired to the whelp- ing box after earning their championship, they go on to a longer campaign. I love to hear of Bullmastiffs participating as therapy dogs in any situation, with children, hospital/nursing home resi- dents and veterans. We are so fortunate that the breed is inherently self-assured, stable and can adapt to almost any situation without missing a beat. What special challenges do breeders face in our current eco- nomic and social climate? Often times the media will incorrectly describe an unfortunate incident involving a Bullmastiff when it wasn’t really a Bullmastiff at all. Typically, it might include other Molossor breeds, but unless the fancy is aware of the situation, we are powerless to defend the breed. We do have Meet the Breed booths at various dog shows across the country and dedicated own- ers and breeders try their best to educate the public about the Bull- mastiff. Breeders must also be very careful in screening potential buyers so that the puppy does not fall into the wrong hands. All too often the entertaining and amusing ways of a puppy quickly become annoying and threatening as a juvenile when the behavior was not corrected initially. Bullmastiffs are not for everyone and as longtime breeder Carol Beans has often said, she judges the com- patibility of a prospective buyer by the way their children behave. If the children are disrespectful and out of control, she doesn’t sell that family a pup. I cannot think of one circumstance where increased popularity has benefited a breed. We now have Bullmastiffs in mov- ies, television commercials and owned by celebrities. This media attention can be very harmful to any breed when high exposure to the public creates a high demand to produce more dogs. At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? While I am not known as a breeder, but rather an owner-handler, I can only comment on the handful of litters I have bred and the puppies that I have been involved with. Some breeders will men- tion that they can pick out an exceptional puppy at birth, but I often wonder if sentiment doesn’t play a big role in that decision. A Bullmastiff is a slow growing, large breed with some lines maturing more quickly than others. By the age of six to nine months, there should be obvious physical and mental characteristics that would help a breeder evaluate the puppy to see if it could be competitive in the conformation or performance ring. The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Judges need to consider and reward proper headtype without being “headhunters” and fault judging. Remember to heed the excellent advice of Mrs. Anne Clark, “First choose the individu- als in your ring with the best of breed type and then reward the soundest of those typey individuals.” I wish judges would reward honest dogs regardless of who is on the other end of the lead and have the confidence to place those dogs ahead of inferior dogs that may benefit from professional handlers and advertising. I see nothing but positive and promising strides towards improving the Bullmastiff so that it is capable of competing with all breeds in all events.
SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, MAY 2020 | 149
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