Interview with American Bulldog breeder John Lichthardt

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This is the second in a series of online interviews with influential American Bulldog breeders. The answers expressed by the interviewee do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the panel asking the questions or American Bulldog Resources. The breeder being surveyed here is John Lichthardt.

1) Q. What is the biggest challenge facing your yard?

A. Trying to maintain energy and enthusiasm for the dogs while dealing with constant pressure and occasional crisis from family and business…… I don’t feel like I am alone either…. It’s a huge challenge for all of us….

2) Q. Name two or three of the most influential dogs in your scheme.

A. There are plenty of guys that can calculate that mathematically and are going to giggle at my answer but here goes… Leclerc’s Fujimo Bandit and Painter’s Bessy. They were hugely responsible for the quality we achieved early in the program…. Like eight years ago…. Since then we have focused on the dogs at hand but these two were the real symbols of quality we used as a source of creative focus.

3) Q. What is the biggest mistake people make when they start their own yard?

A. They really don’t have a clue about what breeding involves….. Breeding to me is like having the ability to make fine music, it’s an art form…. It takes a lifetime of work and energy to evolve and mature… If I had to compare most people’s ides of breeding to a musical group it would be the Mayberry Band on the Andy Griffeth show…. If you’re old enough to remember that… it merely reinforces my beliefs about maturity…. The other thing that happens is people get in way too big a hurry…. It’s a right now mentality that just doesn’t mesh with the true proportions of the world…

That is also a maturity issue, and cultural.

4) Q. What are the major challenges we face as AB breeders and owners?

A. Lack of direction and solid leadership……. Everyone’s a damn expert…… Throw in a little greed and power lust, now you’ve got most of the ingredients needed for a major clustrf*&%…. Which is exactly what we have!

5) Q. What are the most frustrating and rewarding experiences you have had with the breed?

A. Watching the way my parents and my brother’s family have enjoyed the dogs I’ve given them…. We had the dogs for over five years before my folks thought they had to have one…. It was over eight years for my brother…

Also giving a good dog to someone that does a great job with it especially if that person never would have had a thousand bucks to spend on one… that’s pretty rewarding….

What’s frustrated me is my inability to compromise on issues that I know are jugular to “true breeding”…. And the fact that most people don’t grasp the concept of it…..

6) Q. What are your goals for the next 24 months? 60 months?

A. In the last 24 months we have been taking a look at some dogs that we put into our peds in the last 48 months…. We are making decisions about those dogs and have split our family tree into three distinct branches… each branch contains a varying number of very similarly bred dogs…. It will take us the next 24 months to “finish” defining those branches…..

The next 60 months will consist of the final development of a Black American Bulldog….. That process will have taken 10 years in and of itself……. That dog will be characterized by all of the same traits we prize now…. And in BLACK…… It is my hope that this will be the defining product of our programs contribution to the dog world….. a well planned and orchestrated effort to accomplish something that is totally unique and valuable…..

7) Q. What breeder within the last ten years could have made a major impact, but didn’t and why?

A. There are two…. Both people I have respect for but feel like they missed a real chance…

First is Steve Leclerc…. Back in the days, there was the ABA, GABC and NABA…. That was pretty much it….. around and about 1993 the whole explosion in breed numbers came about…. Steve gave up control of the registry and it really gave Casey a big advantage… I think that the performance dog that was the focus of the registry was left out of the major growth curve of the breed because of the leadership void created after Steve left… Now, we have a whole host of people who are breeding the NABA dog to the Kyle/Casey dog to straighten out the inadequate drives and health problems that exist within that genetic ocean…. To me the bottom line is that the whole process could/should/would/ have been avoided if there would have been the kind of solid leadership and direction that the original scenario desperately needed but never got….

The second is Allan Scott. Around and about 1995 when Allan “resurfaced’ there was a concerted effort through the NKC to establish a solid, functional bulldog club which for a time became the IBBC…. Allan is one of the nicest people I have ever met and because of his “icon” status it is my opinion that his leadership contribution to the efforts of the IBBC could have resulted in major paradigm shifts fpr people within the breed as well as the public perception of the breed……… However, this did not happen…. The IBBC became recognized as a racist organization with “redneck mentality” ….. the leadership of the organization became embroiled in self serving politics…. The organization is at this point trying to reinvent itself through the efforts of its original progenitor, Chris Kelley….. This misstep was the opportunity that Al Joye needed to make ABNA a functional/dysfunctional void filler…. Which he took full advantage of….. to his credit….

It is not my purpose to condemn these guys for anything they did….

It is my purpose to show the ebb ad tide of breed politics as they have become apparent to me in the last ten years….

8) Q. For a breeder to know if he is succeeding with his program, he would need to keep a litter or remain active with the pups’ new owner. Performance dogs need to perform. Judging performance takes time and observation. What specific criteria do you use to measure the success/direction of your program, and can a performance breeder effectively monitor his program if he produces 3, 4 or more litters a year?

A. Here is what we look at… progeny levels of health and drive… the focus is extremity and consistency…. The medium is customer feedback and our own evaluation of the pups retained in the yard…. It doesn’t matter to me if you are evaluating 15 dogs or 5000 sows…. The key is being objective….. I think this is the advantage we have over many other programs.

9) Q. Do you think there should be a formal/recognized split between the performance type bulldog and the Johnson type? Please explain why or why not. If “yes” explain how it should be done and any pros/cons for doing so.

A. I think the split already exists and has for a long time…. Whether it’s formal or not doesn’t really matter!!! … Hell, who are you going to ask to legitimize the formality/informality of any so called split??? The market ultimately drives the propagation of any given type…. Right or wrong….

10) Q. How many litters have you bred and how many years have you been breeding American Bulldogs?

A. In 10 years we have had 23 litters of dogs….. We are now six and seven generations deep into our own matings…

11) Q. Do you believe gameness will be of benefit consistently for Personal Protection uses? Why?

A. No…. Gameness without ability is like being the world’s tallest midget, doesn’t mean s&*t.

12) Q. You are well known for disparaging long lists of letters after a dog’s name giving the sport protection titles and hip certifications the dog has earned, claiming that such “alphabet soup” will hurt the breed. Yet your own breedings have produced several dogs with long strings of letters behind their names. How do working titles and hip certifications hurt the breed?

A. The success our program hs achieved is due to the talent and effort of the people who have tested those dogs…. I am proud of the good results they have had with our dogs…. I believe that our dogs will continue to be some of the real high performers in the breed…. However, I do not think that titles and certs should serve as a decision making tool when it comes time to breed for our program…. We can’t make any progress like that at this point…. I feel that the titles and certs are a simple way for people to try and comprehend something that is very complex…. It hurts a breed because it misdirects focus and resources on dogs that can be handmade and without real breeding value.

The untitled dogs from my “Natural Dog” program have created tons of titled dogs…. That’s great…. It proves the whole point for me???

13) Q. How do you feed your dogs? What do you feed them? What are your thoughts on the BARF diet vs. commercial kibble?

A. We feed raw pork almost exclusively… 30 pound roasts with skin, hair, and bones….. some pork organs…. Kibble occasionally for convenience and that’s nothing too fancy either, like some diamond, pmi or such….. lactating bitches go on a mix of rice, hamburger, cottage cheese and multi-vitamin along with some puppy chow… our dogs do well and the pork is free….

I think the whole BARF thing has been made too complex and expensive for a gut with several raw dogs…. Fresh vegetables, gimme a break….

I would like to thank all of you who take the time to read this and for the gentlemen of the interview committee for asking me to participate….

Regards, john

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