This is the fourth in a series of online interviews with some of the more
influential breeders within the American Bulldog community. This breeder is
Matt Boyd of Boyds American Bulldogs
1) Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your yard?
I am very happy with the quality of the dogs we currently are working
with. I believe they are the best we've ever had. The biggest challenge
currently facing my yard is my own busy schedule. Raising three young boys,
being involved in church and with extended family, and working full time
afford little of the time I used to relish socializing, training, and
traveling with the dogs. Without that time, I simply cannot bring my young
dogs to their maximum potential.
2) Q: Name the two or three most influential dogs in your scheme?
The majority of my current breeding program is based around four dogs:
Symmes' Rip N' Woody, Dailey's Tug O' War, Boyd's/Hines' Moleque, and Boyd's
Elsie. Every dog I am now using descends from, or is directly out of, two or
more of these dogs. Historically the stud dogs Woody, Dozer Bruno and
Country Boy had the most influence on my kennel. Ironman Tyson also has made
a significant impact on our breeding program over the years. When all is
taken into account, the best male I have ever owned is Mikie and the best
female I've ever owned is his mother, Moleque. No other dogs have as much
direct influence on our kennel as the two of them.
3) Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when they start their own yard?
The biggest mistake for would-be-AB-breeders to make is to 1) buy dogs
from irreputable breeders, or from unproven stock, and 2) to start with a
male. The first point needs no exposition, the second probably does. Start
with a good female from proven stock (in whatever area you wish to work
towards) and breed her to the best male you can find. The male will not be
the pup you purchased because there is always a better male out there
somewhere. Select your puppies, then, from your own litters.
4) Q: What are the major challenges we face as breeders/owners of ABs?
The biggest challenges owners of AB's face are first, properly
socializing their dogs, or working with dogs that have been poorly
socialized, and secondly, dealing with or training to prevent dog aggression.
The greatest challenge for breeders of AB's is finding appropriate homes for
their puppies, especially the high-drive or very dominant pups. Mistakes in
this area will result in an increasing number of AB aggression incidents, and
I believe, will eventually lead to the breed being black-balled by the media
in a growing number of localities.
5) Q: What are the most frustrating and rewarding experiences you have had
with the breed?
The most rewarding experience I have had with American Bulldogs is to
watch puppies grow up to be as good, or better, than their parents. To see
excellent specimens of the breed who have resulted from breedings we have
done is the "high" I keep coming back for. The most frustrating experience I
have had is dealing with the public who, in many cases, make their decisions
on their dog of the next 10 years (if they're lucky) based on patches,
shortness of muzzle, size of parents, and sales pitches, rather than on
soundness of temperament, health, and structure, and the breeder's dedication
to reproducing these in the puppies.
6) Q: What are your goals for the next 24 months? 60 months?
My goals over the next few years are to do some line-breeding within the
stock that has worked best for me, with the goal of more consistently
producing that "Country Boy" type of dog: blocky, compact, athletic,
well-balanced, and very hard on the working field. I have increased the
amount of Johnson blood in my dogs to increase the bone and type and get away
from the houndy-type dogs we have seen fairly often in the standard pedigreed
dogs. I am considering in several years going back into some Scott- or Bama
Boy- bred dogs to maximize performance/sport type characteristics. In the
meantime, expect more line-bred Moleque, Mikie and Tug O' War bred litters
7) Q: List the ten most important attributes a bulldog must possess to be in
Most Important Attributes:
a. Physical Soundness - clean skin and coat (no demodex, allergies,
ichthyosis, long coats), clean eyes (no entropion, ectropion, runny, crossed
eyes), clean joints (hips, elbows, stifles, patellas, cruciate ligaments),
and healthy body functions and endocrine system (thyroid, immune system,
b. Temperamental Soundness - social (likes family, friends, children, are
trustworthy with all of these), quiet around the house (have an "off" switch
and are laid back inside), dominant, civil, and hard on the working field or
in home protection, non dog-aggressive ( a goal which may never be reached
while maintaining the above), environmentally stable (not noise, object, or
c. Structural Soundness - straight front and rear, well-angulated, correct
proportion, compact and dense, good bone and substance, intelligent
expression, large, correct teeth.
8) Q: How do you test for these attributes and how are results evaluated?
As far as testing for the above criterion, other than health issues which
are veterinarian-diagnosed, we evaluate the dogs subjectively ourselves. In
the past we got working titles on a number of our dogs. Our efforts in this
area did not result in a larger number of our puppies going to working homes.
Our belief that this is an objective evaluation of working ability and
temperament was not shared by most in the American Bulldog fraternity, and so
we are not currently devoting as much energy in the pursuit of working
titles. We would like to do more again in the future.
9) Q: Why do you breed Hybrid ABs rather than a pure Performance line or a
pure Johnson line?
We breed hybrid AB's because we like characteristics of both types of
bulldogs. I love the agility, the athleticism, the endurance, and the
working history of the standard bulldogs. I also love the density,
blockiness, sociability, and hardness of the Johnson dogs. I breed hybrid
AB's with the goal of producing blockier working dogs, or more athletic,
healthier Johnson dogs. I don't like the houndy, terrier, or Great Dane -
looking bulldogs, and so we use a fair amount of Johnson blood for type. I
also like the working temperament of the Johnson dogs, but have encountered
more dog aggression and Rottweiler-type dominance problems as we've worked
with a greater variety of Johnson strains. And I will not put up with the
health problems and sloppy structure of most purebred Johnson dogs.
10) Q: Should a strain of Hybrid ABs move constantly away from the original
Johnson/Performance cross, or should fresh Johnson or fresh Performance blood
be reintroduced from time to time?
I am still trying to figure out what is the best way to consistently
reproduce the type of dogs I like, so I don't have a good answer on this
question. Kyle Symmes would be the best one to ask on this question because
of his years of working with hybrid bulldogs. My strain of bulldog is
different than most other hybrid AB's because of my use of White English
rather than Sargent Rock blood for the standard component, and Dozer x Ruby,
in addition to the Woody, for the Johnson component. I've tried other
combinations but have been less pleased with the results. (See # 6 for
additional information on this topic.)
11) Q: Why do you favor Schutzhund as a protection sport for ABs rather than
a more street or civil oriented sport such as NAPD? Is Schutzhund a good
breed test for bulldogs?
I favor Schutzhund over NAPD and other street-oriented sport for several
reasons. First, when we started, Schutzhund had a large international
following, and was an objective way to evaluate working ability. I like it
because it is a well-established and respected sport, and is structured with
safety in mind. I am very uncomfortable with taking a dog that is civil to
begin with (like Mikie) and working him in a civil situation. I believe it
makes them more ready to bite when surprised. Because of recent fatalities,
and a number of less serious aggression incidents, I am not interested in
winning the "Most Likely to Eat the Mailman" award with my dogs.
On another note, Schutzhund seems to have slipped in popularity in recent
years. I believe this is a result of the demise of the Rottweiler, the aging
of the Baby Boomers, and the advent of the internet, which provides people
another chance to talk about dogs instead of spending time with them.
12) Q: German breeders that rely on your bloodline are using Schutzhund as a
primary breed test. What kind of bulldog will emerge after several
generations of this sort of breeding? Are the Germans pleased with their
Using Schutzhund as a primary selection should have the effect of
increasing prey and civil drives, endurance, trainability, and durability to
correction, or hardness. Truly, selection in this manner has not yet
happened because of the small number of Schutzhund-titled AB's in the world.
I can possibly count on one hand the number of breedings of two
Schutzhund-titled bulldogs (several in Germany, two by us, plus one upcoming)
in the history of the breed. There is simply little to no market for for AB
pups out of Schutzhund or Ringsport titled parents. So much for selection
based on Schutzhund!
13) Q: Is the show ring a good tool for breeders to utilize? What are your
opinions on the so called total package breeders that seek working titles,
hip scores and show championships on their breed candidates?
The show ring is primarily a tool for puppy-buyers and people who are
trying to get a start in the breed. What I mean by this, is that the
conformation show ring provides an objective (or as close to objective as
possible) means of evaluating a dog's structure and physical qualities.
Conformation judges are trained to thoroughly go over dogs, looking at the
obvious externals, as well as the more subtle characteristics of a dog, such
as teeth, bite, eyes, coat, feet, and temperament. Very often the dog that
is the most physically appealling over all, may lose to a less impressive
specimen because a judge noticed a crooked bite, small or missing teeth, an
umbilical hernia, splayed feet, a hitch in the gait or a weakness in a leg,
or a flawed temperament. Dog shows provide a basic temperament screening
that prefers dogs that are social, outgoing, alert - a uniform selection for
all breeds. Please note: If shows are the only temperament selection, all
breeds converge on an unnatural, common show temperament - cocky,
self-assured, hyperactive, bait-oriented. Still, a champion dog has been
affirmed by a number of different judges and has passed a test of basic
physical and temperamental soundness.
I believe that experienced breeders need not place as much emphasis on the
show ring for their own breedings. The reason for this is that experienced
breeders look at many things and can evaluate a dog's structural soundness by
themselves. For example, many of the dogs I have used for breeding are
correct structurally and otherwise, but have not done well in the show ring
because of a preference for a certain look of dog that I don't necessarily
The "total package" breeders that seek to get working titles, conformation
championships, and hip evaluations on their breed candidates are on the right
track. While their dogs may or may not be better than the breeder down the
street who has done none of these, the titles and scores provide evidence of
the former. The more objective proof of a dog's qualities, the greater the
chance that it really is "all that," and thus the greater chance that it will
produce puppies of similar quality. Otherwise it's all about connections and
14) Q:What are the pluses and minuses of basing a breeding program to one
degree or another on Sure-Grip dogs? What have been your experiences with
I have only had one Sure-Grip dog, Tomahawk Cleaver of Sure Grip. He
was a great dog, but I wasn't as happy with his offspring out of bitches of
Sure-Grip breeding. Over the years, I have gotten almost completely away
from Sure-Grip bloodlines. Initially, I did so because I wanted to be able
to have dogs that could be bred back to Sure-Grip dogs without excessive
in-breeding. Most AB's in California eight years ago were Sure-Grip bred, or
out of two Sure-Grip parents. I also loved some of Kyle's dogs (like
Freddie, Gator, Seizer and White Fang) and wanted to be able to breed to them
in the future without excessive in-breeding.
Sure-Grip was possibly the first kennel to consistently produce large,
athletic, high-drive dogs selected to work in an urban setting. I have, to a
large degree, modeled my breeding schemes after Kyle's, with the exception of
not using the Maxwell's Lady line of dogs. Kyle has had more success with
this breed than most of us could probably have in a lifetime.
One additional reason that I have worked away from the Sure-Grip dogs is the
poor success I had with the health of the dogs I was working with. The dogs
I had were heavily linebred on Red Machine and Sargent Rock/Maxwell's Lady,
and would not produce "clean" litters. My experience with bad hips, demodex,
crossed eyes, long coats, and splayed feet caused me to stop using certain
dogs I had. Again, these were not Sure-Grip bred dogs, but dogs heavily
line-bred through Sure-Grip parents or grandparents.
Where I have had success is in taking a good Sure-Grip dog and breeding it to
an unrelated, or distantly related line of dogs, such as Hines, Koura, or
15) Q: Does the trend of increasing the typiness of ABs, moving more toward a
Johnson look, help avoid the Pit Bull stigma? Is this a good direction to
take the breed? Will it avoid breed specific legislation? Will it hurt
The breed does seem to be moving towards a bullier look. This may help
educated people distinguish them from Pit Bulls, but the general public will
still have no clue. Years ago I owned a Bullmastiff, who, at 110 lb. was
still a Boxer or a Pit Bull to most people on the street.
I like a blocky look to my bulldogs, but dislike the breeding to extremes
that tend to exaggerate American dog breeds to the point of uselessness and
no resemblance to their working forbearers. I guess I still like the
blockier working-type dogs, or the more athletic Johnson-type dogs. I have
never had an English Bulldog, a Pit Bull, a Boxer, or a Dogue de Bordeaux, so
why would I want my breed to turn into one of them?
Without a doubt, English Bulldog appearance characteristics are associated
with English Bulldog health characteristics. As the breed moves toward the
EB type, it is already encountering many of the problems that would have kept
me out of the breed, had I known they existed in AB's. Physical performance
also is compromised with bully dogs. When was the last time you saw an EB,
Bordeaux, or an extreme AB compete with Greyhounds on the track or German
Shepherds on the Schutzhund or Ring Sport field? It is like trying to stock
a dairy with Bison or longhorns. By the time your dairy gets half the milk
production of your neighbor's Holstein/Freisians, your neighbor will have
retired and be touring the country in his RV. Extremely bully AB's will
never be serious contenders in the working sports that require endurance, but
they can make great pets and household protectors.