Interview with Matt Boyd of Boyds American Bulldogs

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This is the fifth in a series of online interviews with some of the more influential breeders within the American Bulldog community. This breeder is Greg Souza of Souza's American Bulldogs

1) What are the biggest challenges facing your yard?

The biggest challenges facing my yard are time and money. My passion is my dogs, I Love them, they are a huge part of my life. The problem is that I must work 40-60 hours a week to provide for myself, my wife, and the dogs. This limits the time I can spend with the dogs. I only will keep as many dogs as Tammy and I can adequately spend time with. It is unfair to not spend time with each dog, playing, exercising, feeding, cleaning, etc. When dogs are neglected, they cease being pets, they become a possession or commodity, this is sad. If I had the finances, I could quit my job, and really improve on my program. I would be free to devote all those hours into the dogs, which would allow me to keep more puppies that I produce. I would have time to prove more of them, and have more dogs for my breeding program. There are a couple of lines out there that I would like to work with. I would like to have more quality outcrosses to incorporate into the lines I am currently working with. All it takes is time and money!

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

Rather then giving credit to several individual dogs as being most influential in my program, I would have to say that it takes all the ancestors in the pedigree to make the offspring. I would rather give credit to the breeder's before me, who had the foresight to breed to the best dogs that they could find. Matt and Susie Boyd orchestrated a lot of good breedings that my foundation stock came out of. I feel that they had the right idea in their early breedings to mix the "Johnson" and "Scott" type dog, commonly referred to as a Hybrid. (I dislike the word Hybrid, as it is incorrect, but Hybrid is here to stay) It is my opinion that the Hybrid type is the epitome of American Bulldogs. They combine the best traits of both sides of the spectrum. They are excelling in all tasks we require of them. The majority of Conformation Champions, as well as Working Titled dogs are Hybrids.

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

I feel the biggest mistake most people make in starting their own yard is breeding their dogs before they are proven. Far too many people accept mediocrity as a basis for their breeding stock. A good conscientious breeder, who cares about the breed should at the minimum-

1) Screen their breeding stock for all genetic problems, hip dysplasia, entropion, thyroid, heart disease, palate problems, the list goes on.

2) Prove their breeding stock in the Conformation Ring. It is important for an American Bulldog to look like an American Bulldog, not an American Pitt Bull Terrier, or an English Bulldog. Competing in Conformation against other American Bulldogs will point out many faults-bad movement, structure, and to a smaller extent, weak temperament. If an American Bulldog isn't an outstanding, correct specimen, it should not be bred.

3) Compete and Title your dog. The WABA offers it's Breed Suitability Test, as well as several other titles. There is Schutzhund, French Ring, NAPD, and others. I feel Irondog is an excellent way to prove the athleticism of your dog, with minimal training. There is weight pulling, hog catching, obedience, agility, search and rescue, whatever you prefer. A Working dog with Titles shows that it is a cut above it's untitled peers.

4) What are the major challenges we face as owners/breeders of ABs?

The major challenges we face as Breeder's of American Bulldogs are genetic problems, breed specific legislation, finding good responsible homes for puppies, and trying to educate the public about their misconception of the Bull Breeds.

5) What is the most frustrating and rewarding experience you have had with the breed?

The most frustrating experience I have had with the breed is dealing with the jealousy and back stabbing that comes when you are successful with your dogs and your breeding program.

The most rewarding experiences have to be the good friendships that have developed over the years, as well as producing better dogs then what you started with. Also, having people who bought dogs from you keeping in contact, and proving their dogs.

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

My goals for the next 24 months are to raise, campaign, and train a couple of exceptional puppies for future use in our breeding program. As our females grow older, we are retiring them, and we need to get their best offspring ready to continue to improve our breeding program.

My goals for the next 60 months are relatively the same. We have made agreements with some of the top Breeder's, who will be breeding their best to our best. I will be incorporating some of that blood into ours, while still maintaining our level of quality and consistency. There are many lines out there that need improvement, it is a challenge to find out what is lacking, and then work on bettering those lines.

7) What qualities do you look for in a bulldog?

The qualities I look for in a Bulldog are many. First is temperament. I feel that this is the single most important quality. A good American Bulldog is outgoing, social, confident, and friendly. I can't stand a Bulldog that is timid, or overly aggressive. There are far too many of these weak temperamented dogs out there. The sad thing is many dogs like this are being bred. I also want a dog to come from a proven pedigree, with Working Titles, Show Titles, and Hip Certifications. I want a Bulldog to have excellent structure and movement. The dog needs to have a good coat and skin, as well as being a clean breather. I like a happy dog, that holds it's tail up all the time. A good Bulldog must also have tons of drive and energy, but be clear headed too. It is nice also to see an American Bulldog that is so confident that there is no aggression to other dogs. I don't want my bulldogs to try to kill every dog they see, but I do expect them to defend themselves if need be.

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8) How do you test for these qualities?

I test for these qualities in many ways. First is observation of the dog in it's environment, interacting with other dogs, in society, at shows, etc. I like to observe what his parents, grandparents, siblings, and other relatives are like. I test in the Vet's Office with genetic screening and certification, in the Conformation Ring, and on the Trial Field for Titling and Competitions. 9) Is it important to put show champion titles on breeding stock as well as working titles? Why? Which is more important?

I feel that both Show and Working Titles are equally important. Together they make the "Total Package" Dog. Without both, you are shortchanging the breed. The "Total Package" is what all Breeder's should be trying to achieve. Anything less is not giving 100 percent, and you are selling the dog and yourself short.

10) Racing Greyhounds, seeing eye dogs, Idiatrod sled dogs, fighting Pitt Bulls, and Police line GSDs do not meet any conformation standard. Yet these breeders have met with success Do working only breeders of American Bulldogs that select for function alone harm the breed? In what way? Do show titles on parent dogs attract higher quality customers?

Working only Breeder's are only completing one half of the equation. A Titled, working dog is great, but a great looking, Conformationally correct dog that is titled and works is Awesome! This is the "total package" dog, the dog that deserves to be bred. There doesn't have to be a separation between Working and Showing, they need to work hand in hand for the improvement of our breed.

Show Championships on parents do not necessarily attract higher quality customers. Show Titles, like Working Titles, prove the dog in competition against it's peers. They show that the dog was consistently better then the other dogs it was competing against.

11) Conversely, there are AB breeders that select entirely for conformation. In what way does strict show breeding hurt the breed?

Strict Show breeding hurts the breed because it is also only one half of the equation. The dog bred for show only may look and move great, as well as fitting a Standard, but it hasn't proven itself in the Working arena. Strict Show breeding has caused dogs to lose their Working ability, becoming only a shell of it's original self. We have seen this in many of the AKC breeds, it is very sad.

12) There is some conflict between foundation breeders and improvement breeders. The latter group employs scientific screening methods like OFA and European style titling systems. Many foundation breeders decry the demise of farm bulldogs and point out that the improvement breeder's methods were not used in the good old days. How do you respond to those charges?

To those charges I say, the goal of a Breeder is to consistently improve the line of dogs they are breeding. We must always move forward. Modern Science can only help us, we need to use all the screening tools available, and combined with a little luck, we will improve the dogs with each generation. It is obvious that the overall quality of American Bulldogs is much better then it was ten years ago. I think that most of the "old timers" realize this. I have spoken to quite a few of the "foundation" breeders, and I find this to be true.

13) Many old time bulldoggers are also alarmed at the improvement breeder's proclivity to focus on protection work. Are your dogs overly man aggressive? Are they safe with children? Are their drives too high for the average pet owner? Are you forced to screen your customers? Do you ever have to take a dog back that is too strong? Please give details.

Protection work is a great way to prove your dog. Many States and Counties have legal restrictions on Hog Catching, and Dog Fighting and Bull Baiting have been illegal for a long time. A lot of the drives used in Sportwork are the same drives that the earlier Bulldogs used. The key is the training has to be right. There are a lot of self proclaimed "Protection Trainers," who have no business training any dog. Many dogs are ruined with improper training, and can become a liability with bad training. My dogs aren't overly man aggressive. They are socialized and taught proper behavior at a young age, that is reinforced throughout their lives. My dogs are very safe with children. They love children, but they are always supervised, as any breed should be. I can walk my dogs around town together, with no problems. I can walk my two Stud dogs side by side, it is all about teaching behavior, and having control of your dogs.

I try to fit the Puppy with the Buyer. Good American Bulldogs are going to have a lot of drive. The drivier, more dominant puppies go to Working homes, but all American Bulldogs require proper socialization and obedience training. I have taken dogs back, My Contract states if the Owner can no longer keep the dog, it comes to us, not the dog pound or animal shelter. An ethical Breeder is responsible for the dogs they produce, if all breeders followed this, we would not need American Bulldog Rescue. I have had to evaluate and find working homes for a couple of dogs that the Owner's could not control, due to their not heeding my advice of correct socialization, and obedience training. I feel that a good American Bulldog will adapt to whatever kind of home that it is in, whether it is a working dog, or a couch potato. The key is early socialization and obedience. I disagree with a lot of Trainers who say never to correct puppies because it will break down drive. A good, well bred American Bulldog can take corrections without breaking down and losing drive for work. The corrections should only be enough to get the dog to comply with the command, and you have to be consistent with the dog. The first six months can make or break a dog. If you set the ground rules at a young age, the dog will remember these rules for the rest of it's life. Give the dog lots of love, but the dog needs to have no doubt about who is in charge.

14) Do you believe that hybrid breeders should constantly be blending Johnson and Performance strains together with each generation? Or should they line breed and try to create a hybrid strain that breeds true?

I believe that I have a line that is breeding with consistency. I believe that you must linebreed this breed at this time to get consistency. I am doing some close breedings to try to bring to light some of the genetic problems lurking in the background of this breed. Eventually I will have to outcross to freshen the bloodline. I am not at this point, but it would be nice if when I need to, there are some other consistent lines that I can breed to, without having to go back to the "Johnson" type dog, and having to reset type. You really need to ask me this question in about ten years!

I appreciate the opportunity to be asked to do this Breeder Survey/Interview. I hope that I answered some of the questions other Bulldogger's have about me. I believe that we are all in a constant learning process in this breed, and I appreciate any comments regarding my opinions, beliefs, and breeding practices. Any advice is also appreciated, if given in a constructive manner. I feel as a whole, that breeders of American Bulldogs are lacking in unity. If we could all put our petty arguments aside, we could all work together to make our breed even stronger.


Greg Souza

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