Here are the problems that we see that have directly and adversely affected the health and quality of the American Bulldog breed in the United States:
- Breeder Quality. Any person can establish a kennel and breed dogs with no requirement of any qualifications. In some other countries, a breeder must have veterinary, zoological, or cynological education to have their breeding program recognized by a sanctioning organization under Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). Under FCI, if a breeder were to dare to engage in breed-mixing and register the result as an American Bulldog, the breeder would likely be disqualified from FCI for life.
- No single unifying sanctioning organization for the American Bulldog breed. Since registries’ primary source of income is dog registration, various registries have amended their breed standard for the American Bulldog to allow dogs that carry obvious phenotypical traits of breed mixing. In essence, this means that the breed is being diluted through mixing in other breeds. The ease with which a breeder can provide falsified information regarding the dam and sire of a given litter, which the registry then certifies, makes this a significant problem. This is called “paper-hanging.”
- Conformation Show System and Quality. Love it or hate it, dog conformation shows oftentimes dictate the direction of the breed. Dogs that become Champions are naturally assumed to be good representatives of the breed and are considered to be breed-worthy. However, the following problems are very effective in further diminishing the health and quality of the future generations of American Bulldogs.
- The “organizer” or “host” of the dog show is usually an active breeder rather than the registry / sanctioning body itself. The show host selects the judges they wish to use at their show. There are usually four shows in one weekend, with one judge per show. However, the conflict of interest comes into play when the show host actually shows their own dogs at the show they are hosting. We have seen first-hand how a show host showed dogs with disqualifying attributes and beat many superior dogs.
- Pair the above with judges who also each have their own breeding program, have a personal relationship with the show host, and the conflict of interest grows further. We have observed a judge also show her own dogs at a show she was judging, including a dog that was limping, which again won against many superior dogs.
- Most American Bulldog judges do not possess any education or training to qualify them as such. We have observed first-hand how judges not only are incapable of providing correct educated feedback regarding the dogs they are tasked to judge, they are not even aware of the sanctioning body rules that govern judge behavior. Winning or losing oftentimes becomes a simple luck of the draw based on the judges’ personal preferences that have nothing to do with the actual American Bulldog breed standard.
- One would assume that a Champion is a dog that has beaten hundreds or at the very least dozens of dogs. Unfortunately, that is usually not the case. With most registires, it takes very little to become a Champion – all a dog has to do is accumulate some points, which simply means that it’s better than some of the other dogs at the show, and accumulate a couple of Best Classic or Best Standard, which with low show turn out is sometimes awarded without any reasonable competition whatsoever. A dog doesn’t have to be selected as a Best of Show dog even ONCE to become a Champion. Dog shows with 8 or 12 total American Bulldogs including puppies are not uncommon. Yet attending 4 or 5 such shows over a year can yield a dog of nearly any quality a Champion title becaause of the points system.
- Despite the fact that a dog show is a competition, there is usually no result transparency. You will be hard-pressed to find out the roster of dogs that competed in a show, the names of the judges, and the actual full results. Official video of rings and photo roster of dogs is non-existent.
- Puppy Sale Contracts. Look around and you will notice a lot of well-known breeders sell their puppies on the condition that they will not be bred. There are two main subsets of breeders who do this.
- Same breeders that setup rigged conformation shows where they show their own dogs with disqualifying attributes and achieve Champion titles would be exposed if the dogs they sell were to be bred. Because they sell their dogs without breeding rights, the owners of such dogs will not attend public shows or join the breeding communities for others to actually see the result of the breeding.
- A well-intentioned breeder may have a policy of selling their litters without breeding rights. Their reasons seem to vary – attempt to control their bloodlines, prevent back-yard breeders from purchasing their dogs, and so on. In our experience, there is absolutely nothing that can stop a dog owner from breeding their dog once they actually make a decision to do so. Especially if they have an objectively great dog. However, because they purchased a “Champion-pedigree” dog without breeding rights, they end up breeding without the breeder’s involvement. The resulting litter will not have an official pedigree. The owner will not have access to the insight and experience of the breeder in selecting a mate, and the breeding would be done in secret to avoid litigation. This is a tragedy. A breeder should be always available to his/her owners and should guide them through the decision of whether to breed. An experienced breeder can help the owner make the right decision if their dog is not breed-worthy and also conversely help contribute to the improvement of the breed by advising on matters such as picking the breeding mate.
A breed’s attributes and health can only be maintained through selective breeding. However, with a total breakdown of the Conformation Show System combined with uneducated breeders and judges, the breeding pool is being diluted, oftentimes without much regard for consequences to health.