Temperament is surely the number one priority of any breeder. Is it easy to combine the breed's traditional courage and tenacity with the qualities that make it an ideal companion dog in today's society?
I do not consider it difficult as the Bull Terrier is generally very friendly and even tempered by nature; I am a big believer that dogs are a product of how they are treated, regardless of the breed.
What health issues do you take into account when planning matings? Which tests do you carry out on your breeding stock?
All our puppies are BAER hearing tested at about 6 – 7 weeks old. We do not do any other tests until they are over 1 year old as we believe that the heart and kidneys are still developing; at this point we test UPC kidney and Heart auscultation.
Construction and movement haven't always been breeders' top priority but do you feel that today's breeders put more emphasis on these aspects? And in general have they improved in recent times?
Breeders have traditionally bred for better and better heads, which is good to a certain point as we are primarily a head breed, as it is the head shape which is unique and sets the Bull Terrier apart from other breeds. But now I feel that construction and movement are also being rewarded in the show ring, which has made breeders produce these virtues with success, whilst also maintaining head quality. This is where knowledgeable judges are of great value in shaping any breeds future. Worldwide of the breed Raymond Oppenheimer wrote that history decides which judges are good and which are bad. A simple look at show records and top dogs pedigrees confirms this. The good judges consistently put up dogs that go on to win major awards and feature in future winning dogs pedigrees. Whilst bad judges consistently put up dogs that seldom win again and do not feature in future winning dogs pedigrees; these judges are usually fault judges, putting up average dogs with no glaring faults over fabulous dogs with the odd blemish; or they put down top quality youngsters, saying that they lack maturity, surely, a top quality youngster is always better than a average dog with maturity; or the worst display of ignorance and lack of knowledge has to be the line “ I like big ones ! “
Many feel that the art of breeding a top class Bull Terrier is to blend the 'bull' and 'terrier'? Do you feel that this tends to give the best results? Is there a danger of concentrating too much on either extreme?
The clue is in the name; Bull Terrier. There is a danger if we concentrate on either extreme; too much terrier type will result in lack of bone and substance; too much bull type will result in coarse bone, usually accompanied with loaded shoulders and bad fronts. We should aim for middle of the road type with balance, quality and correct construction which in turn leads to true movement.
Traditionally breeders have been advised that line-breeding, including matings like half-brother and half-sister or grandfather to granddaughter, is the surest way to success. Today, though, we are often advised to breed less closely. Have your opinions on this changed over the years, and does the degree of inbreeding have any bearing on your choice of mates?
Continually out-crossing is the equivalent of hoping to get lucky in a casino. Sure, the law of averages says that a good, big winning dog will be produced every now and again, as there will be a big winner in the casino every now and then, but the casino knows that luck does not last, that’s how they stay in business. I feel that line-breeding is the only way to consistently produce a certain type of dog. Line-breeding intensifies what you already have, so don’t line-breed just for the sake of it; the dogs that you are line-breeding too need to be healthy and of high quality. Quality begets quality, just as mediocrity begets mediocrity. Another advantage is that if you line-breed for long enough you get to know all the dogs in your pedigrees, what are certain dogs strengths and equally what are certain dogs shortcomings. Introducing outcross animals into your line has the obvious benefits of bringing a certain virtue into your line but at the same time you are also introducing an element of the unknown, both from a virtue/fault prospective and from a health prospective. It is something that breeders have to do their homework on; weighing up the pro’s and con’s for each planned mating.
Does colour enter into your breeding decisions at all?
We always breed for quality and hope for a colour; we never breed for colour and hope for quality, this would be a certain road to failure!
Breeders used to be advised that they needed to introduce colour into their lines every 2 or 3 generations to maintain pigmentation and vigour. These days I feel that this is no longer true as all Bull Terriers have colour reasonably close up in their pedigrees.
I also believe in the old maxim, that a good Bull Terrier is never a bad colour.
How tolerant would you be of mouth faults in a potential sire or dam?
I would be tolerant of mouth faults depending on the degree of the fault. I consider a few misplaced teeth as just cosmetic and probably not heredity, an undershot mouth would take more consideration and thought. My mentor, Arthur Miller (Brobar), once told me that his favourite bitch of all time, Ch. Brobar Hotline, was the product of two slightly incorrect mouths, yet Hotline herself had a perfect mouth! This just goes to emphasize the point of line breeding and knowing the dogs in your own pedigrees.