Interview with Lydia Duarte Castagna
CH Talk O the Town - RMs DeeJay
CH Nightlord Donner, CD
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The All Purpose Dog magazine #1
interview w/ Lydia Duarte Castagna (U.S.A.)
Lydia Duarte Castagna is the breeder of Raging Moon Kennels and a well known judge all over the world. In the US, she judged last year's National Specialty. In Europe, she judged several breed clubs, including our Romanian Bull Type Terrier Club Show in 2009 and was one of the AmStaff judges for the Euro Dog Show in Bucharest, 2012.
Q1. You judged both a National Specialty and the 2012 European Dog Show, so most people in Romania and surroundings know you primarily as a judge and breeder. Fewer know you are also a handler. How did your passion for dogs begin and how did you start showing?
I got my first Am Staff in 1985. His name was Ch Nightlord's Donner, CD. He was my first show dog, and who I learned to handle dogs on. He was also the sire of my foundation dog. Donny, was bred to Ch Sindelar's Misty Mudd to produce Ch Talk O'The Town-RM's Rocky, CD, CGC, TDI, ROH who is my foundation male and an STCA Sire of Merit. With those two dogs, my passion for dog shows began. Throughout the years I have handled all of my own dogs, but I have used a handler once in a while, mostly when I couldn't get to shows I wanted them to be at. I've also handled for friends throughout the years, and have won a National Specialty with Ch Gold Rush Sergeant Stryker. He belonged to the Del Rios and was the son of a dog who belongs to my partner. I received Donny as a gift from a dear friend who I was in college with. Kim Davis of Bear Mountain. Kim got me started going to shows and we've had lots of fun throughout the years. The friendships I've formed in Am Staffs are truly priceless to me.
Q2. Nowadays, there are a lot of perceptions about what an AmStaff should be. Was it the same back when you entered the dogshow world? Besides breeding ethics, were shared beliefs and vision about the breed an important factor in forming friendships within the community? And was that a criterion in choosing the dogs you handled?
Quite a few things have changed since I first started in Am Staffs. Back when I started in 1985, I think there was more emphasis on having a more functional dog. I think today, way too much emphasis is put on breeding a pretty dog that wins ribbons. Also back then, friendships were formed and solidified. Mentors were priceless and more people sought and actually heeded advice they were given. People owned and learned the breed before putting two together...becoming a "breeder" was a title that was earned after you "paid dues". I have formed many friendships throughout the years that I have been in Stafs. I have handled many wonderful dogs for various friends throughout the years, and have also had friends that have handled those of mine that were too spoiled by me, for me to actually handle them myself. One major thing that has changed that concerns me, is lack of lifetime ownership. So many dogs change multiple hands throughout their lifetimes. When I decide to keep am Am Staff, I intend to keep them forever, but that's just me I guess......
Q3. What do you think changed specifically in nowadays Am Staffs compared to the '80's - what physical and temperamental traits do you consider to be missing today?
Physically I think they've become heavier, with much more emphasis put into what wins in the show ring. Upper arms have become lacking, and tails are a big problem. Temperament wise, I think people have tried to alter their dog aggression and in doing so, they've lost their self confidence. These dogs should love every human, and fear nothing. They shouldn't go out looking for a fight, but they shouldn't back down from one either.
Q4. You mention having dogs too spoiled for you to handle yourself. As a handler and judge, what do you think an AmStaff's ring training should consist in and what do you consider to be an ideal Am Staff behaviour in the ring?
That's actually a tough question. I love seeing a Staf having fun in the ring. I like to see good interaction with their handler, but I also want them to acknowledge me when I attempt interaction. Keenly alive to their surroundings. Tails wagging, having a good time. Standing still and staring blankly focused only on food, is not my favorite!
Q5. Do you think there have also been physical improvements? Are there modern AmStaffs that are somewhat closer to what breeders back in the day wanted to accomplish?
That's a tough question for me. I've never been a breed "idealist", but I've also never been more passionate about anything else really. Our standard was written in 1936, and has remained unchanged since then....the dogs have,however changed a bit, but I think for the most part, there have been enough breeders worldwide to maintain the breeds integrity.
Q6. Nowadays we benefit a lot, in different areas, from all the technology and easy communication - does the breed benefit too, or could it? Did it influence you as a breeder or do you consider you ''expanded'' your ''family in the breed'' thanks to it?
If anything I think the Internet and more specifically social media has actually hurt the sport of purebred dogs. People are far more likely to speak to their peers with less decorum and respect over a computer, than they would ever dare to do so in person.
The people I deal with in dogs, are people I have been friends with far before the Internet explosion. The relationships I have gained thru Am Staffs go beyond the dogs themselves. That is priceless, and could never be achieved thru cyberspace.
Q7. You've judged in many countries around the world. Any favourite place, where the quality of dogs is concerned? Do you think the US are a lot different from Europe in this regard?
CH Talk O the Town - RMs Rocky
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I'm not sure I have a "favorite place" per se, but I can say the quality varies from country to country. The best overall quality I've seen so far, has been Spain, with Italy coming in a close second. I am happy to report that almost every country I've been to has had a few dogs I'd be more than happy to own for myself, in both type and temperament. Two complete standouts would have been the champion bitch I chose in Serbia (Novi Sad) (another country worth mention) as well as the bitch we gave the BOB to that day. Both were stunning....with type, temperament and wonderful Am Staff attitude.
Q8. You are also in the Judges Education Committee of the STCA, so you are involved in basically all areas of the American AmStaff world. How do you divide your time between your own dogs and breeding, judging, handling and the STCA activity and, of course, which one of them comes first?
My own dogs will always come first. I don't breed very often, in fact I haven't had an Am Staff litter in my own home in years. Judging is my passion, and I make time for it as the requests come in. I just added two puppies this past year to my home, one from a bitch I bred (male) and one complete outcross (female) so I've just stepped back into the ring as an exhibitor. Since I am a judge I can only handle dogs I own, so that limits my time spent handling greatly. Being a part of the STCA is also another great passion of mine, and I sure do devote a lot of time to it. Not sure there's any particular order, I just handle each thing as it comes up! If anything ends up lacking....it's usually yard work....lol.
Q9. Nowadays more and more breeders use collected dogs from the past in their breeding programs - do you think this is positive to the breed today? What dog from the past that is unavailable right now would you bring back if it were possible?
I do think this is very important to the dog fancy...of course I do have a vested interest, as I own my own semen bank (Mobile CLONE). It's wonderful to be able to go back and add dogs that were beneficial to your bloodline, generations on down the line. If I had to choose a dog from the past for my own particular breeding program, I think I'd like to go back to my own foundation dog Ch Nightlord's Donner, CD. I've done very well going back to his son Ch Talk O'The Town-RMs Rocky, CD, CGC, TDI, ROH, SOM, so if I could I'd love to be able to go back one more generation.
Q10. Who are the current AmStaff residdents at Raging Moon? And what are your future plans for them and your breeding program?
Current Am Staffs are: Ch CabinCrk Dark Side O'The Moon, CGC (Luna) Luna is the veteran bitch here, and is enjoying her life of retirement. Ch Raging Moon Don Michael Corleon of Umtali (Dempsey) Dempsey is only 17 months old, but finished his championship very quickly....right now I'm having fun showing him as an owner handler...last I checked he CH Talk O the Town - RMs Rockywas the number two owner handled AST. Roadhouse's Raging Kentucky Moonshine (Shiner) Shiner is just a year old, and was a gift from Greg and Lori Roadhouse. She has just started her show career so, only time will tell what's in store for her.
These two puppies hold a lot of hopes and dreams for me...I'm super excited to see what the future hold for them.
Q11. With different kennel clubs there are different systems and different ages dogs may finish their championships at. When do you personally consider that a dog is, so to say, all grown up? Is there a specific age at which a dog fully confirms your expectations or does it just depend from one specimen to another?
For me, I don't consider them fully grown till the age of two. I've seen dogs finish their championships here in the USA at an early age (before a year old) and then fall apart by the age of two. Personally I'd support not being able to finish before one year of age.
Q12. How long do you usually show a dog? Do you also get them involved in other activities/sports AKC organizes?
The grand championship is new here in the USA. I haven't shown or had a dog to show in many years. I currently have a young dog I'm showing, who is the son of a bitch I bred, who I bred to a wonderful male. So I'm having fun showing him. He finished very fast, so I'm now just kind of having fun. I don't campaign dogs, so now it's just for fun. I'd like to see how he'd do in some terrier trials, maybe like his grandfather.
Q13. What about IPO training? Do you think AmStaffs are a good breed for it? Do you believe it affects everyday behaviour in any way?
I really don't know enough about it to have a valid opinion. My only reservation is the public perception of what they will only see as a "pit bull biting a man".
Personally I prefer to not do bite work with Am Staffs.
Q14. Nowadays the breed is very popular, unfortunatelly this didn't always prove to be a good thing. With BSL, the bad press and people generally considering them monsters, besides a naturally good temperament, what do you think it takes, on the owner/breeder's part to make an AmStaff a true breed ambassador?
Basically being a responsible pet owner. Not allowing your AST to roam free, culling all unfit temperaments from breeding programs, and having zero tolerance for human aggression.
Q15. Regarding AmStaff health, which would you say are the most important tests breeders could and should make, besides, of course, the simple and obvious Ataxia?
Hips, elbows, heart, thyroid. Those are musts for me. I also check patellas and eyes. BAER testing on dogs with lots of white, is not a bad idea. Deafness is in our breed. This list is of course and you said....after testing for ataxia.
Q16. There's still a lot of debate regarding hip and elbow dysplasia - when and by which means of interpretation? What's your take on the subject, what is the ideal age and which test is better?
Hip dysplasia is very real in our breed, as is elbow dysplasia. I am Penn HIP certified, so of course I do Penn HIP on mine, but I also do OFA, as they grade different things. OFA looks at the hip joint conformation. Penn HIP checks for hip joint laxity. I usually take a quick OFA prelim on my guys at a year old, then do Penn HIP and OFA at two years of age. All other testing is done at about the one year or so mark.
Q17. After so much time in the breed, involved in so many aspects of it, what advice would you give aspiring new breeders and AmStaff fanciers?
Keep your mouth shut and your mind open. Plain and simple. No one can ever learn too much. The rest will follow. Oh and envy has NO place in dogs.
Q18. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with our readers, hope to see you judging in Europe again sometime soon!
Thank you! It's truly been an honor. I've slowed down my foreign judging, because of work constraints, but I will try to keep up at one show a year. I'm so blessed and thankful to have been able to see and judge Am Staffs all around the world! This year, I'm doing Poland in July, I'm very excited to see what they have to offer!
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