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Interview with Beres Sandor

The All Purpose Dog magazine

Interview w/ Beres Sandor (Romania)

(late 2016)

 

Beres Sandor is one of the first AmStaff breeders in Romania. His bred-by female Flober's Calender Girl brought home one of the first important Romanian results in a World dog show 15 years ago. He and his family live in an idyllic rural area of Transylvania where he goes for long walks with his dogs. These are his AmStaff stories.

 

Q1: Almost 500 AmStaff pups were registered last year in Romania, out of over 100 litters. But, browsing e-commerce platforms, you'd think there were thousands. You started in this breed a long time ago, when not only there weren't as many, but they were actually scarce, and even more so those with a pedigree. Was the registry still open back then for certificates to be obtained? How did you decide to get an AmStaff and how did you chose Memphis Bastian?

 

I don't know exactly where the AmStaff stood at that time in this aspect. When I chose Topi I didn't intend to, nor did have any breed knowledge to help me pick based on pedigrees. I was simply choosing based on appearance. I acquired that knowledge over the years out of a genuine desire to get to know this breed and the dogs that were in his pedigree.

I remember sticking  four drawing papers together and compiling a nine or ten generations pedigree for him. It wasn't easy because there was no internet at home. It took me about four or five weeks to complete it. I can do that today in a couple of minutes and a few clicks.

I was surprised by the fact that Topi's registration no. was 449 and AmStaffs were barely seen in dog shows.

I have always been fascinated by big, powerful breeds - BullMastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, Boxer - their strong build, the muscles and huge skull. When I first saw an AmStaff, I had the feeling of one such dog, but a ''miniature'' version. The powerful structure, well defined muscles and the skull with strong cheeks. That AmStaff was Diamond Hard Kitty.

 

Q2: You were absent from dog shows for many  years. You had the opportunity to go back right in time for an important specialty, with a record number of dogs from all over the world: the AmStaff Major 2015. After all those years, what did you think of the atmosphere, judging, quality of dogs, generally speaking but also compared to the shows your were attending ten years ago?

 

I especially wanted to see this show, even if only as a visitor, considering it was organised in Romania with American judges. I found the atmosphere, as with any show of this size, to be great, with many breeders, fanciers, old acquaintances and friends. A lot of dogs entered, maybe not so many of a very high quality, but plenty of them. I noticed from the get go the huge improvement that was made in regards to handling. We're slowly starting to see what real dog shows are like.

While in the 2000's, at least in Romania, this was mostly neglectable, nowadays handling plays an important part. This is positive, as long as it's not exaggerated, in that it becomes a show about people and not dogs.

Maybe not as obvious, but imports also had an important increase. A lot of imports have been made, maybe not all of them successful, as was my case.

Still expected to see more dogs that would impress me, given their number. I didn't expect something extraordinary from the judging - it confirmed what I had learned researching beforehand: all round judges that weren't specialists in the breed, some decisions I agreed with and some, not so much.

All in all, a show with great emphasis on handling - perhaps a bit too great.

 

Q3: You got back to showing at Major, handling someone else's dog (Mystyks). You never used professional handlers but always did it yourself. How important do you think this is  - not necessarily for showing success, but for having the dog show at its best, both physically and temperamentally?

 

We did make a lot of progress in handling in our country and this can now make the difference and decide a winner. To those for whom the number of BOB-s, BIG-s and BIS-s is important, I think handling - professional one - is essential. Personally, I think that the truly valuable specimens, both genotipically and phenotipically speaking, don't necessarily need this kind of ''promotion'', but it is very true that it helps a lot in ''selling'' that dog  itself or as a genitor. It has advantages and disadvantages, the difference between professionals and amateurs (such as myself) is sometimes - not in my case - visible in the dogs' placement.

 

Q4: Will you get back to breeding AmStaffs and, if so, what are your expectations, and how much do you want to get involved, compared to when you started?

 

Even if I wasn't an exhibitor, I tried to stay connected to what was going on in our country, as well as in Europe and the US. I want to be active in breeding in the future, but only if, through this activity, I can somehow bring something positive to this breed. Personally, I still think there's a lot to be done to improve the quality of the AmStaff population, where both the phenotype and temperament are concerned.

Involvement requires a lot of money and these resources are more and more limited. It's hard to find people to work with, prospective owners who appreciate quality. The large number of dogs we see in shows mirrors the large number of dogs being bred for some time now, sometimes in the detriment of quality, for relatively small prices. So this will make me be extra cautious as a breeder.

Mystiks @Major 2015

Q5: Flober's started as a two persons outfit: you were co-breeding with a friend of yours that quit in the meantime. Is it an advantage or a disadvantage to be alone in this? How difficult do you think it is to find collaborators that share your way of thinking and preferences?

 

To be in this alone is almost impossible and certainly not an advantage, more of a handicap. You can't isolate yourself from the ''outside'' world anyway, you automatically need to find someone to work with, even if you don't share the same values or opinions about the breed.

Over the years, I formed a circle of acquaintances, friends and collaborators, but I also ended my relationship with some of them because we didn't have the same principles concerning the breed or life in general.

 

Q6: Although you were involved in the AmStaff world for many years and had plenty of dogs, you bred a relatively small number of litters compared to other breeders, not to mention compared to the way people are breeding right now. What was your criteria in choosing parents, what convinced you to make the combinations you did?

 

It's been very nicely and correctly put that being a breeder is a responsability, and some of the breeders actually get to experience it themselves, over the years.

I believe that the art of good breeding combinations must be doubled by the ability to find good owners for the dogs one brings into the world. The real winners are not just the ones that grace the podiums but also those that find their matching humans and get to live a real, happy, ''dog'' life.

Chosing a male is a continuous search, some kind of chess, it you will, you gotta see in the future a bit and really believe in what you do.

I tried to observe the dogs before breeding, to learn as much as possible about them, their offspring, ancestors, their health, weigh everything and, if odds seemed to be in my favour to somehow improve the breed, I would proceed with the breeding.

It's very hard to pick only one from all the AmStaff owned and raised by me and my family. Each and every one of them had something special, that made them unique, starting with our first, Memphis Bastian, to our last, Flober's Jogo Bella... there were nothing but special dogs! And I must mention them here: Ch.Ringmaster L.Camelot,Ch.Backwoods Yellow Label,Ch.Flober's Calender Girl,Ch.Flober's Celine,Thunderrose,Ch.Flober's Flash,Ch.Southern Grace Covergirl of Flober's,Ch.Flober's Hill Five Toe,Flober's Jogo Bella and many more!

Also, I must add that the temperament of a breeding female is very important, that's how I decide wether I want to breed her or not. The mother's temperament is directly reflected in the future pupps' temperament and I strongly believe it's a defining factor in picking ''show quality puppies'' and ''pet quality'' ones (although I don't really like making that distinction). Yellow Label, Celine, Calender Girl, Thunderrose were all extraordinary mothers taking great care of their pups till weaning and after.

As for the males I used, I consider (and not randomly) Royal Court Winning Combination,Raywood Back to Back Woods,Ringmaster Popstaff Camelot, Memphis Bastian to be the most valuable. Of these, I owned Camelot and Memphis Bastian.

 

Q7: By the way, what's it like to have a litter when you don't make a living out of dogs but also have a real job?

 

When we decide we're going to have a litter, we make sure we'll have the time and resources to properly take care of it. Generally, at the time of birth I'm on ''maternity'' leave so I can keep an eye on them 24/7. My wife, who's also a dog lover, is a big support.

 

Q8:  Which one do you think was your best litter, that you would repeat? What are your specific plans for the future?

 

It's very hard for me to make any kind of ranking of whatever kind. At the moment, I was considering each breeding as a step forward. Where show results are concerned, my C litter, between Camelot and Yellow Label, was the best, because it gave us one Junior World Vice Winner and three champions. Also, the females in this litter were above average as producers, giving us champion progenies (Eye of the Tiger,Dr.Mud,Hill Five Toe,Hardrock Cafe...). I do have one regret though, that I didn't use Backwoods Yellow Label - a female with a special genetical make up - more as a producer. She only had this one litter in our kennel and then I exported her to Slovakia.

 

And Yes indeed, my plans for the future are pretty specific, I'm trying to get some progeny of Flash's and Celine's.

Q9: Flober's Celine was the first Romanian AmStaff to succesfully pass the BH exam (with 57 points out of 60). She was also a conformation champion. What made you want more from her besides showing and why didn't you continue to pursue working exams with other dogs from your kennel? Do you think she had some special gift for this kind of activity?

 

Flober's Celine was indeed a special member of our family. It's hard to say why I chose training for her, maybe out of a personal ambition to prove that the AmStaff is an ''all purpose dog''... The truth is there was something about her that makes the difference in this kind of activity.  But I believe that any healthy AmStaff, raised in a healthy environment, within a family, can do this with a few extra time and financial resources. Once I achieved this, I unfortunatelly didn't have said resources to continue.

Q10. From your experience with your own dogs, what's become your ideal Amstaff over the years, especially when temperament comes first, and is there something you would like to change in the future where this is concerned?

 

That's very subjective. To me, it's firstly a courageous dog, in the show ring and in everyday life, loves his family and people in general, and his very presence in his yard commands respect.

Training is essential for an AmStaff - I tried to do that as well as I could. Without it, having an AmStaff can be exhausting or even impossible within a family. By training them, we can get to know the real joy that living with an AmStaff is.

 

Over the years, I've had several different both pleasant and unpleasant experiences that were due to either good or bad temperament. This breed has a much lower threshold for stimulae reaction than other breeds, that's why an unfit breeding or negligence in their training and socializing can have bigger consequences than in the case of other breeds and that's why I think all breeders and owners should be a bit extra careful. There will always be irresponsible or distracted people...

 

10 well educated AmStaffs can all stay together, but, as I said, this doesn't mean an unpleasant event is out of the question.

As for changes, I'd like to have more time to spend with my dogs and more time to get to know future owners better.

 

Q11:  Back in the days, the breed club organised ''selection exams'', (Memphis Bastian) Topi's grade on the so called breeding permit was R++, which was the highest recommendation. What did this mean and do you think that was useful, compared to the procedures we have today?

 

The selection shows were organised alongside the championship shows - national, international. They were replaced by club shows. I think maybe it would be advisable to have these kind of exams again, perhaps within the specialties, and their results should be particularly important for active breeders. Maybe that way, the ''breeding permit'' would actually be valuable.

The trend in countries with a strong cynological tradition is for breeding dogs to be health and temperament tested. These tests are mandatory and you can't breed without them.

We didn't have so many options back then and we just went wherever we could: selection, derby, championship shows. It was something new for me and I thought it was important for him to have that grade too - he was indeed R++. And maybe I'm not saying anything new, but I was also a bit naive, I actually trusted what we were being told in shows.

Q12: What's your take on the breed specific health testing, that's becoming more and more available to any breeder in our country now?

 

I'm glad we now have the opportunity to health test our dogs, unfortunately not enough breeders take advantage of this... they prefer to see sick dogs in their own yards, despite of the fact that these tests cost no more than a few tens of bucks... Personally, I'm looking forward to the moment when these tests become mandatory for those who want to breed AmStaffs.

A breeder must be very well aware when choosing dogs to mate and must be able to assess the risks when it comes to the puppies' health... there are plenty of diseases and ''anomalies'' that can't be detected and represent a risk in any breeding so I think the breed can at least be spared of the ones that can be tested.

Q13: At the moment, a good chunk of your time is dedicated to your boarding home for dogs. What's it like for your schedule and what's it like to interact with different breeds with such different temperaments?

 

This dog hostel is some kind of compensation for the things I gave up, like shows and breeding.

I am happy to see that the experience with AmStaffs is very helpful in approaching other breeds. Getting in contact with different breeds makes me appreciate AmStaffs' temperament even more. I don't mean to belittle other breeds, I love all dogs, but AmStaffs are by far number one on my list, they're fantastic dogs, with amazing temperament, they adjust to different situations so easily, compared to any other breed.

This doesn't interfere with my schedule, it just changes the number of dogs we take out for walks in the nature, two times a day. I do this for fun, besides my job.

 

Q14: Many breeders like to get more involved, for instance in organising events, holding positions in breed clubs and an ever growing number of them become judges. Would you like that?

 

I was one of the founding members of the Romanian breed club, although this is not mentioned in the club's papers. Living almost 350km away from the first seat of the club, I used to travel for four-five times in a month to put this together. I like shows, even though lately I was showing less and less, and mostly in club shows I considered a greater challenge. I have no intention to become a judge now, I would much rather get to spend more time with my own dogs.

Q15: Last but not least, please tell me a little bit about the Romanian AmStaff year-book, how did you make it and why did you stop? Do you think back then there was an interest in this kind of projects? Is there still?

 

The catalogue was a project I meant for the breeders, owners and fanciers. Until then, we had available in Romanian only short, succint articles in general dog magazines. I wanted to offer more details on less obvious anatomy aspects: tailset, movement, bone structure, but also about temperament.

I also wanted to give active breeders the possibility to promote their kennel, without a page or pictures limitations, to present their activity, dogs or whatever they felt was important to share with the rest.

I wanted it to be a starting point in itself. My intention was for us to talk about the AmStaff and not about a rivalry between breeders, owners or exhibitors.

Personally, I would buy a printed publication about AmStaffs anytime, but we must be aware that, in this digital era, few are still interested in something like this.

I haven't given up on the idea of continuing this project, don't know yet in what form...

 

Q16: Thank you for this interview. Any final words for our readers?

 

I don't know what else, perhaps as a general motto: love dogs, no matter their breed, they're well worth the responsability you have to take, because they can give you so much!

CH Flober's Joggo Bella

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