Interview with Zoltan Tibor Vasszi
The All Purpose Dog magazine
Interview w/ Zoltan Tibor Vasszi (Hungary)
Zoltan Tibor Vasszi is the breeder of Tiger Tattoo's Kennel, an AmStaff judge and one of the founders and president of Hungary's MASTAFF Association. Besides breeding and working with his dogs in several fields such as weight pulling and protection, he takes care of organizing conformation and temperament testing events.
Q1. AmStaffs have been around in Hungary for quite some time, with more than a few well established, active kennels that produced several dogs which appear in a lot of pedigrees in the area. MASTAFF was only formed in 2013. What was the situation before it and what made you found this club?
The first American Staffordshire Terrier in Hungary has been registered in 1989. This brilliant breed got really popular in our country after this.
The idea to found an association for AmStaffs first came into my mind in 1992 but at that time it was not possible because of the circumstances
and the situation of the cynology. Later we tried again a few times but we were unable to found the association until the state livestock law had been changed.
The spring of 2013 me and a few excellent breeders founded the association. It was very important for us from the beginning that the amstaff not only be an empty shell of the exhibitions carpet but physically and mentally reach a healthy standard and be a suitable companion. We worked out a breedind programme where the physical and mental health was extremely important, we made the ataxia and dysplasia tests compulsory. Only the ataxia clear and carrier dogs are accepted for breeding, except for the carrier-carrier combination, to avoid the possibility of affected individuals being born. People would not think that most American Staffordshire Terriers have hip and elbow dysplasia, who would think that such an energetic dog which has a really good muscle structure would carry genetically inherited physical defaults. Because of this reason dogs with HD-A, HD-B and HD-C dysplasia test results are allowed to breed in Hungary.
From 1 January 2015 we introduced a socialization test, which has been created to filtrate the individuals with behavioural issues. For us it's really important that AmStaffs are not only close to the standard in how they look, but in their behavior too.
Since we were founded, we created a special show system where, depending on the possibilities we only invite AmStaff breed experts. It is important to see different approaches from other breeders even from different cultures. In my opinion, the judges, with their fair judgments, made a really good atmosphere at our exhibitions.
We reward the most successful Mastaff member with the award of the most successful dog at the exhibitions of the year. They not only get a cup and a diploma but prizemoney too.
We also have to mention the fact that amstaffs are not only doing well in the dogshows but in dog schools and in sports events as well. We cooperate with weight pulling societies and dog schools. In 2014 we organised our first work-dog competition in Hungary specially for American Staffordshire Terriers wich was really successful we had 13 American Staffordshire Terriers on that day and they all passed the exams. We would like to continue this tradition organise the competitionevery year and the plan is to lift it to an international level by the attendance of dogs from abroad.
The Associaton’s role and aim is to coordinate the American Staffordshire Terrier breeding, help the breeders and keep the Amstaff standards.
Q2. Does the introduction of this temperament test mean future litter registrations will depend on the parents' results? Could you tell us a bit more about it and the criteria a dog has to meet to pass it?
The temperament test is conducted by a working judge accepted by FCI. It is expected from the dog to display an open, interested, friendly and social behaviour. Aggression, fear and unpredictability are considered faulty. The test consists of five sections: the first two evaluate the dog's behaviour around the judge, the third measures their neutrality towards other dogs, the fourth is a traffic safety test and the last should show the dog's behaviour in a group of people. There are four ratings: well suited, passed, eligible to take the test a second time (twice is the maximum) and failed.
Q3. Is there a results account of the temperament tests done so far? How did the Hungarian AmStaff community receive this test, as well as the new health regulations regarding selection?
I hope we will soon have some statistics about the character of hungarian bred AmStaffs. It is very important for the selection. In the beginning, a few ''breeders'' feared this test, some other guys told me their dog had a CACIB thus it's a well socialized dog, but I've seen shy winner dogs in the show ring more than once. We hope the breeders will understand why we take this test. If the media or the government inquire if our breed is a dangerous one, we as breeders will have an honest and correct answer: not! The test is also important for real breeders, to help them take a further step in their selection. The dog isn't examined just by anybody, but an expert, a FCI working judge. A shy or human aggressive dog doesn't have a chance to pass.
Q4. How important do you think socialization is in achieving a healthy, well balanced personality in an AmStaff? Your kennel is in a quiet, remote area, very different from an agitated, urban environment. Do you resort to other means of getting them acquainted with various stimulae, besides exercising and training them at the kennel?
The early socialization is very important for all the pups. After that, it's the new owner's job to continue the breeder's work. Teaching the pup to walk on the street, travel in a car, bus, train and other. The dog's constant contact with humans is also very important.
We must teach the dogs to adjust to our fast, modern life. This is a necessity for both them and us humans. We visit different places all the time with our dogs - learning is important for all of us.
Q5. How do your neighbours and visiting friends that aren't dog people feel about your AmStaffs? Did you ever have problems because of the bad reputation they get in most parts of the world? How do you think they're regarded by the general public in your country? Can you tell us something about the BSL in Hungary, if it exists?
The Am Staff, and the bull type dogs in general, don't really get any positive coverage by the media. It's a very popular breed, but unfortunatelly it's also very popular with people who shouldn't even own goldfish, let alone dogs. These people get poorly bred dogs and offer them poor living conditions and no socialization at all. The media then uses the consequences in hopes of profit.
Our neighbours are simple people. They don't care whether one's dog is an AmStaff or not. I'm a lucky guy to have them as neighbours.
Q6. You also work with your dogs. Be it weight pulling or bite training, does working have any influence in a dog's behaviour - have you ever felt a working AmStaff must be dealt with differently compared to a pet or show one?
Yes, I like active dogs with working ability very much. But before work, we always test the hip and elbow dysplasia. If the dog is healthy, we start the training. I don't make any differences between show and working type dogs. The AmStaff is a working bred terrier! I have a conformation champion dog who is also a registered weightpulling dog, won a coursing race, is doing great in obedience and is of course a great protection dog. There shoudln't be a distinction between show dogs and working dogs. They are AmStaffs: the pet quality and the breeding quality. The dogs that have colour problems, for instance, are pet dogs. But the dogs with health problems are never pet dogs - they are called poor dogs.
Q7. What's a normal day look like for the dogs in Tiger Tattoo's kennel? Do you have a routine for exercising your dogs and how do they get along with each other?
Well, everyday we wake up early in the morning to take care of our dogs. Everyone then starts their own job, school and whatnot. When we get back home in the afternoon, we repeat our morning routine with the dogs. Some of our dogs are separated because they aren't very friendly with each other. During the holidays and weekends, we work with them and train them. A few weekends a year, we go to dogshows.
Q8. In your experience, does a good, typical AmStaff temperament always imply a good show temperament, that natural love for showing? Besides the special show training, how important do you consider proffessional handling to be for an AmStaff to be exhibited at their best?
Texi pulling 3000 kgs
CH Tiger Tattoo's Cool Hand Luke a.k.a. Texi
Tiger Tattoo's Kategorie C
CH Proudly Bred Bound for Glory
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I like dogs with temperament, active dogs. They really are terriers, in their brains and in their hearts. They really need to have a great temperament, not just a little. It is important that the dog and the handler connect, rather than the latter only using the dog for their personal success. The most important thing is the friendship between them, that's the basis for everything. Many dogs don't like going to shows, so they should not be forced. Shows are just one among many others things that dogs can do and enjoy. Mainly, shows are only important to us humans and our egos.
Q9. A lot of people consider nowadays shows tend to value dogs perceived as ''spectacular'' over standard dogs. Tiger Tattoo's dogs are somewhat different from modern show AmStaffs, so to speak. Yet you won a JWW title with a particularly old school female. What would you say judges today look for in an AmStaff, and do you think this has changed over the years, since you started breeding and showing?
A lot of people follow whatever the moment's fashion dictates. I'm trying to follow the standard. I was very happy when HJCH Tiger Tattoo's Iron Rose won the junior world champion title. Because it gives me hope that in this modern world, an authentic type of dog can achieve success. Our micro environment is strongly influenced by the bully type and, in my opinion, this is the tendency, between the three types. It'd be important for the judges to know some things about the breed's history and function. Reading the standard between the lines and interpret. The AmStaff, like many other breeds, strayed away from the standard. It'd be important for judges and breeders to know that the standard should dictate both breeding and judging! When I got to know the breed, the ''types'' weren't all that different. Nowadays there aren't many people breeding terrier or moderate AmStaff in Central Europe. It's important to go back to the beginnings, back to the roots!
Q10. You are a judge yourself. What do you, personally, look for, when judging, as in, what is the most important thing to you: type, temperament, structure? Are there certain traits that strike you from the get-go?
I’am not an easy man. I want to learn about my mistakes and always watching and learning about the people and the grand old breed.
I'm looking at the general character, type (as described in the standard), including the structure of the dog. It'd be nice for the dog to be as ''dry'' as possible, without excessive skin folds and wrinkles. The temperament of each specimen should be top, without being aggressive!
Q11. You are also an APBT lover and are soon gonna judge UKC and ADBA standard in Italy. While many American AmStaffs are double (AKC/UKC) registered, ADBA is different - what do you prefer where APBT's are concerned and why?
For me, the UKC Pit Bull Terriers are the top of the food chain. They have excellent ratio, beautiful design, top quality muscle and are very agile dogs. I've seen some of the so called American ''pitstaff'', where AKC and UKC lines are combined. Some of them are red nose AmStaff types, but the traditional forms of Pit Bull are in the majority.
There are beautiful ADBA registered dogs, but they have too long legs, shallow forechest, lighter racy body type like a sporty edition.
Q12. Talking about going back to the roots, do you have an all time favourite dog, like a dog from the past you'd like to use in your breeding program if you could? And if so, what would be your reasons. What about a Tiger Tattoo dog, who are you most proud of? How do you feel about collecting sperm and did you get anyone collected for future use in your breedings?
For me one of the best representations of standard is CH. Ruffian Red Rock of Har-Wyn, another faourite is CH. Sligo McCarthy - I would be more than happy to be able to use them. Two different dogs, connected by genetical background, note that these two dogs are among my dogs' ancestors.
'm proud of all my dogs but CH. Tiger Tattoo's Cool Hand Luke a.k.a. Texy is my favourite. Of course, my heart fills with pride for my HJCH.JWW.Tiger Tattoo's Iron Rose a.k.a. Lilly.
I intend to collect Texy for further use in my future breeding plan.
Q13. What are your future plans in the areas you're active in - breeding, working, judging, organising? Are you gonna focus more on one or the other?
As an organiser, I would like to continue my work with the MASTAFF. I hope to have time to further involve in sporting activities and last but not least, into breeding.
Q14. Thank you very much for your time and knowledge shared with us and our readers. If you have some final words for breed fanciers all over the world, please go ahead.
It's been an honour for me to share my thoughts with you. To all the AmStaff fans: Love your dogs and discover the values of the traditional AmStaff. Follow the heritage, stay with the standard!
Texi with his mother Tiger Tattoo's Xenia at work
HJCH Tiger Tattoo's Iron Rose
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