Interview with Kaisa Metteri-Gold
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The All Purpose Dog magazine #1
interview w/ Kaisa Metteri-Gold (Finland)
Kaisa Metteri-Gold is an long time AmStaff fancier, the breeder of Masterbolt Kennels and a bull type terrier judge. She took part in the starting of the Finnish breed club, in which she acted as board member and president for seven years. She's been showing and working with AmStaffs for more than 25 years. Mrs. Gold is judging this year's Bull Type Terrier Specialty in our country.
Q1. While very different, bull type terriers do have their share of things in common. You grew up with SBT's but ended up dedicating the larger part of your cynological activity to AmStaffs, being an integral part of its beginnings in Finland. What made this particular breed stand out?
By the time amstaffs came to Finland I was more involved with working than showing. I did compete in obedience and trained SAR. The first two amstaffs were not particular nice in temperament, but later I understood it was more of lack of training then their real temperament.
When Skrams Cactus Needle came to our home I was sold. This dog was well trained, much calmer than a stafford, really enjoyed to please you, but was still not a shepard asking what do all the time. And she didn't make funny noices. A big difference was also the way she acted in the house. She loved everyone but she was not all over people as my staffords easily were.
Also the breed had more size, that would help specailly in SAR. Training obedience was just much easier with an amstaff.
Q2. Your first AmStaff, FIN&EST CH Dinah-Mite Berry, excelled in both conformation and working. Nowadays they are generally regarded as show dogs. Having started in the breed with a good working dog, how important would you say work is for an AmStaff, both to prove their temperament and for their general well being?
I find it very important. A well balanced amstaff both in temperament and structure is suitable for almost any training. In our country we have the right to compete with amstaffs in working dog competitions, tracking, schutzhund, etc. This is something that still facinating for me, how this breed is really great for any kind of sport. From show dogs to working dogs.
In our country people are very active with their amstaffs. They all live as family members and mostly also do something more than just show. I feel this breed is way too smart for only beeing a kennel dog, they are fun, active and make great family dogs. The dog below is an international and multi show CH but also a working champion from SAR but also has an obedience and tracking title.
Q3. You had your first litter long after you first got into AmStaff. What made you decide on that combination, made you believe that was what you were looking for? Do you feel your breeding criteria changed in time?
My first amstaff male was excellent in many ways, however he was not an easy dog to handle. Very strong in mind, but teached me a lot. My first US import was a nice bitch, but unfortunately not healthy enough for breeding. My second import int CH Chi Town Geena (Tara's The Untouchable X Gracie B Good) was a typical terriertype female, in temperament and in structure. She was very healthy with excellent hips and elbows. She produced a nice litter but was very dog aggressive and also quite a handfull to handle. I knew by then I didn't want to produce too difficult dogs as I could not find the right people who could handle those dogs. I have never regret that decission, I have produced sound dogs with nice structures and great temperaments. Not a dog for everyone but a great dog for the right people. I have produced not only show champions but dogs with titles from obedience, tracking, SAR and agility! My motto has been over the years: bred with thought, raised with love and shown with pride! 6 generations Masterbolt dogs will tell you I have been and still am very satisfied with my breeding line. And I love to show and judge breeder classes, that really shows the quality of a breeder.
Q4. You bred 26 litters in almost 25 years of activity. Is this a small or large figure for your country? There's been a lot of talk lately about the AmStaff overpopulation in different areas in Europe - where do you think Finland stands and, being in the breed from the very beginning, do you feel the evolution has been positive?
I am the biggest breeder in my country, but also the oldest one. I have bred 1,4 litters a year which is an average in our country for this breed. Many new breeders in the breed in our country as well and many not that serious breeders. Still compared with so many other countries our situation is good. 239 registrated amstaffs in 2014 is not much but the trend is slowly but confidently rising. We have never had an issue with dangerous breeds. But still it is difficult to see those registration numbers of many european coutries. It is definately not a good thing for the breed as this breed is not suitable for everyone. I wish the breeders would breed more quality than quantiti. We can also see the results in many countries were the breed has been banned or you need a special licens to own one.
Q5. You mentioned the health of your first US import as being the reason she wasn't bred. Are there any official health motivated (like ataxia or dysplasia) breeding restrictions from the Finnish Kennel Club? Or is it more of an unwritten rule? Did the breed club you helped found get involved officially in AmStaff selection regarding health tests?
Finnish amstaff club has been very much into health issues from the very first beginning. We started to x-ray hips from the very first beginning. By then the results were not so good, many dogs with bad hips. The problem was that the dogs didn't show clear symptoms before getting old and we needed to do a lot of teaching to get people to understand how important it is to try to breed for healthier hips and later also elbows. As it was in 1998 I bred my US import Int CH, WW-98 Stonecutters Arctic Night (Sindelars Roc X Legends Diamond in The Ruff) to an german bred male living in Poland. We were not that lucky with that breeding but finally got 1 male puppy out of that combination. It was a big strong puppy that growed very fast. At 7 months he started limping and some time later we found out he had elbow dysplasia. He was operated on his both elbows, never shown and of course never used for breedings. I still think that was my most expensive litter.... Anyway I started to talk about the problem and very soon figured out we had had some more operated elbows in the breed, they just never spoke about it. Elbow dysplasia is a lot more painful to the dog than mild hip dysplasia and very soon we started to do more testing on the elbows. Finnish Kennel Club has been very into health issues as well and started out with a genetical health screening system that we as a breed club applied for in a very early stage.
Today before we can registrate a litter, the both parents have to
have official hip and elbow scores with hips not under grade C and elbows not under grade 1. We also test eyes, but have not had any big issues with the eyes. Ataxia is of course something everybody check, even if it not something our kennel club ask for.
Q6. You are also a practice manager for three veterinary clinics in your capital city, so you have extra experience into the canine health field - what would you say are the optimal age and means of testing for hip/elbow dysplasya/means of interpreting?
Well we normally do test at the age of 1 year, just because I want to know what it looks like. If the hips or elbows are really bad, I know not to plan any breeding for that particular dog. Also it is very important for the owners who work with their dogs to know what they can do and maybe what not, for ex. bad elbows are not the best for agility.
The best result for the elbows are to check at 12 months, but many times the hips are best at 24 months. As many amstaffs, specially males mature very slowly and the hips might be still loose at 12 months. Sometimes they won't get better but many times they will get tighter when they mature. But helthy elbows or hips are healthy at any age, so don't fool yourself by telling the dog was too young, too old or in heat.
Q7. Did you notice other specific health problems that are typical of AmStaffs, during your breeding carreer?
Unfortunately skin problems are very common in our breed. Some are allergies but mostly I would say they are atopic, which makes it even worse. Skin problems are terrible to live with and I do not use them in breeding. If they have minor skin problems, that they do not need to be treated for I can leave with it, but if they need medication or treatment for it they are out of the breeding program.
Some heart problems we have, but luckily that is not a big number yet. That is something that should be kept in mind and I hope breeders would be more honest with their dogs.
Q8. You worked with many co-owners in showing or otherwise promoting Masterbolt AmStaffs. Were they mainly other Finnish breeders and fanciers or pet homes? How do you go about selecting the right humans for the dogs you breed?
Most of my co-owners are kind of pet homes. This is a way that has worked perfectly. I normally "keep" the best female and maybe the best male. Place them in a family that I know from before or people that I feel can be trusted. They pay the half of the puppy price which I will pay back if they are used for breedings. I will pay for the official health checks but otherwise they will take care of the dog as it would be their own. Sometimes I show them, sometimes they show them by themselves. Many people get very involved with showing as they once get a good dog.
I don't like to sell my puppies to other countries, I want to keep in contact with them. If you try to get a puppy from me don't promise me a lot of titles. Honestly I don't care for all the titles anymore, what I care for is that the dogs live a happy life as family members.
What really makes me sad are those great dogs that are shipped from country to an other just for showing and breeding. That is not a life of a dog, that is a life of an object. I have been asked many times to send one of my dogs over to be shown in other countries and never did. Only on one special occasion a female INT&Multi CH & multiW Masterbolt Feels Like Gold (Fraja Ec Gold Standard X Cold Rain Von Ronnys Red Company) was visiting Holland for I think 3 months, almost got the points for Dutch Ch and won the Dutch speciality. But she was living as a pet in the house all the time.
I have only sold less than 15 dogs to foreign countries, mostly to USA and all to people I know well and who share the same idea of a dogs life.
Q9. Given most of the dogs you show are placed in pet homes without a lot of previous experience, your involvement in their upbringing is undoubtly essential. Would you say preparing a puppy for show takes a lot of work - training and maintaining or achieving a certain physical condition, the so called ''show condition''? Do you ever also use proffessional handlers and how important do you think this specialized work is for a dog to be shown at their very best?
I don't usually use professional handlers, I do admire their work but I try to teach people to show their own dogs, and of course I still do show my dogs myself. I really enjoy watching American shows were se see mostly professional handlers and the dogs are all well trained and groomed. But to be honest I like the way shows are in Finland and many other European countries, where dogs are shown mostly by their owners and/or breeders. It is definately not a difficult task to teach your dog to behave in a showring. I don't mind a happy puppy in the ring, I don't mind if the dogs not stack perfectly but I do mind to see if people haven't trained at all. They will just ruin their dog and also disturb others. I also do mind seeing people teach their puppies to stack on these showstackers. I want my dogs to enjoy the shows, if they don't I don't show them. I used to do handling training for my breedings, these days I just cannot find time for that but I encourage people to go to training classes.
I don't think amstaffs need anything special for their physical training. If they are correctly built they will easy get in good physical condition. We might have cold winters in our country but playing in the snow is a great way to train up muscles.
Q10. You had the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by some of the very best in our breed. Twenty something years later, from your own experience with your co-owners and observing trends, would you say mentoring still plays as big a role as it did back in the day?
Unfortunately not! It seems that the internet is the key word to everything. New breeders don't ask for help as they can read everything on the web and so they will also know everything better. Of course it is a fact that it is a lot easier these days to find information, but I still do think there would be a lot to learn from the older breeders. I still have left pedigrees from great old dogs that I did myself. I looked in the old yearbooks to find pedigrees and relatives to my favorit dogs or to my own dogs, used colour pens to mark special dogs etc. Nobody does that anymore as you can just find it all on the web.
CIB FI SE EE LV LT CH LTW11 FIW 12&13 FI WCH (working CH) MASTERBOLT Hard to Get
Masterbolt Gold Rush 5months old winning 2nd in group at a puppy show
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Q11. What do you appreciate the most in an AmStaff's physical appearance and what do you emphasize in your selection? Is there a particular AmStaff you would say is your all time favourite?
In a well built amstaff I really like everything about it. The whole balance between a strong muscular dog and an agile well moving dog. They must have the typical strong head, stocky body and the deep strong front! We are really loosing the fronts, which means we are loosing the movement as well. There are many dogs I have admired over the years, but of course there is one dog over the rest for me and that is Fraja Ec Gold Standard aka Ozzie. When you saw him stacked he looked quite heavy, but when he started to move he was agile and not at all heavy. His daughter multi CH Masterbolt Feels Like Gold followed in his footsteps and was and still is a great example of the breed.
Q12. What changes - positive or negative - have you noticed over the years in the breed's appearance?
I already mentioned the fronts and I think that is a huge thing. This breed is not a bulldog, everything in amstaffs should be moderate, even if we different types. Somehow the fronts became wider and wider but there is no filling between the legs. They should have well angulated fronts to provide a long step. The elbows should be tight close to the body and there should be a well filled deep chest. If you look look from above you should see the front and the rear equal width, with a distinct reduction of girth at the loins.
Over all I think the size has come done, which is good. Have had some issues myself with dogs getting too big.
Q13. You recently became a judge, can you tell us more about the process it required and your experience so far? Having to judge and place a dog in a few minutes is very different from carefully studying and selecting dogs for breeding. What do you look for?
In our country it is a very long process before you become a judge. First of all you need to be a ring steward, you need to have been a member of the breed club for at least 10 years, you need to pass 2 breeder educations and you need a recommendation from your breed club. Then you have two tests, anatomy test and what is called dog eye test were you just explain breeds as you see them, not comparing to their standard. After this we have an interview and finally out of 68 persons we were 15 left. Our course took for 4 months with lessons every second weekend. Finally we had to pass a written test and a judging test with written critics that included 3 different breeds and total of 15 dogs. After passing all this we start to practice our own breed and finally have the judging test for it. Normally all this will take about a year to become a judge. Every new breed we first need to practice in the showring under an other judge and then finally do the judging test.
It is of course easier to judge a dog in the ring then it is to pick one for breeding. You don't have to worry about the pedigree or how the other dogs in the litter looked like.
Judging and finding the right stud dogs is many times a question of making compromises, you will maybe never find a perfect dog without any faults. But we judges should remember that by placing dogs with severe faults or health issues, are a signal to many people that now this dog is good for breeding.
Q14. Please tell us more about the AmStaffs you currently have, either at home or in co-ownership. Who are your current hopes and what are your intentions for them and your breeding plan?
The only female I have at home is not much of a showdog as she is too big (49,5cm) and too long in loin. I could excuse her size but not size and length. How ever she has a great pedigree, great body with a lovely head and expression, good bone and a wonderful temperament, so she had 2 litters and produced better size dogs than she was. I had a break in my breeding for almost 2 years when I was concetrating on my judges licens. Last fall I had 2 nice litters, they are all still very young but starting they show careers, many promising puppies there.
I always make a combination with a thought how I can go on in the next generation. So the plans are ready if the puppies grow up healthy and pretty. I specially hope for something nice out of one of the puppies in USA.
Q15. Thank you very much for your sharing so much with us and our readers! Looking forward to seeing you judge the Romanian specialty this summer!
You are welcome! Hope this gives some thoughts for other breeders and breed fanciers.
Looking forward to meeting you all and see some nice dogs!
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