Interview w/ Ovidiu Anton
The All Purpose Dog magazine
Interview w/ Ovidiu Anton (România)
People in Romania know Ovidiu Anton as a rock musician and winner of the National Eurovision selection. Dog fanciers in Romania and abroad know him from the dog shows, where he's been getting top results in AmStaff for years now, or through the dogs born in his kennel, which go on to become companions, champions or internationally recognized top producers. Ovidiu told us more about how he shares his time between his two great passions.
Q1: You're a musician and have been active in the Romanian showbusiness ever since you were a kid. Having such a personality defining profession, how did dogs fit into your lifestyle, and what was it about Amstaffs that drew you so much as to dedicate such a big chunk of your time to them?
Hi! Yes, indeed I can say that music in my life started along with my first words, so I don't have any memories of my life that music isn't a part of. Besides the music though, my biggest passion was nature and animals, from the smallest to the biggest, domesticated or wild, but especially dogs.
I loved them since I was very young and enjoyed their company mostly through my friends because at first my parents weren't very thrilled with the idea of having a dog in an apartment.
I started, little by little, to study several breeds, and I wasn't superficial about it either, because I'm very dedicated to my passions. I don't have many hobbies, but the ones I have get my full and undivided attention and resources.
It wasn't long before I stopped at the American Staffordshire Terrier, its aspect, as well as its character, its entire aura, they all captivated me. I also met specimens that confirmed what I had been reading, and I believe it was around 16 years of age that I knew this was the breed for me. A dynamic breed, a compact dog, not very large, but with a force in obvious disproportion to its size, a vivid desire of being around their human and feeling the things they do with and for their human. Brave and dominant among dogs, happy to be with people, a sportsman, a companion, a friend, and a guard that doesn't step aside when the situation calls for his guarding instincts.
My first AmStaff came as a bet, a challenge set by my transitioning career: rock was losing ground, I was singing mostly in rehearsals and the pressure towards mainstream was mounting. Long story short, during a parently conversation, my mother told me I could make a compromise and participate in the Mamaia festival, which would put me back on the musical industry radar. I said fine! I'll do it, but if I won a prize, I'd come home with a dog.
So in 2003 I left for Sibiu, where I knew a litter with Fraja and Sindelar bloodlines was born. I had chosen beforehand the pup with the spotted eye, and I was right not to be late, because, as his breeder Ciprian Stoia tells me to this day and we often laugh about, he wasn't expecting me to come, and if some other client would have got there before me, I wouldn't be able today to say that I'm the proud owner of the dog that changed my life: Apache Born To Be Wild - Rico.
I didn't want to be a breeder back then, I had no such plans, my life was split between music, Rico and... the rest of the world, but I went to conformation shows with my dog and I started winning, from the first exhibition, BOB, reserve BOG, then BOB again, reserve JBIS, reserve BIS... and of course there's no way such experiences, the environment, people and dogs, don't leave an impression so, after reflecting for a while, I realised that, for people after years and years to experience the joy I was living then by having such an extraordinary Amstaff, it takes other people to assume the responsibility of carrying the breed forward.
Thus my kennel, Praetorian Staff, came into being, and today I can say I live a happy life, with good and bad, but happy, surrounded by my family and involved only in things that I'm passionate about, my music and my dogs.
Q2: What would you say was the atmosphere in the Amstaff community and the quality of the dogs back then? You made imports and used imported dogs ever since the beginning of your activity as a breeder - when Romania was still isolated and it wasn't as easy as today to communicate with breeders and fanciers across the world. Tell us a few things about this - how difficult was that for you and what were you set to achieve?
There was already good quality in the breed, thanks to a few reputable and dedicated breeders, but the stock was different, there weren't so many dogs, there weren't so many possibilities as today, information, contacts, communicating wasn't so easy. Though there was internet back then as well, few kennels had websites, and you were most likely to get in touch with someone by meeting them in shows. The atmosphere was the same as today, the same as the breed we raise, friendships, egos, competitivity, a lot of enthusiasm and determination, which, in my opinion, led to a constant evolution in the quality of the Amstaff in our country.
I didn't start with females, as I said I didn't have this plan, so I started building around my male, searching for females that would be right for him, at least in my perception.
The first female was also from STOIAS kennel, out of Apache Born To Be Wild's litter sister, American Beauty, and the star stud of another good friend, Cristian Ciolpan - Thunder Rock's English Empire. Then I started to look a bit further from the country's borders and made my first import from Ukraine, Flamenco Amica de MAM. Then came Fraja EC Thundercloud's daughter, A Walk to the Clouds O'Class, Cuda's Mammamia from Italy, Loch Ness Tipit Z Hanky from the Czech Republic, I rented from Serbia a male that was imported from Poland -
Get Together Again Lesoto, then there were other imports from Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia, and the newest member of our kennel is from Spain - Cans Juansa kennel.
I think it takes quality to produce quality, I don't believe in good dogs out of mediocre breedings and I'm of the opinion that any compromise made in reproduction eventually backfires.
I kept bringing new dogs, but I used them especially to consolidate and improve the line I wanted to follow. It was very important to me to have a continuity and not breed just dogs I bought. I'm not saying there's something wrong with that, or judging, each breeder is free to do whatever they want with their time and money, but it's just not my way.
Today, I'm glad to say I have six successive generation of my own dogs, starting with Apache Born To Be Wild -> Praetorian Staff Sexy Lady -> Praetorian Staff Born To Crush You -> Praetorian Staff Glamour -> Praetorian Staff Original Sin and Oak Smoke, that gave me my U and J litter, out of which I can most notably mention Praetorian Staff Unleash the Beast and Praetorian Staff Jar, that I plan to use further.
For me, it's a big achievement to have good results with own-bred dogs out of my own-bred dogs, dogs with a fruitful career both in Romania and abroad, for example Glamour is an AKC Champion and Praetorian Staff Born to Crush You has descendants all around the world.
The breeding work ain't easy, but I took the responsibility and, as long as I feel I do some good for the breed and that my work is being appreciated, I find the strength to carry on.
Q3. The conditions for finishing the championship got more and more accessible over time, at least in our country. You witnessed, starting with Rico - who, by the way, has a lot of titles abroad as well, am I right? - several regulations and periods. How much does the show career mean to you, what do you think is important for a dog to achieve in their career and what is it that you appreciate in a judging?
Indeed, the requirements for a dog to become a champion kept changing in favor of accessibility, and not of thoroughness. Besides the number of titles, more important, from my point of view, was that mandatory time between the first and last title needed, something that practically required the dog to be shown in different classes, or in different periods of development. A dog that wins both in intermediate and in open, in different show seasons, basically they confirm their value through continuity. With pretty easy regulations, the Champion title begins to lose its value and meaning.
To me, the show career holds an important place, it's, I believe, a pride for any breeder, to have winning dogs. Remember, the titles don't make a dog more handsome than they are, neither does their lacking guarantee a dog isn't valuable, but still, if, from different opinions of different judges, the common ground is the appreciation of the same specimen - that says something about that dog's quality or their place in the time's trends. After all, I think more important than titles is the breeder's eye and their ability to realistically balance their own opinions, preferences and the breed standard when evaluating their bred dogs.
What I appreciate in a judging? I appreciate an argumented, consistent and homogenous judging, that the judge stands by, even if my own opinions aren't in accordance with it. I'm aware of the diversity of typicality the breed is faced with and I can accept someone else's vision, even more so if it's applied to all the judged dogs and the judge makes a mark in a certain direction, I respect this.
To conclude, for me showing is not a search but a confirmation, I don't form opinions of dogs from judgings but try through them to prove what I personally believe and see in my dogs. At the end of the day, I go my way, trust my judgement, and, for me, if a dog is good, remains good, no matter the judge or titles.
Q4. You speak of certain trends over time, in what's appreciated in conformation shows. How much do you think these trends helped achieve an ideal, according to the standard, how did they help the breed, or, if the contrary is true, that they harmed it, how?
Trends affect the momentary perception, but the real, involved breeders, that make a mark on the breed's evolution, carry their own way whether they're advantaged by the trend or not. Those that get ''trendy'' dogs without trying to understand the breed, to recognise the patterns, to form an opinion more or less informed by the standard, usually fade away as well along with the... trend :-). After all, a trend does nothing but increase the number of trendy specimens, it doesn't kill anyone. Anyway, no matter the trends, whether large, small, red, black, all kinds of types specific to certain countries were preffered, I noticed a good, moderate, classic, typical Amstaff will always be trendy.
Praetorian Staff Oak Smoke
Praetorian Staff Oak Smoke
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Q5. What were you after, in all this diversity of typicality, what would you say is important to you about this breed's appearance that is typically found in Praetorian Staff dogs? And if there's something you'd like to improve in the future, what would it be?
I breed dogs the same way I make music, a good song needs lyrics and melody and instruments, and a message, and a logic and soul... and it must be interpreted well :-) everything is important in Amstaffs as well, at least for me.
A lot of people are all about the head... well, dogs don't walk with their head :-) I believe a head is the easiest to correct, with a bit of luck you can have it within a generation, but a wrong topline, an undesirable rear... those can follow you for generations. Not to mention faults anyone that compares some pictures can observe, I'll give as an example something that a lot of people praise, without understanding the breed's particularities. The very sharp posterior angle, the long tibia, which some see as spectacular, I find incompatible with the ''springy'', typical gait described by the breed standard.
And, I saved this one for last so as not to go unnoticed :-) - a song without a soul is not art, it's just sound, so an AmStaff is not just a picture, it has to be that legendary dog, loyal, courageous, loving, untiring that doesn't back down from any challenge.
A breeder's work is never done because whatever it is that you want to improve can also bring with it - if it comes - some change that maybe you didn't want to make... so you have a new mission for the next breeding to come back and try to preserve what you did well and bring back what you liked most. You have to try to succeed and only those who didn't try never made mistakes, so the breeding work doesn't stop, and time will tell if we're successful or not.
What I would like to change?
I'd like to change the way the AmStaff is perceived, unfortunatelly, because of the wrong people that are attracted - even them - by this wonderful breed.
Q6. How do you feel has this perception changed since you've been active in this field, and what should be done, by all those who love this breed, for it to change for the good? You got involved including in organising a club show - which do you think is the role of the breed club in this aspect?
Many times I get these different, opposite reactions, I mean, even though something's changed in the information we get and I see more and more families with children embracing this breed, there's still scepticism because of the stories and erroneous image given by either the sensationalist media coverage or the unfit people that get to own, generally, bull type terriers. Those that love this breed need to educate their dogs and promote the real image of the AmStaff, a complete dog, loving, a trusted companion and loyal guardian of the family, which doesn't back down but isn't a public threat either. Not lastly, the fans of the breed - given this unfair reputation - should be an example among dog owners, avoid incidents, respect the laws that regulate owning AmStaffs and acquire pedigreed pups, out of judged parents, from reputable breeders.
A breed club should activate in three directions. One would be maintaining a connection between breeders, owners, through group activities, either seminaries or simply friendly gatherings. Another would be to implement campaigns to promote the breed for those that don't know it, for amateurs, for owners that aren't involved cynologically, for the greater public, either, for instance, through breed presentations, sports or simply fun competitions, or PR interventions, I mean online, on TV, in the press. A third aspect, is, of course, organising strong specialty shows in which cynology fanciers can show their work, measure their ''forces'' and this way, through a healthy, fair competition, for all of us to evolve and breed better and better dogs.
The conclusion would be that its the activities that are organised and the people involved that together define the quality, strength and authenticity of a breed club.
Q7. A lot of us first saw Amstaffs or pitbulls in hip hop videos, the image of a tough, urban dog. It can be said that your message in music matches your ideal about the temperament and essence of the breed: courage, loyalty, pride. Do you think the AmStaff is a ''rock'' dog? Have you ever thought about connecting it or somehow integrate it in your music, either lyrically or just visually?
The Amstaff is definitely a rock dog, both in regards to its temperament and its appearance, it fits a strong message. Dogs and music take up all my time, so I don't necessarily feel the need to blend them. If it'll happen naturally, I will.
Q8. Being a prolific enough breeder, you probably deal with all sorts of people when you're looking for homes for the dogs you breed. What interests you the most when you pick a future AmStaff person?
Most of all, and I really want to stress this, regardless of other aspects, I'm interested that any dog that leaves our kennel finds a loving home that provides them with optimal care for a beautiful life.
Q9. During your life as an AmStaff fancier, you probably had different lifestyles, you lived both in a flat and a house on the ground, you've been more or less busy - which do you think is the best environment for an AmStaff, what are this breed's necessities, what do they require in order to lead the best possible life?
The AmStaff is easily adaptable both in a yard and in a flat. They need love and interaction with their family, walks, sports and last but not least, education, but, wherever they are, as long as they're close to their family, as its members, they're the happiest dogs!
Q10. You have a considerable number of AmStaffs and, in the recent years, you started acquiring and breeding other breeds, along with your wife. How do so many different temperaments get together, what is their routine and how much time do you need to dedicate to them?
My wife lived around Dobermanns since she was a child and, in time, she too made the transition from simple owner to the adventure of breeding them, but the rest of the breeds we have are just a hobby, so we're not breeders, we just enjoy the company of some dogs of other breeds and a few dogs that we rescued from the streets. Some get along well and hang around together, others don't and live separately, each dog has their routine. Time is limited, people shouldn't forget that, so, if you take on the responsibility of more dogs, that means less time for each of them.
Q11. You too worked with AmStaffs, with Rico, for instance, a long time ago, attack work. What do you think about the AmStaffs in this regard, compared to other, traditionally working breeds, especially since for a few years you also have dobermanns in your kennel, bred and raised by your wife. What activities do you think they're best fit for, are they, indeed, an ''all purpose dog''?
The AmStaff is, indeed, a complete dog, that's good at everything. Its strong character and dose of independence perhaps don't necessarily recommend it compare to other breeds that were made for this, but it's a dog that, with knowledge, time and work, turns out to be apt for almost anything and at the same time, a dog that doesn't require from us as much as a working breed does. After all, there are breeds and breeds and there are always advantages and disadvantages, that's why we need to know ourselves and what we want from our life, to share it with the right dog for our lifestyle and activities we want to engage in with them.
Praetorian Staff L.A.
Praetorian Staff Unleash the Beast
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Q12. What do you think about the breed specific legislation, and dog legislation in general, in our country? Do you think it helps, or, the opposite, harms, and what's it like for you, as a breeder, what are its pros and cons?
There's legislation, but it isn't applied. I'd find it polite for all dogs to be walked on a leash and for some of them to wear muzzles especially in public, leisure spaces. Of course, no one respects that anywhere, but it's only those with ''bad reputation'' dogs that are targeted. I'd like to see those in such a hurry to fine the owner of an unmuzzled AmStaff do the same about a German Shepherd that's unleashed in the park or a labrador that comes to my dog and tries showing they're though as well, or to remember the law that doesn't permit reproducing dogs in this category that don't have a pedigree.
I respect the law so the law specifically doesn't bother me. I'm bothered by the fact that it's applied preferentially, to easy targets and nothing more, this proving, of course, the general quality of police everywhere.
Q13. Two of your most recent acquisitions are tied to Osorio de Cans Juansa - son and grandson, and, implicitly, of a dog that's historical to Romania and not only - Sindelar's Shane. Are you trying to go back to the roots? :-) What are your future plans, that you can share with us, of course.
As I said before, the breeder work means steps forward and steps back, win some, lose some, the same as I won some things along the way I lost others, I try to gain new things and bring back some of the lost and so on, it's obviously a neverending work. But I'm not beating around the bush, yes, I made a decision for the next breedings and I wanted not one but two males, to have more liberty to work with the bloodlines. They both finished their championships very fast and will, hopefully, go on to confirm as producers as well. As for Sindelar's Shane, it's not the target of my plans nor the reason for them, so to say, as well as not being a novelty for my line.
My future plans include using Praetorian Staff Uneash the Beast in order to continue working on successive generations of own bred dogs.
Praetorian Staff Touch of Evil
Praetorian Staff Kashmir
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Q14. By the way, do you have an ideal AmStaff, a certain dog in the entire history of the breed that left a lasting impression on you and consider to be a model?
It's hard to have a certain specimen as a model, because ideals are usually goals towards which we strive for a lifetime, but if I were to name a representative for each of the sexes, without hesitation they'd be Sindelar's Touch O'Class Orion and Fraja EC Winning Ticket.
Q15. Recently, there are more and more all-breed and specialty exhibitions in our country and nearby - where would you most like to attend? You're one of the breeders that always showed their dogs themselves - how important do you think handling is in the correct evaluation of a dog and how hard it is to do a good job in this aspect?
Given my artistic activity, time doesn't really allow me to consider that many shows. When I'm free and if a show that I can attend happens to take place, it's a great joy for me to meet friends. With time, that enthusiasm of showing everywhere whithered, I'm happy to see my dogs in my yard and play with them, to chose breedings and see my bred by dogs, because after all, the most important cynologycal competition is with the standard and one's own vision and the best judge for their dog is the breeder themself. Each one's success depends on skills, the ability to be hard to please or the ease of self sufficience.
Everything about a dog's presence in the ring is important, and implicitly handling as well, because a dog needs to be shown at their best in a short amount of time. There's no time and place for wrong steps. And I mentioned showing the dog in the best light because the simplest thing when analising a dog is to notice general, even trivial faults, easy to spot for anyone that knows a bit of anatomy, and people easily get lost in faults, but the most important thing when you describe a dogs, as well as when you show it, is to know its qualities, advantages, and knowing how to emphasize them. To do that, it takes studying and the capacity to understand and evaluate the breed's typicality.
Praetorian Staff Unleash the Beast
Praetorian Staff Kashmir
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Q16. You're a reputable breeder with very good results for several years already, have you thought about becoming a specialized judge as well?
I've been asked that question by many people and encouraged to become a judge, which, I must admit, flatters me, it's nice to see that, regardless of personal tastes and chosen direction, people would like to find my opinion about their dogs. I'm thinking about it, but I haven't made a decision about this so far.
Q17. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. In the end, if you have any advices for the (fair share of) new AmStaff breeders, or any other closing words, be our guest!
I thank you for this interview and, as a generic advice, I'll tell those that start on this road the same thing I tell those that take their first steps in music, and I think it applies to any field:
Respect what you chose to do, don't try to trick cynology, because, in the long run, you only trick yourselves and, after all, undoubtly, the results will be according to the effort.
Last but not least, breed what you like, with the standard near you, as a balance, but what you, not me, your friend or the competition likes or what's trendy on the internet or what's preffered in shows at a certain time. The road will be long and rocky because, regardless of how it looks from the outside, breeding dogs is no fairytale, but when you breed what you like and that makes you happy, you'll have the strength to go on through all the difficult moments and each of you get to write their own page in the Romanian cynology and the history of the breed. I wish you all too achieve this, because you success is basically the future of the American Staffordshire Terrier.
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