Long before the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club, Dogue fanciers overseas fretted about the American tendency to “improve” any new breed that comes their way. Capitulating to the magnetic pull of the group ring, many U.S. handlers tend to push a breed into a more generic presentation so it can be “competitive” – even if that direction is antithetical to the essence of the breed.
“One danger with the Americans, you know, is even if they don’t change standards, they change dogs,” Dogue de Bordeaux icon Prof. Raymond Triquet told this magazine back in 2009. “I tell you, frankly, that when you give the Americans a dog, they turn it into another breed in 10 years’ time.”
So far, Triquet said, that hadn’t happened with the Dogue, thanks in large part to the parent club’s insistence on bringing in European judges, “real connoisseurs of the breed,” to keep type on track.
And not all the changes are for the worse, he noted.
“The movement of dogs in America as a whole is much better than in Europe. No doubt about that,” Prof. Triquet agreed in that interview. “The danger is to have all dogs moving like Afghan Hounds, which is not natural at all. Americans train their dogs very early and quickly. And so the dogs generally have a very good action, but sometimes much too supple, flowing, light, because the Dogue de Bordeaux cannot be light.”
So far, the American tendency to drift in the direction of more “elegant” – which in the end means lighter boned and more refined – also hasn’t happened with the Dogue de Bordeaux. These are still substantial dogs, true Molossers.
And their gait should reflect that. At the trot, the Dogue – which has so much mass concentrated in its forequarters – should be expected to have a head that drops, and sometimes the topline with it.
Above are some video clips of “Skye” (Multi-Ch. Tyrannus Skyejacked by Emberez), a British-bred bitch that has won just about everything there is to win in Dogue circles. Her movement is certainly typical for a Dogue, and her head is not elevated. The final video segment contrasts her movement to that of the Great Dane behind her – a striking example of how the “flashier” movement of other breeds might tempt handlers to fiddle with theirs.
In a word: Don’t.
The American Effect
When a breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club, two things almost always improve, if they were ever lacking. And that is temperament and movement. Intolerance for any sign of aggression during the exam means that most U.S. show dogs are at least trained to suppress any desire to bite or growl. (This is the main reason why the Fila Brasileiro will likely never see AKC acceptance: The AKC system simply cannot accommodate a breed that not only should not accept the touch of a stranger, but needs to be disqualified for doing so!) But arguably this can also be taken too far, when extreme “showiness” can defy a breed character that is supposed to be noble and reserved. Indeed, the AKC standard for the Mastiff was amended to note that while shyness or viciousness should never be condoned, “conversely, judges should also beware of putting a premium on showiness.” Americans also tend to make breeds sounder, demanding a degree of efficiency at the gait that many overseas countries are willing to forgo in the face of desirable type. Again, this is probably due to the demands of the American group ring: Plodders are outshone by exuberant trotters who display that unfortunate acronym, TRAD (tremendous reach and drive), even if such a gait is not correct for their breed. This emphasis on movement can even force a change in breed silhouette: Are Bullmastiffs, which are supposed to be almost square, getting ever-more rectangular (a real no-no, as it is a reversion to Mastiff type), because it is far more difficult to breed a square dog whose front and rear do not collide at the trot?