Udson de l’etang de Mirloup stands out to me for his fantastic head type and expression. He is a Dogue that immediately catches your eye in the ring because of his wonderful type and substance.
One female that I have admired in recent years is Tyrannus Skyejacked by Emberez. Her head, expression, substance, wonderful shoulders and deep chest really caught my eye. That head type and the deep chest, giving the Dogue that low-to-the-ground build, is truly the essence of our breed.
Northland’s Goro (right) and Tess of Northland with judge Bas Bosch of Belgium.
What important characteristics do you feel are most often overlooked in Dogue de Bordeaux judging?
Correct head proportions (type) and proper movement. Judges need to remember that nearly half of our breed standard is dedicated to describing the features of the head. The importance of head type is also mentioned in the “General Appearance” section of the standard. In fairness to our judges, it is difficult to know head type simply from reading a description. You need to see it and study it. But not only do judges need to know good head type and expression; they must remember how much emphasis should be given to the head when judging.
Some judges do not seem to understand the proper build and the subsequent movement of our breed. Dogues are supposed to be stocky, muscular, and built rather close to the ground. And they have a very broad chest. This type of construction translates to a certain type of movement – in other words, it requires them to compensate in their movement. There is more convergence in the front and the feet turn out slightly. At the trot, they have such a reach in the front that the head drops.
Northland’s Molly, going Best of Opposite at Westminster in 2009, the breed’s first time showing at the Garden. Judge is Charles Trotter.
What virtues do you think are most difficult to maintain in the breed? Which faults are the most difficult to eradicate?
I believe we have a long way to go in this breed before positive characteristics are truly solidified. I see the breed as still hugely inconsistent. Of the exceptional Dogues out there, I am not aware of many that consistently pass on their virtues. That is because there are probably very few Dogues with multiple generations of a particular virtue behind them. So I am really unable give you a specific list of virtues and faults. At the risk of coming across as cynical, I have to say that with poor breeding choices you can lose pretty much any virtue and gain faults very quickly.
I can say that the most difficult problems to eradicate are health related, and in particular, cancers. Part of the reason for this is that by the time you lose a breeding Dogue at the young age of, say, five or six, he may have already spread his genes all around the world. And, unfortunately, breeders are not always forthcoming when it comes to health problems in their lines.
On a more positive note, I have seen improvements over the last 20 years that I have been involved in the breed. We definitely see much sounder Dogues, with stronger rears. This is probably due in part to the promotion of health testing.
Our breed’s modern-day history is quite short, but there have been some very dedicated, long-time breeders in Europe who have solidified certain characteristics in their lines, and have done a lot for the breed. But there have not been many. It takes many years of dedication and tremendous resources to make an impact in a breed.
The history of the breed in the U.S. is shorter yet, but there are several breeders that have stayed with this breed and are making a difference. We certainly have seen more consistency overall with each of the nine generations in our Northland line. But we continue to strive for the “perfect” Dogue de Bordeaux. It will take like-minded breeders around the world, working together to achieve more consistency and reduce the health problems in our breed.
What part of the AKC, FCI or KC standards do you think is most misunderstood? Is there any part of the standard you would change if you could?
Based on feedback I have received from AKC judges and exhibitors, white markings and the importance of head type. I have discussed head type quite a bit, so I will expand on the issue regarding white markings.
Do you think the Dogue de Bordeaux breed as a whole is suffering from hypertype?
I don’t think so. I think the French club has been successful in trying to correct that. Sure, there are those in the U.S. and in Europe breeding for hypertype, but I still see more Dogues lacking in type than I do hypertypical Dogues. The Dogue de Bordeaux is not a Bulldog, but it is also not a hound or a retriever. The muzzle is quite short, and the jaw is curved and undershot. A good Bordeaux head is quite striking and bully.
The Dogues that lack type also tend to lack substance. As I stated earlier, the Dogue de Bordeaux is supposed to be stocky and muscular, have strong bone, and be built rather close to the ground. Not as extreme as a Bulldog, but, again, I see more Dogues without enough of these bully features than those with too much. This lighter-built Dogue that is often lacking in width and depth of chest tends to have a more free movement or smooth gait, and holds its head higher when moving out. This is not correct for the breed, although some judges seem to find it appealing. We do not want to lose some of the important characteristics of our breed so we can better compete in the Group ring.