THE PHILIPPINE AMERICAN BULLDOG REVOLUTION
By: Carl Michael G. de Leon | Team Kovu | Kamadala Kennels
The Philippine American Bulldog Revolution (PABR) was an initiative kickstarted by Team Kovu last February 11, 2017 at the ERK-9 Training Field in Sucat Paranaque. The initiative aimed to educate the American Bulldog (AB) owners of this generation more about the breed and on how to start improving it for the better. To make things even clearer, the PABR is not a club, wherein AB owners will need to be a member first to learn something about the breed. This initiative is a movement as the term “revolution” both literally means “to effect change in society” and “a procedure or course as if in a circuit to go back to a starting point”. This is what Team Kovu is truly driving at to the local AB community. The first is to change the way this generation is seeing and keeping the AB breed, as experience have taught me, there are definitely much more ways to enjoy the breed than just marvelling at its commanding looks and physique. The second is that I want to bring the community back closer to where the AB came from and the very reason for its existence.
As a brief background, the American Bulldog breed reached our islands in the mid 1990s and have started to peak its popularity even before the turn of the millennium. Though, even before the breed reached the same level of popularity the other working breeds in the country have reached, the breed encountered a few bumps along the way. By the year 2007, the breed has started to take a backseat from the country’s preferred working breed list. From this point on and the years to come, the breed have been quiet and the people behind whom the breed can consider as its pioneer caretakers in the country started to slowly fade away and/or just chose to keep things to themselves and live with the breed quietly at the sidelines. Even I am guilty of just taking things silently and just worked on my own to continuously improve and promote the breed. Those years of silence have given the breed a serious blow as serious deterioration starts to claim the breed in the country and this is putting it mildly if “extinction” is such a strong word to use at this point in time. Lack of guidance for the new and would-be owners of the breed from the seasoned and passionate AB owners is one factor to consider. The other is the lack of conformation shows for the AB breed to continuously evaluate the country’s current stocks and more importantly, the lack of performance events to test the working character and potential of the breed. These factors have all piled up and left the breed in the country without any clear direction on where it is heading and on how it can survive for generations to come!
When two former American Bulldog enthusiasts visited and gave support to me and my American Bulldog Zazu, in one of our Mondioring trial competitions, we happen to exchange some AB talks and a little bit of what have transpired since the good ol’ days of the breed in the country. Fast forward to current times where I just found myself the only one left to outspokenly stand and promote the breed to the local dog community since it started to take a backseat. It then just dawned on all of us to give the community another try... to call out as many of this generation’s owners and would-be owners of the AB breed, as well as, the surviving or pioneering owners of the breed. Through the years, I have been receiving messages and have had a few talks with fellow AB enthusiasts about their intent and enthusiasm to bring back the glory days of the breed in the country, but all objectives remain to be realized. The constant cycle of unrealized objectives to reinvigorate the breed helped bring out a little cynical impression on me to the local AB community. However, deep down, I still know that time will come when not just one person will want change, but the entire community.
The invitation was sent out to all known local American Bulldog groups to step-up and accept the challenge of reviving the breed’s vigor in the country. Come the day of the gathering, I’ve counted seventeen (17) American Bulldogs present at the venue with participants coming all the way from Fairview, Quezon City, Malolos Bulacan, Montalban Rizal, Marikina City, and as far as Ilocos Sur. First and foremost, for these guys to come out of their comfort zones with their dogs in tow and to endure the long travel hours knowing how bad traffic is nowadays in the metro is already a very commendable act for their dogs and the breed as well! That is how one epitomizes their true love for their dogs and not just in mere and overly used words and claim of one’s “love” of their dog!
Welcoming all the participants was so personal for me. I have been alone trying to work, improve, and campaign the breed in my own little ways for years now. Seeing all those American Bulldogs in one place at the same time was indeed a sight to behold! I intentionally envisioned to make the gathering a very casual one and even reluctantly classify the gathering as an “event”. I opted for an atmosphere where any regular AB owners can just come and enjoy without worry of any prior preparation needed on their part nor from their dogs. The raw behaviour that they will exhibit at the gathering the better, as it will provide me and my team a more accurate assessment of their dogs. Usually, as with other Team Kovu events, we let the dogs do the talking and let them take centerstage. It is only after such that the humans get to talk as there is now some basis on what to talk about. We should not settle for just mere words and stories, since we are keepers of a working breed we should be working with them on gatherings such as this. Another reason for me to use the term “participants” rather than just “attendees”!
To start the ball rolling, the first order of business was to establish and make it clear to everyone that the American Bulldog is a working breed and we need to keep it that way. With that unified understanding established, it is now time to brief the participants on what will happen next as I really wanted to make the most of that day and make all their efforts worthwhile. All participants together with their very own American Bulldogs got to experience what it is like to be working side-by-side. Helping the team evaluate and bring out all the participating AB’s working potential is Ferdinand “Choy” Aureus, Team Kovu’s preferred training partner when working with the AB breed. After the participants have experienced working with their very own dogs, the time to hold a discussion on their experience followed. The gathering then offered its participants first hand stories and information from the good ol’ days of the breed by one of the original American Bulldog owners in the country, Redd Fuster. I would like to further qualify the gathering as a success in terms of providing the participants with a glimpse and "just a glimpse" on what it is truly like to have and to be working side-by-side with the American Bulldog breed! One of our objectives on that day was to excite participants by witnessing it first hand with their very own dogs. We wanted them to look beyond what this generation of AB owners is usually seeing and have accepted from the breed for years already. It is only then, that I demonstrated the other working capabilities of the American Bulldog breed through my personal American Bulldogs just to show them what the breed is truly capable of if they continue to persevere and harness its true potentials.
The launch was just to provide a glimpse on the possibilities AB owners can do with their dogs. I do understand that it will be too much information for the participants to take in to share all the years of information that I have gathered regarding the breed in just one day. It will certainly be a long journey ahead and what transpired was just the first step. The PABR initiative must first break the barriers thwarting the continuous growth of the breed in the country. AB standards and conformation topics are such a very divisive issue and though I believe that “form follows function”, I still draw a fine line leaning to function as I really give more weight for the working breed’s ability to perform work effectively and efficiently. The initiative just needs to find the common ground on where to start solidifying the foundation of the local AB community moving forward. So why not start on the very purpose of why the breed was originally bred for years ago?
I would like to further stress out two points about the American Bulldog breed. The first point is that the breed is a working breed, and if we claim to passionately and genuinely love the breed, we will definitely need to keep it that way. Hard as it may sound, but having limited means in terms of both financial and resources readily available is NO excuse not to maintain the breed as it should be. The second point is about the breed’s ability to protect its humans and its territory has nothing and should not be the basis for getting discriminated as an aggressive breed! Neither should owners be ashamed or hide the truth of the breed’s history and/or full capabilities to the public. Honestly, AB owners DO NOT deserve the breed if they deny the breed of its true potentials and not educate the general public on what an American Bulldog truly is. I strongly believe that it is a part of their responsibility to the breed. Let me further emphasize that the American Bulldog breed was originally bred to be farm protectors so through the years they are bred to do that particular job and that is what we call their life’s reason for existence. Fast forward to our modern times, a lot of the owners would claim that their original purpose is no longer applicable or even practical to be maintained from the breed, especially here in our country. Disappointingly, I honestly say that this kind of thinking from fellow AB owners is what will lead the breed to its eventual extinction! If we bred out the very reason why the breed was created years ago, then I dare say that it will cease to be an American Bulldog! Even though there is truth in the claim that the breed’s original purpose is no longer practical in our modern times, that is still no reason to deny the breed of its true working capabilities and potentials. That is why we have alternatives such as dog sports tailor-made for the breed like the Iron Dog competitions, which hopefully through the PABR initiative will help pave the way for the said AB dog sport to finally materialize in the country!
In closing of the gathering, participants were given tips on how they can further improve what they have discovered in their ABs that day. A few truly passionate AB enthusiasts can only do so much for the entire American Bulldog breed in the country, it will really take a whole community to effect recognizable and significant change. As for Team Kovu, we will always be there to support those who truly wants to learn more about the breed, but we can also only do so much and the best we can do is point people to the right path for the breed. Current and would-be AB owners will just have to walk the rest of the way towards that common goal of achieving recognition of the country housing some of the best kept working American Bulldogs in the world.
So to cap it all off, I still believe that the American Bulldog breed is one of the total family dog package! They are good with kids and they take protecting their territories very seriously and that is how they should be for the generations to come! So, I left the group with a couple of questions that I want them to ponder on… what and where do they want to see the American Bulldog breed for the generations to come? Once they have answered that question, then the time to act is now… and so the revolution begins!
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