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Let’s Talk Dogs

It has been many years since we won the case in Supreme Court for freedom of press for our breed and for the American heritage of hunting. Now we can “talk dogs” !

Let’s Talk Dogs, by Bob Stevens                                                                     


  For those who don’t know, back in 2003, the federal government sent a tactical assault force to our home and served a search warrant in the early morning night (which is illegal) and closed down our business, which included my book, Dogs of Velvet and Steel.  I had completed two documentaries (much milder and more informative than Dateline and Animal Planet’s foolish, nonsensical “documentaries”) on pit fighting in Japan (where it is legal and I had no idea it would be any trouble) and an international  (only two short five minute snippets from very old, in America – the rest equally old outside America) one.  Mine were true documentaries in which I edited out ALL blood or rough scenes as the genre was to educate and journalize history (in contrast to Dateline, Animal Planet, etc. – their motif was to sensationalize with fabricated, exaggerated nonsense).  Well with the help of folks like Gary Hammonds, Tom Lundberg, Jade Harris, Glenn Bui, T. Michael Riddle, Dr. Brisbin, and ‘ol Bill Stewart, protest letters from folks like Dick Stratton and Pat Patrick, Jade Harris, and organizations like the EBA, ADBA, NRA, Hunting organizations, libertarians, our attorney Pattie Millett (I can’t continue – or I’ll bore the reader and fill the whole story), we prevailed.  Bottom line (indeed I came up from seven years on the bottom) – the liars, the crafty, the cunning, the dissenters, lost – and the God of our universe won.  So after all that, I did what would have cost the government (hence taxpayers) nothing more than a postage stamp to inform me I MIGHT have violated some obscure, unknown at the time statute about animal depiction.  I am simply taking those Pit Bull documentaries of the market!  Gee whiz – I would think that would have been a whole lot simpler! 

            Okay – so now that we have a free right to journalism – LET’S TALK DOGS.

When we won the case, the Lone Star Pit Bull Club show (made possible by Tom Lundberg and Club) paid for me to go to Texas and give a freedom speech.  The thrill  – was to see how the breed has evolved since I was shut down – it was  –  –  –  I don’t have the words.  I saw pedigrees of dogs whose foundation blood – were dogs I knew – you feel old!  I saw a more mature, evolved, show ring.  When I was active in the shows in the 1980’s, so many people got mad at the judges when THEIR dog didn’t get a ribbon.  Many of the dogs were unconditioned, fat, round bellies – despite clear show standards.  I used to think – “this is not how it should be – it is supposed to be a fun show to enjoy the companionship, talk dogs, and who cares if the dog doesn’t get the top ribbon, for goodness sake – are we AKC – are we going to act like those people?”  Well – with harder work than most can imagine, the ADBA and the Pit Bull club members have made the shows as originally envisioned.  This is what I saw, clear as a mountain lake.  I saw not one single disgruntled participant, no attitude problems.  Everyone enjoyed each other.  Some drove 18 to 24 hours straight to participate.  And the children!  Folks it brought tears to my old eyes to see children carrying crates, walking dogs like experienced dogmen, showing dogs – there is our future and we didn’t used to have it.  Even the lowest placing dog appeared conditioned and well fed.  I didn’t see any dogs that were not good representations of the breed and it was like drinking cold clear mountain water after drinking polluted water for years.  Yes it has grown and in the opinion of this old timer it can still grow more.  Moreover, it is not just good for the breed –  –  –  it is critical.  To me the Pit Bull clubs represent one of the best ways to educate the public’s damaged image of our breed.  So I’ll share some suggestions designed to make these healthy activities even more attractive.  With that in mind, I’ll begin by rewriting a portion of an article I wrote once entitled The Ultimate Fighting Challenge.  Here goes –  –  -.

            You may have seen them fighting in the arena.  Some show great ability, swapping holds, trying for the rear leg. Some going for the throat hold, sometimes on top, sometimes on the bottom.  The good ones somehow always have a hold whether on top or on the bottom.  Some are able to win from the bottom.  Some have a lot of power and that power along with deep heart  carries them to win the contest even though their ability is less than their opponent.  Some are very slick and don’t need power.  When an ace is in there, sometimes it doesn’t last long and he ends it quick and his opponent is picked up.  When two super stars meet it is a real battle and can last a good long time.  In most of the good ones, they go in flurries until both are breathing hard and they both lay there, one on top, one on the bottom, until one catches his breath and a bit of strength seeps back into his legs and he starts and they both wrestle around some more.  Most of the time they roll around throwing each other’s weight around and vying for position until one gets a finishing hold, or one is too fatigued to continue. 

            Aha!  Thought I was describing a dog fight from the old says huh?  These are human athletes competing in the no-holds-barred, mixed martial arts.  The relevancy is a concept in athletics called  sport specific training.  Fish were born to swim, eagles were born to fly, and the Pit Bull –   –  –  well.  They weren’t born to lay around Pharaoh’s court.  If I had a bulldog I wanted to shape for the show ring, I would want my dog to do for the show ring world what Arnold did for the body building world – sort of.  Large bulbous muscle is not performance muscle.  I call body building muscle plastic muscle.  Large muscle requires a lot of oxygen and it burns oxygen like nobody’s business and you can gas out on it.  Muscle is heavy – its fast – but heavy.  Research shows that elite athletes can perform very significantly better if they can lose as little as ten pounds from their already lean body structure.  So you want the striated, corded muscularity of a panther, not a draft horse – unless you have the genetics of a draft horse, or if human of a power lifter.  But I would bring my dog into the show ring with very visible corded muscle – not like Arnold – more like Bruce Lee.  Lean, hard corded, muscularity.  That takes time.  Mill time AND weight pulling in my opinion.  A boxer traditionally engages in roadwork, but no pumping iron (although many modern boxers pump iron – but for martial muscle, not body builder muscle).  But a no-holds-barred – like UFC – GOES WAY BEYOND PUNCHING.  They compete grappling their own body weight for longer rounds than boxing.   And you can’t last that with just roadwork and punching mitts and heavy bag.  You need heavy squats, hill repeats (that will drain anyone – but it builds tough – and more. In this context, my point is that in my opinion, a Bulldog’s body was engineered for that hard core work and lots of rest and to depend on a wise, experience, informed coach (owner/handler).  And our kids need to learn.  I was surprised to learn weight pulling competition seemed to have declined in interest.  I was sad to hear that.  I speculate it is because it came to be dominated by the canine equivalent to Andre the Giant and the normal little pit has little chance.  My solution is the same as the way the martial arts world attracts kids – get them off the streets and into healthy (you see the analogy?) – it is done with many more belt levels and divisions (to me sports karate is great for kids – if it is not for money and promotion but for kids encouragement and healthy environment).  A new belt to be earned every three months instead of years.  Ages two years apart instead of five.  I say have weight divisions for the small dogs and not just light, middle and heavy.  Don’t let giants compete with dogs ten pounds lighter.  I also suggest weight pulling for the show dog because their body is meant to BLEND millwork with pulling weight (like roadwork and squats for the human athlete.)   I suggest MOTIVATION to enter weight pulling by tighter weight classes and teach your kids.  They are the future.

            Try this.  Your daughter hooks your/her dog to harness at the show.  She’s done this countless times in training.  She calls her dog on – she hears the speculators cheering and calling her dog on – and she is PARTICIPATING – it is about her and her dog together.  Anybody want to tell me she is not going to love that?  Her dog struggles – she gets on all fours close as rules permit – PULL STRIDER, PULL.  She sees and feels her dog respond.  She LEARNS.  She learns rapport.  She learns to f-e-e-l her dog’s emotions and energy – called empathy – also called simpatico.  She sees the fruit of her hours with this dog breaking him/her down to bare bone and building him/her up to compete.  Is this not better for that child than those computer games and whatever the kids do these days?

            And there is more.  More lessons for that child.  Say her dog doesn’t win.  He can lose the count trying – that’s a form of game.   Sure it is not old fashioned game – but it teaches the kid things.  Teaches her if her dog didn’t make the count, but his tail is up and his eyes are on the rail – explain to the kid –therein is the value.  In the old days when our dog’s foundation was formed, many, if not most – the wise ones in my personal opinion –bred to the dog that was outclassed but he lost game, often deep game, before they would breed to the dog that won but showed little gameness.  I can’t count how many old timers have told me they’d breed to Homer way before Jeep (not knocking Jeep, of course), by way of point.  The kids need to be taught this.  And it means the contests can be fun, not an ego trip.  And it is not like most other sports where win is the only option.  Bulldogs have taught us a lot about life and the Ultimate Fighting Challenges.  I say – let us pass it on.  Come and compete in the weight pulling – please.  The dogs need you coach.

            If her dog competes with a genetic draft horse – maybe he doesn’t get a ribbon.  Ribbons don’t even make adequate toilet paper.  But heart – now heart is what it is about.  The kids can learn this.