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The Working American Bulldogs by David Putnam Q.If Johnson ABs can be athletic, then what's all the fuss about Performance Bulldogs

A. I said that non-extreme Johnson ABs can match the Performance type in sprint speed, strength as measured by weight pull and hitting power. Recently, the Redwood club has run practice 12-miles Endurance tests to get ready for our upcoming Irondog trial. The 12-mile run is a real eye opener concerning the physical capabilities of the two types. Last Sunday's Endurance test featured an extreme Performance type bitch running next to a well-built, non-extreme, Johnson male. The bully dog is an 80 pounder that can sprint like a rabbit, move well, hit hard, the athletic type I described in my previous article. The Performance bitch is extreme in the other direction and would not win any shows even in the Standard class. She is built like a Dogo or a tall rangy Pit Bull. Both dogs had been trained extensively for the event, both are about the same weight, which means the bully is much shorter and wider. The Performance bitch had been running five miles a day, averaging more than 10 miles an hour during her training sessions. The bully had been logging lots of miles, but at a slower pace.

The Performance bitch zoomed ahead of her bully friend at the start of the marathon, her handler peddling furiously on his bike to keep pace. The judge was on a bike and warned that she was exceeding the maximum allowable speed for this event. The handler tried to slow her down as best he could. Meanwhile the Johnson AB trotted at a steady and respectable pace of eight miles an hour. At the rest stops the Performance bitch wasn't even breathing hard. Both dogs' pads were inspected and found to be in fine condition despite the asphalt. At the second rest the Johnson Bulldog was feeling the strain but holding up well, his tongue hanging out like a wet wash cloth, his breath blasting in and out like a bellows. The Performance bitch was showing zero signs of fatigue and breathing through her nose. The judge pedaled his bicycle next to the bully dog on the last two miles and lost sight of the performance team. The Performance handler decided to take the last two miles at a full gallop, blowing away the ten mile per hour restriction. He did this because the club's decoy was going to leave early that day from bite work practice and it was clear that the bitch could easily take a few bites when the AD was over.

The practice Endurance test ended and the Performance bitch was brought out to the protection field. No one watching her slam into the decoy with wild abandon could guess that she had just run 12 miles at an illegally fast pace. The club was training for the upcoming Pentathlon and the bitch went through every event, again with no sign that she had run a marathon. She actually did better than usual because she was completely warmed-up. When her practice Pentathlon was over she was yipping for another chance to swing on the springpole, tail wagging and still breathing through her nose.

The Johnson Bulldog finished the 12 miles in a respectable time but was in no condition to complete an entire Pentathlon. He had to rest for an hour of heavy breathing and did no more work that day. No matter how hard he trained, this dog can never have as much endurance as the Performance bitch. His short muzzle and blocky body make this impossible. It would be foolhardy to take him on an all day hog hunt in the blazing heat. The wise Johnson breeder realizes that he is sacrificing performance ability when he seeks typiness. He knows that if he were breeding strictly for utilitarian purposes the Performance phenotype is superior. By admitting this he can than minimize the loss of raw physical prowess. He will then breed a typey Bulldog that can run 12 miles in the proscribed time limit and not pretend that he has an animal that will do so without breathing hard. The foolish Johnson breeder will scream that his bully dog is superior in all ways and then never test the animal in question, content to live in a fool's paradise. The foolish Johnson breeder will produce dogs that can not run a marathon or even to the mailbox and back.

There is another trap. A lazy or ignorant Performance breeder can rest on his pedigree and claim that he has the ultimate canine athlete and also never test his bloodstock. Several generations of breeding this way will produce a Bulldog that is performance in name only. In this case the wise Johnson breeder will produce Bulldogs that can out perform the lazy "Performance" breeder's in all respects, including the 12-mile run.


Dave Putnam, ®2000
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