Is the Dogo Argentino ideal for Canada?
This question has made me lose sleep.
The short answer is: No.
There have been many times that I almost threw in the towel. In 2017, our family was days away from purchasing land and we were heading home to Argentina. The Dogo Argentino scene in Canada was all but dead, and opportunities to compete were scarce. I wanted to be in an environment that would help me breed the best Dogos possible; and Canada was not it. That same year there was a shift in the Argentine government which made us rethink the whole idea. With three children tagging along, we also had to think of their future.
Canadian Breeders are against all odds when it comes to making the Dogo Argentino thrive:
Wild Boar is limited to only three of thirteen provinces and territories. They are virtually impossible to catch in the traditional Argentinian Monteria, because even if you knew where to find them and managed to sweet talk a farmer into land access, you risk prosecution to hunt them with catch dogs.
Our breed is still not even on the miscellaneous list with the Canadian Kennel Club, and even with the recent Canadian Dogo Argentino Club efforts it will take a lot more support and time to get us there. This would allow serious Canadian breeders to at least have their breeding stock judged and compared to other Dogos nationally.
There are only a handful of true Dogo Argentino Breeders in Canada that are running complete programs: who work with international hunters to prove stock, who health test and actively show in conformation. This leads to a huge shortcoming in the availability of quality breeding stock in Canada and limits genetic diversity on a national scale.
The costs of traveling south of the border to compete in conformation and hunt is extremely expensive and restrictive. Even within Canada, geography and climate is not in our favour as it takes just as much time to drive from Ontario to Texas as it does to drive to British Columbia, and traveling within Canada is twice the price – not a great incentive for people to travel within the country to compete against a handful of dogs.
So what is the alternative?
We know there is a commercial pet market for the breed in Canada - Kijiji and profit-based breeders across the country have proven this. But while retail breeders may succeed in achieving a profit margin, they fall terribly short of doing the breed justice.
The question remains: Can a breeder focused on continuous improvement and preservation of the breed have a successful program in Canada?
The truth is: no one can do it alone. You are going to need a team to help with some of the challenges we face in Canada. There is no alternative, no short cuts that will allow Canadian breeders to stand alone and still have Complete Programs.
You are going to have to travel long distances to attend breed specialties.
You are going to have to get involved with other Dogueros and work towards a common goal.
You are going to have to find people south of the border who are willing to take and work your dogs.
This requires considerable commitment and foresight. It does not all come together overnight. It takes time to form relationships and build up your program and establish yourself. But this is what is required to have a Complete Program in Canada.
What is a Complete Program? In short, a complete breeding program strives for balance: producing conformationally correct dogs that function as intended and are backed up with health certificates to prove they are sound.
Three Key Things that aspiring Canadian breeders should do when getting started:
1. Find a Mentor. Seek out a breeder and a hunter you admire. They may not be the same person, but start to build a network of people you rely on. Find a breeder who is already succeeding the way you want to and whose dogs you admire and convince them to mentor you. You don’t speak the same language? GOOGLE TRANSLATE! Some may be hesitant to work with a new breeder but do the homework. If you are prepared and genuine, it goes a long way. Mentorship will save you a lot of money and headaches… but most importantly it will save you TIME.
2. Define Success, and Chase It. Breeding requires a lot of hard work, tough choices, dedication, and time to get your program where you want it to be. There is a lot of give and take in breeding, especially in the beginning. But that is why it is so important to figure out what kind of dogs you want to produce and step forward with that goal in mind. Invest in foundation stock that can provide you with an animal who will succeed in both form, and function. It is imperative you start your program with base dogs that come from complete programs. If you start off with dogs with pedigrees that have prioritized hunting over conformation, or conformation over hunting, you will find yourself struggling to fill that gap later. No program should emphasize one over another: both form and function matter. A dog who looks like a Dogo but cannot work is equally as bad as a dog who can work like a Dogo but does not look like a Dogo. Do not limit yourself to local breeders, or to the first person willing to sell you a dog. You will waste a lot of time and money trying to cut corners, so be selective.
3. Get started. There will never be a perfect dog, so stop waiting for a perfect dog. I keep mentioning “time”, but time is the most valuable commodity in breeding, and you will lose a lot of it over-analyzing and second guessing and hoping something better will come along. Breed to the virtues of the dog. Fault judging – picking apart all the flaws in a dog – is a surefire way to ensure you are never satisfied with what is in front of you and is a negative way to approach selection. Look for virtues and look beyond the dog in front of you. What other dogs are in the pedigree? What does this dog bring to the table in terms of genetics? Breeding is as much of an art as it is a science, and contrary to popular belief, there is no one size fits all. The key is just to select better with every generation. You will never achieve perfection, that does not mean you should not try.
My family found a way to stay in Canada, breed competitive dogs and enjoy the breed. With time, patience and good people Canada will produce some of the Best Dogos Worldwide, I am certain of it. If you aspire to be a complete breeder like I do, you will need to sacrifice a lot to achieve it, including friendships, work and money. Breeding solid Dogos in Canada is possible BUT! Your passion must be greater than the obstacles.
"Passion is the propulsive force of ideas, because ideas that are born without passion are born dead."
- Dr. Antonio Nores Martinez