Due to his self-confidence the Fila Brasileiro shows a calm disposition as long as he is not defied or threatened. He is most happy while in company of his master. Filas love to sit very close to their owners, craving for physical contact.
It all happened back on June 1983 when the American magazine Dog World published for the very first time my article on the Fila Brasileiro breed. The response was a very impressive one and since then, like a snowball it is still rolling. Fila breeders are in debt with this magazine for the continuous promotion of these so-called "rare breeds." It is interesting to point out that the Fila Brasileiro breed though recognized by the worldwide FCI (Fédération Cynologique International) organization and also by the SKC (States Kennel Club) is still among the breeds not recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club).
Still more interesting is the fact that 96% of the Fila owners in the United States voted against the acceptance of the Fila by the AKC fearing it would change the Fila's original standard and the natural aggressiveness of the breed. Fila puppies are playful and friendly until the dog reaches between five and seven months old. From there on the Fila starts showing a highly protective attitude unless the dog is duly socialized.
Nevertheless if the owner oversocializes his puppy, it will become as friendly as a cocker spaniel. I prefer to give the basic obedience lessons to my Filas and keep them under control but preserving its natural protective instincts. The Fila is very humble, docile and devoted dog to all members of his family accepting stoically the rough play of children.
Nowadays the Fila is still a "rare breed" in the States, but thanks to the two clubs The Fila Brasileiro Club of America in Georgia and The Fila Brasileiro Association in Texas it certainly is not an unknown breed any longer. In one of our last shows in Texas we had 33 entries. This is a great achievement considering that when I arrived in Burleson in 1989 there were only two breeders in Texas. Now there are over 50.
The rare breed clubs also put on shows in different parts of the country and so does the States Kennel Club giving the opportunity for Filas to participate in the conformation shows. Fortunately the Federacion Canofila de Puerto Rico is affiliated to the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) permitting the registration of the Fila Brasileiro within the United States. Their pedigrees come with the stamp of the FCI on.
When discussions about "vicious dogs" take place, Fila breeders point out that Filas never turn against their owners or members of the family and that accidents registered with other breeds are far higher than with Filas even in Brazil where this breed is the most popular one after the German Shepherds, showing 5.000 puppies being officially registered per year.
Their faithfulness became a Brazilian proverb: "Faithful as a Fila" is an old Brazilian saying. Courage, determination and outstanding bravery are also part of the Fila's characteristics. Due to his self-confidence the Fila shows a calm disposition as long as he is not defied or menaced, not being disturbed by strange noises or when facing a new environment. He is most happy while in company of his master. Filas love to sit very close to their owners, craving for a physical contact. An unsurpassed guardian of property, he is equally inclined, by instinct, to hunt big game or to herd cattle.
Filas are wonderful with children and can also be guides for blind people. I remember a bitch called Elza who worked as a guide for a blind man in Germany. She was extremely cautious looking at both sides before walking her master across the streets of Einbeck, a little town close to Hanover.
Elza would bring to his master anything he asked for: keys, glasses, the stick, handkerchief, etc. Her sweet brown eyes were full of love but that loving look changed as soon as anyone tried to put a finger on a lighter or anything belonging to her owner. She growled and showed her teeth in a very convincing way. As soon as I showed no intention to take anything away she was perfectly friendly and at ease again. Elza had this Fila's trait to evaluate different situations in the most amazing way.
From my twenty years of experience breeding Filas I found out that the most protective dog in the litter is also the most intelligent one. The dog showing a dominant trait always ends up being the leader of the pack. Intelligence and aggressiveness are part of their leadership. They are in command of the pack and will determine their positions while guarding their territory or in the moment of stopping an intruder, besides giving directions to the pack while hunting. The "alpha" dog may be a male or a bitch. In their society what prevails is the strongest character and personality. During nine years Nubia de Samor has been the leader in our kennel until the day of her death. The hierarchy is established in a natural way and all the members of the pack respect it maintaining an orderly relationship.
Today not only in Brazil but around the whole world as well the Fila Brasileiro is considered the main breed for personal and property protection. Only a few dogs are still used for jaguar hunting or as cattle herders in the hinterland of Brazil.
His abilities as a police dog have been highly appreciated in different countries as by the naval police of Peru, the army in Brazil and K9 units in the United States. The nose of a Fila is comparable to a Bloodhound therefore the breed is also used for sniffing bombs and drugs successfully. The great advantage is that a Fila will get hold of the suspect at the end of the trail. The word "fila" means "to grab, to hold" in archaic Portuguese.
There is no doubt about the increasing popularity of such a formidable guardian and devoted companion not only here in the U.S.A. but also all over the world, though a lot of responsibility is required by anyone owning a Fila. One cannot forget that the Fila Brasileiro was not man made but rather a product of its environment and the bare necessities for its own survival in the jungle, shaped by Nature in every detail to perform well any task with endurance and efficiency.
A Fila must not only be loved but also understood above all. Evidently the deterioration of so many other wonderful breeds due to their popularity should serve as a warning of what may happen in the future. Selective breeders and their clubs will try to avoid the most distressing situations that seem to pursue the most popular breeds.
Popularity always claims for a very high price, but maybe the Fila Brasileiro will be an exception due to its own characteristics, as the Fila is not meant for the average person. The deep love, respect and devotion must be mutual. We are living in a very perturbed world where man systematically destroy the only available shield in the sky, our precious rain forests, our fountains and rivers are poisoned and our food transmit irreversible diseases to our children. Is there any room to preserve what is still pure and primitive? We do hope so with the help of people who care.
Over one decade and a half passed by since my first article showed up about the Fila Brasileiro. Since than we saw the breed taking its own place of honor around the world with the help of the Fila Brasileiro Association, which is an international organization following all CBKC/FCT regulations. The Fila Digest is a quarterly bulletin distributed for free to all its members.
Our goal is to preserve and to protect this wonderful breed handing out useful information on breeding, nutrition, diseases and above all asking each owner to xray his producing stock to avoid hip dysplasia. We are serious about xraying all the producing stock and discarding those with bad hips. A FBA champion must have proof of being Hip Dysplasia free before getting his title.
There will always be commercial kennels interested just in making money, producing quantity not quality. They do not xray their dogs and do not give a sales guarantee as it is customary among conscious breeders. They will present a very poor excuse saying that "as long the dog moves well he does not present dysplasia". Well, I had to put down more than one Fila I had imported for being severely displastic in spite of his moving like a feather.
I lost the dog, the money and I had to go through all the trauma of losing a friend knowing that it was better for him to be sacrificed than to suffer an endless pain. Besides xraying our dogs we incorporate the use of vitamin C in their diet in order to enhance collagen production. Collagen is the intracellular cement that gives strength to ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Dr. Wendell Belfield, published several works about HD and came up with a biochemical concept. He affirms that since he incorporated the use of collagen and vitamin C for the prevention of HD he saw very few cases of it in his practice.
In order to fight this problem that is a plague to all giant breeds, we hand out all available information besides asking the breeders to study well the pedigrees of future litters. If you buy a puppy having in mind the objective to enter it at shows in the future, or if you plan to breed your dog some day, the pedigree of your puppy is of great importance and certainly you should try to know as much as you can about its ancestry.
Oldtimers are the best people to talk about the champions, if any, listed in the pedigree of your dog. Possibly they will remember something about their quality and structure besides the temperament of the dogs. This will prove very helpful while planning your breeding program. Selection is the key of success and the American breeders are being very successful following the breeding regulations of CBKC (Brazilian Confederation) and trying to breed only good to good or good to excellent specimens.
The results can be seen in the World Shows where the American stock came out as winners. Top winners came out mostly of the Samor, Embirema, Tamuana, Kartagena and Camping bloodlines, which are very well represented in the United States with dogs certified free of hip dysplasia.
If you are new at breeding, remember that your devotion and perseverance to the breed will not always get immediate results. It may happen that the wonderful champion you have in your hands, after years of intense work, does not produce well. Be prepared to start all over again. Besides time and money you will need a lot of patience as well. There are several different levels of dog qualities: There are some top winners, there are dogs of champion quality that are able to gain sometimes but lack that "extra quality" that makes them so special, and there are those who are good dogs but not outstanding.
It is better to look for a consistent winner strain and not for just an occasional "star". Try to make a survey on the best existing dogs, their pedigrees and health records, besides paying special attention to their temperaments. Do not try to guess about the breed. It is worth to start a serious investigation to see how many HD free dogs there are in a pedigree. Ask the breeders about the hips of the parents, siblings, brothers and relatives. Be sure to get the best possible bitch to start your breeding program. Read the official FCI standard of the breed until you know it by heart and be prepared to accept the responsibility of raising an aggressive dog towards strangers. His aggressiveness will depend on the way you raise and train him. It is up to you to preserve his natural aggressiveness or to transform him in a mellow and friendly dog.
Read The Fila Brasileiro Guide where you can find advice about the several different stages of puppyhood and changes in the temperament of the dog. This is just the beginning before you go further into the mysterious and complex paths of genetics. If you have a computer visit the internet site http://www.dt.fee.unicamp.br/~amaury/filanet.html
If you want to join the Fila Brasileiro Association, which is an international club handing out information on how to preserve and promote the Fila Brasileiro breed, please write to: FBA, 5029 CR 605, Burleson, TX 76028 USA and ask for a membership application form. The international annuity starts from the day of payment ($35.00). The Fila Digest is distributed for free to all FBA members.
Clelia Kruel is the president of the Fila Brasileiro Association. She also founded the Fila Brasileiro Club of America with Jerry Loftin and the Fila Brasileiro Association in Texas. She wrote three books on the Fila breed: The Fila Brasileiro, All About the Fila and The Fila Brasileiro Guide. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
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