Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fila Brasileiro Stronger Temperament And Working Dogs

The Fila Brasileiro Association is a not-for-profit organization interested in promoting and preserving the Fila Brasileiro breed in accordance with the official standard of the breed as recognized by the Brazilian Confederation of Cynology.  It is mandatory that all members of the FBA subscribe to the official standard of
the breed, being concerned with the propagation of physically, mentally, and temperamentally sound Filas.  All measures should be taken to acquaint the members and all interested parties with the contents of these Breeding Regulations so that they will not become innocent partners in improper breeding practices.

Fila Brasileiro

Trying to understand the unique temperament of the Fila Brasileiro is difficult without having experienced it first hand. Trying to explain that temperament to someone else can be an almost impossible task! I have written this in hopes of explaining it to you and at the same time clarifying the temperament in my own mind. I don’t claim to know everything about the breed, I can only say that I have owned Fila Brasileiro since 1987. They are the most unique of all Fila Brasileiro dog breeds that I have ever owned or experienced. I have owned Fila Brasileiro of all ranges of temperaments and I have developed this explanation based on my own personal experiences with the breed. I hope you find it useful.

I divide the Fila Brasileiro temperament into 4 basic groups any particular Fila Brasileiro can fall somewhere within the range or one of the groups, but most will be primarily in one of these 4 categories:

Fila Brasileiro Group I dogs have the full and correct temperament of the Fila Brasileiro . The correct temperament is composed of two parts which are defined in the breed standard as 1) OJERIZA (the dislike/hatred of strangers) along with 2) DEFENSE or guarding ability. Both parts of the temperament are first and foremost genetic, but training and socialization can condition the display of both Ojeriza and Defense. The Ojeriza portion of the temperament drives the Fila Brasileiro dog to avoid contact with people they do not know. The dog is not interested in seeking attention/petting/treats from strangers.

Fila Brasileiro

Training and socialization do not eliminate the natural born ojeriza in a Fila Brasileiro, it just directs and controls the display of it. My adult dogs still retain the ojeriza they were born with. Training/socialization gives me the control to take them into public situations, dog shows, vets office, etc. without them constantly lunging at people or acting out of control. I can even command them to "stand" and they will accept (albeit grudgingly and grumbling) the touch of a stranger (judge, vet, etc). Make no mistake, the dogs do NOT LIKE the
touch/attention, but they accept it because I asked them to.

In addition to the Ojeriza, the second component of the temperament is the dog’s natural desire to guard or DEFEND. This part of the temperament is linked to BONDING more than to training. A dog with strong defense when threatened guards against (going so far to attack) the "threat". This is the part of the temperament you see during the temperament test when the “bad guy” threatens the dog with the stick. It is also displayed when strangers enter the dog’s area the dogs try to keep you OUT of their home/ areas. The stronger the dog is bonded to a person or an area, the stronger the desire for the dog to defend that person/ area from intrusion by strangers. It is usually true the smaller the area being defended, the stronger the display so that if the dog is inside the crate, inside the car, inside a small dog run the defense display will be much stronger than when the dog is inside a large yard or outside the home on a leash.

Training and socialization will increase the overall confidence of the dog. The higher the confidence level and the “bolder” the dog ‘s attitude, the stronger the defense may be. Socialization gives the dog a point of reference to what is considered “normal” and OK to both the dog and the owner. Training (especially obedience training) gives the owner more control over the actions of the dog. Training the dog to “OUT” ( to stop an attack) or to re-direct the dog’s guarding behavior is the responsibility of the owner. Responsible owners do not allow their dog to become an uncontrolled menace of society.

Responsible owners also encourage their dog to learn the difference between true threats and “normal” things in the world around them. I teach my dogs “that’s enough” command, which basically gives the dog a chance to “warn” me of something the dog sees as a threat and alert (growl , bark, etc) but once I say “that’s enough” I expect the dog to settle down. In this situation, I have determined that I do not see the situation as a threat, even if the dog may alert. I expect the dog to respond to my training and settle down.

Their desire to please me will overpower their dislike of having to accept this request of me. Remember, just because they have been trained to respond to my command of “stand” does not mean that they will be “social” and accept the petting/ attention of the stranger outside of the ring or  once released from the “stand” command. I do NOT believe Ojeriza can be "socialized out”! In addition, would never allow the dogs to be touched without having my hand on their muzzle. No matter how much they have been trained the dogs simply DONT LIKE the touch of a stranger . Since I cannot anticipate every move of the stranger around the dogs, it is best to keep a safe hold on the muzzle to avoid an accidental dog bite. I have seen too many “dog professionals” (judges, vets, etc) do stupid things around my dogs including excessive eye contact, over handling the dog, grabbing the mouth or testicles of the dogs.

These things are just too much for the Fila Brasileiro with strong ojeriza to accept. They either shy away from the touch of a stranger or react more strongly to the point of biting or attempting to bite strangers who try to touch them or to drive the strangers off their territory. This reaction or the degree of reaction is tempered by various factors including the age of the dog, the degree of training and socialization they have received, and the natural strength of the ojeriza drive the dog has. Young pups may start out by just moving out of the reach of someone trying to pet them with the reaction of “yuck, I don’t want you to touch me!” People often misconstrue this reaction in young puppies to indicate “shyness” in a dog, but it really is not. It is simply a natural, innate desire of the dog to avoid contact with strangers. This reaction will continue to develop until the mature dog reacts with strong hatred and often snaps/bites the offending hand (more of a “how DARE you try to touch me!” reaction). "Ojeriza" is what makes the fila different from all other breeds.

Fila Brasileiro

Mr. Rubinho puts on his hat and spurs, get the dogs Forro and Grauna (two typical and exceptional fila brasileiros) and then goes to the paddock. Gets Vanusa, and old tall mule, a friend of many happenings, prepared for riding and then on horseback with his Fila Brasileiro dogs following he heads to the paddock. On the way he glances at the fences checking if a loosen cow hasn’t escaped to the sugar cane fields. Forro and Grauna keep their eyes all the time on the boss and sniff around checking if there isn’t any cow around. Arriving there, the farmer gets off his mule and helps milking the cows. The first one is Rolinha, a black girolanda which produces around 10 liters of milk daily. Forro and Grauna, keep eyes on everything which is going on, quietly. At 8 am all the task is done, tens of containers filled with milk are waiting for the carriage (cart) which passes around collecting the milk from the surrounding farms.

Then it comes the fatal moment! Examine the cattle. This is the part which Forro and Grauna like most. The farm, the two cowboys and the dogs go through the cattle in the grazing in the pasture. A calf seems to have some Myiasis on her neck. Rubinho tries to catch her with his bow but the place where it is has little access. He ends up asking for Ferro’s help. Just one command, “Já” (now). It is more than sufficient. The fila thrusts towards the cow. Running up and down, here, there everywhere, in a precise jump bites on the bottom of its ear (it is the correct way to immobilize a cow) and clings to it, holding the cow. The farmer, as fast as possible gets the rope around the neck. He knows that Forro will not let it go until he commands. Grauna keeps barking around as if she were begging her owner to command her to do the same.


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