Article in Indian Kennel Gazette - September 2003

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The following article by Mr CV Sudarsan was published by the Indian Kennel Gazette in their September 2003 edition

While Judging in Johannesburg at South Africa, I had the pleasure of visiting my friend Mr HJ Van der Merwe who has the largest Bulldog Kennel under the prefix Mervander. The moment I entered his house my initial reaction was one of shock and amazement at the number of Bulldogs that his kennel housed. There were Bulldogs and Bulldogs all over the place and believe me every one of them looked so healthy and clean irrespective of their age. His set up was so scientific and so well organised which included a modern clinic attached to his kennel with an operation theatre with all the facilities including oxygen and oxygen tent for puppies. His has been a lifetime contribution to the breeding and improvement of Bulldogs in South Africa. A man of very few words I found him not only highly knowledgeable on the breed, but equally dedicated to cause of Bulldogs and very fanatical of the breed which perhaps is the reason that he has been able to achieve so much success in the breeding and exhibiting of Bulldogs. Mr. Van der Merwe, I presume, would be one of those few breeders who has exported dogs to almost every part of the world where they have done extremely well in the show ring..

C.V.SUDARSAN (CVS): Thank you very much Mr Van der Merwe for sparing your valuable time to give me this interview for the Indian Kennel Gazette, which is the official organ of the Kennel Club of India. Let me commence by asking you the question that I usually ask every person I interview.

CVS: When and how did you get interested in dogs? Could you recollect the year in which you got your first dog and what breed was it? VAN DER MERWE (VDM): I served the duration of the Second World War in the Far East. As a South African; I was seconded to the British Navy. I served in Detalawa in Burma. I was stationed at Coastal Forces Base Colombo, Ceylon. My duration ended when I left the shores of India late September 1945. Lots of service men were found to suffer from stress, what they used to call bomb shock. I was fortunate – arriving home in November 1945, I purchased my first Bulldog puppy. What great little friend. I never had one dull moment with her. As I then continued my studies, which I left behind for the duration of the war, this dear little friend was lying at my feet at all times and was there when she was needed. No therapist in the world could have ever provided the therapy so much needed than her. Sometimes a little cuddle, sometimes by just stroking the little head, but always looking in those dark eyes, shining forth a light of love, which no human can ever give.

CVS: Could you tell us where you were born? Your interest in dogs was it from childhood or did you develop it at a later stage? VDM: I was born in Krugersdorp in the old Transvaal Province in South Africa. I spent most of my childhood days at boarding schools, I wasn't in contact with our canine friends much then.

CVS: Could you recollect your early days with dogs and the first show that you had exhibited and where was it? VDM: I arrived back in South Africa in November '45. In December that same year myself and my fiancée visited a Bulldog show and as from that moment, I was madly in love with the English Bulldog.

CVS: How did you feel at that show and what were your thoughts thereafter? VDM: At the show I knew I could never return empty handed without a Bulldog. As I was still in my Naval uniform, there was a great gentleman, a Bulldog breeder at the time, who invited me and my fiancée for tea after the show. Lo and behold, to my great surprise, I was offered the most beautiful bitch puppy that later became a champion and of course that set the ball rolling.

CVS: Your Kennel name is "Mervander". Could you tell us what does it mean and does it have any special significance? VDM: Mervander is my surname written back to front.

CVS: How long has your association with dog game been. What are your thoughts now and have you enjoyed it? VDM: Since 1945 to this day. And as the saying goes, the more I see people, the more I love my Bulldogs.

CVS: I see nothing else but Bulldogs all over your place. Obviously you now specialise in Bulldogs. Have you had any other breed or breeds prior to keeping Bulldogs? VDM: Never, never.

CVS: For what purpose was the Bulldog evolved. VDM: The Bulldog originated in England as a help for the butchers of those days catching a bull in the fields. It grabbed the bull by the nose and held it down.

CVS: Being a specialist, please tell us what is the origin of the Bulldog. It looks to be a man made breed. Could you tell us something about breeds that went to make the Bulldog? VDM: It is generally agreed that the Bulldog and the Mastiff had the Allaunt as their forerunner.

CVS: What is your kennel strength at the moment. VDM: I have 40 bitches which is the foundation of the Mervander kennel because without a good bitch you can never be a good breeder. We have several champions as stud dogs, originating from English post war champions. Today they include bloodlines from Merriveen, Kelloe, Kingrock and Britishpride.

CVS. You seem to be in love with the breed. What is it that attracted you to keeping and specialising in Bulldogs? VDM: Their tenacity, their strength and their endurance, but above all, their absolute sincerity when it comes to my wife and children. What great protectors!

CVS: Being a Bulldog specialist, are you fanatical about the breed? How much of tolerance do you have for other breeds? VDM: Being a Bulldog breeder, I find very little time for any other breed than my beloved Bulldog breed.

CVS: Would you think of keeping any other breeds along with Bulldogs? VDM: Never, never, never will any other breed be tolerated in my Bulldog kennel. 

CVS: I am told by a lot of people that Bulldogs are a problematic breed. What are your comments on this? VDM: Maybe true there are problems, but these problems are created by the so-called breeders who do not know the pro's and con's of the Bulldog.

CVS: What are the problems that you have experienced in keeping Bulldogs? VDM: The only problem I experience, which to me is quite natural, by breeding Bulldogs true to conformation, with a big head, naturally we must then consider at times, a caesarean.

CVS: What is the temperament of a Bulldog. a) With human beings, b) With other Bulldogs, 3) With other breeds. VDM. (a) With humans, as a rule, very lovable, but there are humans and humans and none that I know has the discernment that the Bulldog has. (b) Very tolerating with other Bulldogs, but also, again, there are Bulldogs and Bulldogs. (c) The Bulldog with other breeds can be considered as the Monarch-of-all I survey and his kingdom none shall dispute.

CVS: I am told that getting Bulldogs mated is quite a tough job. I am also told that Bulldogs normally do not tie. If so, could you tell us in detail about this and how to get them mated? VDM: Bulldogs in general are not able to mate naturally by themselves and it is common practice among Bulldog breeders to provide assistance to the bitch and the stud during matings by means of various methods and innovations. Novice breeders who want to do assisted matings with their own Bulldogs are advised to first get some practical experience with the help of an established breeder before trying it on their own. When doing assisted matings with Bulldogs, never do it on the heat the day and never after the dogs have eaten. It is also important to allow contact between the dog and the bitch (at least 10 minute) before and after matings. Artificial insemination by vets or breeders with the necessary experience is an effective alternative to assisted matings and should be considered in cases where either the dog or the bitch is aggressive or difficult to handle. The potential for genital infection is reduced substantially with artificial insemination.

CVS: Why is it that Bulldogs do not tie? Any scientific reason? VDM: If you know the breed well, it is all a matter of the conformation and anatomical build of the Bulldog. It is very difficult for him to do natural mating and therefore it is very difficult for a dog and the bitch to tie.

CVS: It is said that most Bulldogs do not whelp in the normal course and puppies are delivered only by caesarean. What is the reason for this? VDM: Selective breeding in the Bulldog for big heads and narrow hindquarters (pelvises), as prescribed by the Official Bulldog Standard, effectively means that Bulldog puppies with their big heads must pass through a narrow birth canal, which is the result of the bitch's narrow hindquarters. To add to this potential birth hazard, Bulldog bitches in general tend to have inadequate uterus contraction, which is needed to expel puppies during the birth process. The combination of these factors is the reason why purebred Bulldog bitches can very seldom give birth naturally and requires that caesareans be done as a rule rather than an exception. If the operation is performed properly, a Bulldog bitch can have several caesareans in her lifetime without any ill effect to her health or her fertility. It must be remembered however, that a caesarean, as with any other surgical procedure, involves a certain amount of risk to the bitch and to the puppies. Bulldog bitches that poses a higher than normal risk and requires special attention during caesareans, include old bitches, those with a history of heart problems and those with very big litters.

CVS: If the pups are to be delivered only by caesarean, what is the approximate time that the caesarean would have to be done. Would there be any physical indication as to the need to perform the caesarean operation at a point of time or you calculate from the date of mating. VDM: It should always be the aim of both the breeder and the vet to perform a caesarean on a Bulldog bitch as close to the natural time of birth as possible. To be able to do this, an accurate whelping date is essential. Remember, however, that bitches with large litters tend to whelp a day or two before their anticipated whelping date and bitches with only one or two puppies can sometimes overrun their whelping date by a day or two. It is necessary to inform the vet at least a week in advance that the bitch is due for a caesarean, so that he will be ready for any unforeseen happenings, As the whelping date gets closer, the behaviour of the bitch should be watched very carefully. Take notice of the amount of food and water she takes in, her mental status (depressed or not), if she is restless, if she starts nesting (preparing for a place to whelp) and whether her breathing is normal. If the bitch is very big, it is better for her during the last week of pregnancy, to get small amounts of food more often instead of one big meal per day. Normally milk should be present from about 3 to 7 days before whelping: In a young bitch that is pregnant for the first time, it is sometimes necessary to stimulate her milk production by treating her from 3 to 4 days before whelping with Eglonyl tablets twice daily. When a bitch starts to pant heavily within a day or two of her whelping date, she has probably gone into whelp and should be taken to the vet immediately. The same applies for a bitch that starts with abdominal muscle contractions a day or two before her whelping date. In this case it can also happen that the first puppy enters the birth canal and if the fetal membranes should break, a yellow-brown fluid will become visible. In this case a caesarean should be done as soon as possible to save the puppies.The body temperature of the bitch is one of the most useful and reliable signs to determine the optimum time for a caesarean. Normal body temperature in a healthy Bulldog bitch can range from 38,0-38,9 °C. Approximately 10 to 12 hours before actually going into whelp, the body temperature of the bitch will drop significantly from normal to a level of 37,2 to 37,3 °C for a short time (a few hours) and then rise again to normal. The 10-hour time period after the drop in temperature is the ideal time to perform a caesarean on the bitch. The taking of the bitch's temperature should start at least 4 days before the anticipated whelping date and it is important to take the temperature at least 3 times daily (every 8 hours) so as not to miss the drop in temperature. Once the temperature has dropped, all food and water must be taken away from the bitch immediately, in anticipation of the operation. The golden rule for a caesarean in a Bulldog bitch is always to operate rather too early than too late.

CVS: Once the C-section is over what is the next step with regards to taking care of the puppies? Do you let them suckle the mother immediately or wait till she wakes up from the effect of anaesthesia? VDM: We usually wait till the bitch has recovered from the anaesthesia before the puppies drink –usually about one hour after the end of the operation.

CVS: I am told that most Bulldog mothers are dumb and lack motherly instinct and do not look after their puppies as other breeds do. Could you tell us something about this and if this is true why are they like this. VDM: No, Bulldog bitches are not dumb at all but because the Bulldog is a man made dog, brought up and reared by man rather than by their natural mother, it is quite understandable that they will not have the same motherly instinct than other breeds. Having said that, I have often, however seen Bulldog bitches who are very good mothers just as good as any other breed.

CVS: I have heard you telling me that newborn Bulldog puppies should be kept separately and not with their mothers. Any specific reasons? VDM: This is part of the previous question. If the Bulldog bitch are left with her puppies, she tends to lie down with them and sometimes on top of them without realising that she might kill them by doing so. This is not done in a malicious way, rather a question of ignorance.

CVS: Are Bulldogs born with short tails. Why and how is this? VDM: Bulldogs can be born with any kind of tail: long, short, straight or curved.

CVS: The so-called cork screw tail, some of them are very short and very close to the anal passage whereas in some dogs there is no screw tail, but just a slightly long tail hanging down. Which of the two tails are desirable? VDM: The most desirable tail in the Bulldog is the so-called pump handle tail -a straight tail, not too long but also not too short.

CVS: Is it true that the Bulldogs tail will have to be cleaned regularly. V DM: No. A very small percentage of Bulldogs have tails very close to the anus, which will need regular inspection and cleaning.

CVS: What are the acceptable colours in Bulldogs. VDM: The only colour completely unacceptable is black. All other colours are permissible.

CVS: Are Bulldogs prone to any particular disease and if so could you name them and are there any preventive steps that could be taken. VDM: Heat stress is a potential problem for the Bulldog because of his short upper respiratory tract and care should always be taken to prevent situations where a Bulldog will be subjected to severe heat. Skin problems like eczema, which is not really specific to the Bulldog alone, can be a problem if not attended to.

CVS: Two exhibitors in India had lost their Bulldogs sometime ago while taking them for a show and it was said that the dog died of heat stroke. In case of suspected heat stroke what is the immediate first aid to be given to the Bulldog? VDM: The best policy of course is to try to prevent any heat stress by keeping the Bulldog cool at all times but when he does get heat stress, you must try to cool him down as soon as possible. The best way to do this is to put him into water, the colder the better and to keep on rinsing him off with the water. If you do not have enough water at hand, try to use ice or cold water. Wet his face, ears and back and his whole body if possible. If a veterinarian is at hand, he will probably give him a cortisone injection for shock.

CVS: I am told that all flat-faced dogs (stub) are easily prone to nasal and eye infection. Is this also applicable to Bulldogs? VDM: The Bulldog is not really prone to nasal infection as such, but rather to problems caused by a short upper respiratory tract like difficulty in cooling off, difficult breathing caused by an elongated soft palate and as said before, prone to heat stress. Regarding the eye, ectropion, corneal ulcers and prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid (cherry eye) are conditions seen in the Bulldogs but not exclusive to the Bulldog.

CVS: The Bulldog is broad in the front and narrow behind. Where does the dog gets its stability and balance from? VDM: The Bulldog is heavy, broad and low in the front quarter and narrow and light in the hind quarter. He takes most of the weight on the front legs which provide very good stability and balance.

CVS: Most Bulldogs are undershot which is permissible. To what extent could the bite be under shot. VDM: It is not only permissible for a Bulldog to be undershot, it is essential according to the breed standard. This is one of the trademarks of the Bulldog which distinguish him from most other breeds who should have scissors bites. However, the teeth of the lower jaw must not be visible when the mouth is closed. If this happens, it is an indication that the mouth is too much undershot.

CVS: It is said that Bulldogs were used for bull baiting. If this is true, how successful where they in combating bulls? VDM: Yes, it is true. In fact, many of the characteristics of the Bulldog can be traced back to the function of bull baiting. It is difficult to say how successful they were, but the fact that they were also used for bear baiting and lion baiting, seems to suggest that at least some of them were very effective.

CVS: With so many Bulldogs in the house, tell us frankly how much of time do you devote for your dogs? To me it looks like you would have to spend the whole day tending to them. VDM: Yes, to attend to such a big kennel is a full time occupation.

CVS: Your Kennels look beautiful and so clean. Are they managed by professional people, such as Managers and kennel boys or do you manage them solely yourself? VDM: The kennel is managed by me and one of my sons, with the help of two kennel boys.

CVS: I am sure you must have imported several dogs in the earlier days. Could you tell us something about your imports. VDM: The Bulldog originated in the United Kingdom and to me the best bloodlines in the world are still in the UK. During the years, I have imported dogs from well-known kennels such as Merriveen, Kelloe, Kingrock and Britishpride.

CVS: Do you still continue to import dogs and if so why do you do this when you have so many at home. VDM: I constantly import new blood into my kennel because of the danger of inbreeding and to improve certain characteristics in my own dogs.

CVS: Do you realize the consequences of having imported/bred so many dogs, Did you think about the time and the money that you will have to spend on such a large and well, maintained kennel? VDM: The breeding of Bulldogs has always been a hobby and a great joy to me. After I retired, I had more time available and it was a natural happening that the kennel got bigger and I started importing more dogs.

CVS: Several people give away their older dogs by finding good homes, what do you do when your dogs reaches the super annuation age in your kennel. VDM: Yes, we also do this but there are some dogs, especially those that we have shown a lot that will stay with us until they die of old age.

CVS: Since you have so many dogs, have you ever visualised a situation when 25 to 30 dogs become old at the same time? VDM: No it never happens that way because we sell some of the dogs, others are given away and some die before the time. So in the end we usually only have a few left that is kept in the kennel.

CVS: Did you at any point of time ever think that you could go into the dog breeding on a commercial scale and if so have you achieved the objectives? VDM: I have never considered my kennel as a commercial venture. To me the breeding of Bulldogs will always be a hobby and it will stay that way.

CVS: Some people think it is wrong to go into dog breeding on a commercial scale? If one were to view this as a business then it is like any other business such as a stud farm for horse breeding or a cattle farm? VDM: Personally I do not think that the breeding of Bulldogs can ever be run on a commercial scale for various reasons.

CV5: Could you recall any humorous or funny incident that has happened to you in the process of the breeding or exhibiting dogs? VDM: Not that I can ever recall because I take my dogs too serious.

CVS: Some people believe that the breed or breeds that you keep, to some extent reflects your personality. How much would you agree with this? VDM: Very much so. I admire the character and temperament of the Bulldog and I would consider it an honour if I were to be compared with my breed.

CVS: You have imported quite a few dogs, the dogs that you have imported, how do you select them? VDM: I prefer to go and select a dog myself but I have very good friends overseas who I can trust to examine and select a dog before I import it.

CVS: I am told that the Bulldog bred by you are all over the world. Could you say something about this? VDM: Yes, there are Mervander dogs in countries all over the world, including Alaska, Canada, USA, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, UK, Sweden, Finland, Croatia, Russia, India and Australia.

CVS: Several people import dogs. Some do this to improve quality while others do it to achieve success in the show ring and for a vast majority an imported dog is a passport for sale of its puppies. Would you like to comment on this? VDM: I can only speak for myself - my main objective is to improve the Bulldog breed and to preserve it for the future and that is also my motive for importing Bulldogs.

CVS: Have you ever witnessed any big show in any part of the world and if so could you name the show? VDM: The best overseas show that I attended was the Sheffield Bulldog Show in the UK, judged by Mrs Liz Cartlidge of the UK

CVS: German Shepherds and Rottweilers are among the popular breeds in South Africa and seem to be the order of the day. It is said that they give the owners a real macho image. How come with all the resources at your hand, you have not thought of entering into the fray along with other German Shepherd and Rottweiler breeders. VDM: For me there is one breed and one breed only -the Bulldog!

CVS: Is there any other breed that has fascinated you apart from Bulldogs and if so which is the breed. VDM: No, only the Bulldog.

CVS: I am sure your show career must have spanned several decades. Have you at any point of time thought that you have had enough and if so why? VDM: Since starting with Bulldogs I have never been without one and I will never be without one. My last friend will be a Bulldog.

CVS: Have you won any major trophies such as Dog of the year, etc., etc., in your country? VDM: In the year 2000 Ch. Mervander Thundering Home won the KUSA National Dog of the Year award. This is the top honour that any champion dog in South Africa can win and it was the first time in the history that a bulldog managed to win this title.

 

 

CVS: Breeding is an art as well as science. What is your opinion on this? VDM: To me the breeding of Bulldogs is like a talent received from God and I give all the honour and glory of my success to Him.

CVS: How much of importance do you give to compatibility of genes and genetics? Do you go for the genotype or the phenotype? VDM: Of course genetics play a role in the breeding of Bulldogs just as with other breeds and species and, it is important to take both phenotype and genotype into consideration when breeding. But again, this is not the beginning and the end of breeding Bulldogs - I know that without my Creator's blessing, I will never be able to breed anything worthwhile.

CVS: When you breed a litter, how long would you keep the puppies before you give them away? VDM: With the Bulldog, it is a good policy to keep the puppies for as long as possible to see how they develop. For me as an exporter of show Bulldogs this is even more important because I can not afford to make a mistake. Puppies are usually 3 months old when they leave the kennel.

CVS: What is the average size of a Bulldog litter? VDM: Litters can vary from only one to about 10. An average litter size is about5 to 6 puppies.

CVS: What has been the size of the largest litter in your kennel and what is the largest litter that you have heard of. VDM: My biggest litter was 12 puppies, but I have heard of one litter of 15.

CVS: Are there any inherent diseases present in the Bulldog? VDM: If you mean congenital conditions, yes, there is certain conditions which sometimes surface in the breed. Split palate, elongated soft palate and underdevelopment of the trachea (windpipe) is some of the conditions that could be present when puppies are born.

CVS: What do you do when you have puppies born with congenital defects as quoted above? VDM: We always put them down as soon as possible after birth.

CVS: These days dogs are tattooed and micro chipped. Do you do them at your kennel? VDM: When exporting puppies, the Kennel Union of SA requires that the dog receives a microchip. This is done by a registered veterinarian.

CVS. Could you tell us something about your personal life? VDM: I grew up on a farm in the Province of Western Transvaal .I was 16 when I finished school and I immediately joined the Navy. After my training I was seconded to the British Navy and I did duty in the Far East for the whole duration of the Second World War. After returning from the war, I started my studies as a teacher. I was married shortly afterwards and we had three of our own children and seven adopted children. I was in the teaching profession for the whole of my career until retired in 1981.

CVS: What is the size of your family and how much of support and motivation do you get from them? VDM: My wife has passed away and two of my children have emigrated to New Zealand. Four of my sons and two of my daughters are still living with me. We are a very close family, we do everything together and I always have my children's support in everything I do.

CVS: How fond are your children of the breed that you keep and how much of help do you get from them? VDM: The kennel is a family affair and as for me, the Bulldog will always be the only breed for my sons.

CVS: Most successfully exhibitors and breeders have a motivating figure behind them. Do you have any such person and if so could you name him? VDM: Mr Wassersicht of the Happy kennel of 1940. Breeder of Ch. Happy Colonel Chinstrap and Ch. Sungarth Sovereign, both UK champions. He was my tutor of the Bulldogs and he also gave me my first puppy that became a champion.CVS: Do you exhibit your dogs yourself or do you use the help of a handler? V DM: Me and my sons show our own dogs.

CVS: A good dog in the hands of a bad handler can spell disaster for the dogs. How much do you agree with this dictum? VDM: 100%.

CVS: Exhibiting is an art. How much of an expert you consider yourself? VDM: I do not show much anymore but I think two of my sons can any day compete with the best there is.   

This photo was taken at the SA Bulldog Club Championship Show, June 2003. Judges: Dr Jack Brown and Mrs Mickie Brown (USA). FLTR: Mervander Rain Dancer (Best Puppy), Mervander Xerxus (CC dog & BIS) and Mervander Belami (CC bitch and Reserve BIS).

 

CVS: With all your experience and lifetime dedication to the breed why is it that you have not thought of becoming a judge? VDM: I did in fact become a judge and I did my first Bulldog show in 1952. But when I seriously started to breed and show Bulldogs, I decided to give up any judging, the reason being that because there are such a lot of Mervander dogs in South Africa, it would mean that I would have to judge my own dogs on many occasions and you can just think what repercussions this would have had. How can a mother judge her children and a lion will always put her cubs first and so will a jackal. When one day I stop breeding, I will probably judge again but in the meantime I will always be next to the ring to watch very carefully if the Standard is applied.

CVS: Do you think climate and environment play an important role in the development of a dog in general and Bulldogs in particular? If so do you think the Johannesburg climate is conducive for Bulldog breeding? VDM: I think extreme climates, hot or cold, could probably have an influence on the development of certain breeds. The Bulldog specifically is very adaptable – for instance, we exported a Bulldog to Alaska and the owner send us photo's back of him playing in the snow. Here in South Africa, the temperature can get very hot but our Bulldogs are doing very well. If the Bulldog breeding is correct in terms of the respiratory system i.e. wide nostrils and a big barrel chest, the Bulldog can tolerate quite high temperatures without a problem.

CVS: Each breeder has a separate formula for feeding their dogs. Do you have any such formula? VDM: A well-balanced dry dog food is very essential.

CVS: It is said that with introduction of dry dog food dog maintenance has been simplified and dogs get the much sought after balanced nutritious diet. How much would you agree with this? VDM: I fully agree.

CVS: It is said that quite a few breeders feed their dogs with tripe chicken skin and lamb waste. Have you ever attempted this and if so what has been the results? VDM: I use it from time to time for my pregnant bitches and I have found it very good.

CVS: What are the economics of using dry dog food? V DM: I would say that using dry food could be economical provided it is a good, well-balanced dry food that is composed of high quality basic elements which is well absorbed by the digestive system of the dog. If this is the case, the dog needs less food to fulfil it's nutritional requirements than a cheap food could provide and there will also be less problems with skin or other diseases.

CVS: Do Bulldogs need to be exercised? V DM: Yes, a healthy Bulldog needs regular exercise.

CVS: Do you feel that grown up dogs still need to be exercised? You have so many dogs at your kennel. How do you exercise your dogs? Have you ever thought of using a dog walker (treadmill)? VDM: Adult Bulldogs do need exercise, especially if they are to be shown. We have large fenced-in areas of grass where we let our Bulldogs out in groups to play and run around. This is done on a daily routine and the Bulldogs can’t wait to get out. Hence we do not use a treadmill, but it is not that there is anything wrong with a treadmill. I presume if a Bulldog owner do not have much space at home or for whatever other reason, this could be a very valuable method to exercise your Bulldog.

CVS: You have seen a copy of the Indian Kennel Gazette, what is your impression about it and are there areas where you would suggest improvement. VDM: I have never seen a copy but I would very much like to read one.

CVS: Dog breeding in the Western country is now an industry. What is your opinion about this? Do you think that there is a scope to make the dog game an industry in our country also? VDM: I would think that breeding dogs for specific markets like security, companions for the blind, etc. could probably be commercially viable but regarding the Bulldog, I do not think that this could really be economically feasible.

CVS: There are so many small time dog owners who have taken up to dog breeding and have been breeding discriminately thereby spoiling the breed and in the bargain getting themselves and others a bad name. Your comments on this? VDM: A small time breeder normally does not have the capacity for really good selection of genetic material to improve his breed and it will then probably in most cases lead to a deterioration of the quality of the breed.

CVS: It is said that quite a few breeders treat their dogs for minor ailments. Do you also practice this? VDM: I am fortunate to have a son who is a vet as part of the kennel, who treats all ailments.

CVS: How do you foresee the progress of the dog game in the future? VDM: I assume by speaking of the dog game you are referring to the showing of dogs. Over the years I have seen the dog game becoming more and more political, judges loosing their integrity and owners showing dogs for their own ego instead of the love of the dog. This does not bode well for the dog game at all.

CVS: Are there any Bulldog Speciality Clubs in your country and if so what is the role played by them and what is the purpose of the Speciality Club? VDM: Yes, there are 5 Bulldog Speciality Clubs in South Africa. I can only speak for my club, the Pretoria Millennium Bulldog Club who has one sole objective and that is to improve the Bulldog breed and by doing so, to preserve the breed for the future. This is done by educating our members regarding the Bulldog Standard, the breeding of Bulldogs, the showing of Bulldogs, the raising of puppies and all other aspects involved in owning a Bulldog. To do this, we have open days with seminars, shows and also a magazine, which is published twice a year.

CVS: Have you at any time regretted having acquired so many dogs? VDM: No, not at all.

CVS: There is so much rivalry among breeders and exhibitors as a result of which one does not use the services of his competitor’s dog in spite of the fact that this could go to improve the breed and the gene pool. What are your comments on this? VDM: I would say that such an attitude is very foolish and is usually a sign of kennel blindness. I always look at other Bulldogs to see if I could use new blood to improve my own breeding.

CVS: What are your views on lack of sportsmanship behaviour by exhibitors? Is bad behaviour or sledging prevalent among the exhibitors in your country? VDM: I am ashamed to say, yes, very much so. Anybody who can not take an honest beating, should not be exhibiting a dog.

CVS: From your track record, I find that you have been importing, breeding and exhibiting a lot of dogs with a fair amount of success. Do you believe that winning a CC with a dog bred by you would be better than a Best in Show or a Reserve Best in show win with an exhibit imported by you. VDM: Yes, I agree that I feel much prouder when I know it is a dog bred by me that has won in the ring than an imported dog. However, if an imported dog of mine should win BIS or Reserve BIS, I will be just as pleased for the sake of the Bulldog, and I will always give the credit to the original breeder of such a dog.

CVS: As a breeder and dog lover, are you choosy about giving your puppies to others? VDM: Yes, very much so. I am very particular to whom I let my puppies go.

CVS: What would be your advise to new comers who would like to take up to Bulldog breeding and exhibiting? VDM: Try and visit as many Bulldog kennels or Bulldog owners as possible. Visit the Bulldog and see whether you have discernment between a good or a bad specimen. Put your knowledge to the test. Make sure you are absolutely dead honest with yourself. If you have no eye for the Bulldog, stay away from the Bulldog. If you don't have an eye, you will never have love for the breed and my advice then is, forget the Bulldog. But if you find that you qualify, get yourself a Bulldog as soon as possible -after all, what is a home without a stunning Bulldog.

CVS: Do you have any ambition or any specific goal in the dog game and if so when do you think you will achieve it? VDM: I love and enjoy my Bulldogs and my only ambition is to try to breed the perfect Bulldog, something that nobody in the world has yet achieved. In the process one of my dogs, Ch Mervander Thundering Home was chosen as the KUSA National Dog of the Year, the highest achievement that any dog could wish to achieve in South Africa.

CVS: What would you consider your strongest point? VDM: My strongest point - when it comes to the breed, I am dead honest. I do not suffer from kennel blindness and my main aim - I want to breed the perfect Bulldog.

CVS: What would you consider your weakest point? VDM My weakest point - when it comes to the Bulldog I am as critical as I am of a political judge. Then I avoid confrontation at all times, but I can never hide my feelings.

CVS: Is there any shortcut method to achieve success? VDM: If you meet with a dead honest breeder and he let you have the best of his breeding stock and you listen to his advice, you might come out on top sooner than what you expected.

CVS: What has been your happiest moment in the dog game? VDM: When I won my first Best in Show with my own-bred Bulldog.

CVS: Is there anything unfinished that you would like to complete or achieve? V DM: One wish - I would like to visit India once more and secondly, to breed the perfect Bulldog.

CVS: It was a great pleasure interviewing for the Indian Kennel Gazette. The fund of information that you have given us is highly educative and I am sure will be very useful to Bulldog enthusiast. On behalf of the Bulldog lovers in India, the Kennel Club of India and the Indian Kennel Gazette, I thank you very much and wish you the very best and good health.