Interview with Toni Donovan, Breeder of Guardian Angel Bullmastiffs
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Toni Donovan: I live in Polk City, Florida. I got my first Bullmastiff in 2005. Had my first litter in 2006.
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Toni Donovan: I am Guardian Angel Bullmastiffs. I have nine dogs and one rescue waiting on the perfect home.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Toni Donovan: A noteworthy winner is MBISS RBIS GCHP CH Greta Master of the Night, aka “Ana Banana,” my first bitch show dog.
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Toni Donovan: “Ana” has made such an impact on people all over the world. She is phenomenal. Both she and Bullhead Majesty Aramis, aka “Django,” were the first dogs I showed. Django stole my heart from the moment I met him. “Bravehart” steals everyone’s heart who meets him. We call him “Bub.”
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Toni Donovan: My dogs are all inside. They are guard dogs, but I guard them. I have a room for mama and puppies. My grandson says, “Nina, you know that is my room, but I will share it with puppies.” We welcome visitors anytime. Puppies are very well-socialized. Every day is a day to learn more and do better. Some days are overwhelming because I work six days a week doing elderly clients’ hair in nursing homes and living facilities, and in a beauty shop. The other half of the day is spent taking care of dogs. I love my life even on the worse days of exhaustion. Like fishing, there is no such thing as a bad day raising puppies.
What is my “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do I make my decisions?
Toni Donovan: Truth is, my Ana only had two puppies. We kept both, so there was nothing to decide. After Ana, when I do breedings for clients with my pups, I find it very hard to consider only one. Ana has caused me to compare to her and it is hard to match her. So, I can say that I read a lot of other people’s studies and how they do it. I watch at shows to see how they flow in the ring. A great-moving dog is evidence of a good-structured dog.
If you study the breed standard it is very hard to choose, as we know there are no perfect dogs. (Even though Dr. Jackie will argue with this. She thinks Ana is perfect.) The more that I look at pups, the more I see what I like. Then, I start seeing what I wish I could change. Then, I look back at Ana as a pup and it’s hard to accept less than what she was. We truly need to have sound structure and good movement.
How do I prepare my pups for the show ring? Does my breed require any special preparation?
Toni Donovan: The pups have to be handled from the start. If not, Donna Butler is “the bomb” at taking them. She says to spend five minutes every time you take them out to say stand, stay, and run them by your side. Making it fun is half the battle. We use whipping cream or anything that makes them happy to follow.
Can I share my thoughts on how my breed is currently presented in the show ring?
Toni Donovan: I have seen some really nice line-ups. I think a lot of great breeding for showing is in the ring right now. “Politics” is very sad when a great-looking dog or bitch is dropped. The show is about the breed, not the owners or handlers. Yes, they deserve a big credit, but the show ring is about our breed, to acknowledge a great representation of the breed. It makes me so happy for every winner, but I’m so proud when judging is done in honor of the breed and not the handler or breeder. I believe most all breeds in the ring have the same issues… not just ours.
Are there any health-related concerns within my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Toni Donovan: Health testing helps to know what you can’t see. Personally, I believe the “garbage” in most all dog food causes health issues. I believe in a longer life with raw feeding, if done correctly, or nutrition and detox if and when our dogs are “poisoned” with shots and parasite treatments. We poison our dogs to keep them healthy. How stupid does that sound? If we feed them garbage, we need to give them enzymes to break down the garbage and get it out of their system. There is a list of health issues that everyone says exists in large breed dogs. I get calls about cancer, also heart issues. I don’t have time to address this here, but there are things which cause this that can be helped with proper nutrition.
In my opinion, is my breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Toni Donovan: I love this breed. I am very blessed to say that most all my dogs have been living from 10-13 years. Never long enough, but I do my best to do all that I can for my dogs to have a long life. We should follow what the doctors say is a good diet for heart patients. Most of all, no matter how long they live, we should give them all the love and care they deserve. As people, they die young and old. Sometimes, we just can’t fix everything. But if we love them with our whole heart, no matter their age, they have had the best life ever. Sometimes we just have to accept things, as I did when my sister died. Her time here was up.
Is my breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Toni Donovan: My dogs are great family guard dogs. The owners have to understand the breed and be responsible to have a large dog. Socializing is a must. A back-up plan with the breeder or a family member is needed in case an accident happens so that the dog will be properly cared for. Things can happen. They are not an outdoor dog, and they are not babysitters even though they love kids. My favorite clients are the ones who have always had or grew up with the breed.
Do I feel that my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Toni Donovan: Being in the show world, I can now say, “Absolutely.” Before showing, I felt I had to rescue other breeders’ pups and find homes so that they didn’t go back to the breeder. I am so proud to say that ABA Rescue is awesome and I’m so proud to help them. The breeders in the show world are very stern and harsh because it matters to them that the breed is bred properly to better the breed. I have been very happy to play a part in the show world, to see this respect for the breed.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with my breed?
My favorite thing about this breed is their eagerness to please you. They spend their whole life to please you and adapt to your life. As for Ana, she has fallen in love with
Dr. Jackie and Donna. When it is show time (or even if we are somewhere and Dr. Jackie is there), she will throw herself on the ground and won’t get up if you try to take her from Dr. Jackie. She does it rather often now. She loves to show. So, she wants to be with them to show, not with me, till showing is over. There are so many stories I could tell. Anyone who owns one has many stories to share.
Are you looking for a Bullmastiff puppy?
The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.
Want to help rescue and re-home a Bullmastiff dog?
Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.
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