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HappyLegs Bullmastiffs
Owned since 1981, first litter 1986
Breeder Name(s):
Chris Lezotte & Alan Kalter
Ann Arbor, Michigan
(734) 741-7326.



Chris Lezotte Alan Kalter

Chris: formerly a VP Creative Group Supervisor/Art Director in Advertising, member American Bullmastiff Association 15 years, ABA Secretary 3 years, ABA Board of Directors 2 years, ABA Bullmastiff Bulletin Editor 3 years, ABA Judges Education Committee 2 years, member Glass City Bullmastiff Fanciers 5 years, member Midwest Bullmastiff Fanciers 15 years, member Ann Arbor Kennel Club 3 years (currently serving as Newsletter Editor, judged Bullmastiff, Boxer, Doberman and Great Dane Sweepstakes, pro-bono design work for the Humane Society of Huron Valley.

Alan: CEO Advertising Agency, is/has been responsible for advertising for Iams Dog Food, PetSmart, Morris Animal Foundation, American Kennel Club, Detroit Zoo, Detroit Kennel Club, Michigan Humane Society, has been a member of the American Bullmastiff Association 15 years, Glass City Bullmastiff Fanciers 5 years, Midwest Bullmastiff Fanciers 15 years, is a member of Morris Animal Foundation Board of Directors, Detroit Zoological Park Board of Directors and the Detroit Kennel Club.  Tells us about the origination of your kennel.  What was the driving factor that got you involved with the Bullmastiff Breed?

HappyLegs:  HappyLegs began as the combination of two prominent eastern kennels of the time, Bandog and Jubilee. We were looking for dogs that were first of all, sound in body and mind, moderate in type and within the standard in size. We started breeding ďfrom the rear forwardĒ and developed a bloodline of unexaggerated dogs known for exception movement.

We got involved with bullmastiffs absolutely the wrong way. We were living in a suburb of Detroit and had been robbed, and as Alan was away from home a great deal, were looking for a dog that would make me feel ďsafe.Ē We purchased a pet dog from the newspaper, a small, hyper, although delightful dog. We started to go to dog shows and decided that our next bullmastiff would be a show dog. Our pet dog died at two years of age; we purchased our first show dog shortly after his death and have been hooked on the sport ever since.  Some kennels are striving to create their own bloodline.  Is this one of your goals as well?  What is involved with creating such a legacy as your own bloodline?

HappyLegs:  Developing your own bloodline means that you are breeding for the future, not for a litter. It means that you have decided what qualities of the breed are important to you, and you breed for those qualities in every litter. When you have developed your own bloodline, you know the history of most of the dogs in the pedigree, you know what faults that may be lurking, and the qualities you want to ďstamp in.Ē You are also aware of any health issues that may be of concern and do your best to breed around them. When you have your own bloodline, you have a better understanding of what one of your puppies may turn out to be, and are better able to assess their quality and temperament.  The Bullmastiff is one of few breeds whose physical characteristics can vary dramatically from one kennel to the next.   The head shape of the Bullmastiff is a prime example of this.  Although all seem to fall within the basis of the Bullmastiff standard - there is still a considerable and noticeable difference to the layman's eye. Do you think this is acceptable and serves as a signature look for a particular kennel/bloodline?  Or is this an item of improvement for the Bullmastiff breeding program to move towards a more consistent looking Bullmastiff across all kennels?

HappyLegs:  Because of its origins, as a combination of the bulldog and the mastiff, the bullmastiff is a breed that doesnít breed true. This means that even in a linebred litter, you will get variations in type. I believe the current standard addresses that, and is therefore fairly loose in its description of the breed. I think that this is both a good and bad thing. The negative is what was addressed, that it allows for a wide variation in how the dogs may look. However, on the positive side, it allows a breeder to develop his or her own interpretation of the standard, and to put his or her own ďmarkĒ on the breed. While there are certain parts of the standard that are not open to interpretation (squareness being one, my own personal pet peeve!) it also allows individual breeders to develop a distinctive line of bullmastiffs.  With the cost of a Bullmastiff puppy being higher than most other breeds, most people would think that breeding Bullmastiffs is a lucrative and easy endeavor.  Is this true? 

HappyLegs:  If only it were so! I am certain there are people who make money breeding bullmastiffs, but they most likely do not show their dogs, nor perform standard health checks on their breeding stock or sell their puppies with basic guarantees. While many may bemoan the show ring as political and unfair, it is, at this point, the only way breeders can compare their dogs and see where their strengths are and what needs to be improved. Bullmastiffs are costly to breed, and if one breeds on a fairly regular basis, even breaking even is rarely possible.  Specifically what do you consider to be the most difficult part about breeding Bullmastiffs?

HappyLegs: This is a heartbreak breed. There are many difficulties in breeding, whelping and keeping puppies alive, and you have to have a pretty tough constitution in order to survive over the long haul. Just when I think I have seen every possible problem, I am struck with another. This is a guard breed, and while there are many well-intentioned folks out there, many of them are just not suited for this breed. You have to be able to sort them out. You can also never forget that the original bullmastiff was a much tougher dog, which means that no matter how careful you are in selecting and researching your breeding stock, you are going to produce some puppies with unsuitable temperaments for today's lifestyles. Anyone who thinks that this is not going to happen is not being realistic about the breed. It is also imperative to try and keep in contact with everyone you sell a puppy to, which means always being on call to give advice, answer questions, and take a dog back for whatever reason. Breeding bullmastiffs is a huge commitment, and it is not something that should be taken lightly.  What do you consider to be the most difficult part about participating in the professional circuit in regards to conformation?

HappyLegs:  Staying objective. I believe the problem most people have is, quite honestly, they always feel their dog should win and are unhappy or even upset when it does not. Like anything else, dog shows can be political. If you show your dog, you have to go in to it understanding that. If you have a good dog, itís going to win more than itís going to lose, or itís going to win enough. If you think you have a good dog and itís not winning, there will come a point where you just canít say itís political. You have to take a hard look at your dog and see whatís wrong with it. Instead of getting mad and leaving when your dog loses, stay and find out why your dog lost, and what kind of dog won. Stay and watch the breed and the group. Showing in conformation is a great opportunity to learn about your dog, the breed, and dogs in general. Donít pass it up!  Compared to other dog breeds, the Bullmastiff is still rarely seen in the agility ring - even though ownership of the Bullmastiff has increased dramatically.  Why do you think there are still so few Bullmastiffs participating is this particular sector?

HappyLegs:  Certainly the size, stamina and the tendency for dog aggression in this breed contribute to the lack of participation. While I do not show in agility, from what I have seen, the small, undersized, energetic bitches are the most successful. Bullmastiffs are not made for agility or obedience; you have to want to do it badly and have a dog that wishes to please you, which is not the typical temperament of this breed.

....continue....  As the popularity of Bullmastiff ownership rises, so are the incidents of children getting bitten by Bullmastiffs.  With the media heavily publicizing dog attacks of any nature - it has potential to bring an undesirable reputation to this breed.  How compatible do you think the Bullmastiff breed (as a whole - not specifically from your kennel) is with young children and babies?

HappyLegs:  Personally, I donít think the bullmastiff is a great breed for homes with small children. The families must commit to having a guard breed and take the necessary precautions, and the dog must have the correct temperament for that particular situation. Most families are too busy or unwilling to make that kind of commitment. A female bullmastiff is usually a better choice than a male, but it isnít always the best choice. I donít have children, so I am uncomfortable placing a dog in a home with children unless I am absolutely convinced it is going to work out.  What do you believe may be the reason for the increased incidents of Bullmastiffs, in particular, biting children?

HappyLegs:  I believe most biting incidents occur because either a family acquires a bullmastiff with a temperament unsuited for their lifestyle, or that the family is not willing to make the commitment and take the precautions necessary for having a guard breed. Families are busy today, and often the adults do not take the time to ensure that the bullmastiff understand its place in the household, which is under every human being in that household, including children. A bullmastiff that does not have that understanding is a time bomb waiting to go off. As a bullmastiff will protect its children, it is imperative that it never be left without adult supervision around other peopleís children. That is a hard rule to follow in an active household. Owning a bullmastiff is a liability, especially in a home with kids. A family has to understand that before taking on this breed, no matter how sweet a puppy may appear to be.  Are there any cautions you would recommend for new Bullmastiff owners with children and/or who plan to have children in the future after acquiring a Bullmastiff to prevent dog bites?

Only acquire a bullmastiff if you want a guard breed and are willing to make the commitment necessary to ensure the dog knows its place in the household.  Socialize the dog as much as possible and, again, make sure it understands who is in charge. Never leave a bullmastiff unsupervised with other peopleís children. Do not allow children to bother the dog when it is obvious it does not want to be bothered; make sure it has its own space which is off limits to kids. Do not wrestle, play tug-of war or any other aggression inducing games with the dog. Do not spoil or baby the dog; treat it with the respect a guard breed deserves. If you are not interested in the bullmastiff for its guarding abilities, then get a different, more child-friendly breed of dog.

I do not want to give the impression that those with children should absolutely not get a bullmastiff. There are hundreds of homes in which children and bullmastiffs live together in harmony. But these are homes in which the temperament of the bullmastiff, male or female, is suitable to the lifestyle of the family, and it is also a home in which the parents have made certain that the bullmastiff has been raised and trained properly and that the children treat it with respect.  Many families still hold the old tradition that large dogs should be kept as outside only pets.  Do you think the Bullmastiff is well suited to be kept as an "outside dog"?

HappyLegs:  In order to be a reliable guardian, the bullmastiff needs to be socialized and around people as much as possible. That is not going to happen if the dog is left outside for the majority of the time. If you do not wish to have a large, sometimes drooly dog in your home, then do not get a bullmastiff.  As with any other canine breed, the Bullmastiff is known to have a variety of health problems.  When these problems arise, the adopting family is left with the cost of treating these health problems.  Should the Bullmastiff Breeder they purchased the Bullmastiff from bear any responsibility as well?  Or is this something that the Bullmastiff puppy buyer should already be aware that this is a "side effect" of owning a Bullmastiff and it will be their full responsibility to deal with any health issues that may arise?

HappyLegs:  I personally believe that the breeder should be responsible for costs up to the purchase price of the dog for health issues believed to be congenital, at least for the first year. All other medical costs should be the responsibility of the owner  What future would you like to see happen with the Bullmastiff breed in general?  Do you think it this future is reachable?

HappyLegs:  I hope that those who chose to breed the bullmastiff do so with the understanding of the enormity of the task they are undertaking. I hope that those who let a bullmastiff into their home make for it a proper place where it will be respected, but in which improper behavior will not be tolerated. I hope that all of us, breeders and owners, will leave the bullmastiff  better than we found it.

Closing Thoughts:

HappyLegs:  The longer I am in this breed, the more I love and respect the bullmastiff and realize that it is not the breed for everyone. In the right hands and with the proper respect and treatment, it is truly a marvelous breed. As a breeder, I hope to leave a legacy of sound, healthy dogs of correct conformation, exceptional movement and proper temperament. would like to personally thank HappyLegs Bullmastiffs for taking the time to share their thoughts and experience with our readers!  If you would like more information about HappyLegs Bullmastiffs from Chris Lezotte and Alan Kalter, contact them at:

HappyLegs Bullmastiffs
Chris Lezotte & Alan Kalter
Ann Arbor, Michigan
(734) 741-7326.


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