As the owner of several Filas and the previous owner of two Schutzhound trained german shepard K9 dogs and one Tosa.
I wanted to post a detailed explanation of the Fila and why the Fila will always have a place in the homes of my family.
I was planning to have a call with Dawna Berg the women that I have purchased "Simba" from and came across this article, it is pretty good and does a good job of explaining the Fila.
I do agree with the article and the Fila is definitely not a dog for the irresponsible or novice/intermediate dog owner/trainer.
Eshabeta II FILAS
NOT FOR THE IRRESPONSIBLE
You want a dog for companionship and protection, but which breed? I’ve been around dogs all of my life and am familiar with most of the breeds perceived to be (depending on who you’re talking with) the ideal protectors, along with having my own ideas of which were good and not so good. Then I got a big surprise.
In this past June’s issue of Countryside Magazine was an article about a breed of dog I’d never heard of before. I was very intrigued by the article and was preparing to make a grip to visit in the area of one of the kennels mentioned in the article, so I contacted them while I was there. A phone call introduced me to Dawna Berg, owner of Eshabeta II Kennels, in Arlington, Washington. She is one of the foremost authorities in this country on the breed and her love and interest in the breed was very evident right from the start of our conversation. It was a phone call I’m glad I made, it introduced me to a remarkable breed of dog: the Fila Brasileiro.
What is a Fila Brasileiro? Combine a Mastiff (the backbone breed of over 30 other breeds) with and English Bulldog and you get a great dog, one of which was the star of the movie, Turner & Hooch. Then to make things interesting, mix that combination with a Bloodhound and you have the basic makings of the Fila Brasileiro. The breed originated in Brazil about the time Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors arrived, or shortly thereafter. They weren’t noticed in this country until around the 1980s, and still are classified in this country as a rare breed. They definitely are. They are the best natural guard dogs I’ve ever seen, which is exactly why they are not for the irresponsible.
If, like I did at first, you assume the Fila’s temperament to be similar in mode to the German Shepherd’s or one of the other working breeds associated with protection, you’re making a very serious mistake. If left untrained and unsocialized, the Fila will always be aggressive toward strangers, regardless of age, gender or size and without the training and socialization, this can prove to be a serious problem. Their natural disposition is wariness and distrust of strangers. The Fila is the only breed of dog shown that a judge does not reach down to touch, unless expressly invited by the handler. If a Fila shows aggression toward a judge, because this is their natural disposition, they are not marked down or penalized in any way. Starting to get the picture? Filas are not for the irresponsible!
With proper training, for both the Fila and new owner, the Fila becomes tractable and can be taken out in public, on a leash, preferably, for everyone’s safety, including your own. If the occasion arises where someone just feels compelled to pet "the pretty puppy," the handler can convey to the Fila that it’s OK, but then they need to let the Fila check out the new person first. After checking out the person, the Fila will tolerate the touch of the stranger, whoever it may be, although sometimes appearing very reluctant.
There may even be an appearance of timidity, or cowing, when touched, but don’t ever be fooled by that. It just isn’t so! On the other hand, if the Fila decides you’re a "good guy," they may want to crawl up into your lap if you’re sitting, to show they approve of you. One female about five years old did this with me, so I felt rather special. They both approved of me.
One mature male, Reno (1996 World Champion in Budapest, Hungary, and holder of nine International titles and two US titles, along with being 1997 Reserve World Champion in Puerto Rico), came into the room with a very regal and aristocratic bearing, giving me a rather cursory look and then seeming to disregard me as not important enough for him to be concerned with. But that was a façade, he never missed a thing I did. I am thoroughly convinced had I made any sudden move, Reno would’ve been in my lap, but not to get his ears scratched. But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself in my story. Sorry.
After my phone conversation with Dawna, I could hardly wait until the next day to go meet this breed of dog, which had so intrigued me. The dog I own at present is an almost 2-year-old female Mastiff, with the disposition of a cuddly teddy bear. Although she is territorial about her yard (she has a fit about the neighbor’s cats trespassing), she allows the neighborhood kids to pass without incident. She sort of escorts them in a friendly manner through our driveway, but shows no sign of aggression toward them, which is something I’m thankful for. I have no question she would act differently if she were seriously provoked in some harsh manner, but her size alone (31 inches at the shoulder and 132 pounds) is detrimental to that form of thinking, and she was the runt of the litter. Such would not be the case were she a Fila Brasileiro.
The sign at the front gate of Eshabeta II Kennels admonishes one to stay in their vehicle, just honk the horn and wait for someone to show up at the gate. There are actually two gates to pass through to gain entrance to the 13 acres of trees, buildings and fenced areas, but staying in your vehicle at the first gate just makes good sense. Passing through the second gate brings you to a large graveled parking lot area in front of a big old farmhouse which just hollers, "comfort at it’s best, the old fashioned way."
The kennels are in a separate area through more gates and fenced areas, all surrounded by trees providing shade in summer and just making the grounds peaceful and quiet. We stopped in front of a row of kennels in which there were various puppies and a few adults. The puppies were full of the expected playfulness, but also evident was a wary curiosity. The adults were curious, but not excited about me being with Dawna, until I moved my arm to point at something in the distance. Then all hell broke loose from the adults we were in front of at the time, and it also had an effect on the puppies down the line. They all seemed to perceive my movement to be some form of aggression towards Dawna and they definitely didn’t approve. One older bitch was looking at me closely and Dawna mentioned that to return her look by looking directly into her eyes could be taken by her as an act of aggression towards her. I told Dawna that I was looking her in the eye, but I was convinced she could read in my eyes that I was only thinking of how much intelligence I saw in her eyes and she didn't seem to be upset, only pensive.
We moved on to another set of kennels and I stepped into another separate enclosure to watch from behind cyclone fencing as Dawna let some Filas out of their kennels for me to see. In each case, the first thing the Filas did when Dawna opened their gates was to greet her, then race to the fence in front of me to check me out. I remained standing still as they did this and the result was the same in each case. They’d race to the fence, stop and look me over, then seem to decide I posed no threat and race back to Dawna before going off to play. Also in each case, they continued to watch me out of the corner of their eyes, just in case. If I moved at all, they’d race right back over to the fence to see what the hell I was up to, but at no time did any one of them make a move to attack me through the fence. They were just extremely watchful.
Although somewhat smaller than the Mastiff, the Fila resembles a Mastiff, with a definite touch of the Bloodhound apparent. The Fila seems a bit more muscular in stature, as they are somewhat shorter in length in relation to their height than a Mastiff. On the humorous side, I’ve seen some photos of Filas in which they look like overgrown Basset Hounds more than Mastiffs, or they’ve looked like they couldn’t get out of their own way for clumsiness, but don’t be misled by appearances. Regardless of whether they sometimes may look funny or not, they are surprisingly quick and agile for their size, with an impressive sure-footedness even in the puppies. One interesting difference between Filas and other dogs in their gate. The Fila is a pacer, in that both legs on one side move in unison like a camel, instead of trotting like most horses and other dogs. One main consideration about a Fila Brasileiro when contemplating whether one would be a good protection dog is their courage. When a dog is regularly used to hunt the Jaguar, as they have been in their native Brazil, it is not too surprising to hear of one that attacked a full grown bear to protect its owner, when the dog was only one year old. The Fila Brasileiro is utterly fearless when it, or its family, is threatened in any way.
Being territorial and protective on their family, the Fila Brasileiros made a very definite impression on me as to whether they’d be good protection dogs. There is no question in my mind they would be about the best I’ve ever run across. I’m not in any way belittling any of the other breeds considered protection dogs, but with all the good traits of any other breed, for my money the Fila Brasileiro is unequaled. But, they are not for someone who is not ready and unable to accept that to have one is like having a container of nitroglycerin strapped to their waist. Respected and handled properly there’ll be no problem, but make a wrong decision and your whole world could blow up in your face.
The photos shown of how the Filas are trained for attack situations should not be misconstrued as to their nature. The Fila needs no instruction on how to attack or bite, but the training is for control of the Fila if ever the occasion might present itself for the dog to protect its owner. Kinda like driving a car. Once you learn how to make it go, you’ve also gotta learn how to stop the damn thing. Right? That’s mainly the basis for the training shown in the photos. Without that control to subdue the Fila when it attacks, you’re probably going to end up needing a body bag and one real talented defense attorney. Not for the irresponsible, I can’t stress that enough.
If you feel an interest to learn more about this remarkable breed of dog, or are interested in obtaining one, contact Mike Bancroft and Dawna Berg, Eshabeta II Kennels, 25130 19th Avenue NE, Arlington, WA 98223; or call 360-435-8123, or fax 360-435-0458. Also, let me include that Mike and Dawna were two of the most hospitable people you can imagine, considering they knew up front that I was probably not going to buy a Fila for awhile. Yet, Dawna gave me a tour and presentation as if I were buying the whole kennel, then together they invited me into their home and introduced me to the females I mentioned earlier who wanted to crawl up into my lap, along with the king of the realm, Reno. I was right about that old farmhouse, it was comfort at its best, the old fashioned way.
By Larry E. Bigham
American Survival Guide, February, 1999.