Janus-faced: keeping up the dual personality of the true Fila brasileiro
Why Janus-faced? Well, the Fila brasileiro is a very, very special breed, an extraordinary dog, where duality, being double-faced is the standard. Love and devotion for the family, fierce dislike and distrust for the rest of the world. Based on personality and temperament, it has no peers at all in the canine family. Physically, the Fila brasileiro is a magnificent and regal animal, with such graceful, fluid and agile movements which may surprise one considering how large the breed is.
But it is what is inside that melancholic, long-eared, wrinkly head that makes the Fila brasileiro truly unique. The mind of the Fila brasileiro has remained as it has been throughout its ancestry, as fresh and as vibrant as before. The Fila brasileiro, first, second and last is a protection dog. And when speaking of protection dogs, please do not start thinking of Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, and such. These dogs are nothing when compared to the Fila brasileiro, actually they cannot stand even in the shadow of it. Why? The Fila brasileiro requires no training to defend and to protect; the ability and drive to do so have been bred into him. When fierce loyalty, endless love and true devotion are mixed with complete fearlessness, sprinkled with a natural guarding instinct and the ability of making decisions, an unparalleled guardian and companion rises up from the mix: the Fila brasileiro. Enhancing these qualities is an inborn dislike and distrust of strangers, the famous “ojeriza”, which you have surely all heard about by now.
People who are not very well acquainted with the Fila brasileiro often ask about certain features of the temperament of this breed, particularly as it is a well known fact that the sharp and keen watching instinct is appreciated. The selection, seriously carried out towards this purpose, may cause wonder in some people who, due to rumours and defamation, have a distorted and misunderstood image of the Fila brasileiro, seeing him as a creature owning irrational savagery, and dangerous even to his own family members.
The feature that perhaps is at first sight the most apparent in a Fila brasileiro's temperament is the “ojeriza” to strangers (ojeriza = sharp aversion). On the contrary to other puppies, a Fila brasileiro puppy is not inclined to playing relaxed with anyone. He attaches himself quickly to those with whom he lives but is, however, from his earliest youth suspicious of persons he does not know. Suspicion may make him irritated and annoyed and to some extent even make him growl with a certain amount of aggression, but yet without sufficient self-confidence to attack. In the course of his development the aversion against strangers will become more and more apparent. Already as a puppy the Fila brasileiro will clearly show his displeasure if a stranger would try to touch him. At about the age of one year the Fila brasileiro would surely attack any person unknown to him who would try to touch him.
Each individual dog reaches its ojeriza at a different time, usually at the age of 6-12 months, and this will be the point of no return: from the playful puppy you will get a loyal companion for the family and a deadly enemy for strangers. The mature Fila brasileiro takes over his/her role as your personal protector, from threats great or small. If offended by anybody or anything, he/she will be there to take one step forward, to growl a deep growl and stare at the offender in a most hostile way. A false move, and in a flash, before anyone could blink, your Fila brasileiro will jump up into the air and grab the bad guy’s face or throat, knocking him down to the ground, holding him still. The offender is usually not hurt at all, but is held firmly. Something that is so cool about the breed and is such a credit to them is that the response is mostly equal to the offence. This is not a breed of dog that will go overboard or lose its head easily, if properly raised. However, God save the guys who come into your house uninvited or behave in a threatening way towards you! An agitated or restless disposition in a Fila brasileiro is highly undesirable as it may be a symptom of nervousness and insecurity. One must remember that the Fila brasileiro needs provocation in order to attack, for example, when an unknown person stares at him fixedly as a challenge. Here it becomes evident another typical feature of the Fila brasileiro: his courage will not allow him to move one step back when facing a provocation of any kind. No matter which instrument is used for the attack, the Fila brasileiro's reaction is always prompt, spontaneous, and without any sign of insecurity. He throws himself forward and upwards attempting to reach the face or the throat of the aggressor. Exactly at this point the Fila brasileiro differs from other dogs (like German shepherds), who attack only when ordered, doing what they have been taught to do, showing rather the extent of their conditioning than true courage and instinctive reaction against aggression. Your Fila brasileiro will be alert and there, mercilessly defending you, if necessary, even if you are unable to give him commands to do so. And so you can feel relaxed, safe and sound.
So, this is roughly the protection aspect of the Fila brasileiro. However, for the vast majority of the time, the Fila brasileiro does not act like this, but is its everyday, sweet, melancholic, clown-like, goofy and frisky self. In his own home the Fila brasileiro is tender and devoted to his owner and the family. His obedience is absolute, his thirst for caresses is inexhaustible. He does not hide his antipathy towards strangers, on the contrary, he is frankly and honestly aggressive. His features make him the best watch dog one may desire. Its personality is nearly human. It has a sense of humour and is mostly in tune with your moods. It always follows you around the house like a shadow and never lets you out of sight. Of course, his aversion towards persons he does not know demands certain precautions and may bring some disadvantages. A Fila brasileiro must be under control before guests come into the house! At a show, if the judge would focus on his eyes or would try to touch the dog, he might take the risk of an attack. All this belongs to the personality of the Fila brasileiro, these reactions are essential to the breed. The first standard, more than 30 years ago, took these personality aspects into account by saying that the dog was not to be punished if he attacked the judge at a show. These features can still be seen in the offspring from the old bloodstrains at the farms of southern Minas Gerais, Brazil, and by means of carefully planned matings we are trying to maintain the old heritage. Unfortunately, in many cases the very long distances, the difficult access and the lack of sympathy from the owner's side for our ideas cause that excellent dogs can never be used for breeding.
In Brazil, the Fila brasileiro was once inevitably used for slave-tracking, big game hunting, cattle driving, as a war dog, as a watching dog for sugar-cane plantations, gold mines, farms, prisons and last but not least as a personal protector. In our days these scenes are belonging to the past, the functional adaptability of the Fila brasileiro is not as essential any longer as it used to be. Due to progress, advanced technology and the modern highways that cross the country, the cattle are transported in enormous trucks to the modern freezing plants. Men riding donkeys on trackless paths are nowadays mostly nothing else than nostalgic memories. The Brazilian jaguars, a few decades ago an alarming threat to the cattle in many regions of the country, are today more and more in danger of being extinct. And the Fila brasileiro, the “protagonist” of that anachronistic scene, also fights for surviving. He is trapped between today's smaller importance of his abilities as a cattle-dog in the country and the threat of becoming a fashionable dog as well as being cross bred in the main cities, not to say in Europe.
Yes, the brave and long suffering Fila brasileiro is today in the very middle of his last battle. By this process he is perhaps more attacked than any other Fila brasileiro generation before, who had to fight against bulls and jaguars. Paradoxically one has on the other side the fact that the Kennel Clubs in various countries are registering hundreds of Fila brasileiro pups per year without being interested whether these are true Fila brasileiros or bastards. One must also recognize that there has also been a tendency of softening the extremely sharp temperament of the ancient Fila brasileiros.
But, in spite of all the difficulties, we of Janus-faced brought and still are intending to bring specimens from these ancient strains, today nearly extinct, to our kennel. The result of their breeding has already been proved worthwhile, first in terms of their rusticity and homogeneity in type, and second, in terms of their firmness in temperament, courage and “ojeriza” to strangers. These are, indeed, the unmistakeable features of the true Fila brasileiro.
We wish that just those people, who want to preserve him as he was introduced to all of us in his severe origin which had formed him, would breed the Fila brasileiro. We do not want to see the Fila brasileiro in the hands of people who fancy the modern superficial beauty shows. They neglect and want to push away the traditional capacities of the Fila brasileiro.
One must know: the Fila brasileiro is not a dog adequate for everybody! It is very important to have a close contact between the dog and the owner especially when the dog is young and his character is being formed. Everybody should know, too, that the Fila brasileiro prefers to be handled by firm hands, a handler with a strong alpha character. The purchasing of a Fila brasileiro is a great responsibility!
To be owned by a Fila brasileiro is a great pleasure, and while I think that the Fila brasileiro is not a breed for everyone, I do think that for those special people, the “fileiros”, there is a very special relationship waiting to be had with one of these extraordinary dogs.
Come and be one of us! Enjoy having a magnificent friend: an authentic Fila brasileiro!