Brian Wilhelm specializes in breeding “bullies” (such as the American Pitbull Terrier). Wilhelm and other members of their group, 8TRE Bullies, can regularly be seen walking their show-quality dogs throughout downtown Dubuque, as well as on competition stages throughout the midwest.
1. Do you consider dog breeding an art form or more of a scientific hobby?
It’s kind of both. We breed for structure overall, and to do that, you have to study genetics and what look you’re going. We also do it as an art form, because we try to match color coordinations. So, we can try to pull tri-color genes or all-white dogs, or we can consistently drop a look that we want based on what is more hot at the time.
2. What’s hot right now?
Tri-color’s really hot. Ticking is getting bigger– spots all over their bodies. They come in almost any color you can imagine.
3. So, the creativity is there but it’s within strict parameters in terms of health.
Yeah, health is always first and foremost. You don’t want to breed dogs with defects or breed them too early. There’s a lot of planning.
4. Eventually you’re going to breed an exclusive bloodline. Will there be a certain look to that breed, or is it just about the legacy?
We do a family-run business. [The family members] are all very involved. We just want to produce top-quality dogs no matter what the style. We have dogs in every style and look, so we can mix-and-match. We’re starting to get more into the exotic look — bulldog genes, smashed-up faces– it’s a new style of the breed.
5. What’s your experience been like in Dubuque as a breeder? Is it different than other places?
Dubuque is very accepting of our dogs. We walk our dogs down the street in every neighborhood. Some people are still scared of the stigma, but for the most part, in Dubuque, it’s really relaxed. People wave at us, the cops drive by and wave at us. We come from small towns in Iowa, and our dogs aren’t even allowed to walk on the streets or even be owned. So to be comfortable and be able to do what we love and not be judged for it, it’s really heartwarming. We fit in.
6. The lay-person will see a pitbull and notice the muscles, the smashed-up face, and the cropped ears. Why do you think breeders strive for those things?
The pitbull was bred to be a working dog. They start cutting the ears for fighting, so there’s less to grab onto and get injured. Now, it’s more of a heritage. It’s a rite of passage. It reminds us of where our dogs came from in history. Not to say that we promote fighting. We still love our breed from day one [into] the future. We work hard to preserve the past and present a new breed in the future.