The Persistence of Love

Like many people who first become interested in showing and breeding dogs—in their case, the extremely large, lovable breed of mastiffs— John and Camron Priest found they had a steep learning curve to navigate. In addition to questions about how to breed dogs and what traits to select for, they also had to learn some lessons the hard way.

“When we decided we wanted to show dogs, we went out looking for a show puppy. Many breeders will you tell you their dogs are ‘showable.’ All dogs are showable, but that doesn’t mean they are going to win. Like a lot of people new to the show world, we got taken advantage of,” remembers John.

Luckily, a professional training group provided the guidance and mentoring the couple needed to help them translate their love for mastiff s to a successful breeding program. The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center was also there for the Ashville, Ohio-based couple— helping with reproductive services as well as specialty care when needed.

“We knew nothing about dog breeding,” laughs Camron, thinking back to their early efforts. “First we wondered, ‘Where do you start and how do you do this?’ We went to some dog shows just to watch and learned a lot through the showing. Ohio State played a big part in the shipping and freezing, and they just were so helpful with our questions and anything we needed.”

Decades later, Ohio State’s Theriogenology and Reproductive Medicine Service has assisted the Priests with a couple dozen breedings. Midknight Mastiff s, the kennel name of the Priests’ breeding program is known for the thoughtful care they put into their dogs. “In our breeding program, one of the things we evaluate fi rst and foremost is temperament,” says John. “We also screen for health. That’s one of the reasons we came to Ohio State; we wanted more information on the genetics and how to properly proceed with breeding better traits into the dogs, while trying to diminish the bad traits.”

It’s a passion for Camron, who first fell in love with mastiff s at a young age. “Their personalities are what drew us to them. They love their people, and they just want to be with you all the time. We just love their personalities.” Along the way, the Priests also started breeding and showing French bulldogs.

The Priests take care to match their dogs to the right families. “We start picking up their personalities at about four weeks,” says John. “We closely monitor the pups from two to eight weeks.” The goal is to match the temperament of the dogs to those of the families they will become a part of, but John and Camron are looking for something else, too: show dogs. When they fi nd a dog with the right mix of outgoing temperament and American Kennel Club characteristics, they begin grooming the pup for competition.

As they meet other breeders at shows, the Priests recommend Ohio State’s Veterinary Medical Center. “We tell them how we are getting the latest and greatest in veterinary medicine, plus Ohio State is training the next generation of veterinarians,” says Camron. “You can’t beat that.”