A Change In The Air
© Lyse Stormont/Kathleen McDaniel
''... while we flatter ourselves that things
remain the same,
they are changing under our very eyes from year to year,
from day to day."
Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman
After 6 Months of Age
You are now heading into a new developmental stage with your TM
puppy that is akin to the early teenage years of the human child.
The little dimmer switch that controls many of the facets of the
TM character, including the guardian instinct, is starting to turn
up a notch or two and many of you may be surprised to learn just
how strong your TM's character can be.
One of the least obvious signs of maturity is a basic fact of
life and, perhaps, has already happened for your male Tibetan Mastiff
puppy. Males are, or soon will be, producing sperm. Please don't
be fooled by the innocent look on your puppy's face or his antics.
These male puppies can and will easily sire a litter if given the
opportunity. Before the cold autumn days arrive, make sure to check
yard fencing, double gate latches and strengthen any weaknesses
that may exist on your property that will enable your male to escape.
Your TM does not care that the furry Golden Retriever girl down
the street isn't a Tibetan Mastiff. For multiple dog households,
be very careful to protect any intact females that may live with
you. Watch for signs of your young girl coming into season. Make
plans now to board your male or find a safe and secure containment
Within the next 3-6 months, intact females will be going through
their first fall/winter season and, consequently, their first heat
cycle. Girls may start acting a bit wonky or become much more affectionate
toward you. They may become "clingy." Like the Tibetan Mastiff
male, the females often show a very strong desire to reproduce
when their time is upon them. That need (combined with the TMs
agility and magical escape artist powers) will amaze you if proper
steps are not taken to ensure your female's safety. Speak to the
breeder of your puppy and discuss suitable containment solutions.
As happens for young teenagers, raging hormones do rule the day
and you may notice definite differences in your Tibetan Mastiff
puppy. Physically, young dogs can "break out" with skin conditions.
When it comes to temperament, this is a time when both males and
females typically become more challenging, more headstrong and
independent, more territorial, bark more often and for longer periods
of time. Hormonal changes will also signal a STRESS period
in your dog's life. Your dog's demeanor may change as he may go
through a fear period. Noises, car rides and being out and about
may intimidate your Tibetan Mastiff. Most dogs will have a sudden
change of attitude when it comes to having guests or strangers
in "their" homes, "their" yards or approaching "their" cars.
The Owner's Role in Socializing the Tibetan Mastiff On and Off-Property
Regardless of all of these changes it is still the owner's responsibility
to socialize your puppy. And if you haven't been paying particular
attention, a slight shift in priority might now be given to inviting
people into your home. While it is important to do everything you
can to ensure that your puppy becomes an exemplary example of the
breed OFF-PROPERTY, you can in no way forget how important it is
to hold socializing sessions ON-PROPERTY. Your Tibetan Mastiff
needs to be introduced to others on his own turf so that he can
be taught appropriate reactions/responses.
Off-property socialization does NOT include
There's nothing quite as pretty as an early morning walk on the
weekend. Leaves softly rustling in the breeze, birds twittering
in the treetops, dewdrops of crystal sparkling on the grass, an
enticing dirt path inviting you and your dog with promises of relaxing
adventure. It's so easy to slip that collar....
As caregivers we seem to want to find a kind of fulfillment in
seeing our "dogs be dogs" in natural settings. Admittedly, there
may be nothing more satisfying than watching your TM youngster
have complete freedom to explore a hiking trail, a deserted sideroad,
an unfenced part of your own property or an open field but these
pictures of Disney happiness can soon shatter in the real world.
The trouble with the freedom scenario is the predictability of
the unpredictable. The problem is that you and your TM are bound
to meet up with a lone figure, a team of owner and dog, traffic
or wildlife and your TM is going to feel challenged or want to
investigate and/or protect. A brief encounter with a stranger may
trigger your TM's guardian instincts, or, in turn, he may be attacked
by another dog. (And just because you haven't ever seen your TM
be anything other than sweet, you can rest assured that your dog
is NOT going to back down.) It may
be that a merry chase after a squirrel or rabbit means your dog
is led away from you and lost forever. Perhaps the innocent spying
of an unfamiliar animal such as your neighbor's prowling new kitten
can explode into a tragic event. Disasters can occur simply because
of the TM's motivation to explore, attack or kill an animal within
his reach because he feels the need to defend against the unknown
or due to sheer prey drive.
It is irresponsible and reckless to begin the habit of letting
your Tibetan Mastiff off-leash in the first place. For those that
have begun the practice it is with the intention that "at the first
sign that he will not listen" you will begin confining your dog
to a collar and leash. This thinking is illogical and flawed. It
may very well be that the first time that your TM does not respond
to you is the time when he meets the bumper of a car or scares/bites
a child. As with any off-leash circumstances, you have no way to
intervene with what is unfolding before your eyes and what you
thought was a secure situation can pose a dangerous or even life-threatening
moment for your dog. While it may not present as pretty a picture,
you will easily avoid calamity and heartbreak by a simple tug on
Off-property socialization sessions do NOT include
While a fun place for many breeds, the average Tibetan Mastiff
does not do well in an off-leash park setting. A Sunday romp with
his furry little buddies in a fenced-in park all sounds perfect
enough until "that moment." When "that moment" comes for your Tibetan
Mastiff varies from dog to dog but the results of "that moment" are
all the same. Socialization of this type eventually provides an
opportunity for your TM to establish his independence, bullying
skills and outright dominance because of his territorial instincts.
He will challenge or be challenged. He will guard or square off.
He may even jump the low park fence, run off or be killed in traffic.
To repeat, as with any off-leash circumstances, you have no way
to intervene with what is unfolding before your eyes and what you
thought was a secure situation can pose a dangerous or even life-threatening
moment for your dog.
Dogs Are Not Little People in Fur Coats!!
"Do not make the mistake of treating your dogs like humans
or they will treat you like dogs." - Martha Scott
As seasons blend one into the other, life's routines naturally
change for many of us. Humans are typically quite flexible when
it comes to turning the pages of the calendar but remind yourself
often that the TM is not comfortable with change. Sudden deviations
of routine, weather, different work schedules or a variance in
family traffic in and out of the house does mark a time when a
young TM will feel the need to challenge. Those people employed
in a home-based business or employees such as housekeepers may
not be viewed as friendly anymore. Daughters who return to school,
begin dating and suddenly show up wearing their boyfriend's jacket,
friends coming over who wear hats, dark sunglasses or bulky fall/winter
clothing may put your TM on high alert. Should you have older children
going away to college or university, their sudden return at Thanksgiving
or Christmas holidays may be viewed as threatening. Take a little
extra time and use sensible strategies of re-introducing family
Owners can easily come to terms with the fact that dogs may become
guardy over such things as dogfood/bones or possessions but we
often don't think ahead to the fact that a dog may also show guardian
tendencies when it comes to any regurgitated food, animal holes
dug in the yard or even underwear that he's stolen out of your
bedroom. While these examples may seem frivolous and silly to you,
they are actual problems that escalated into biting episodes that
breeders have had to council owners about when young dogs have
shown that they are willing to establish their dominance. Despite
the fact that we call him man's best friend, we need to remind
ourselves that a dog is not a little person in a fur coat. Humans
and animals do not perceive the world or communicate in the same
Having the Run of the House and Yard
While cute and cuddly, extremely affectionate and loyal to you
and quickly winning your heart, please take a deep breath and call
attention to the fact that you have brought a primitive GUARDian
breed into your home. And whether you have thought about this or
not, allowing your puppy complete freedom throughout your home
and yard signals to him that you already trust him to have the
maturity, intelligence and response-ability to guard "his" territory.
Of course that simply just isn't the case. Granting complete access
of your household and property to your TM is tantamount to handing
over the keys to your house, car and safety deposit box to a 13-year
old. Just as children need rules, boundaries and a guiding hand
to learn responsibility, Tibetan Mastiffs need an established set
of rules, restrictions and an authoritative reassuring hand on
the leash to get them through their puppyhood.
Take sensible precautions when others enter your home. Do not
allow your Tibetan Mastiff to rush the door when visitors come
a-calling. Teach him that knocks on the door or a door bell ringing
signals a time when he must know his manners. Also do not allow
your Tibetan Mastiff to charge at strangers/guests that are coming
on your property. Strategies such as crating, putting the puppy
safely in another room or having a leash handy to secure your dog
is always a good idea. Train for behavior that you want your Tibetan
Mastiff to exhibit. Make your TM earn the privilege of being out
in company and proceed with a slow introduction of dog and guests.
A more relaxed approach will help ease the natural excitement/tension
that will build in your dog. Incorporate indoor leash training
and verbal commands to help show your puppy what kind of behavior
is acceptable. Start out with intervals of minutes so that your
TM can make the acquaintance of your guests and earn your praise
by his good behavior.
Establish that this is YOUR territory and not the Kingdom of Tibetan
Mastiff. Because TMs are acutely responsive to the activity going
on in your home or out in your yard, NEVER allow
your Tibetan Mastiff to lie down in doorways, across stairways
(inside or outside), or set up to "sleep" in hallways. These strategic
areas are your TM's best bet to supervising and controlling the
movement of family, guests and/or domestic help in the house. Many
TMs will decide that guests may sit and visit in the living room
but unannounced, sudden and unaccompanied departures to other parts
of the home (such as a quick trip to the bathroom, for example)
may trigger your TM's internal security alarm, especially if your
guest is forced to step over your dog at the threshold of a room.
Keep TMs away when social situations call for the serving of food.
A small child that is running around with food in hand or an adult
that has a plate of food balanced on a knee may serve to create
a competitive and dangerous situation. Instead, plan accordingly
and give your puppy intervals of downtime away from the stimulation
of loud talking/laughing and unfamiliar movements by strangers.
While you don't want your puppy to spend all his time in a crate,
in a room or behind fencing when you have guests, your TM also
doesn't need to be on display for your callers' entire visit. There
has to be a happy balance.
While YOU may gauge your puppy's level of character to be sweet
and non-threatening, your Tibetan Mastiff is learning more and
more to listen to his own guardian instincts. And no matter how
much we just want everyone to "get along and play nice" dogs do
not always respond in the ways we would like them to or in ways
we can easily and immediately understand. Along with the guidance
and experience that your dog's breeder can offer you, it is imperative
that you use a combination of common dog sense and intuition when
it comes to interpreting situations that caring for a TM may present
to you. Before problems arise, strategize to reduce your puppy's
need to be on alert, to guard, patrol and protect.
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