Choosing a Breeder
© Lyse Stormont
''If you limit your choices only to what seems
possible or reasonable,
you disconnect yourself from what you truly want,
and all that is left is compromise."
Author: Robert Fritz
You should be choosing your breeder before you think about choosing
Somewhere along the way you've been introduced to the Tibetan
Mastiff breed. You've seen a picture in a magazine or met one at
the dog park and have now decided that this is the breed for you.
You've decided to start investigating in earnest, have scoured
the Internet and now want to start approaching Tibetan Mastiff
breeders about the upcoming breeding season. Just as many breeders
have an extensive screening process prepared, prospective puppy
buyers should feel obligated to interview any breeder that they
approach. Be it over the Internet or a telephone conversation,
reputable breeders welcome inquiries about the breed, their dogs,
their individual breeding programs and upcoming litters.
Where do you start? Why it's NOT all about Geography!
While it may seem like the logical place to start, it is sheer
folly to restrict the search for your breeder and puppy based solely
on geography. By all means, go ahead and visit with a local breeder
to get a feel for the Tibetan Mastiff breed but deciding on a puppy
purchase simply because a breeder is conveniently located near
you may not be in your best interest. Proximity does not guarantee
that you will come away with a working breeder/owner relationship
or have found the perfect match in your puppy.
Oftentimes prospective puppy owners place a lot of emphasis on
the perceived disadvantages of dealing with a long distant breeder.
One important reason that potential puppy owners may be reluctant
to deal with breeders from a distance may be that they feel they
are "purchasing a dog over the Internet." If potential puppy owners
take the time to educate themselves and correctly interview their
breeders of choice, acquiring a canine companion need not be akin
to an eBay transaction. Do not assume that distance will diminish
the advantages of a knowledgeable and experienced breeder or the
quality of a puppy that you may discover.
How much is that doggie in the window?
Cost is often the definitive consideration when it comes to deciding
on a specific puppy. Prospective owners sometimes feel that proximity
naturally means that a puppy will cost less. For example, traveling
fees as you visit breeding facilities should be less and there
will probably be no crate or flight costs to take into account.
While the purchase price of a Tibetan Mastiff puppy may seem exorbitant
to the average person, establishing and maintaining a breeding
program is extremely expensive. Daily maintenance, food, upkeep
of secure facilities and health care ensures that reputable breeders
enjoy a giggle when it is said that dog breeding is a money-making
venture. From your perspective be guided by that fact that caring
for a TM is a 10 - 14 year commitment. The initial purchase price
is, in reality, a small cash outlay when you tally up how much
you will be paying over the coming years.
Some things to consider about that purchase price.
While it is true that breeders determine their own prices for
the puppies in a litter, be aware that not all breeders or puppies
are created equal. You should be aware that all breeders do not
share the same criteria. Some prices vary according to a set "show" and "pet" quality
standard while some breeders sell each puppy for a fixed price.
Make sure that you understand exactly what is included in that
purchase price. It will be up to you to decide what is best for
your circumstances and to reflect on the pros and cons of what
your breeder of choice is offering to you.
A higher or lower purchase price may include:
- a breeder's pledge to be available to you as a resource over
the coming years
- the breeder's knowledge to guide you along the way as your
Tibetan Mastiff matures and presents you with various behavioral
and/or health challenges
- the breeder's help with official documentation when it comes
- direction and mentoring should you become a Tibetan Mastiff
As opposed to:
- no breeder support
- exhausting efforts to find a source of information so that
you can learn about the Tibetan Mastiff breed when breeder support
is not given
- unnecessary demands and future breeding obligations placed
on you and your dog. There is a tremendous responsibility associated
with breeding a litter of puppies and don't be fooled into believing
that it is a money making venture. If you have no initial intentions
to become a breeder when you begin looking for a puppy, DO NOT
enter into any arrangements that compel you to breed your Tibetan
- a breeder withholding registration papers unless you fulfill
the his/her wishes
- strings attached
Use the Internet and the telephone to your advantage.
Consider, instead, that technology really has made it much easier
to reach out all across your country and, even around the world,
as you research many different breeders at once. While the Internet
allows for easy access and the exchange of information, it also
allows for misrepresentation and the exchange of misinformation.
Yet, if prospective puppy owners are willing to make the effort,
the Internet opens up the possibilities to thoroughly investigate
and explore your options.
To help potential puppy owners overcome their nervousness about
beginning their search, to aid you in conducting a breeder interview
and help you make informed decisions, we're providing an inclusive
list of questions to have on hand. The answers to these questions
are the initial steps in helping you determine what is important
to you and allows you to focus on the freedom of choosing both
the correct breeder and, eventually, the perfect Tibetan Mastiff
for your family.
It's simply a combination of common sense and instinct.
The Common Sense Questions
How long has this person been involved with the breed? How many
dogs does this person have? How many litters has s/he bred?
- Red Flag: SINGLE VS. MULTIPLE BREEDS: The love
of dogs can be all-consuming and many fanciers of the Tibetan
Mastiff are also passionate about other breeds such as Tibetan
Terriers and Tibetan Spaniels. While some breeders do take such
interests seriously and breed/promote more than one breed, potential
puppy owners should be extremely cautious of those that have
an abundance of different breeds and produce a mulitude of litters
Ask about comprehensive medical checks on breeding stock. For
example, does this breeder regularly do hip/elbow x-rays on proposed
sires and dams? Do they have thyroid evaluations done? Do qualified
veterinarians and radiologists and such organizations as the Orthopedic
Foundation for Animals (OFA) or equivalent organizations certify
Is the breeder willing to show you documentation of certification?
- Red Flag: Puppy millers and disreputable breeders
have no problem telling you that they perform health checks on
their dogs when, in reality, they do not. If any breeder is unwilling
or unable to provide you with proof of certification, terminate
your interview with him/her.
Question this breeder about the various health issues of his/her
dogs. Does s/he seem honest and straightforward about the strengths
and weaknesses in his/her lines?
- Red Flag: There is no such thing as a perfect
dog and ALL lines contain strengths and weaknesses. Do not continue
an interview with any breeder that states s/he has no health
issues with his/her dogs and, therefore, does not screen for
such potential problems as hip dysplasia or hypothyroidism.
Does this breeder register his/her dogs and puppies with an official
registering body such as the American Kennel Club (AKC) or the
Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)? What
about paperwork and pedigrees?
Does the breeder have a working knowledge of the ancestry/pedigree
of his/her dogs? Can s/he supply you with pictures of sire and
dam, grandparents and great-grandparents?
Has this breeder taken an acceptable amount of time to speak/write
to you about the various characteristics of the breed? Do you feel
you have a practical and balanced overview of the breed?
- Red Flag: The Tibetan Mastiff is a wonderful
breed to care for but it is a VERY challenging one. Has this
breeder rushed to tell you all about the positive attributes
of the breed without discussing the difficult aspects you will
face? While you are understandably excited about getting a puppy,
do you feel rushed or pressured into a purchase?
Do you feel that the breeder has done a good job interviewing
you? Do you feel that s/he has a good understanding of you, your
family, your home, your lifestyle and your expectations?
- Red Flag: Of course acquiring a Tibetan Mastiff
ordinarily involves a financial transaction but puppies are not
products crowding a Wal-Mart shelf that are made available to
anyone who has the cash to spend. Do you feel that you have provided
this breeder with sufficient information so that s/he can feel
confident in a puppy placement with you or do you feel this breeder
is more concerned with a money exchange?
Does this breeder provide a comprehensive information package?
Does this breeder require that you sign a contract? Ask to see
a copy and review the individual terms.
- Red Flag: It's perfectly fine for breeders to
vary in their policies when it comes to guarantees and refunds
but make sure that YOU are comfortable with their practices.
If you're looking for a money-back guarantee as it pertains to
certain health issues and this breeder doesn't offer any, it's
best to know that beforehand.
Does this breeder provide you with ample time to ask questions
as you educate yourself about the breed?
Does this breeder seem at ease when you suggest that you would
like to visit to see the sire, dam and puppies? If you are unable
to visit the breeder's facilities, does this breeder provide you
with a good sense of his/her set-up?
- Red Flag: Question any breeder that continually
deflects your intentions to visit his/her facilities and dogs.
Be wary of a breeder that insists that you meet elsewhere to
deliver a puppy or shows up with a car full of puppies for you
to choose from. Steer clear of breeders who sell their puppies
through pet stores or on demand.
Does this breeder take the time to socialize his/her dogs and
Does this breeder follow definitive guidelines as it pertains
to worming or a vaccination protocol? What kind of health care
do the puppies receive?
Does this breeder identify his/her puppies by tattoo or microchip?
Question this breeder about how involved you will be during the
selection process of your puppy. Some breeders allow total participation
in your personal selection and some reserve the right to choose
what they feel will be the best puppy for you. Neither practice
is incorrect; it is simply a matter of preference and style.
Does this breeder have experience with getting puppy to an airport
and understanding the paperwork/procedures involved with air travel?
Is this breeder concerned about the puppy's welfare and only books
flights that cause the least amount of stress to the puppy?
When can you expect to welcome your new addition into your home?
- Red Flag: Tibetan Mastiff puppies are typically
ready to go to their new homes by the time they reach 8 - 12
weeks of age. Be very wary of breeders who want to send your
puppy home prior to that.
Is this breeder willing to work with you by offering informational
support and advice even after you've brought your puppy home? Do
you feel confident that this breeder will be available to answer
any questions that you might have?
Is this breeder willing to take back a Tibetan Mastiff puppy should
you no longer be able to care for your dog?
- Red Flag: Reputable and responsible breeders
never want to see Tibetan Mastiffs dumped in shelters, humane
societies or with the unsuspecting guy who answers the "Tibetan
Mastiff to Give-Away" ad you place in the weekend paper. Always
make sure that your Tibetan Mastiff has a great home! If you
can't provide one, make sure that your breeder of choice offers
a strong support system for the lifetime of your dog.
Questions that will speak to your instincts
What is the focus of this person's breeding program? Does this
breeder have an established breeding program that is well thought
out? What goals, policies and ethics does this breeder adhere to?
- Red Flag: Breeding practices vary from breeder
to breeder but there are general basic guidelines to follow.
Reputable breeders encourage health checks on all dogs included
in a breeding program and discourage using immature females who
are far younger than 2 years OR are not experiencing their second
heat cycle. (Important note: Since Tibetan Mastiff females normally
only go into heat once a year we must make this distinction.
Girls may be somewhere between 18-24 months when experiencing
their second heat cycle.) Responsible breeders also do not, by
and large, encourage their females to have more than 3 or 4 litters
over the lifetime of the dog. If you have any doubts after listening
to the outline of a specific breeder's practices, search for
voluntary codes of ethics on breeder websites and learn about
fundamental breeding practices.
Does this breeder seem interested in all aspects of the Tibetan
Mastiff? Does s/he freely communicate his/her philosophies concerning
health, temperament and conformation? Does this individual know
and breed to the Tibetan Mastiff Breeding Standard?
Does this breeder spend time bashing other breeders, their breeding
programs and their dogs?
- Red Flag: The initial contact that you have with
a breeder should be all about his/her breeding program, the interest
that you have in his/her dogs and expected puppies during the
breeding season. You do not need to listen to any breeder bad-mouthing
any other breeders or their dogs. Truly reputable and enthusiastic
breeders understand the considerable effort it takes to rear
puppies and be completely involved with the welfare of their
own dogs. Responsible breeders also realize that significant
energy must be put aside to mentor newcomers to the breed and
educate potential puppy owners. Be wary of breeders who seem
motivated to reflect negatively on others and look upon fellow
Tibetan Mastiff breeders as the "competition". It is always best
to be cautious around those breeders who feel the need to convince
you that only their dogs are the best.
Does this breeder network with other breeders? Is s/he willing
to offer you references or referrals to other reputable breeders
should you prefer to look elsewhere?
Is this breeder actively involved in contributing to the future
of the breed by volunteering his/her time with organizations or
Does this breeder promote and protect the breed positively by
making hard yet appropriate decisions concerning the placement
of puppies? Is this breeder upfront about being willing to say "NO" to
your request for a puppy if s/he doesn't feel that a placement
will be successful?
Regardless of whether you are a novice starting out on your first
Tibetan Mastiff adventure or an experienced TM caregiver, the process
of choosing a dependable breeder and an ideal puppy shouldn't be
a harrowing undertaking. Being prepared and asking the right questions
will go a long way in teaching you more about the breed and enjoying
the Tibetan Mastiff companion you eventually welcome into your
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