Designing Your Own TM
© Lyse Stormont 2008
"Properly trained, a man can be dog's best
Author: Corey Ford
With the introduction of the Tibetan Mastiff into the American
Kennel Club breeders knew that there would have to be some adjustment
period and some kind of preparation required for the onslaught
of curiosity into the breed. The public can suddenly become attracted
to that look that they see in the show ring or on television and
these people take the time to investigate the breed a little closer.
Some people really seem to like the idea of the TMs complex nature
and, as is always the case, they want what is new and different.
There is an unfortunate off-shoot of their investigations, however,
with some of the latest requests asking legitimate breeders for
the chance to reserve quality puppies so that they can be crossbred
with another breed. These overtures are most unwelcome.
It is becoming apparent that while many people may like the look
of the Tibetan Mastiff, they don't have any intention of accepting
the "total package." They want to cross the Tibetan Mastiff with
some other breed that is "softer" or they want to mate their dogs
with another breed that is more easily trained. It may be that
their desire to outcross has to do with the need to tweak the breed's
innate guardian temperament.
The Unintentional TM-Cross Breeding
In large part, it falls upon the breeder to do everything in his/her
power to prevent the potential "oopsie" breeding in the new home.
It is the breeder's responsibility to inquire about the other breeds
that are being raised in that household. Are there intact males
and females on property? Is it possible that an accidental breeding
can take place in the future? Find out why dogs that are already
part of the family are not fixed. Breeders must make it plain that
intact animals of the opposite sex need to be neutered or spayed.
Many owners do not realize that some TM male puppies are physically
able to sire a litter around the 6-month mark. They also do not
realize that TM females can reproduce at less than a year old while
they are also still babies themselves.
Dogs of every breed are driven by the instinctual urge to reproduce
and many TMs have a high reproductive drive. Owners need to understand
that dogs will breed with their own siblings, their own father/mother,
the dog down the street or the 11-year old mongrel female living
right in the same home. Dogs don't know or care about the human
taboos that we place on such things. It's not about chocolates,
flowers and a promise. It's not about a love story. Both sexes
have been known to chew their way through chain link fences, break
out from behind secured garage or bedroom doors, or jump out second-story
windows to get a breeding done.
The Intentional TM-Cross Breeding
As owners and breeders of Tibetan Mastiffs know, it is easy to
understand why many people "fall in love" with the idea of the
Tibetan Mastiff breed. The over-used superlatives, the majesty
and noble look of puppies and adults can make these dogs seem quite
attractive. But having someone approach with the idea that a purebred
will be crossed back to some other breed is, quite frankly, insulting.
And the request is disheartening to say the least. It is a sickening
slap in the face for all of those hard working breeders who take
it upon themselves to promote, preserve and protect the integrity
of an entire breed. It is extremely difficult to come to terms
with those that don't have any regard for maintaining the high
standards of breeding sound champion bloodlines. Even with the
current and apparently fashionable trend of "designer dogs," no
ethical purebred dog breeder purposefully mixes two breeds together
or will knowingly place one of their dogs in a situation in which
these circumstances are intended.
"A purebred of one breed + a purebred of another breed = a mongrel
with a compilation of characteristics/temperament of both breeds."
Simply stated: It is best to be prepared to accept the best AND
the worst qualities that each breed will bring. It will not be
some perfect combination of the two.
The Integral Elements of a Breeding Program
Responsible and ethical breeders of purebred Tibetan Mastiffs
(and, if we may be so bold as to speak on behalf of breeders of
ALL purebred dog breeds everywhere,) do everything in their power
to protect the unique nature and blood lines of their chosen breed.
Good breeding programs for purebred dogs are developed slowly and
thoughtfully evolve over many years. Many TM breeders travel the
world and some are lucky enough to make the ultimate pilgrimage
to Tibet, the breed's country of origin, to ensure that dogs are
imported with solid pedigrees and that the dogs themselves represent
the very best of what is offered. Conscientious breeders do not "try" to
keep their lines pure. They do everything they can to guarantee
it. Complete and generational pedigrees along with documented registration
are essential and all responsible breeders are quite determined
to keep an accurate accounting of their breeding animals. They
can often trace lineage back to specific founding dogs.
Trying to Change the Tibetan Mastiff's Guardian Temperament
There are sites out there that promote the TM's "livestock guardian" character
but many breeders do not agree with this assessment. While it is
true that the dogs may have been left out to guard the flocks,
they do not have the same working temperament as other more conventional
livestock guardians such as the Great Pyrenees or the Maremma.
Instead, it may be more correct to simply state that the Tibetan
Mastiff is a guardian breed and it is this simplicity that is promoted
at the TMBRN site. It has been proven over and over again that
some TMs have a very high prey drive. They have been known to attack
and kill livestock such as chickens and goats. Some dogs that have
no exposure to livestock will often kill domesticated or wild animals
such as cats, mice, partridge, skunks, rabbits or groundhogs should
these animals intrude on their territory.
The Tibetan Mastiff character is a primitive one but crossing
it with a more "domesticated" one that is more easily recognized
for its steadfast livestock guardian characteristics does not necessarily
mean that an owner is going to get that nice blending of the two.
Breeding animals and genetics just does not work that way. An individual
must consider that s/he may end up with dogs that look like the
Great Pyrenees but still have the typical Tibetan Mastiff temperament.
Or it may be that puppies are born looking like Tibetan Mastiffs
and acting like Tibetan Mastiffs. Either way, one is most likely
to get puppies that stem from a VERY challenging background.
The maturation process is long and involved and the TM goes through
many phases. Being guided through that process is something a responsible
breeder will help a new owner with but it can only be severely
complicated when another breed is added to the equation. First
time TM owners who go on to produce crossbred litters because "their
dogs are nice and all my friends and family want a puppy" still
have no intimate understanding of the Tibetan Mastiff character.
Without experience in the breed those who do produce a mongrel
litter of 6-8 puppies are faced with having to deal with a character
they do not understand many times over, whether it is in their
own home or the homes where the puppies are eventually sold. A
one-time breeding does not give anyone the knowledge or expertise
to judge what will make a sound dog from a mixed-breed litter.
Judging the character of an eight-week old innocent puppy is no
foundation to determining the true character of a full-grown dog
that will undoubtedly be influenced by Tibetan Mastiff character.
Responsible Tibetan Mastiff breeders do not breed TMs for a living.
Ensuring that there is secure fencing and essential veterinarian
care, proper care of puppies/adults/premium food/travel costs,
etc. all help to guarantee that there is no money in the breeding
venture. Many breeders only breed one to two litters a year but
they typically dedicate a monumental amount of hours of each day
to prospective/new owners as they need support and guidance when
it comes to the characteristics/territorial/dominance issues that
the Tibetan Mastiff brings. Many breeders also stand behind their
dogs for their lifetimes. They may even have contractual agreements
that dogs will be returned and re-homed should owners not be able
to care for them anymore. Many TM mixes are dropped off in shelters
because there is no lifetime support from "occasional" breeders.
The Hard Reality for Purebred TM Fanciers/Breeders
While trying to care for their own dogs and those that they have
bred, established breeders, along with TM organizations/clubs and
Tibetan Mastiff Rescue are all constantly called upon to decide
the fate of TM-cross bred dogs. Asked to assess the character of
these dogs, dedicated people struggle continually to find new forever
homes for dogs that have been dumped in shelters because of developing
behavioral issues that no one but an experienced TM owner/breeder
can address. These same individuals also have to make the heartbreaking
decisions to put some of these mixed rescues to sleep because owners
were not informed/prepared for the basic realities of the Tibetan
Mastiff or because of resulting health complications that were
introduced by cross-breeding to a breed that did have health/disease
issues. Knowing that the purebred Tibetan Mastiff is a reasonably
healthy and long-lived breed makes these added complications especially
tough to accept. It's difficult not to be resentful of those who
want to add more mixes to the scene.
"The Tibetan Mastiff is what it is."
If you are a person looking to acquire a Tibetan Mastiff, please
ensure that you are prepared to embrace the Tibetan Mastiff for
itself. It is not a room or a car to be customized according to
your individual tastes. It is not the breed for everyone even if
you are a GREAT dog owner. The Tibetan Mastiff is what it is and
it is simply illogical and unjust to try to make it into something
that it is not. The most wonderful news lies in the knowledge that
if you cannot accept what the TM is, there are hundreds of other
breeds out there to choose from that do fulfill the exacting requirements
that you have.
It is extremely unfortunate that there are those "breeders" out
there who will only see the dollar signs should people contact
them in their efforts to seek out dogs to cross to other breeds.
These people do not accept responsibility for their dogs; they
typically are not knowledgeable about the breed even if they own
Tibetan Mastiffs and are commonly called backyard breeders and
puppy millers. Purchasing from such unsavory characters is always
to be discouraged. It is never to their advantage to care for the
welfare of the breed and they have a horrible and negative impact
on all that they touch.
Do not be part of the problem and make sure that you are part
of the solution. Instead of supporting an irresponsible pet dealer
or even becoming one yourself, visit the shelter for your own "designer" mixed
breed dog. There are more one-of-a-kind dogs there than you can
ever dream of and they won't cost you thousands of dollars.
If, however, it is a purebred Tibetan Mastiff
that you desire with all that this entails, your only responsible
choice is to go to an accountable and ethical breeder.
You may also find the following articles helpful:
Other Helpful Articles About the Breed
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