Tibetan Mastiff Dogs - Love of The Breed

  • 13/03/2015

Hello, my name is Sandra Torres and my husband Ben and I live in Folsom, Pennsylvania. We have had Tibetan Mastiff dogs as part of our family since 2005.

I was introduced to the breed when I saw an odd posting on Petfinder.com. The dog was listed as a St. Bernard, but the photo showed a black dog. Since I'd never seen a black St. Bernard, I thought I'd pay a visit to the shelter to check things out. When I arrived I asked to see the dog in the photo, named Ted. The shelter worker immediately started trying to dissuade me, telling me "he's not very nice, you know. And he has had a few run-ins with animal control." Little did she know that her chatter was having the opposite effect from what she intended.

Ted's Identity Crisis

We came to the cage where I saw a sign that read "Ted" and St. Bernard had been crossed out and replaced by "Tibetan Mastiff." That was the first time I had heard of the breed. Inside was a huge looking black and tan Tibetan Mastiff, barking his fool head off. His voice echoed loudly throughout the shelter, but something in his eyes told me he was a good boy in a bad situation. I asked to take him out for a walk. The shelter worker told me she had to ask if it was OK. She left and then returned with a slip lead. She opened the kennel and held out the loop of the lead, expecting that Ted would walk into it. He just stood there. After a few minutes the worker came out of the kennel and told me that she couldn't get him into the leash and that it was dangerous to try to take him out. She closed the kennel and walked away. I sat with him for a bit while he continued to bark, but something about Ted just stuck with me.

That evening I did a web search on Tibetan Mastiff and found the Tibetan Mastiff Rescue. I sent off two emails asking for help to save Ted. One went to Best Friends' Animal Shelter and the other went to the contact email for the American Tibetan Mastiff Association (ATMA). Best Friends wrote back to me saying they couldn't help because they had no room. But the response I got from the ATMA was from Martha stating that she was out of the country, and someone would be in touch with me regarding Ted.

Within hours I'd heard from Rebecca. After a few more visits to the shelter I was able to confirm that Ted was a TM and Rebecca and I planned how I'd get him out of the shelter and off to foster care in Atlanta. Several days later I was in line waiting to pay the adoption fee. My husband had gone over to see Ted for the first time and was greeted by this huge hairy dog barking furiously. Just as I was finishing up with the adoption paperwork, my husband came back to the line and said "It's going to be an interesting ride home." When we were finally outside with Ted I knelt down and said to him "Teddy, we did it! You're free!" He thanked me with a big wet kiss on my face. The rest is history.

Ted never made it to foster, instead he came home with us and lived out his life a free dog. And we were hooked, we had fallen in love with the breed and our next three fur babies were destined to be Tibetan Mastiff dogs.

Tibetan Mastiff Puppies, Yeay!

In 2008 Ted was still with us, but by then we had lost our Collie and our St. Bernard, so we decided it was time for a puppy (or two). Along came Boo Boo and Yogi, two male black and tan half-brother Tibetan Mastiff puppies, who immediately brightened our world and destroyed our furniture. At first Ted was "above all the puppy play" but the boys won him over. One would chomp on his mane and the other would grab his tail and hair would be flying everywhere! So we had the three bears, Teddy, Boo Boo, and Yogi.

In 2010 Ted was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Despite our best efforts, his cancer returned in 2011 and we lost him. Much to our surprise, just a year later Yogi was diagnosed with cancer as well and at just under 5 years of age and we lost Yogi. This was a crushing blow for us and for his half-brother Boo Boo. Yogi and Boo had been together practically since birth and Boo Boo developed severe separation anxiety when his companion left us so suddenly. We knew that we had to find another friend for Boo so we turned to ATMA and found a rescue named Ruby (named for her red color) who had been separated from her buddy, another TM. We thought they would be kindred spirits and while it took a bit of adjustment, today Boo Boo and Ruby are best friends.

Living With Tibetan Mastiff Dogs

So with all this being said, I guess it is a safe assumption that Ben and I are TM fans. With the help of the ATMA and all of those associated with the group, we've learned the specifics of the breed. Tibetan Mastiff dogs are indeed special. Their strong guardian instincts make them fiercely loyal and protective of their "people", but at the same time, they distrusting of strangers. Their size alone is intimidating to many and coupled with their roar, people often misunderstand them.

In Ted's case, the shelter tried to talk me out of seeing him. Ted turned out to be the most gentle and loving companion we could want. However, I had to tell strangers not to try to pet him because he would growl if they did. Initially, even family members had to avoid eye contact with him. But once he got comfortable with someone, or saw that we were comfortable with that person, he relaxed and let his amazing personality shine through.

So with all this being said, I guess it is a safe assumption that Ben and I are Tibetan Mastiff fans. With the help of the ATMA and all of those associated with the group, we've learned the specifics of the breed. Tibetan Mastiff dogs are indeed special. Their strong guardian instincts make them fiercely loyal and protective of their "people", but at the same time, they distrusting of strangers.

The Challenges

These dogs are also powerful, which can result in mass destruction. They love to chew on wood, especially as puppies. If they have separation anxiety they can easily eat their way through drywall and door frames. They can tear up anything from a shoe to a cell phone in a heartbeat, and there is always a chance that your most precious possessions might end up with teeth marks. So it is important to make sure they get their required amount of exercise and that precious items are kept out of their reach.

Then there is the barking. When TM's are in doors they can become couch potatoes. But outside, they are keenly guarding their territory at all times and can bark to the point of being a nuisance to neighbors. Guarding is in their DNA so if you are considering a TM, it is an important fact to understand about them.

And yet, they are the most amazing companions - I cannot imagine my life without them. They are playful, loving and just big, teddy bears.that you want to hug. Kind and gentle toward children and other animals, they are very loving. When they are both understood and respected, they will provide you with a lifetime of unconditional love, joy and entertainment.

Over the years I have come to rely on the collective expertise of the ATMA and its community of members. They have been an invaluable resource for me regarding my TM's with everything from health issues, breeder resources, behavioral issues, and moral support. The TM owners I've met through the community are as fiercely loyal to the breed as their dogs are to them and their families.

If I had it to do over again, would I choose a Tibetan Mastiff? Absolutely. But I don't really think we're the ones who get to choose. I truly feel that with our TM's, we were the ones who were chosen. Ben and I love our Tibetan Mastiffs and the special bond we have with each of them. I also believe it's a safe bet that TM's will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future!

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