Monday, October 3, 2011

The Spanish Mastiff in the US

Let me start by saying that I became completely enamored of the Spanish Mastiff when I got my first one many years ago, and have been a strong advocate and "believer" in the breed ever since.
There are issues that we are facing in the US that concerned me then and still do today...
Establishing the Spanish Mastiff in North America has presented a number of challenges and though we are beginning to make headway, we still have a long road ahead of us to
ensure that the breed is promoted honestly and bred only with integrity.

For some of us, the difficulty began in importing puppies that turned out to be less than the best of the breed. Historically, over-seas breeders have sold/sent pups that had genetic defects or did little to further establish a quality breeding program in the USA. Unfortunately, it is still happening from time to time. While some owners chose/choose not to breed these dogs, others did, and the less than excellent dogs were bred and pups sold across the country from these imports.

Fortunately, a few wonderful Spanish mastiffs that are true to type, temperament and function HAVE reached American soil, and hope remains alive that this breed can become recognized for all the fascinating attributes they possess. Responsible and careful breeding with an emphasis on health, temperament and the breed standard can only lead to better representatives of the breed across the country. There is a growing group of owners who are devoting themselves to this goal. Unfortunately, there are also a very few individuals who take great pride in thumbing their noses at those whose focus is the betterment of the breed...

Though many breed info sites still have incorrect data concerning the Spanish Mastiff, more accurate information has become available now than there was even 5 years ago and people have more opportunities to truly educate themselves about this breed and breeders BEFORE they take the gigantic first step to importing or even buying "local" in the USA. Beware of exagerated claims of height and weight in particular!

For those with a passion for this breed, or those just beginning to learn about them, there are some insights to be considered in looking at the way the breed is represented here, specifically in the United States. Promoting the best interest of this dog takes precedence over breeding for the sheer fact that you may happen to own one of these "rare breed" dogs. It is disappointing to receive a dog that you have pinned your hopes and dreams on, poured your heart into and made a member of your family, or spent time and resources training to become a valuable and integral part of your farm operation, only to lose it prematurely to a grave genetic health defect OR face up to the fact that your dog is not work or breeding material due to structural faults or weaknesses. It has happened to me with my first import as well as too many others here in the US.

Not all rare breed puppies grow into adult dogs that are suitable for breeding.
Contrast the difference between the puppy that arrives with the full grown adult dog that develops... the changes can be monumental. Face it: all puppies are cute. When they arrive to this continent in their crate and they are peering out at you, it is easy to instantly fall in love and lose your ability to be impartial. Breeding a dog that has poor back legs, defective hips, genetic defects or obvious faults -some of which may not be apparent until maturity- is not doing a favor to anyone....especially for the good of establishing the breed in the USA or for the people who've spent their hard earned money to purchase such a dog. 
No animal is perfect and some less than desirable traits can be selectively improved upon with the proper genetic and linear knowledge, but you can't take two animals with poor legs or hips, breed them to each other and hope for the best!

Breeding with the intention of recouping expenses involved in importing your dog is not a good enough reason to breed. To the "average Joe", importing a dog takes considerable expense. The shipping costs, and fees involved in registering your dog, will almost always amount to MORE than the price of the imported pup itself. Vetting a giant breed dog is another out-of-pocket expense to be faced along with the costs of premium dog food.
While tempting to trade-in on the "rare-breed" marketability feature, there are too many liabilities to face in doing so.

Line breeding vs inbreeding:
The majority of the 100-130 Spanish mastiffs in the United States have one thing in common: the same Eastern European kennel. The successful breeding and marketing of this beautiful line of dogs combined with the ease in importing from an experienced exporter has lead to a predominance of Spanish mastiffs in the USA that trace back to basically one line. Clearly it is extremely important and critical that some new -unrelated- blood  lines be brought over with which to work. This is a huge consideration when you discover someone that wants to breed Spanish mastiffs. Are the dogs related to each other? Examine the extended pedigrees carefully and question the party who fails to make readily available or produce this key element for pups they may market. This is where transparency becomes critical. Before line-breeding is undertaken it's essential to be aware of the potential risks vs benefits and to have a very clear health lineage on the dam and sire as well as having the experience to know what to look for in temperament and structure.

You will often see the catch-all word "typey" used to describe the Spanish Mastiff.
Too often a breeder can use that phrase to describe an average or less than average dog that happens to have lots of skin or size as opposed to a dog that actually meets the AEPME standard for the breed.

For those looking for a superior working LGD:
The Spanish Mastiff has what it takes to do an exceptional job guarding livestock or the farm from coyote, wolves, bear or lion - as is. They've been doing it for a long, long time and are quite good at it! They function and perform their tasks just fine if given the proper, experienced training and support. It is extremely important to maintain the purity of the breed here, not cross it with other LGD breeds. No good can come of crossing a magnificent breed such as the Spanish Mastiff with a more aggressive LGD breed and few people would be capable of handling the results of such a breeding.
In my own personal opinion, if someone were to feel a need to cross the Spanish Mastiff with another LGD breed to "create" a better functioning LGD, I would have to question their knowledge of their own dogs!

1 comment:

  1. This is great info for anyone wanting to get started with LGDs or Spanish Mastiffs in particular!