Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An "American Mastiff" is not a "Mastiff"-

As a breeder of "English Mastiffs", I do get calls from owners of "American Mastiffs" looking to buy a puppy or to breed their dog to one of mine. That's almost as bad as asking the racehorse owner of a Triple Crown winner to breed to a plow horse. Unfortunately, there is a sea of misinformation about the differences and likeness of these two very different dog breeds.

The "English Mastiff"--also known as the "Mastiff" --is recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and was one of the earliest breeds to be recognized and registered by AKC. It is considered by many to be one of seven "basic" dog breed types. Many other breeds have foundations built from the Mastiff breed and are considered to be Molosser Breeds. I often described them as "kinfolk" to Mastiffs--Great Danes, Bull Mastiffs, Saint Bernard's, Greater Swiss Mountain dogs, Bernese Mountain dogs, Bloodhounds just to name a few. The Mastiff is an original and is a long established breed existing since before the Middle ages.

The "American Mastiff" is a designer breed recognized by the Continental Kennel Club and has only been in existence less than 25 years. It was created by crossing the English Mastiff with a livestock guard dog breed --Anatolian Shepherd. This breed's founder stated her purpose was to eliminate genetic health problems, increase the life expectancy, and to produce a "dry Mouth" mastiff. Also often advertised as an "improved" Mastiff and marketed as a potential "new Breed", it is in fact a cross-bred--7/8 Mastiff and 1/8 Anatolian Shepherd. Many an owner of an "American Mastiff" will inform you it is the SAME dog as an "English Mastiff" only born here in "America"--thus it's an "American Mastiff". I hate to be the messenger of bad news-- but that ain't so, folks.

The "AmMa"(American Mastiff) is a designer dog created to meet a marketing need within the companion/pet dog market. Although they do appear to be very similar to an English Mastiff and are often sold for the same price-they are not the same.

A pure-bred dog can offer his owners a specific size, shape, color and temperament and will bred true. This predictability comes from years of selective breeding for traits that are desirable and away from traits that are undesirable. This is one of the reasons that every AKC breed has a "breed Standard" a guideline of sorts that states how these characteristics should appear in that breed. Thus, dogs bred by that standard will appear and be more similar than dogs bred from a mixed or random population.

An AmMa can not and will not breed true to type because of an unpredictable mixture. One can only make a guess at what color, coat, body shape, height, temperament, head will be produced in the next generation. But more importantly, by mixing the English Mastiff with the Anatolian Shepherd--the predictability of behavior and temperament-one of the most essential characteristics of the English Mastiff--is lost.

Many AmMa owners discover marked aggressive traits in their young dogs at 8-24 months ; a period of canine development when all dogs go through a fear and dominance stage. Because of the influence of the Anatolian Shepherd which is a Guarding breed-- an inborn "guarding instinct" begins to develop and these dogs can become very aggressive toward strangers and if they have not been socialized and obedience trained, very difficult to train and control. These dogs can become too aggressive for the average owner to keep and they find their once loving manageable puppy has now become an uncontrollable dominate dog. It takes a very experienced "dog savey" person to handle a dog with aggression and dominance issues. Most dog owners are poorly prepared to deal with these problems in any dog much less a giant breed.

It is at this stage that Mastiff rescue is often called to step in to take these dogs from owners who no longer want or can keep them. Currently the AmMa Breeders' Council has no rescue program and the breed founder will not accept her own dogs back when contacted by Mastiff Rescue. If the dog has been surrendered to a shelter without the registration papers, Mastiff rescue can not determine 100% of the time if the dog is an AmMA or a Mastiff. Often the determining factor is a history of aggression (has bit a family member or numerous incidents of aggression) or the dog demonstrates aggression when evaluated by the rescue volunteer. This behavior alone makes it easy to spot the difference between an AmMa and a Mastiff.

I have had the experience as a Mastiff rescue volunteer with this breed. To this date, I have only been able to place one AmMa into a home--and it bit 3 time after being placed. The owner must keep this dog secured at all times. How do I know it was an AmMa? I had the CKC papers from thw owner and it was bred by this breed's creator. (FYI--when we contacted her to see if she would take her dog back--she refused because it had been neutered and she doesn't take back neuters/spayed dogs).

As far as the claims to having superior health and longer life--the AmMa breed "founder" can not provide any documentation to support this claim. Even the tetimonials from her puppy buyers show dogs with life spans shorted by chronic diseases, cancer and other ailments. Where is that "improved" life span? The foundation dogs used--both Mastiff and Anatolian Shepherd--were not health tested and No records can be found of any Hip, elbow, or patella OFAs, no CERF exams, and no DNA PRA testing of foundation dogs. There is also no health testing on any dogs used in current breeding programs. The claims of superior health is based on "hearsay" and can not be substantiated at present. It seems that most of the "superior" health claims are based on "hybrid Vigor".

FYI- "hybrid vigor" only exist for the first generation in an F1 out cross breeding. Since AmMa are now into their 25th+ years of breeding--they are well past any influence of hybrid vigor. With out actual health testing--i.e. CERF exams, OFA of hips, elbows, patellas, hearts, and thyroid, and DNA testing-there is no proof. A few members of the AmMa breeders Council has begun to do some health testing of their breeding stock--but one generation does not "clear" a breed of health issues. Hopefully, they will also add temperament testing of Adult dogs. A CGC on a puppy is nice, but showing that your 2 year old dog passed is more impressive.

Many potential buyers flock to this new "breed" because they want to look and size of an English Mastiff, but they do not want the "drooling". Hate to break the news, but AmMa drool. too. Yes, some of them will drool less because they have a less deep muzzle--the bigger and deeper the head the more apt the dog is to drool. So if you breed a dog with a smaller more pointed nose, it will drool less. But think people, is 1/8 going to prevent a dog from drooling? Reason this thought out, folks. Besides, If you don't like drool--get a cat.

Am AmMa is supposedly 7/8 English Mastiff--so what have you improved? How have you improved the genetic makeup and health issues? Come on folks--just think for a minutes; if one begins with untested dogs, a couple of whom have unknown pedigrees (the breed creator did not even know for sure what breed the dog was!), and they NEVER test their dogs for health problems---how can you say they have "less" health problems? I will point out that it's a fact IF you don't test and look for and detect health problems--then you can state you don't have any health problems and that your dogs are "improved".

The Mastiff Club of America (MCOA) is opposed to the cross breeding of any pure bred dog for the purpose of whim and fancy. These mixed breed dogs are not less prone or exempt from know genetic diseases and problems BUT more prone to the diseases common in both breeds. An AmMa offers none of the advantages that owning a purebred Mastiffs has to offer.

Avoid the temptation to purchase a "designer Mastiff". Please do search for a reputable Mastiff Breeder who can educate and provide you with the health information of their dogs. The addition of a dog into your family should be a lifetime commitment--not a purchase based on owning the latest "new" dog breed. In some cases, your nearest animal shelter could provide you with the same designer dog at a much cheaper price.

Do be a prudent and informed buyer. Learn about our breed, visit breeders, go to dog shows and meet other owners, and research information for your self. Please do a careful study and consideration of all aspects of dog ownership BEFORE you get a dog. Make sure any dog you bring home is the right dog for you and your family.

There is only one "Mastiff"--it is an original with an established, documented history. All others are just cheap, inferior imitations. There can be only one.

I will be most happy to answer any questions about my statements and personal opinions.

Those of you who wish to own and breed American Mastiffs--I respectfully ask that you step up to the plate and take responsibility for the dogs you breed and own. Microchip your puppies before sale so as to permanently identify them; accept back the dogs you have bred when their owners can no longer keep them. Contribute to Mastiff rescue to help met some of the cost incurred rescuing and caring for your dogs. It's your right to breed them; so now become responsible for what you have produced.

Please feel free to contact me at Kiokeemastiffs@embarqmail.com.