Welcoming the Tibetan Mastiff, the Rat Terrier and the Finnish Lapphund
Joining the Working Group: The Tibetan Mastiff
Striking, loud and strong. You won’t forget the Tibetan Mastiff once you’ve met one. Even if you haven’t yet personally encountered one of these impressive dogs, chances are, you know a breed they’ve contributed to. There are several breeds whose ancestry include a bit of the Tibetan Mastiff, including the Newfoundland, the Great Pyrenees and the Dogue de Bordeaux among others. 1
From the roof of the world, the “Do Khyi”, as they are called in Tibet, are a very old breed. 2 Because they are so ancient and because of the fact that Tibetan was isolated for so long, nobody really knows exactly how they came to be. 3 We do know that for millennia they were guardians of the Himalayas and that evidence suggests that early travelers to Tibet were sometimes given these giant dogs as gifts. When they returned with their new owners to the Middle East and Europe, other breeds were created. 4
The Tibetan Mastiff is special in so many ways; Females have a single estrus, Tibetan Mastiffs can be extremely determined to get their own way, and they can be very cat-like in their behavior. 5 They are also generally quite stubborn and vocal at night.
Not a dog for the first-time dog owner, the Tibetan Mastiff is aloof and likes to make their own decisions. 6 Although they can learn quickly and are generally housebroken very easily, when asked if their dog comes when called one owner said “"Oh, Tibetan Mastiffs want to be with you, it is just that Tibetan Mastiffs think that if they are in the same country as you, they are with you." 7 The breed was raised for thousands of years to guard property so lots of early and continuous socialization is necessary.
When it comes to that gorgeous coat, regular brushing is required. The breed tends to shed heavily once or twice a year, so more frequent brushing will help you (and your vacuum) during those times. Friends of mine who own Tibetan Mastiffs say that they are a very low shedding breed apart from those periods.
Tibetan Mastiffs are deeply connected to their people and love the children they know. Because of their protective nature some might not be keen to let people outside of their pack drop by their home and that might even include “their” children’s friends. Although the breed is extremely protective of their home, they tend not to be reactive when outside of their property.
In one sentence: The intelligent, sensitive Tibetan Mastiff is not an aggressor, but a fierce defender of their loved ones and land who does well with an experienced owner with a large fenced in property.
Joining the Terrier Group: The Rat Terrier
An American breed said to have been named by President Theodore Roosevelt himself, the Rat Terrier is tough, playful and portable. As his name would suggest, he was bred to protect farms against vermin. The Rat Terrier is a skilled and instinctive hunter who will follow most quarry to ground, but is more suited to trailing, flushing, treeing game and hunting rabbits and vermin.
There are two sizes of Rat Terriers. The Miniature is 10-13 inches tall at the withers. The Standard is over 13 inches up to 18 inches. The average weight is 10-24 lb. While both sizes make the Rat Terriers ideal for apartment living, great care and dedication must be taken to ensure that this dog’s mind and body is exercised daily. They are tireless players and love to learn new activities, which is why you will see them compete in so many different events like Agility, Flyball and Barn Hunt. Early and ongoing socialization will allow your Rat Terrier to have lots of friends in their circle.
The Rat Terrier’s coat is short and requires no more than weekly brushing to remove dead hair. They shed in the spring and fall, and an owner has to brush a bit more frequent during those times. The Rat Terrier’s coat comes in a great variation of pied patterning. Pied is a word taken from the horse world’s lexicon, meaning “comparatively large patches of one or more colours in combination with white.” 8
Acceptable colours, with or without tan points, include black, chocolate, red, apricot, blue, fawn, tan, lemon or white.
In one sentence: The Rat Terrier is a bright, energetic exterminator who needs an active owner willing to keep his body and brain busy.
Joining the Herding Group: The Finnish Lapphund
It’s hard to see a Finnish Lapphund and not fall in love. If their gorgeous coat and sweet expression don’t get you their friendly disposition and intelligence definitely will. Also known as Lapinkoira (Lapland dog), the Finnish Lapphund traces back to the historic hunting, and later herding dog of the Sami people who lived in regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia above the Arctic Circle. The Finnish Lapphund was originally bred to herd reindeer and eventually began herding cattle and sheep as well.
Although herding sheep or cows requires special skills, herding reindeer takes other distinct skills that are inherent in the Finnish Lapphund. The breed is quick, brave, and agile, with a strong startle reflex that served them well whenever reindeer suddenly turned on them. 9 Like many herding breeds, they have a tendency to be vocal. Finnish Lapphunds used to bark in order to control the herd, and they are still barkers today. This makes them very good watchdogs. That being said, teaching your “Lappie” when it's OK to bark and when it isn't is an important part of training. Speaking of training, this breed is super intelligent and loves to please which is why you’ll find them competing in a variety of dog sports. Because of their friendly, sweet nature and intuition, they make fantastic therapy dogs.
That gorgeous, voluminous double coat insulates incredibly well, so expect to have a dog that will be more than happy to exercise even on the coldest days of winter. All colours are allowed but one colour must pre-dominate. That signature coat sheds heavily twice a year. Apart from those times, owners keep the coat looking its best with regular brushing.
In one sentence: The Finnish Lapphund is an intelligent and friendly herding dog that wants to be included in whatever it is their owner is doing.
1. American Kennel Club, www.akc.org/dog-breeds/tibetan-mastiff/
2. Ibid., American Kennel Club
3. Ibid., American Kennel Club
4. Ibid., American Kennel Club
5. American Tibetan Mastiff Association, www.tibetanmastiff.org/why-tm-not-for-you.html
6. Ibid., American Tibetan Mastiff Association
7. Ibid., American Tibetan Mastiff Association
8. American Kennel Club, www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rat-terrier/
9. American Kennel Club, www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/7-reasons-why-you-should-know-the-finnish-lapphund/