Breed’s Recognition a Mixed Blessing

A Leonberger enthusiast worries about the potential impact of the breed’s AKC recognition.

Q. I am the owner of a Leonberger named Furion (www.leonbergerfurion.com). I want to ask you since the AKC recognized the Tibetan Mastiff do you think it has been a good experience for the breed? The Leonbergers are in the Miscellaneous Class right now and they are waiting to be recognized, which you probably already know. I am concerned that once they’re recognized, people will start breeding like crazy and we will lose the breed lines that we have worked hard to keep clean. Have you noticed a change in the Tibetan Mastiff puppy demand and do you think that people will ruin the hard work the breeders have put forth towards the Tibetan Mastiff lines? I look forward to and respect your opinion.

A. Thank you for your interesting and insightful question. AKC recognition is definitely a mixed blessing. It’s nice to see a breed you care about arrive in people’s living rooms via televised dog shows and gain some visibility, but prepare yourself for casual would-be owners who can’t provide our giant breeds with a quality of life and are interested in them only because they are now recognized and showable.

In the end, it is conscientious breeders who police their breed. AKC recognition brings with it new breeders and “instant experts” who are prepared to change a breed (make it smaller, make it hairier, make it showier, make it less primitive and more generic) to make it more commercially appealing. Equally dangerous are the generic judges who look at a Tibetan Mastiff, make no effort to educate themselves about the breed and assume it’s a Newfoundland knock-off, only in gold or black-and-tan. The same judges will evaluate a Leonberger in the same generic fashion.

If certain judges prove themselves ignorant of your breed and have no desire to learn, there is no need to give them an entry. Show-giving clubs will soon get the message, especially in this weak economy, and these judges will get fewer assignments.

Take every opportunity to educate the public but let them know a Leonberger is not a St. Bernard or a Newf or anything else, and it is certainly not the right breed for everyone.

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