Interview with Debra Parsons Slayton, Breeder of DreamCatcher Tibetan Mastiffs
Where do I live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Debra Parsons Slayton: I live in Graham, Washington, and I have been in multiple AKC breeds since 1976; starting with Yorkshire Terriers, a short stint with Samoyeds, then I met the Tibetan Mastiff and fell in love. I got started in TMs in 2000. So, 23 years with this breed. My first two litters were born
What is my kennel name? How many dogs do I currently keep?
Debra Parsons Slayton: My kennel is DreamCatcher Tibetan Mastiffs. I currently have two at my home and co-own several around the US. I have a wonderful business partnership with Aujudon Tibetan Mastiffs in Cedartown, Georgia. I have had up to six at my home. Currently, I am down to two here at Dreamcatcher, with two of my girls with Aujudon in Georgia.
Which show dogs from the past have been my noteworthy winners?
Debra Parsons Slayton: Noteworthy winners include
- MBISS MBIS GCHP CH Drakyi Loki Dreamcatcher’s Major Victory Of Loki CGC,
- BISS GCHS Dzhozias Aine Dreamcatcher At Aujudon, and
- GCHS Dreamcatchers Cairbre To Loki’s Major (breeder).
Which have been my most influential sires and dams?
Debra Parsons Slayton: Overall, sires.
Can I talk a bit about my facilities? Where are my puppies whelped? How are they raised?
Debra Parsons Slayton: All my TMs are house dogs. All the puppies are whelped in the garage, and progress to the Puppy Taj Mahal at five weeks/outside.
What is my “process” for selecting Show Puppies? Performance Puppies?
Debra Parsons Slayton: I use Puppy Puzzle, and mentor evaluations at six weeks.
Do I compete in Performance Events?
Debra Parsons Slayton: In Parent Club Tests & Trials? CGC, not for Performance.
Is “performance” part of my decision-making when it comes to breeding?
Debra Parsons Slayton: No.
How would I define “conditioning” as it relates to my breed?
Debra Parsons Slayton: Conditioning is defined as moderate exercise, walking, and guarding daily.
Are there any health-related concerns in my breed? Any special nutritional needs?
Debra Parsons Slayton: Low thyroid is common, especially in older TMs. Hips are a growing concern, as new owners and breeders do things to the young dogs that shouldn’t be done. TMs have a very low metabolism and should not be fed high-protein diets. Just because they are a large breed, they aren’t treated as such when it comes to diet and exercise.
Do I think my breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Debra Parsons Slayton: We have a core group of senior breeders who are preservation breeders, but sadly, the newer breeders are not savvy to the importation of Chinese lines, crossing lines that are known for bad temperament, simply unwilling to learn from the seniors who have many years in the breed successfully with healthy lines.
Is my breed well suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own my breed?
Debra Parsons Slayton: These are guardians, and must be well-socialized and introduced to all who come onto one’s property. They must have defined boundaries, which include extensive fencing requirements. This breed is extremely loyal to its family and is known to be very gentle with the “littles.” They are not for a first-time owner. This is a dog that must have an owner to set the alpha status up front—and keep it. TMs can be trained to do anything, but they will rarely do that training on command. It is essential that the buyer have large, guardian dog experience.
What is the biggest misconception about my breed? What is my breed’s best-kept secret?
Debra Parsons Slayton: The biggest misconception is that the big hairy monsters from China are Tibetan Mastiffs. They are not! They are a tragic mix, full of health and structure/temperament issues that are destructive to the reputation of the Tibetan Mastiff. The best-kept secret is that they are Buddhist Monks from another lifetime, returning to earth to do more good works.
If I could share a comment or two with judges of my breed, what would you like to say to them?
Debra Parsons Slayton: Get your hands under the coat and find the substance. If it isn’t there, don’t award “fluff.” The headpiece and feet are the hallmarks of the breed, though most judges award “fluff” or too narrow a skull. The muzzle should be square from all angles. The skull should be wider, with a large backskull. Ears should pull in to the inner corner of the eye; to be the right size. Their paws are cat-like, with movement to match; moderate angulation with a determined, light-footed movement that looks like “on air.”
Do I have any words of wisdom to pass along to newer breeders?
Debra Parsons Slayton: Don’t invest in Chinese lines. Pay attention to what your lines are breeding to and DON’T BREED TO JUST BREED. Do so with reservations and intention, or don’t do it at all.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing I’ve ever experienced with a Working Dog?
Debra Parsons Slayton: Tibetans Mastiffs are often called cats in dog suits. Let your imagination go with that. It happens daily.