With apologies to the Bard, how do Molosser owners suffer the slings and goobers of outrageous slobber?
Maybe it’s one of those primeval fears, reinforced by the big screen. After all, if Old Yeller didn’t teach us that foaming at the mouth was not a good thing, Cujo sliming car windows with curtains of drool pretty much got that message across. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s the horror scene in “Turner and Hooch” where Turner puts on a shoe and finds it filled with a lake of Dogue de Bordeaux drool.
Maybe that’s why I was praying I was having a flashback when I visited a Mastiff home recently. When I was younger, we had this wallpaper that appeared to drip down the wall after certain degrees of partying had been achieved. The Mastiff room appeared to have the same wallpaper. Only I hadn’t been partying. The dogs checked for my reaction as they shook their heads and slung another decoration on the wall. They must have liked what they saw – me scared spitless – because that was when they started coming for me. Teeth, I could have braved. But these dogs looked like they had Portuguese Men of War stuck in their mouths, tentacles of drool waving and trailing below, reaching for me ... Please, let it be a flashback.
Mastiffs, Neapolitan Mastiffs, Dogues de Bordeaux – big dogs and big lips are the perfect reservoirs for big drool. Drooling, slobbering, driveling, flobidising – salivating by any other name would still feel as sticky. But when it gets excessive, it’s called ptyalism. And when it happens at rest it’s called sialorrhea – a kind of real diarrhea of the mouth.
All right, maybe I exaggerate just a little. And maybe the Hooch slimefest was a product of Hollywood special effects. Then again, maybe not. Anthony DiNobile of Matrix Bordeaux in Mesa, Ariz., admits that owning four Dogues de Bordeaux can get “kind of slobbery.” (I have come to realize that owners of drool-prone breeds can be “kind of understated.”)
“Once a month I need to clean the walls – yes, clean the walls – from the slobber and drool. I fill up a bucket with hot water, and using a washcloth, scrub the drool off the walls,” DiNobile explains. “Usually I need to only go as high as about three feet up from the baseboard, but one time, drool was flung all the way up to about the eight-foot mark. If you’re asking, ‘How did that get there?’ then you’ve never seen a Dogue de Bordeaux shake his jowls when slobbering.”
No, no, I have not. I confess, I come from a dry – no, parched – mouthed breed. So I asked some owners of dehydration-challenged dogs how they cope with the drool factor.
“Get over your fear of slobber as quickly as possible!” advises Bullmastiff breeder Chris Rasmussen of ExLibris Bullmastiffs in Brandywine, Md.
Great Dane breeder and judge Nikki Riggsbee of Valrico, Fla., has similarly useful advice. “We just deal with it,” she says. “Keep a towel handy if it is excessive or if you have company that you want to be relatively tidy for or who are put off by it. Usually when it’s actually hanging down is when I use a towel. A hanging ‘goober’ – or whatever its real name is – is viscous. It can be pinched off at the lip line and flung away to keep it from being brought in the house. I wipe my hand, then, on the dog.”
Note to self: Do not pet Riggsbee’s dogs.
Saint Bernard fancier Dave Maxwell of Woodstock, Ga., seems to have the most reasonable advice: “Carry a ten-foot pole and don’t let the Saint get anywhere near you.” Saints apparently have a keen sense of fashion. “If you’re wearing your Sunday best,” he adds, “the Saint will make a beeline to baptize your skirt or trousers with a large goober. If you attempt to evade this maneuver, they will just shake their head with enough force to send one flying into your new hairdo.”
Neapolitan Mastiff breeder Donna Welty of Vienna, N.J., relates the times when her dogs take a drink and then decide to shake their heads.
“After a few times of drool dripping from your eyeglasses or on your face or in your hair, you learn to cover your head or duck – or at least give it a try,” she says. “Placing a dish towel on your lap at all times while sitting at the kitchen counter also helps when ‘baby’ comes to ‘momma’ to have his face wiped.”
Even if you can’t visit a drool-adorned home, you can experience some of the excitement of dodging slingers by sitting ringside while your favorite drooling breed is judged … especially if it’s a warm day and the handlers are using plenty of bait to get the spit going.
If you think sitting ringside is not for the faint of heart, try judging. Riggsbee judges all the slobber slingers, and claims she’s never grossed out. “If you’re going to judge dogs that drool, accept it or don’t do it,” she says simply. She does have some advice, however: “Have moist towelettes (which hopefully the club will supply) to wipe your hands as necessary. Keep the dogs in the shade. Don’t run them any more than absolutely necessary on warm days. Handlers are quite willing to show you the bite – some prefer it. Handlers keep their dogs tidy.”
Riggsbee insists drool has no bearing on her judging decisions, though for some it does. Imagine being the judge at the “longest slinger contest” at the annual Northeast Ohio Mastiff Picnic in Medina, Ohio, each October (www.mastiffpicnic.com). In fact, many Molosser breeds have unofficial “fun” drool contests.
While handlers at these drool-offs encourage record-setting saliva stalactites, most handlers at regular shows carry drool rags. Even those can become soaked and slimed to a soggy mess, however. That’s when handlers get innovative.
“If my drool rag has gotten damp and become useless and my dog looks like he’s swallowed a tennis shoe with the laces hanging out, I’m adept at using my shoe to gently scrape the drool off the side of his mouth,” says Rasmussen.
Then there are the techno-solutions. M.C. Kay of Owenspride Mastiffs in Brewster, Mass., says fellow Mastiff breeder Sherry Colby came up with the idea for a little device Kay carries in the ring. It’s a tiny retractable clip that hooks to her waistband.
“I attach a small rag to it, and then can deftly wipe the drool right as the judge is moving in to me with one hand, and then just let go of the rag,” Kay explains. “It zips back to my waist and I don’t have to fumble with stuffing it in pockets, under rubber bands, or wherever. As an owner-handler who is always in competition with the pros, I need every spare second I can find to set my dog up quickly.”
When it comes to show-win photos, Rasmussen advises handlers to tuck their drool rag in the back of their pants or skirt, then “wipe, smile for the photo, and hope the photographer has quick reflexes!”
The drool rag (microfiber preferred) is omnipresent whenever one of these salivary Sasquatches meets the public. “We always bring drool rags with us, wherever we go,” Kay says. “Frequent wiping seems to do the trick when we’re out in public where we may not want to inflict our dogs’ drool upon passersby who may want to meet the dogs but not get drooled upon – much.”
The concept is much the same with houseguests. “Tuck a small bath towel under the dog’s collar,” Kay suggests. “That gives the person something to protect themselves with when greeting your dog.”
Welty points out that the drool can help make life simpler, at least when it comes to family members who no longer drop in unannounced. “If they only came when invited – then the walls would be clean.” But even then, she admits, “of course, the globs on the ceiling are hard to reach – especially when you’re short and get dizzy on ladders.”
You just never know where that drool will land.
What about breeding for a drool-free model – the legendary dry-mouthed dog? Riggsbee says it’s possible in Great Danes but simply isn’t high on the priority list compared to good health, temperament, structure and breed type, which in Danes “includes lips that finish the rectangle shape of the head.” She admits that on two equal dogs, she’d prefer drier mouthed, but adds, “not so dry that the lips stick and don’t have as much drape as I’d like.”
Though Danes may come in a drool-less version, Maxwell says – emphatically – there’s no such beast in the Saint Bernard breed. “Any Saint that was bred to be ‘dry mouthed’ would have such an incorrect head and jaw structure that they would no longer even look like a Saint Bernard dog. Anyone who places an advertisement claiming they have ‘dry mouth’ Saints for sale is exclaiming to the world that they haven’t a clue about the breed.”
Kay agrees when it comes to Mastiffs. “There is no way, nor should there be any way, to avoid drool in a Mastiff or create some drier-mouthed version of a Mastiff.” She cautions that there is a mixed-breed sometimes touted as a “dry-mouthed” Mastiff, but that it’s a cross between a Mastiff and an Anatolian Shepherd. “I personally see a correlation between the drool and the overall appearance of the head,” she adds. “Show me a Mastiff that hardly drools, and I’ll bet that Mastiff doesn’t have a nice full, deep muzzle. Probably doesn’t have sufficient lips, either.”
Spit and Polish
In a sense, droolers are the artists of the canine world. After all, any dog can just stand there, lips chapped and unproductive. Not every dog can create.
“We pride ourselves on having dogs that can produce fantastic slingers, and the earlier they do so the happier we are,” boasts Kay, like any proud parent of a child prodigy. “I’ve called my husband at work to happily announce a puppy’s first slinger – we’d been concerned because she hadn’t made any yet!” This is no doubt how Jackson Pollock’s parents felt the first time he dumped a can of paint on the carpet.
Perhaps that’s why owners like to regale one another with stories of slingers that end up on walls and ceilings, according to Rasmussen. “It’s just a part of life with a Bullmastiff.”
Then there’s the drip – which owners point out is not the same as the drool. “When they’ve just taken a slug of water, they’ll trail that last gulp all over your kitchen floor,” Rasmussen explains. “I think they do that for fun. And slobber plus water plus tile or linoleum can make your kitchen floor more slippery than an ice rink!”
You can mop up drippings fairly easily with a towel. But what about droolings? Rasmussen offers this advice: “Get to it before it gets crusty!”
If it’s already solidified, oft-mentioned products include Simple Clean, Scotch-Brite Easy Erasing Pad, and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (this latter mentioned emphatically and universally). Welty has the most sensible solution: “A helpful son, friend or husband with strong arms and a cooperative personality!”
For clothes, normal washing usually suffices, perhaps with some Oxy Magic added to particularly impressive stains. “Or wipe off,” says Riggsbee. “It depends on how fastidious you are. With dogs in general, if you’re dressing in finery and don’t want to be mussed, put on the good clothes as the last thing before leaving the house.”
Living with drool brings out the fashion sense in some owners, including Welty, who has this advice: “Learn to wear prints, stripes, anything with a design – solid colors are a draw for drool.”
Love Me, Love My Drool
Some new owners are put off by drool, but Kay believes these are the exception if they’ve bought from a responsible breeder.
“As breeders, we really try to impress upon people the enormity of everything that goes along with Mastiff ownership ... I won’t sell a puppy to anyone who seems even the least bit turned off by the drool or any of the other bodily functions of my dogs,” she says.
Welty deliberately leaves the drool on the walls before prospective Neo owners visit. She says sometimes the wife looks around, asks a few questions, and they leave, never to be heard from again.
“The best test is to let an adult Neo have a drink, and then watch the visitors’ reactions as the dripping water heads for the human towel,” she says. “If they stay around and continue to play with the puppies – a potential owner in the making!”
“A Mastiff lover doesn’t ‘tolerate’ or ‘deal with’ the drool,” says Kay. “Mastiff lovers embrace the drool factor.”
All in all, the consensus is that the benefits outweigh the drool – most of the time. In Welty’s words, “When those soulful eyes look up at you and say ‘Thank you,’ who worries about a little drool?”
She’s got me there.
© Modern Molosser Magazine. This article may not be reposted, reprinted, rewritten, excerpted or otherwise duplicated in any medium without the express written permission of the publisher.
Sun, 07/29/2018 - 7:06pm