The Tibetan Mastiff is a large, imposing breed, perfectly suited for its centuries-old role as a guard dog. However, when properly trained, they are gentle giants who are wonderfully sweet and devoted to their families. The Tibetan Mastiff is ranked 131st out of 193 breeds by the American Kennel Club.
Tibet, the place of origin for this breed, is a notoriously remote, isolated place. As such, the origins of the Tibetan Mastiff are something of a mystery. DNA testing informs us that their ancestry can be traced back 5,000 years to the Himalayas, where they guarded livestock as well as homes and Buddhist temples. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the current iteration of the Tibetan Mastiff was seen by people outside of Tibet.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE TIBETAN MASTIFF
Here is some information about the appearance and temperament of the Tibetan Mastiff.
Tibetan Mastiffs are massive and muscular. They can reach up to 26 inches in height and weigh between 70 and 150 pounds. It may be hard to remember when you have a little teddy bear of a puppy, but they are going to get huge. As such, the Mastiff is not a great choice for an apartment. Some breeders will sort Mastiffs into two types, although both are often born in the same litter – tsang-kyhi, the taller, stronger “monastery” type; and the do-kyhi, the slightly smaller, leaner “nomad” type.
Tibetan Mastiffs are large, but quite light-footed. They are surprisingly agile for their size. They have a slightly longer-than-tall body type, and are known for their distinctive head and tail. The head is slightly wrinkled and broad with a very large, dense skull. Their broad muzzle gives the head a square appearance, and they have a very watchful, discerning gaze. They have v-shaped ears that hang down towards their face. The tail is well-feathered and curled up over their back.
Their double coat is thick, and they have an immense, heavy mane around their neck and chest. They have a wooly undercoat with a very coarse-haired outer coat. The coat comes in a bluish-grey, black, or brown and they can often have white, tan, or golden markings. Surprisingly, Mastiffs tend to shed very little – except for the one time of year when they blow out their coat. Weekly brushing is generally fine, except for during that major shedding time when more frequent brushing is recommended.
Tibetan Mastiffs are an independent, reserved breed. They are very smart, but also very loving and devoted dogs. They are even-tempered and great with family. They are fearless, hard-working dogs. They love children but are much more reserved and distrusting of strangers. For these reasons, they make excellent guard dogs. However, they can also be a very challenging breed, particularly for first-time owners. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons when deciding on whether or not you want to adopt a Tibetan Mastiff.
If not properly socialized, Mastiffs can be territorial around strangers. They can be single-minded, and if they don’t look at you as a leader, they will be very poor listeners. They will still bond with you and enjoy spending time with you, but they will not obey. They require a firm, consistent pack leader in order to prevent them from being overly stubborn. Their history as protectors makes them very instinctual; if they see an argument in the home or something similar, they may try to intervene. They may also mistake the loud, screaming play of small children to be aggression and try to intervene there as well. Their stubbornness makes them a poor choice for obedience and agility competitions.
They are generally quiet, but if left outside for long periods of time, their protective nature will kick in and they will bark a lot. Tibetan Mastiffs are also, funnily enough, great climbers; they have been known to scale fences and get out. As such, make sure your yard has high fences, and always keep your Mastiff on-leash when not at home or in an enclosed area, like a dog playpen or dog crate. Tibetan Mastiffs live, on average, for 10 to 12 years and tend to mature slowly. All that said, they still can make for a wonderful companion for the right person.
CARING FOR A TIBETAN MASTIFF
Here is some more info about the nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs of a Tibetan Mastiff.
Tibetan Mastiffs eat surprisingly less food than most people would expect of such a large, strong dog. They are not as food-motivated as other breeds and tend to only eat when hungry, sometimes skipping entire meals. When females are in-season, males may not eat for an entire week. Like most breeds, they will do best with a high-quality, dry dog food. Be sure to consult with your vet to find the best food for your dog, and also feed them an age-appropriate food (puppy, adult, senior).
Tibetan Mastiffs need a moderate amount of daily exercise. Generally, a nice walk is perfect. They do not require structured play or activities like canine sports – they would rather something more work-like, such as patrolling the yard. Their thick coats make them susceptible to heat; as such, they tend to be more active in cooler weather, and will be very appreciative if given a cooling pad in the summer.
Tibetan Mastiffs are very smart and learn quickly; however, they do not take well to ordinary obedience training. If they love and respect you, they will listen; however, if their respect ever wavers, you will lose that connection, so it is important to lead with consistency and firmness, and to remain patient. It is still absolutely recommended to start them in puppy training and obedience classes at an early age to properly socialize them.
In addition, house training is very easy with Mastiffs and they respond well to crate training. Also, be sure to train them to understand and respect their leash at an early age; when they are grown, they will be able to pull you wherever they like, so a leash for pulling dogs will be helpful. Remember to never let your Mastiff off-leash outdoors, because they will run, no matter how much recall training they have.
Tibetan Mastiffs are generally healthy. Like any breed, they can be susceptible to certain genetic conditions. Be sure to work with a respected breeder who tests for things like elbow and hip dysplasia, eye diseases, hypothyroidism, and other similar ailments.