Tibetan mastiff

Tibetan mastiff puppy
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Tibetan Mastiff is one of the most primitive breeds that is still in existence today. Hailing from Tibet, it was originally used as to guard livestock and property. They are still relegated to this role on occasion, but they also serve well as a family companion and a show dog.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingHigh
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Working dogs
Height:Twenty-four to twenty-six inches at the shoulder
Weight:Seventy-five to one hundred and sixty pounds
Life Span:10 to 14 years

The Tibetan Mastiff has a very noble appearance, with a long coat and very appealing colors. His presence is known to turn every head in a room when he enters or walks down the street. But he’s so much more than good looks, so if that’s all you’re in for when it comes to a dog, then this is not the breed for you.

Despite this warning, the Tibetan Mastiff is known for being extremely loving, gentle, patient and understanding. The centuries that he’s spent working very closely with humans has made it easy for him to understand what is required of him and to do the job he is assigned. He works hard in any task that is given to him, and can be quite fearless and loyal. His large size alone makes him a good guard dog and careful breeding has given him a protective streak that cannot be swayed.

However, it can be quite independent and will not always look to you for guidance in determining the right course of action to take. He’s happy to sit alongside you if you’re spending a day on the couch, but he won’t always obey what you tell him to do, especially if he believes he’s right in a given situation. Add stubbornness to the mix, and you have a challenge on your hands. Because of this, he doesn’t do very well in obedience or agility competitions.

When it comes to barking, they are generally very quiet when their needs are met. However, if they are left outside, they tend to be barkers, so it’s best for everyone if they’re kept indoors. In the event that you do allow him outside to roam, then it’s best that your hard be incredibly well-fenced. They have been known to climb fences or dig under them in order to escape. Leaving them outside for too long can lead to a territorial and aggressive disposition.

Tibetan Mastiffs are only tolerant of children under certain conditions, but with their temperament is much better if they are raised with them. It’s easy for them to mistake the yelling and screaming of a child as signs of aggression and won’t allow the child near them. This can make it difficult for you to have a social life with your friends, as a Tibetan Mastiff generally limits the number of people that are allowed in the home. Large dinner parties and social events at your house are definitely a no-no.

Socialization is very essential early on in order to get him used to there being other people in the house. Taking him out to dog-friendly stores and parks will help to round out his character. Let him meet new people, but don’t force the interaction if he’s wary of specific people. If they don’t get over their initial dislike of a person, then he usually has a reason for it and that’s not going to go away.

When exercising your dog, be sure to take him along different routes throughout the day. This can prevent him from becoming territorial of his walking route and becoming aggressive to other people and animals that he encounters along the way. Otherwise, he can be a wonderful breed when paired with the right owner and home. He’s not very suitable for any kind of lifestyle, such as apartment living, due to his large size. But you won’t find a more loyal companion.

Main Highlights
  • Tibetan Mastiffs may look like teddy bears as puppies, but it’s important that you be mindful that your puppy will become a dog that weighs close to 100 pounds. Don’t  choose one if you are living in an apartment
  • Tibetan Mastiffs are known to be very active in the mornings and evenings. These are the best times to exercise them. If your schedule is not suitable for these times, then it may not be the right breed for you.
  • Tibetan Mastiffs are known to be quite calm when they are indoors. This is why they should not be left outside. They will start to get rambunctious and misbehave. He does best when is in the presence of his family.
  •  Because a Tibetan Mastiff is quite protective, it is never a good idea to walk them off leash. He will become quite territorial and display aggression in order to «keep you safe.» Change his walking routes on a daily basis to give him some variety and so that he doesn’t consider these routes as his.
  • They are intelligent and stubborn, but are quite sensitive to the moods of their humans. Yelling or disciplining your child, or arguing with your spouse in his presence can make him quite upset.
  • The Tibetan Mastiff is not recommended for a first time dog owner. He needs a strong confident trainer who is consistent and loving throughout each training session. He won’t be afraid to test you on a regular basis to see if you mean what you say.
  • Without physical and mental stimulation, the Tibetan Mastiff can become quite bored. This can lead to destructive behaviour, incessant barking, and other unwanted behaviour. Getting a puppy means you’ll have to bear with losing a few precious items before he reaches adulthood at three years old.
Breed History

The Tibetan Mastiff originated in Tibet, and like most breeds, has a documented history dating back to the late 19th Century. However, it is believed that they have been around for a lot longer. Evidence has shown that the ancestors of these large dogs existed around 5,000 years ago. They developed into two types: Do-Khyi and Tsang-Khyi. The Do-Khyi lived in villages, helping the nomadic shepherds with their flock, while the Tsang-Khyi served as guardians for the Tibetan monks who lived in the lamaseries.

Before 1800, very little was known about the Tibetan Mastiff, and the first account of them was made by Captain Samuel Turner. It wasn’t until 1847 that the first dog from Tibet was imported into England and given to Queen Victoria. In 1874, the Prince of Wales imported two more and were shown at the Alexandra Palace Show the following year. The importation continued until a breeding club was eventually formed in 1931. However, when World War II rolled around, there was an end to the breeding. It only started back up again in 1976 when the importation process began again.

The breed had a similar history in the United States. In the 1950s, two Tibetan Mastiffs was given to the President of the United States, but they were sent away to a farm and were out of the public eye. More Tibetan Mastiffs were imported to the United States in the 1970s, and became the foundation for the breed as it is known today.

The breed only became a recent member of the AKC in 2007, and is still used to guard livestock and homes. Occasionally, they can be seen traveling with caravans and traders, as they make an effective guard dog and are wary of the strangers around them who dare to approach.


The size of your Tibetan Mastiff depends on the sex. A male will stand at about twenty-six inches at the shoulder, and will weigh about 100 to 160 pounds. A female will be at least twenty-four inches at the shoulder, and will weigh about 75 to 125 pounds.

Personality and Character

The Tibetan Mastiff has been called «challenging» at times, as they are quite independent. He has a strong sense of self, and expects to be treated as an equal, not a pet. He’s eager to please his people, but can sometimes have an agenda of his own, and won’t stop until he’s achieved it. He often needs to be reminded that you’ve given him a job in order to steer him back onto the right path. Otherwise, he will take his job very seriously. Enrolling him in obedience training when he is still a puppy will definitely help to curb this stubbornness and make him easier to work with in the future.

Health and Potential Problems

Tibetan Mastiffs are known for being generally healthy. Like all pure breeds, however, they can succumb to certain illnesses and orders over time. Knowing what these are beforehand will help you to make the informed decision as to whether a Tibetan Mastiff is right for you.

  • Canine hip dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint, eventually causing lameness or arthritis. You should avoid breeding dogs with this condition. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be made worse by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries resulting from falling on slick floors.
  • Elbow dysplasia: this is a hereditary condition that is often found in large breed dogs. It is believed that it is the result of the three bones of the elbow growing at different rates, so that they don’t fit together properly. This can lead to lameness, and should be treated before the condition becomes severe. Surgery and medication can correct or ease the symptoms of the condition, and weight management can help to relieve the stress on the bones.
  • Panosteitis: this is what is known as growing pains for dogs. As the bones lengthen, they can become inflamed. This can lead to a lot of pain, especially in large breed dogs. There is no need to take action, as it only lasts about one to six months until the dog is fully grown. Pain medication can be used to make your dog more comfortable.
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans: this is an orthopedic condition that affects the cartilage in the joints. It typically occurs around the shoulder but has also been known to affect the elbow as well. It causes stiffening of the joints and can be detected in puppies as young as five to seven months. Surgical repair may be required to correct the condition.
  • Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy: by the time a Tibetan Mastiff puppy is six weeks old, he may be affected by an inherited neurological condition called Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy. This affects the nervous system, and can cause weakness in the hind legs. Without treatment, this can lead to complete paralysis. There is no treatment options for this condition, so careful breeding is recommended in order to avoid passing it on to future litters.
  • Autoimmune Hypothyroidism: this endocrine disorder affects middle-aged to senior dogs, and is the result of a deficiency of a certain thyroid hormone. Signs of the condition include weight gain, flaky skin, and a general lack of energy. It is a condition that is easily managed with medication, and must be administered throughout a dog’s life.
Care Features

The Tibetan Mastiff is a companion dog that is meant to live indoors. It should have access to a large, fenced-in yard where he can get the exercise that he needs. Anything smaller would not be sufficient for his needs.

His heavy coat makes him not very suitable for warm, humid weather. He is good at tolerating dry heat, but it’s important that you monitor his condition at all times. Shade and fresh water should be provided in order to avoid heat stroke.

His requirements for exercise should be about 20 to 30 minutes of play or a thirty-minute walk each day. Having another dog can provide him with some of the play that he needs, as long as his canine companion isn’t too small.

Tibetan Mastiff puppies can grow a lot faster than other dog breeds, but they are not considered physically mature until they are at least a year old. Because of this fast rate of growth, they’re likely to suffer from orthopedic damage to their bones. In order to prevent this, exercise should be limited to free play in the yard and long walks should be avoided altogether.

Training should being as soon as you bring your Mastiff puppy home. They are highly intelligent and learn very quickly. However, their stubborn and independent natures requires there to be strict and formal obedience, or else they will walk all over you. Be patient and firm during the process in order to develop a bond with your dog. Always look for behaviors that will receive reward than to search out punishment.

House training, as you can guess, is something that comes quite easily to the Mastiff. Crate training can help with this, and prevent your puppy from chewing on things that he isn’t supposed to. It also provides him with a safe place to use when he is feeling overwhelmed or tired.

Because your Mastiff will weigh as much as 100 pounds, it’s important that you get leash training down as quickly as possible. The last thing you want is to be dragged down the street by your dog. Having good leash manners will make you a lot happier in the long run.

Socialization is important for the Tibetan Mastiff, as he can be overly dominant with other dogs, as well as over-protective of his family. Classes are essential, but you can do some work on your own outside of classes by taking him to dog parks and getting him to meet new people. This makes the introduction process when people come into your home much easier.

Feeding Schedule

A Tibetan Mastiff is quite a large dog, which means he’s going to need a lot of food to keep his energy levels up. The recommended amount of food is four to six cups of food a day, divided between two meals. This is also dependent on the size, age and energy levels of your dog, as well as the quality of food that is being provided. Tibetan Mastiffs can suffer from bloat, so food and water should be withheld for at least an hour after vigorous exercise.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Tibetan Mastiff has a double coat that is long and thick on top, and a soft, woolly undercoat. It is this undercoat that sheds during the warm months, which can leave the interior of your home covered in fur. The hair itself should be hard and straight, never silky. The breed has a heavy mane around the neck and shoulders, and the tail and upper thighs. Male dogs will generally have more of a coat than females, and their manes are also much larger. Brushing of the hair should be done at least one to three times a week with a wire slicker brush to remove the loose hair. This should minimize on the shedding that occurs.

The coat comes in a variety of colors, such as black, brown, gold, and blue, along with tan markings above and around the eyes, on the sides of the muzzle, the throat, lower front legs, inside of the hind legs, the breeches, and the underside of the tail. This gives them a very distinctive look that you won’t find in other dog breeds. Some dogs may even have white markings on the chest and feet, which can be quite rare. Some dogs come in sable and brindle, but there are generally not accepted as show dogs.

As always, nail and dental hygiene are always important and should be taken care of on a regular basis. If you can hear your dog’s nail clicking on the floor when he walks, then they are too long. Be patient in examining and trimming your dog’s nails in order to make it a pleasant experience. When it comes to their teeth, two to three times a week is best in order to remove tartar buildup and eliminate the presence of any bacteria in the mouth. By introducing these to your puppy from early on, he will get used to these practices and take to them much more easily. Make the trimming and cleaning experience as fun as possible for your dog so that it doesn’t feel like a punishment.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Tibetan Mastiff is suitable for families with older children, but he can be too large for toddlers to play with. It is very easy for him to knock them over and step on them. Children should be quite around the Tibetan Mastiff, as he can take their yelling and screaming as signs of aggression. His protectiveness will make him protect the children of the family from other children, especially if they’re playing together and it looks like they’re fighting. Supervision is always recommended.

Children should be taught from early on how to approach the Tibetan Mastiff, and when he should be left alone, such as when he is eating or sleeping. Tail and ear pulling should be discouraged, and children should not try to take a dog’s food away.

When it comes to the Tibetan Mastiff, he can certainly keep your hands full with his size and independence alone. His protective streak can be a little difficult to work with, especially if you invite people over to your house on a regular basis. It’s not the right dog for everyone, so it’s important that you consider all of the elements of a Tibetan Mastiff’s personality before getting one. The home should be somewhere where he can thrive, not be constantly berated for what he considers normal behaviour. Reward will get you much farther than discipline.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.