The Tibetan Mastiff is an enormous dog with great courage and massive dignity. These dogs have a huge, booming bark that they will use if left alone outdoors, but tend to be quiet inside the house. They require experienced owners who can establish control right off the bat; this breed tends to prefer to be dominant and needs a strong hand to raise a stable, well-adjusted dog.
They require extra training and exercise, although young Tibetan Mastiffs need to be restrained somewhat from their natural exuberance. These enormous young dogs have soft growing joints, bones, and ligaments that can be damaged with too much stress. Extra companionship and close supervision are necessary to keep youngsters from growing bored and destructive.
A massive dog, the Tibetan Mastiff has a sturdy bone structure in a body that is slightly greater in length than in height. The heavy, strong head is somewhat wrinkled and tends to be solemn. The muzzle is broad and square from any viewing point, with a black nose and teeth that have a level bite. Almond-shaped eyes, set at a slight slant, are deep-set and a shade of brown. This breed’s pendant ears have a V shape and hang forward.
A moderate dewlap hangs from the muscular, arched neck. A level topline runs from the maned neck to a feathered tail curling over the back. Straight feathered legs end with cat-like feet. The immense, thick double coat comes in brown, black, and blue-grey, sometimes with markings of white, tan, or shades of gold.
This giant dog comes at a minimum of 26 inches in height for males and 24 inches in height for females. The expected weight is between 90-150 pounds for the former and 70-120 pounds for the latter. A working group breed, the Tibetan Mastiff’s life expectancy is generally between 10 and 12 years.
Despite the Tibetan Mastiff’s size and bulk, the breed is known for being agile and athletic. Tall fences of six feet in height are necessary to keep this guardian dog in, as it is skilled at climbing and jumping. A breed developed to protect its flock and family, fences are necessary to keep the Tibetan Mastiff from pursuing any animal that runs from it.
The Tibetan Mastiff has a dignity even larger than its physical size. Serious and watchful, even-tempered and fearless, the breed can be calm and quiet until provoked. This is not a breed that is apt to fetch a frisbee for you. This strictly working canine has powerful instincts to perform the work of guarding livestock. They bond with their flocks and families and are highly aloof when it comes to strangers.
These dogs are self-willed and self-reliant. They require an owner who will be an assertive leader demanding respect, as they are used to making independent decisions about friends and foes, as well as about what constitutes a threat and what does not. While patient with the children and members of its own family, a Tibetan Mastiff needs a careful introduction to outsiders.
Because Tibetan Mastiffs were bred with the intent of keeping strange animals from their properties, they can be aggressive toward other animals. Some will not tolerate a dog of the same sex even within their family; others will not tolerate the other sex either. They require extensive socialization with both people and animals.
Generally robust, Tibetan Mastiffs do have some common health concerns. Like many other breeds, eye disorders can be a concern, as can hip dysplasia. The latter condition leads to mobility problems and may require surgery. Hip scoring and eye testing of the Tibetan Mastiff prior to breeding is highly recommended.
Other potential problems include hypothyroidism, the eye disorder persistent pupillary membranes, and finally, canine-inherited demyelinating neuropathy. These conditions are not all detectable within a puppy that is still growing. A reputable breeder who has a commitment to breeding the healthiest possible animals is necessary. You can check for a CHIC certification, which is from the Canine Health Information Center.
Among the most common health problems in this breed is obesity. To extend a Tibetan Mastiff’s life, keep the dog at a healthy weight. Be aware that these canines mature quite slowly, not reaching full size until the ages of three to five years old. Keep them lean and fully hydrated, particularly in the warmer months and in warmer climes.
The Tibetan Mastiff, with its thick, long double coat, requires brushing several times a week for the removal of dead hair and to maintain healthy skin and coat. The frequency of brushings increases to daily grooming sessions during the shedding season. The nails should be trimmed every week or two as needed and the teeth brushed frequently for fresh breath and good overall health.
Tibetan Mastiffs do not require frequent baths so long as the brushing is kept up consistently. Their coats do not need to be trimmed unless you want their feet to look neater. They naturally have a mane-like appearance on their necks and shoulders, more lavish on males than on females, and are distinctive-looking without special attention with clippers.
Bringing Home a Guardian
A Tibetan Mastiff is by no means a dog for a first-time owner. These dogs are good with the children of their families but need continuous association with people to properly socialize them. A professional trainer can help, but this dog’s owner must prove to be calmly in control. This breed is no pushover; it is dominant and willful.
While they shed a lot, can be prone to slobbering if they have loose jowls, bark when left outside, and are known to dig large holes to cool off in, these dogs are beautiful, majestic, smart, and ruggedly powerful. If you want a dog that, as an adult, is calm indoors and loves romping outside, as well as one that looks imposing but is not aggressive if not provoked, and you have experience training dogs, the Tibetan Mastiff may be right for you.
Olivia Harper is the co-founder of the blog Daily Dog Stuff. She is a reserved and passionate pet parent who loves to spend time with her Sibe, who keeps her active and social. Read more of her guides and tips by visiting the blog or following their page @dailydogstuff.