Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff

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The Tibetan Mastiff is a powerful dog with a sturdy bone structure. It is a very large dog with a broad, massive head and a heavy, dense, medium-length coat. The bear-like head is wedged-shaped with a wide, blunt muzzle. The upper lip usually covers the lower lip. The nose is large and generally black. The teeth form a scissors or level bite. The v-shaped, thick-leathered ears hang down. Mature dogs, particularly males, tend to have moderate dewlap. The body is slightly longer than tall and the legs are heavy-boned and powerful. Marco Polo described it as “tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as that of a lion.” The muzzle is lighter than that of the English Mastiff, with an extremely strong jaw. Rear dewclaws should be removed, but front dewclaw removal is optional. The coat forms a heavy ruff around the neck. The hair on the head is short. The plumed tail curls over the back in Spitz fashion. The Tibetan Mastiff is usually black, sometimes with gold or tan markings, though he may also come in chocolate, blue & tan, sable, gold, cream, or red, with or without tan markings. Some also have white markings.
Tibetan Mastiffs have a strong instinct concerning people, and if they don’t get over their initial dislike of a particular person, there’s usually a reason. Tibetan Mastiffs cannot be walked off leash and should be taken on several different routes during their daily walks to prevent them from becoming territorial of their walking route.
The Tibetan Mastiff can be a wonderful breed for the proper owner and home, but he can’t fit into just any lifestyle. If you’re interested in this breed, do your homework and talk to breeders and other Tibetan Mastiff owners.One thing is certain: if you do acquire a Tibetan Mastiff, your life is sure to be an interesting adventure with this beautiful, loyal companion.


The Tibetan Mastiff is very protective and territorial. Even-tempered, calm and thoughtful. Dignified and very loyal to its own family. It is by and large loving with children but, distrusts and is reserved with strangers. Brave and fearless when properly socialized. Somewhat strong-willed and very determined, but with a desire to please. Patient and highly intelligent it was bred to take initiative. Tibetan Mastiffs should be supervised when introduced to other animals, but can do well if it is raised with them. If the owner wishes to add a second dog to the household, a mellow individual of the opposite sex, spayed or neutered, preferably of a non-dominant breed, is recommended. This breed, though highly-valued as a guard in his homeland, does not have a history of close association with people. The Tibetan Mastiff must be thoroughly socialized and trained to become the fine family guard and companion he can be. It comes naturally to this Mastiff to guard its family and their property. This special dog has to be raised to adulthood in a careful well-balanced manner. Strong words and readiness to hit the dog will only cause it to ignore its handler even more. The objective in training this dog is to achieve a bond of mutual respect, which can only be accomplished by showing respect. Bitches usually only have one heat per year, most commonly between October and December. In most other breeds, two heats are the rule. It is easy to housebreak. The few individuals that remain in Tibet are ferocious and aggressive, unpredictable in their behavior, and very difficult to train. But the dogs bred by the English are obedient and attached to their masters. The Tibetan Mastiff is an outstanding sheepdog and is ferocious against wolves or leopards that try to approach its flock. It is also an excellent guard of both entire villages and isolated houses. The Tibetan Mastiff comes to adulthood somewhat later than other breeds.
The word “challenging” is frequently applied to this independent, stubborn breed. He’s intelligent and has a strong sense of self, expecting to be treated as an equal, not as a pet.
He wants to please his people, but he also has his own agenda and must often be reminded of what he’s been asked to do. The Tibetan Mastiff is a loyal family guardian who takes his job seriously and is aloof or reserved toward strangers.

Height, Weight
Height:  25-28 inches (61-71 cm.)
Weight: 140-170 pounds (64-78 kg.) Some European owners claim the dogs can weigh up to 220 pounds (99 kg.), but the vast majority of these dogs have a weigh that fall in the range stated above.

Health Problems
Prone to hip dysplasia, skin conditions, thyroid problems, ear infections, and an unusual genetic problem called Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy (CIDN). CIDN symptoms usually appear at 7-10 weeks. If a puppy has this condition, he will die before 4 months of age. There is no test currently known for the disease and carriers can only be identified through mating. Ask the breeder about CIDN history in their lines and avoid lines with evidence of the disease if you would like to breed your dog.

Living Conditions
The Tibetan Mastiff is not recommended for apartment life. It is relatively inactive indoors and does best with at least a large yard. Tibetan Mastiffs like to climb and dig. Expect these dogs to try to escape from their pens. A six foot fence, with an undiggable surface below, is the minimum requirement for safe confinement of a Tibetan Mastiff. Make sure you bring this dog indoors at night, for it was bred to be a nocturnal barker. In the house it is fairly quiet.

The Tibetan Mastiff requires daily walks, but should not be over-exercised. Jogging is too hard on the joints due to the breed’s size. It was bred to have an average demand for exercise and will enjoy going with you for a walk in the woods, but they are not particularly enthusiastic about playing with a ball or anything like that. Be careful that the bones, muscles, and joints of the young dog are not overworked during the growing stage by not overdoing the physical side of its life.

Life Expectancy
About 15 or more years.

The Tibetan Mastiff should be brushed regularly. In the winter the coat has an abundance of very thick hair. The thick double coat sheds only once per year during a four week period in spring and/or summer. During this time it should be brushed and combed for at least a half hour each day. The Tibetan Mastiff is good for allergy sufferers.

The Tibetan Mastiff is descended from the famous Tibetan dogs that were the source of the majority of Molossuses and Mastiffs throughout the world. The ancient Tibetan Mastiff may have been in existence as early as the stone or bronze age. Mollossian dogs accompanied Alexander the Great from Tibet to Europe, and during this period helped found many of today’s other Mastiff breeds. Tibet later closed its doors to Westerners, so the breed developed for centuries in relative isolation. In the mid 1800’s, a Tibetan Mastiff was given to Queen Victoria of England. Soon more dogs were imported to England and the British began to refine and standardize the breed. In the 1970’s, foundation stock was imported from India, Ladakh, Afghanistan and Nepal to the United States. The Tibetan Mastiff is very rare in their native land, though some dogs are now being exported from Tibet. The breed is gaining popularity in England and the United States. The English have perfected the breed, which has virtually disappeared in the Orient. The Tibetan Mastiff is an excellent livestock guardian – willing to fight fiercely against predators and intruders and they are also outstanding guard dogs for the home. In Tibet, dogs were often tied up from two months of age to enhance aggressive tendencies. One dog was sometimes used to guard an entire village. As a result of these practices and Tibetan selection of function, English-bred dogs are much more trainable and controllable than those from Tibet. The American Tibetan Mastiff Association formed in 1974 serves as the breed’s official registry and network in the United States.


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