Breed of the Week: Tibetan Mastiff (Video) - Simply For Dogs
Tibetan Mastiff

Breed of the Week: Tibetan Mastiff (Video)


It needs to be pointed out from the outset that the Tibetan Mastiff is most definitely not a dog for just anyone. I usually adopt a certain format when doing my “Breed of the Week” posts, but given the unusual nature of the Tibetan Mastiff, I’m going to begin with a brief introduction. I hate having people waste my time, so I won’t do that for you. If the overview leads you to believe that the Tibetan Mastiff is not a good fit for your situation, then you won’t want to read further.


The Tibetan Mastiff is a very impressive looking dog, and if you enjoy getting admiring glances, you won’t do much better than this breed. He is also extremely loyal and protective.

That’s the good news. On the downside, the Tibetan Mastiff is highly independent and can be very stubborn. This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love and respect you, but it does mean that if he thinks he’s right and you’re wrong, he’s not going to be inclined to obey you. For this reason, you should not expect a Tibetan Mastiff to do well in obedience trials or other competitions where he has to look to the handler for guidance.

Tibetan Mastiffs can also be very “barky,” so if you live in close quarters with your neighbors, this could be a problem. And although they tend to be noisy themselves, they don’t tolerate noise overly well from other people. Accordingly, they are not usually good with children.

Also, because they are very territorial, Tibetan Mastiffs can put a real crimp in your social life. So if you’re the type of person who enjoys having a lot of people around, and welcomes spontaneous visits, you will have to work extra-hard on socializing your Tibetan Mastiff. He may be very picky about whom he wants to have around, and how often he’d like to see them. In fact, the Tibetan Mastiff is so territorial that many breeders recommend varying his walking route so that he doesn’t decide that the entire neighborhood is his territory and he needs to protect it accordingly. Breeders also recommend that you never, ever, walk your Tibetan Mastiff off the leash.

Scared off yet? If you still think a Tibetan Mastiff is the right dog for you, then keep reading to learn more.


As you could probably deduce from the name, the Tibetan Mastiff originated in Tibet. Little is known about the breed prior to the latter part of the 19th century, but he is assumed to have been around for centuries. This is backed up by DNA evidence that suggests the origin of Mastiff-type dogs 5,000 years ago. There were basically two types: the Tsang-Khyi, which is the largest type and believed to have served as guardians for Buddhist monks, and the Do-Khyi, who traveled with shepherds, guarding their flocks.

The first Tibetan dog to be imported to England was given to Queen Victoria in 1847. It’s interesting to note that Queen Victoria was well-known for her love of dogs, and, in fact, led to the establishment of several different breeds. Originally, the Tibetan Mastiff was entered into the English Kennel Club’s stud book as simply “Large Dog from Tibet.” A few years later, the preferred designation became “Tibetan Mastiff.”

The first Tibetan Mastiff club came into existence in 1931, but with the advent of World War II, breeding was essentially halted, and took quite a bit of a hiatus. Finally, in 1976, breeding began to enjoy a resurgence.

The history is similar in the United States. In the late 1950s, a pair of Tibetan Mastiffs were given to President Dwight Eisenhower. Apparently, the Mastiffs and the President couldn’t have been a good fit, because he re-homed them. Again, breeding saw a hiatus and did not really resume until around 1970.

Interestingly, it is only very recently that the AKC recognized the breed. Tibetan Mastiffs were recorded into the Working Dog classification in 2007. Equally interesting is the fact that today, in Tibet, Tibetan Mastiffs are few and far between.


Male Tibetan Mastiffs stand at least 26 inches at the shoulder, and weigh at least 100 pounds and sometimes more than 160. A female Tibetan Mastiff will stand at least 24 inches at the shoulder, and will weigh at least 75 pounds and sometimes more than 125.


As noted in the overview, Tibetan Mastiffs can be challenging. He wants to please his person, but he fully expects that he should be treated as an equal. He does not consider himself your pet. He is your partner and guardian, and he takes the role seriously.


It is very important to socialize Tibetan Mastiffs very early. You should take him lots of places, introduce him to all manner of people, and even enroll him in a puppy kindergarten so that he learns, as far as is possible for the breed, to get along with other dogs.


There is no such thing as a dog that is not prone to some diseases and disorders, but Tibetan Mastiffs are, generally speaking, healthy dogs. Some problems that are fairly common to the breed are as follows.

1. Hip Dysplasia

This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone and the hip joint fail to fit properly into one another. Injuries and rapid weight gain can worsen the condition. On the other hand, it is not at all uncommon for dogs with minor hip dysplasia to live full, rewarding lives. Medication or surgery may be needed.

2. Elbow Dysplasia

This condition is also inherited, and is believed to be due to the three bones making up the elbow growing at different rates. As is the case with hip dysplasia, it does not have to be a death sentence. It can be managed with medication, or corrected with surgery.

3. Osteochondrosis Dissecans

This condition is caused by poor growth of cartilage in the joints, and usually affects either the shoulder or the elbow. It is hereditary, so if your dog is diagnosed with Osteochondrosis Dissecans, you should not breed. The condition causes stiffening and pain in the joints, and can often be managed using medication. Sometimes, surgery will be required.

4. Panosteitis

This is an inflammation in the long leg bones that affects large dogs during the growth stage. Usually, the condition can be eased using medication, and it will resolve once the dog attains his full growth.

5. Autoimmune Hypothyroidism

This is a deficiency in thyroid hormones that usually affects dogs that are middle-aged or older. Symptoms can include lethargy, weight gain and flaky skin. If your dog is diagnosed with this disorder, he will require medication for the rest of his life.

6. CIDN (Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy)

As is the case with so many conditions that affect Tibetan Mastiffs, this disorder is hereditary. It causes a weakness in the hind legs, and sadly, the dog will eventually become paralyzed. Fortunately, though, the incidences of CIDN have been reduced thanks to selective breeding.

When purchasing a Tibetan Mastiff puppy, you should make sure that the puppy’s parents have the proper health clearances. Keep in mind, too, that this will not guarantee that your puppy will never develop any of the problems that the parents have been cleared of. Since most disorders won’t appear until a dog is fully mature, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals will not clear a dog that is not at least two years old. You can reduce the chances of buying a puppy that could develop health problems if you confine your search to breeders who do not breed animals under the age of two.


Tibetan Mastiffs are high-energy dogs that will not thrive in small yards or runs. Ideally, you should have a large, well-fenced yard so that your dog can get sufficient exercise. Also, because of the Tibetan Mastiff’s heavy coat, he will be very uncomfortable in hot, humid areas. He will, though, tolerate dry heat reasonably well provided that he always has access to shaded areas and plenty of water when outdoors.

In addition to yard play, mature Tibetan Mastiffs appreciate a walk of about half an hour each day. Until your puppy is at least a year old, though, keep the walks to no more than 20 minutes in order to lower the risk of orthopedic damage.

Even more so than most dog breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff will not respond well to coercive training methods. So rather than scold your dog, reward him when he gets something right.

As to house training, Tibetan Mastiffs catch on fairly quickly. Using a crate can help to expedite the process, as well as keeping your puppy from chewing things when you’re not in the house to supervise him. Never use the crate as punishment, though, and don’t leave your puppy in the crate for hours on end. It’s supposed to be a safe, welcoming place, not a jail.


I’m always pointing out that I free-feed my dogs. However, if you want to feed your Tibetan Mastiff on a schedule, he will need somewhere between four and six cups of good dry food per day, spread over two meals. Of course, this will vary depending on your dog’s age, size and activity level. Because Tibetan Mastiffs can be prone to bloat, you should not feed or water immediately following exercise. Instead, wait for about an hour.

If you are wondering if your Tibetan Mastiff is at the proper weight, take a look at him from a position facing his hindquarters. You should be able to identify his waist. Then, put your thumbs along his spine, and run your hands down his sides. You should be able to feel his ribs, but not see them. If you see ribs, increase the food. If you can’t feel them, cut back a bit.

The Coat

Tibetan Mastiffs have double coats – in other words, a coarse topcoat and a soft undercoat. The Tibetan Mastiff’s hair should always be straight and hard, so if your dog has hair that is curly, wavy or unduly soft, there could be something else in the mix.

What makes the Tibetan Mastiff such a visual standout is the mane that covers the shoulders and neck, and the heavy feathering on the upper thighs and tail. The coat can be brown, black, gold or blue. Brindle or sable coats are also possible, although Tibetan Mastiffs with such coats will be penalized at show.

Unusually, for such a heavy-coated dog, Tibetan Mastiffs don’t shed all that much. You can usually keep his coat in good shape by brushing him once or twice a week.

Other Grooming Needs

Most dogs should have their teeth brushed at least twice a week (daily is better) to ensure good oral health. The nails should also be trimmed a couple of times a month. If you hear clicking when your dog walks on a hard surface, then it’s time for a trim.

You should also check your dog’s ears once a week to make sure that they are clean and there is no inflammation. Use a cotton ball and a cleanser recommended by your vet, and never go any deeper than your first knuckle when cleaning.

Children and Other Animals

Tibetan Mastiffs are not typically good with toddlers. As previously mentioned, they do not tolerate loud noises overly well, and toddlers can certainly be noisy. Also, no matter how much your Tibetan Mastiff loves your little ones, he can easily step on them or knock them over without meaning to. Accordingly, if you are considering adding a Tibetan Mastiff to your household, it would be wise to wait until your kids are up in the double digits age-wise. Of course, I am always pointing out, too, that no child should ever be left unsupervised with any dog of any breed.

As to other animals, if you are introducing a Tibetan Mastiff puppy into the home, he will probably accept his place on the low end of the pet hierarchy. However, if you are planning on getting another pet, and your Tibetan Mastiff is fully grown, you will have to be very vigilant during the “getting to know one another” period.

The Final Word

In the right hands, a Tibetan Mastiff can be a wonderful friend, companion and guardian. However, if you want a dog that will obey you unquestioningly, this is not the right dog for you.

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