Tibetan Mastiff

With its long, gorgeous coat and unique history, it is easy to become drawn to the Tibetan Mastiff. Owners are rewarded with an affectionate and loyal dog and wonderful pet. If needed, the Mastiff will certainly look after and protect its owner.

Tibetan Mastiff
Original image by user Kenneth Cole Schneider on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
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However, a Tibetan Mastiff is not the dog for everyone, and prospective owners should do their research before deciding on this breed. It's particularly difficult to say "no" when the adorable puppies resemble teddy bears. That brings us to our first point: Tibetan Mastiffs grow to be quite large, weighing anywhere from 75-160 pounds. They require the same considerations than any large breed requires (food, space, etc.). Secondly, Tibetan Mastiffs are best suited to experienced dog owners who are able to train a stubborn, even willful dog. They were originally bred as livestock guardian dogs, which means they are not always willing to listen to their owners. Finally, a Tibetan Mastiff can be both sensitive and territorial. Though calm indoors, they do not appreciate noisy households and can be negatively affected by arguing, and if you have children, even "play" fighting and roughhousing can be an issue. They may want to intervene and overall are not generally suitable for homes with young children.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Tibetan Mastiff breed is also commonly known by the names Dok-Khyi.

Popularity: Not popular

Life expectancy: 10 - 14 years

Breed group: Working Dogs (AKC), Working Dogs (KC)

Size: Extra large

Male Female
Height 0 - 0 in 24 - 24 in
Weight 99 - 159 lbs 86 - 137 lbs

Coat:

Colors: Black, Black and Tan, Gray, Red, Brown, Blue

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Not a heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Low

Good with children: Definitely

Good with other pets: Definitely

Intelligence / Trainability: Very high

Exercise needs: Low

Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not

Hunting drive: Average

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: No

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: Low

Barking: Occasional

General health: Average

Cost to keep: Very high

History

In keeping with the name, Tibetan Mastiffs did, in fact, originate from Tibet. The exact timeline of the breed is unclear, but it is accepted that they are an ancient breed, descendants of the mastiff-type dogs who originated in Tibet around 5,000 years ago. There were two types of these dogs: the Do-Khyi, who lived in villages or traveled with nomadic shepherds and functioned as livestock guardian dogs, and the larger Tsang-Khyi, who served as guardians for the Tibetan Buddhist monks, or lamas, in the lamaseries.

The Tibetan Mastiff we know today is recognizable from the 1800s when the first dogs from Tibet were imported from England. Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy of India brought one as a gift for the Queen in 1847 and in 1873 they were entered into the Kennel Club's stud book. Tibetan Mastiffs were sporadically imported in the following years and the Tibetan Mastiff Club was formed in 1931.

Two Tibetan Mastiffs were imported to the United States in the 1950s, as a gift to the President, but little is known about these dogs. More Tibetan Mastiffs were imported in the 1970s and the foundation for the breed in the United States was established. The Tibetan Mastiff Club of America was founded in 1974, as was the American Tibetan Mastiff Association. The first show that the Tibetan Mastiffs appeared in was the first National Specialty Match in October 1979. The breed was only recently recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the Working Group in January 2007.

Appearance

The Tibetan Mastiff is an impressive dog, large but not giant, who is athletic and noble in appearance in temperament.
Typical characteristics are:


  • A broad, strong head, expressive eyes, folded ears, and a watchful, aloof expression.

  • A powerful, athletic, and well-balanced body.

  • The tail, with long hair, is carried over the back.

  • Double coat with long, thick outer coat and softer undercoat. The amount of undercoat depends on the climate that the dog lives in.

  • Colors: Black, brown, and blue/grey, all with or without tan markings ranging from a light silver to a rich mahogany; also gold, with shades ranging from a pure golden to a rich red gold.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Tibetan Mastiffs are very intelligent, and though they are fairly quick to learn, they can be stubborn when training. These dogs require a steady, consistent hand and an assertive trainer. Training a Tibetan Mastiff requires time, patience, and the ability to set proper boundaries. A trainer needs to be capable of establishing and maintaining "alpha" status within the family pack. Because of this, a Tibetan Mastiff may not be appropriate for a first-time owner.

Early leash training is important, as this dog will grow to be quite large and any pulling behaviors should be dealt with as soon as possible.

As with all intelligent breeds, Tibetan Mastiffs require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with a job, even if that job is simply chasing a ball or accompanying you on walks.

Activity

Because they were originally bred as livestock guardian/working dogs, Tibetan Mastiffs are moderately high-energy dogs that require a fair amount of exercise. 20-30 minutes of exercise twice per day is enough to keep your Tibetan Mastiff healthy and happy. They also require mental stimulation like games and activities. Despite being high-energy and requiring exercise, they are not generally excitable and are quiet and low-energy when indoors. A lack of exercise and mental stimulation can lead to undesirable and even destructive behaviors like chewing and barking.

Keep in mind that Tibetan Mastiffs are large dogs and puppies mature slowly. Because of this, they are susceptible to certain bone disorders. Keep your puppy on soft surfaces like grass and keep play on hard surfaces to a bare minimum until your puppy is at least two years old.

Independence

Tibetan Mastiffs are affectionate dogs and though they may appear aloof, they can be quite attached and protective of their human family members. They are happiest if they can spend a majority of their time alongside their family. They will not thrive in situations where they must spend long periods of time on their own.

Protective

Tibetan Mastiffs can become strongly bonded to their family members and be protective and territorial. They are calm and watchful but will let you know if there is an intruder and will most likely defend those people they view as part of their "pack". Proper socialization is extremely important to ensure that they become used to meeting new people.

Living Conditions

A Tibetan Mastiff requires a fair amount of exercise and due to their size and tendency to be territorial, they are not well-suited to apartment living. They do not always listen well and must be walked on a leash when not in a fenced yard. If you do allow your dog time in a fenced yard, it must be appropriately high and secure. Leaving your dog outside, alone for too long may encourage negative behaviors like digging and even aggression.

Tibetan Mastiffs have a long, thick coat and do not tolerate heat and humidity. They will need a cool place to go during the hot, humid months.

Children and Other Pets

Due to their sheer size and protective behavior, Tibetan Mastiffs are not recommended in homes with young children. Even if they are raised with children and become comfortable with children they know and who understand how to correctly interact, they may not be accepting of other children (friends, family, etc.) coming into their home or yard. Finally, because they are protective over their family and "pack" they may protect a child when it is not needed, like when he or she is roughhousing with other kids. Socialization, proper training, and boundaries can help to curb or eliminate these behaviors.


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Keep in mind that all children should be taught how to interact correctly with ANY dog and should never be left unsupervised.

Tibetan Mastiffs can be good with other pets or dogs of they are raised with them. However, they may be territorial when meeting new dogs in their own home. Early socialization is very important. Special care needs to be taken when introducing a new puppy to your other pets. It needs to be done slowly and very careful to make sure that everything goes smoothly and that it is a calm, positive experience for the puppy.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Tibetan Mastiff is between 10 - 14 years. Like all breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Tibetan Mastiff is prone to these diseases:
  • Elbow Dysplasia (hereditary)
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) (hereditary)
  • Panosteitis (hereditary)
  • Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy (hereditary)
  • Autoimmune Hypothyroidism (hereditary)
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (hereditary) : Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a very common genetic orthopedic trait, which is affected by environmental and dietary factors. Canine hip dysplasia occurs when there is an abnormality in the development of the hip joint. More info»

Grooming

Tibetan Mastiffs have a double coat with a long, thick, coarse-textured topcoat and a heavy, soft, woolly undercoat. The undercoat is thinner during warmer months. The Tibetan Mastiff sheds little and may or may not shed seasonally, depending on the climate. Brush your Tibetan Mastiff one to three times a week with a wire slicker brush to remove dead or loose hair. Be sure to check for tangles or mats where the coat is heaviest.

They don’t really need a bath too often, once a month should suffice. When you bathe them, make sure to use a dog-specific shampoo that maintains the skin's natural PH balance.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs.

Some dogs wear their nails down on their own with exercise, but many do not. Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older.

Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

Feeding

Tibetan Mastiffs are large, relatively high-energy dogs, so they require a large amount to eat. 4-6 (or more) cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Tibetan Mastiffs can be prone to obesity, so special attention should be paid to ensure that your dog doesn't become overweight, which can cause health issues in both the short and long-term.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for large breed puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).