Tibetan Mastiffs are large, agile, and strong dogs with an attractive coat of hair near their neck that looks like a lion’s mane. Tibetan Mastiffs were domesticated thousands of years ago to guard large swathes of land and have retained these instincts, as they are very protective of their families and property. They are well-liked due to their royal appearance and loyal traits.
Characteristics of the Tibetan Mastiff
The first thing you’ll notice about the Tibetan Mastiff is its majestic mane that gives it a lionlike appearance and its mammoth size. Adult males can grow as tall as 26 inches or more at the shoulder, and females usually stand at roughly 24 inches. Male Tibetan Mastiffs typically weigh between 90 and 150 pounds, and females weigh around 70 to 120 pounds.
They have medium-sized ears that are V-shaped and fall forward, and they have catlike feet. Their mane gives them a dignified look, which is more noticeable in males and is balanced by an equally bushy tail that curves over their back.
Tibetan Mastiffs usually have a double coat of thick, bristly hair and a wooly undercoat that’s either black, brown, gray, or blue and can sometimes have tan or gold markings. You should be prepared for some light shedding around the spring or summer months, depending on where you live.
Females that are giving birth may shed their coat up to two times a year, and this lasts for about eight weeks.
Tibetan Mastiffs typically mature slower than other breeds, with the males maturing at around the age of 4 to 5 years and the females at around 3 to 4 years.The typical lifespan of this breed is about 10 to 12 years. The females have one heat cycle a year.
Living in isolated regions of the world for long durations has led to some unique personality traits of Tibetan Mastiffs. They're very territorial and are natural guard dogs. Their sense of territory is generally limited to the place where they live, and when outside these confines, they don't usually show these characteristics.
If you plan on raising another dog along with your Tibetan Mastiff, it’s better if the other dog is of a different sex. The temperament of Tibetan Mastiffs is such that they may become aggressive with dogs of the same sex.
Caring for Your Tibetan Mastiff
With a coating of hair that’s thick and coarse along with a wooly undercut, Tibetan Mastiffs don’t need much grooming for most of the year. You can give your pet a weekly brushing using a slicker or pin brush to get rid of any dirt and knots on the surface. You can also use a wide-tooth comb for this.
Spring and summer generally cause the Tibetan Mastiff to shed more hair. During this time, you can use an undercoat rake or a de-shedding tool to take care of any loose hair. Although this breed self-grooms regularly, you may need to trim or clip your dog’s nails.
Tibetan Mastiffs don’t tend to drool much, but you may want to keep them away from your favorite sofa if you don’t want wet spots on them.
These dogs don’t need any special diet and most are happy with high-quality dog food. They eat only when hungry, and it’s common for them to skip meals, but make sure that you have fresh and clean water available for them at all times.
Check with your vet about giving them food that you eat or if you have any questions about their weight. But keep in mind that Tibetan Mastiffs eat much less than you would expect for a dog of this size. Adult Tibetan Mastiffs eat around 2 to 4 cups of dog food a day.
When female Tibetan Mastiffs are in heat, it’s not unusual for them to skip a meal completely and lose about 10% to 15% of their body weight.
It’s not easy to train a Tibetan Mastiff in the traditional way or by giving them treats. But they’re very intelligent dogs that learn quickly and generally obey their owners.
They also have sound judgment, and when it comes to certain situations, they rely on their sharp instincts. It’s a good idea to keep them on a leash when you go out, as they may not listen to your commands even if you’ve practiced them indoors.
Health Problems to Watch for With Tibetan Mastiffs
Many dog breeds can be genetically predisposed to certain health conditions and diseases. The American Tibetan Mastiff Association recommends tests to detect possible conditions in certain parts of the body before you decide to take one of these dogs under your care and breed them:
Hips. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) recommends getting an “excellent,” “good,” or “fair” rating for this test.
Elbows. The OFA recommends a “normal” rating for this test.
Eyes. Your dog should get an eye exam twice a year and get a “clear” recommendation from the OFA.
Thyroid. Your dog should have a complete thyroid panel test done once a year.
Tibetan Mastiffs are at risk of hip and elbow dysplasia, a genetic condition where the hip and elbow joints don’t form correctly and could cause arthritis. This may lead to restricted movements as the dog grows older.
These conditions could lead to an unusual gait or make it difficult for your dog to get up after lying down. The sooner the condition is detected, the earlier it can be treated to ease the pain.
While surgery may be needed in some cases, most cases don’t need it. Another important point to keep in mind is that this condition may develop earlier in dogs that weigh more than usual and may cause them more pain.
Note that these are broad guidelines based on historic evidence, and your dog could lead a healthy life without any of these conditions. They could also get other conditions during their lifetime.
Special Considerations for Tibetan Mastiffs
Tibetan Mastiffs are a good addition to families, and their instincts honed over centuries make them very protective of their families. They’re immensely likable dogs and make good companions for kids, especially when the child and the dog are taught to care for each other.
While Tibetan Mastiffs are active when outdoors, they're fairly quiet and laid back when indoors. They’re generally clean dogs and are easy to train when it comes to following house rules for littering.
Tibetan Mastiffs are known to be fast learners but are very strong-willed and at times can be stubborn. This makes them a less-than-ideal choice for obedience competitions. They're also known to be aloof and judicious.
Comparing Tibetan Mastiffs to other breeds that can be easily trained wouldn’t do them justice, as they are fiercely independent and highly intelligent dogs. They’re also known to show dominance over other dogs that they’re unfamiliar with but tend to get along well with them over time.
These dogs are usually more active during the latter part of the day and in the early morning hours. If you have neighbors, you may need to keep your dog indoors to avoid disturbing them, as they don’t tend to bark much when they’re inside the house.
Their double coat makes them ideal for places with cold weather, and you’ll find them more active during the colder seasons.
It’s good to engage in some physical activity with your Tibetan Mastiff regularly by indulging in something fun rather than an organized activity. Your dog may not be up to playing fetch with you and might prefer to patrol your house to see whether everything’s in order.
These dogs are known to conserve energy to be used in short bursts and usually don’t partake in activities that require endurance.
History of the Tibetan Mastiff
Although exact records of the genetic heritage of this breed are not available, history has a unique place for the Tibetan Mastiff. They're believed to be the basic stock for most of the present-day large working breeds of dogs.
The Tibetan Mastiff is native to Central Asia, where it has lived for thousands of years. Earliest accounts of the Tibetan Mastiff date back to the 12th century B.C. in China. The ancestors of the present-day breed have been part of many armies in the Middle Ages, such as the Persian and Assyrian armies.
The breed is believed to have inhabited the valleys of the Himalayas, which caused them to develop into the magnificent beings that they are today. Tibetan Mastiffs were brought to Europe in 1847, with the first sighting being in England. The breed finally reached the U.S. in the 1950s.
Tibetan Mastiffs were traditionally used for specific purposes like traveling with sheepherders and traders to protect them against beasts of prey like snow leopards and wolves. They were also trained to guard homes.
But it’s hard to find pure Tibetan Mastiffs anymore in Tibet, Nepal, and other countries in the Himalayan region where they originated.