Tibetan Mastiffs are large dogs with double coats that can be blue/gray, black, or brown, with or without tan markings. White markings on the feet and chest are acceptable. The guard hairs are long and coarse, while the undercoat is soft and heavy in winter. In warmer months, the undercoat thins. The breed's eyes are almond shaped and deep set, and the ears are V-shaped, pendant, and medium in size. These dogs have a broad skull and square muzzle. Tibetan Mastiffs measure a minimum of 24 to 26 inches and weigh 85 to 140 pounds.
Despite their massive size, these dogs are calm and respectful and are well suited to homes with children.
Intelligent, independent, and protective of family and property, Tibetan Mastiffs are not a good fit for all families. These dogs need experienced owners with a securely fenced yard and a lot of patience for training. Tibetan Mastiffs tend to get along well with children and are active outdoors while being fairly quiet inside the home.
Historically, Tibetan Mastiffs worked as a team with the Lhasa Apso. When the smaller Lhasa would sound the alarm, the Tibetan Mastiff would run off to investigate and scare way any intruders or other threats.
Highly intelligent and strongly independent, Tibetan Mastiffs are dignified companions with a gentle side that makes them a good choice for those wanting a giant dog to cuddle on the couch with while watching television. Despite their massive size, these dogs are calm and respectful and are well suited to homes with children.
They have a strong need for affection and attention, and they don't like discord. Tibetan Mastiffs do not respond well to family arguments or roughhousing and may step in to end fights or protect children. Additionally, the breed tends to be reserved and aloof around strangers. In fact, these dogs are so suspicious of strangers and protective of loved ones that it may be difficult to have guests over.
Tibetan Mastiffs have a low need for activity, but that does not mean they should be allowed to lie around all day. Puppies, especially, need room to roam. Ideally, these dogs should live in a single-family home with a large, fenced yard; they are not a good choice for city apartments. In most cases, a daily walk and some free time in the yard is sufficient to satisfy the breed's exercise needs. Their independent nature means they may not enjoy organized activities as much as some other breeds.
Tibetan Mastiffs are a generally healthy dog breed, but that is not a guarantee that any individual dog will be free of disease or genetic illness. Purchasing or adopting a puppy from a reputable source is one way to help ensure a healthy adult dog.
Congenital hip dysplasia, skin allergies, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and heart problems are all known to affect this breed. Some of these conditions are manageable with medication and professional care, while others may negatively affect mobility or quality of life. Tibetan Mastiffs are also prone to persistent pupillary membranes, which is an eye disorder, and canine-inherited demyelinative neuropathy.
With routine veterinary care, proper nutrition, daily exercise, and vaccinations, Tibetan Mastiffs typically live a full life of 10 to 14 years.
Tibetan Mastiffs need a lot of firm and consistent training in order to grow into tolerant, well-behaved, and calm family companions and watchdogs. These dogs are not the best choice for inexperienced owners; they need a kind and firm hand to teach and lead them. The earlier training begins, the better. Managing a 120-pound dog is not easy, even for the most experienced of trainers.
Positive reinforcement generally works well with this breed, especially praise and food rewards. These dogs also respond well to routine. On the other hand, force and harsh criticism will backfire and result in a worsening of behavior. Even a thoroughly trained Tibetan Mastiff will remain independent-minded. These dogs were developed to protect, not to please or obey.
Early socialization is especially important to prevent the Tibetan Mastiff from becoming aggressive, overly suspicious, or fearful. These dogs need to learn the difference between a real threat and normal social interactions. Obedience classes, puppy kindergarten, and walks around town are good ways to socialize the Tibetan Mastiff.
Easy to groom, despite an abundant coat, the Tibetan Mastiff needs brushing only every couple of days. This is generally sufficient to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils throughout the coat to keep it soft and healthy. These dogs shed their coat once each year, and brushing frequency may need to increase during this time. Trimming the coat is not usually necessary, although it can give the feet a neater look.
Brushing will remove most dirt and debris from the Tibetan Mastiff's coat, so bathing is rarely necessary. When needed, a pH-balanced canine shampoo is recommended to gently wash the coat while protecting the skin from irritation. Thoroughly rinsing is important to remove all traces of soap residue from the skin and coat.
The Tibetan Mastiff's nails should be clipped every week or two to keep them from clicking against the floor. Regularly trimming the nails will also prevent potentially painful snags and breaks from occurring. Once daily, the teeth should be brushed with a canine toothbrush and toothpaste; good dental hygiene helps protect against tooth decay, bad breath, and gum disease. Additionally, the ears should be checked each week for signs of infection or wax accumulation.
While the Tibetan Mastiff's origin is not known for certain, these dogs are believed to be one of the earliest dog breeds. The breed likely developed in Tibet, traveling with nomadic herdsman or working as protectors of monasteries. Experts believe the breed was isolated in the Himalayan for a very long time, where it developed into the dog we know today.
Chinese documents that date back to 1121 BCE tell of large Tibetan guard dogs, called Do-khyi or "tied dog," that were confined during daylight and let loose at night. These dogs, likely Tibetan Mastiffs, guarded families and tents after dark. The breed also worked in conjunction with the Lhasa Apso to guard palaces and temples in Tibet.
Tibetan Mastiffs first made their way to the United States in the 1970s. Today, they are primarily kept as family companions and guard dogs, although they can occasionally be seen in the show ring or in competitions.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Tibetan Mastiff in 2006.