Watchful, aloof, imposing, and intimidating: The ancient Tibetan Mastiff is the guardian dog supreme. These densely coated giants are mellow and calm around the house, sweetly devoted to family, and aloof and territorial with strangers. Coming face to face with this ancient behemoth, an intruder up to no good will likely move on to easier pickings. TMs can stand 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh well over 100 pounds. It’s impossible to discuss this breed without leaning on words like ‘powerful,’ ‘muscular,’ ‘massive,’ and ‘substantial.’ and yet, TMs are quite light-footed and will meet a perceived threat with surprising agility. The broad head, with its high-set, V-shaped ears and expressive brown eyes, projects a noble, sagacious expression.
No one really knows for sure. The breed is so ancient, and Tibet has always been so isolated, that it’s impossible to say how or when TMs came to be. We know that for millennia they were the mighty guardians of the Himalayas, and it’s thought that they’re the progenitor of all modern mastiffs. Evidence suggests that early travelers to Tibet were sometimes given these giants as gifts, which were used to create the mastiff breeds of the Middle East and Europe.
Temperament: Independent / Intelligent / Reserved
Height: Minimum 24 inches
Weight: 70-150 pounds
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
The Tibetan Mastiff is a relatively healthy breed, and responsible breeders will screen their stock for health conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and eye anomalies including entropion and ectropion. Seizures have been reported, but the issue is not prevalent in the breed.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Elbow Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
- Thyroid Evaluation
Tibetan Mastiffs are double coated, with a heavy, wooly undercoat and coarse guard hair. They have a low-maintenance coat that requires minimal grooming during the majority of the year. A weekly brushing with a slicker or a long pin brush to remove surface dirt and the use of a wide-tooth comb on the tail, mane, and breeches to remove tangles are all that is required. TMs ‘blow’ their undercoat once a year in a massive shedding in late spring or summer. During this time, it is best to use an undercoat rake or de-shedding tool. According to the breed standard, TMs are to be shown naturally; no clipping or trimming is acceptable except to shape the feet and to give a clean appearance to the hocks.
Tibetan Mastiffs need daily moderate exercise, but it does not need to be in the form of an organized activity. TMs prefer to focus on work-related tasks, such as patrolling their territory, rather than structured play, such as chasing a flying disc or playing fetch. They are more active in cooler weather. They tend to conserve energy until needed, exhibiting only short bursts of activity, and lack endurance. They make good throw-rugs in winter, and air-conditioner vent covers in summer!
Tibetan Mastiffs do not respond well to traditional obedience training. They are highly intelligent, learn quickly, and do not feel the need to repeat what they already know. They will do what their owners ask of them they respect and trust their judgment’ but if there is ever a question, the TM will follow his instincts over training. In general the breed is not food driven, and they do not reliably respond to treats as a training tool. They are also notorious for performing impeccably in class and then completely ignoring all commands when they are once again at home. They do not have reliable recall and should never be trusted off leash.
The Tibetan Mastiff should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Tibetan Mastiffs eat much less than expected for their size, as adults may only require two to four cups of a quality food per day. They only eat when they are hungry, and it is not uncommon for a TM to skip a meal altogether. When females are in season, males will often refuse to eat for a week or more and can lose as much as 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.The Tibetan Mastiffs do not require any kind of special diet.