An independent, self-assured breed, Tibetan Mastiffs like to go their own way. And that's the route they'll take unless they have assertive, experienced owners who know how to manage this powerful, headstrong breed. Training and socializing Tibetan Mastiffs take a firm yet gentle hand, and, most importantly, commitment.
TMs are loving, devoted, and fiercely protective of their families. Though generally calm, reserved, and watchful, they will step between their people and danger the moment they sense a threat. The thick mane and abundant coat of the Tibetan Mastiff enhance the imposing presence of the breed. Though muscular and heavy, they can move with speed and agility when needed. Tibetan Mastiffs have a solemn, noble demeanor that reflects their reserved personalities.
The Tibetan Mastiff, or TM, is known as Drog-Khyi in Tibet.
Tibetan Mastiffs have a dense, abundant double coat, with males carrying more fur than females. The outer coat is long, thick, and straight, and the undercoat is soft, dense, and woolly. The hair grows longer around the shoulders and neck, particularly on males, creating the appearance of a mane. The tail and britches have heavy feathering. The coat color is black, brown, blue/gray, or gold. Black, blue/gray, or brown TMs may have markings in hues from light silver to deep mahogany.
Average Height: 24-26 inches
Male: 90-150 pounds
Female: 70-120 pounds
Breed Standard & History
Tibetan Mastiffs are defined by their noble demeanor, watchful gaze, and impressive size. The head is broad and large, with a squared muzzle and V-shaped pendant ears. The TM's tail is feathered and curls once over the back in an eye-catching flourish. They are brawny and big boned, with strength apparent in the muscular neck, chest, and legs. In motion, Tibetan Mastiffs are powerful, driving, and agile. They are smart, observant dogs known for their reserve around strangers and the instinct to guard their people.
The Tibetan Mastiff is an ancient breed that once protected monasteries and villages in the Himalayas. Though their earliest roots are unknown, DNA evidence suggests TMs were the ancestors of other mountain dogs, including the Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Saint Bernards, among others. As with so many breeds, royal dog fanciers facilitated the Tibetan Mastiff's introduction to the West. Queen Victoria received one as a gift from India in 1847, and the Prince of Wales brought two TMs to England in 1874. The breed was endangered following China's invasion of Tibet, but enough survived in remote villages to supply breeding programs in the US in the 1970s. Tibetan Mastiffs continue in the role of beloved guardian and companion for those with the mettle to manage them. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2006.
AKC Breed Category
To fulfill their duty as guardians of pack and property, Tibetan Mastiffs are stalwart and attentive. They are watchful and aloof when strange people are nearby, and must be socialized thoroughly so they don't mistake friends for enemies. TMs don't view other dogs as a threat and usually tolerate and even welcome four-legged visitors. Around the homestead, TMs are usually quiet and laid back, though they'll bark when anyone nears their territory. Outdoors, they let their frisky out and enjoy play sessions as much as the next dog.
Are Tibetan Mastiffs Good with Kids? Tibetan Mastiffs are patient and loving around kids with whom they're raised. But they are big and assertive, and won't respond kindly to rough treatment. Tibetan Mastiffs are best suited to families with older children who know how to treat them with respect. Finally, always put your TM in a secure room when your kids' friends come to visit, because he may mistake roughhousing as a threat.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Tibetan Mastiffs Good with Other Pets? Tibetan Mastiffs usually tolerate cats and dogs they've been raised alongside because they consider them part of their pack.
Tibetan Mastiffs are highly territorial and protective of their families and their territory.
Are Tibetan Mastiffs Good Guard Dogs? This is the job Tibetan Mastiffs were bred for. TMs take safeguarding their home and people seriously. They don't bark often, but they will bark to alert the household to the approach of strangers. And they'll put themselves between danger and their family when needed.
Tibetan Mastiffs have moderate energy levels.
- May become aggressive towards strange dogs and people if not adequately socialized
- Requires experienced, self-assured dog owners
- Sensitive to harsh reprimands, making positive reinforcement the best form of communication
- Highly territorial and protective
- Barks when left alone too long
- Will take on the role of 'pack leader,' if allowed
- Too big for apartment living
- Requires extra brushing, and furniture protection when he 'blows' his undercoat
Tibetan Mastiffs want to live indoors with their families where they can best keep a close watch over them. TMs tend to be quiet and calm inside the house, and more active outside. They leave a lot of fur in their wake during seasonal shedding but are otherwise moderate shedders.
Tibetan Mastiffs should spend an hour or two outdoors playing and walking with family members. A big yard is beneficial for the breed, as it offers a convenient space for them to stretch their legs and exercise. It's important the yard is well secured so they can't escape and 'protect' the entire neighborhood. Additionally, they'll bark excessively if left alone outside, particularly at night.
A healthy, adult Tibetan Mastiff requires about one hour of physical activity and training each day, ideally split into brief sessions. The exercise doesn't need to be vigorous.
Tibetan Mastiffs have the stamina for short bursts of activity. Walks and play sessions of about 15 minutes are optimal.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Tibetan Mastiffs can jog down the block with you, but they aren't natural runners or athletes. Their heavy coats also put them at risk of overheating on hot days.
- Hiking Miles: Tibetan Mastiffs are best suited to the short, easy trails.
Tibetan Mastiffs require high quality dog food formulated for large breed dogs, given in two meals. The amount of food they should eat will vary widely based upon their size, activity level, and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your TM.
Tibetan Mastiffs become bored fast when asked to spend time alone. In response, they'll bark incessantly and chew the furniture legs. It's best if a family member can spend the entire day with your Tibetan Mastiff.
Health and Grooming
The Tibetan Mastiff's full, double coat is lower maintenance than it appears. A weekly brushing through most of the year will suffice, with more frequent brushing required during heavy seasonal shedding. Pay special attention to tangles that can form in the long hair on the tails and the ruff. A bath once a month, or as needed, will keep the TM clean and fresh smelling. Wash your TM's ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush his teeth several times a week, and trim his nails every month or so to prevent painful cracking.
Common Health Issues
Tibetan Mastiffs may be prone to some breed-specific health concerns, including:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Panosteitis (limb pain that occurs in young, large-breed dogs)
- Osteochondrosis dissecans (stiff joints)
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Tibetan Mastiff by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Training Tibetan Mastiffs is challenging because they want to do things their own way and are sensitive to harsh reprimands. The key to a well mannered Tibetan Mastiff is consistent and firm, but loving training from an early age. Training should be a part of your Tibetan Mastiff's daily routine for his entire life.
Advanced training obedience training is beneficial for Tibetan Mastiffs, especially when they feel it is connected to their cherished guarding responsibilities. They are not strong athletes, so dog sports usually aren't favorite activities.
Sporting Dog Training
Tibetan Mastiffs are not natural hunting dogs.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about Tibetan Mastiffs.
No. Tibetan Mastiffs have an abundant double coat that sheds and, as a result, leaves pet dander in your home. Pet dander is the primary cause of pet related allergies.
Tibetan Mastiffs aren't known for their love of the water and their heavy coats may weigh them down when waterlogged. On a hot day, however, your Tibetan Mastiff may enjoy wading in a kiddie pool to cool off.