Tibetan Mastiffs

The Tibetan Mastiff is one of the oldest of breeds, considered to be the progenitor of the other mastiff breeds in the world. He is a guardian breed from Tibet that traveled with nomadic herdsmen, watching over their flocks, and he has served as the protector of villages and monasteries.

Tall, with a heavy coat and a bushy tail that curves over his back, the Tibetan Mastiff today has a calm and majestic presence. He is a giant breed, weighing 80 to 150 pounds or more. While he has many good qualities, the Tibetan Mastiff is not the right breed for everyone. If you want the gentle and patient dog that is the Tibetan Mastiff at his best, be prepared to do a lot of homework to find him and put in plenty of effort training and socializing him once you bring him home.

Is the Tibetan Mastiff the Right Dog for You?

The Tibetan Mastiff is quiet, watchful and protective of his family, including other pets, and he is especially gentle with children. He has an independent nature, with a determined and territorial temperament. He is suspicious of strangers, and because of his heritage as a village guardian, he tends to bark a lot at night.

While his protective nature is attractive, the Tibetan Mastiff is not the best choice for a novice dog owner. He needs someone who can guide him with kind, firm, consistent training, never force or cruelty. He is an independent thinker but responds well to routine. Tibetan Mastiffs do not like discord. It’s not a good idea to argue in front of them or to discipline children in their presence. They are likely to step between you to put an end to arguments or scoldings. Nor is it a good idea to let them supervise children’s play. It’s all too easy for them to mistake roughhousing for attacks and step in to protect “their” children.

Begin training as soon as you bring your Tibetan Mastiff puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. That 20-pound ball of fur will quickly grow much larger. It’s always a good idea to take a Tibetan Mastiff to puppy kindergarten followed by basic obedience class, especially if you are working with a trainer who understands the Tibetan Mastiff mindset. To get the best from this dog, use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards, never force.

Early, frequent socialization is essential to prevent a Tibetan Mastiff from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase a Tibetan Mastiff puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your Tibetan Mastiff throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating, recognizing what is normal and what is truly a threat.

The mature Tibetan Mastiff has a low activity level, but puppies are active and need room to run in a safe, traffic-free area. This breed is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. Tibetan Mastiffs are territorial and must learn their boundaries. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to contain a Tibetan Mastiff. The shock it provides is nothing to this tough dog, and he won’t let it deter him from leaving the yard if that’s what he wants to do. Never walk a Tibetan Mastiff off leash. This is not a breed that can be counted on to respond when called to come.

Like any dog, Tibetan Mastiff puppies are inveterate chewers and because of their size can do a whole lot of damage. Unless you want your walls and furniture eaten, don’t give them the run of the house until they’ve reached trustworthy maturity at 3 to 5 years of age. And keep your Tibetan Mastiff puppy busy with training, play and socialization experiences. A bored Tibetan Mastiff is a destructive Tibetan Mastiff.

The Tibetan Mastiff can live outdoors and he is independent enough to stay home alone while his owners are at work, but he does best with another dog as a companion. When his people are home, he should be indoors with them. Chaining a Tibetan Mastiff out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.

The Tibetan Mastiff has a long double coat that comes in black, chocolate brown or slate gray, with or without tan markings, or various shades of gold. Brush him several times a week to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy. During shedding season, you’ll want to brush him daily to keep the loose hair under control. Clean the ears, brush the teeth and trim the nails as needed.

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Tibetan Mastiff Puppy

  1. Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Choose a breeder who abides by American Tibetan Mastiff Association’s Code of Ethics. The Tibetan Mastiff is not especially common, so you may have a wait of six months or even a year or more before a puppy is available.
  2. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Tibetan Mastiff aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Tibetan Mastiff can live to be 10 to 14 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
  3. Puppy or adult, take your Tibetan Mastiff to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.
  4. Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
  5. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to Tibetan Mastiffs

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Tibetan Mastiff has some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip and elbow dysplasia, autoimmune thyroiditis, seizures and canine inherited demyelinative neuropathy.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that a puppy’s parents have OFA or PennHIP clearances for hip dysplasia.

The American Tibetan Mastiff Association, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Tibetan Mastiff to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA evaluations for hips and thyroid, and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. An OFA elbow evaluation is recommended but not required. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia
Medium $1,500-$6,000
Elbow Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$4,000
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Tibetan Mastiffs

Pet insurance for Tibetan Mastiffs costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Tibetan Mastiffs are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Tibetan Mastiffs are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Tibetan Mastiff is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.