Tibetan Mastiffs are best for experienced dog parents and families with older children or teens with the time and energy to train these massive pups.
Tibetan Mastiff Traits
What makes the Tibetan Mastiff a Tibetan Mastiff? Let's find out how they stack up.
Tibetan Mastiff Temperament
Tibetan Mastiffs are independent introverts who tend to be wary of strangers but are loving and loyal to their people. Though personality can vary from one dog to the next, these dogs tend to be headstrong guardians who often think they know what’s best and view themselves more as equal partners than pets.
Without proper socialization from the time they’re a puppy, a Tibetan Mastiff will become aggressive toward strangers and other dogs. But with plenty of exposure to different people, pets and situations throughout their lives, they’ll be more accepting, though still aloof and standoffish, reserving their affection for loved ones and their aggression for predators.
Pet parents need to be diligent about working with their pup to prevent biting tendencies brought on by resource guarding, territoriality or overprotectiveness. They have a bite force of 500 pounds, stronger than that of an American Pit Bull Terrier or German Shepherd, so even a playful bite could do major damage.
Tibetan Mastiff puppies can be taught to get along well with children and other pets when raised with them, but as adults, they may be less accepting of new dogs or other people’s children, so you probably won’t be able to entertain a lot of house guests with one of these dogs around. And their sheer size and strength make it risky to allow even well-socialized Tibetans to be around young children, cats or small dogs.
Their bossy natures make them a bad fit for obedience competitions, and they’re not built for agility or speed. But give these dogs some sheep, goats or cattle to guard, and watch them excel. Guarding livestock is hardwired into their DNA, and they’re at their best and happiest when they’re allowed to be watchful protectors over their domain.
How to Care for a Tibetan Mastiff
For so much dog, especially one with so much hair, the Tibetan Mastiff breed is not as high-maintenance as you might think. They don’t need a lot of grooming or exercise, and for a large breed, they don’t eat as much as you’d expect. But they do need a lot of work keeping them well-socialized so they don’t turn their guard dog instincts on the wrong target.
Tibetan Mastiff Health
Tibetan Mastiffs have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years, and they don’t have a lot of health issues. It’s good to know what those potential health problems are in advance, so you can keep your pup healthy for longer.
- Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: Dysplasia is when the joint tends to be loose in the socket. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight can help manage both of these conditions, and so can joint supplements recommended by your vet. In more severe cases, your vet may also recommend physical therapy or even surgery.
- Bloat: Bloat can cause a life-threatening condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), which is when the stomach becomes twisted. GDV requires emergency surgery to treat, but bloat can be avoided in the first place by feeding your dog two or three smaller meals a day and waiting an hour before or after meals to exercise.
- Hypothyroidism: Low thyroid is easily managed with daily medication throughout your dog’s life.
- Eye problems: Entropion and ectropion affect the eyelids, causing them to fold either outside in or inside out. These conditions don’t usually affect vision, but they can cause irritation and discomfort, and in severe cases, they can damage the cornea. Your vet may recommend a topical ointment to lubricate the eyes or surgery in severe cases.
Tibetan Mastiff History
Not a lot is known about the Tibetan Mastif’s origins beyond the fact that the breed is ancient and comes from the mountains of Central Asia. A mastiff-type dog who originated in Tibet 5,000 years ago is believed to be the progenitor of both the modern Tibetan Mastiff and all European mastiff breeds. One theory for how that happened is that early European travelers to Tibet were gifted these dogs and brought them back to Europe.
As for the Tibetan Mastiff, two types emerged in Tibet from that original mastiff breed: the Do-Khyi, working dogs who guarded livestock in villages and farms; and the larger Tsang-Khyi, who guarded Tibetan monasteries.
What is known for certain about this breed picks up around the year 1800, when an English ship captain’s travel memoirs mentioned the “huge dogs” guarding the monasteries of Tibet. The first such dog was brought to England in 1847 and presented to Queen Victoria as a gift. Just a few decades later, in 1873, the breed officially entered England’s brand-new Kennel Club as the Tibetan Mastiff. The following year, the Prince of Wales brought two more of them to England, where they were eventually shown in the Alexandra Palace show.
But it wasn’t until 1950 that the breed made their way to the US, when two Tibetan Mastiffs were given to President Truman. Even so, it wasn’t until the end of the 1970s that the breed made its first appearance in American dog shows. And only recently, in 2007, did the American Kennel Club officially recognize this breed as a member of the Working group. Nowadays, it’s easier to find a purebred Tibetan here in the States than it is in Tibet.
So, where can you find a purebred Tibetan Mastiff puppy? A list of reputable breeders is available on the American Kennel Club website, where the Tibetan Mastiff price ranges from $2,500 to $3,500. That usually includes health screenings and vaccinations, and in some cases it also includes a championship pedigree. Tibetan Mastiff rescue organizations can also help you find Tibetans in need of good homes or you can keep an eye out for one at your local animal shelter.
Do Tibetan Mastiffs shed?
Yes, Tibetan Mastiffs shed. They are moderate shedders throughout most of the year, but once a year, when the temperature warms up, their undercoat has a blowout that will give your vacuum cleaner a workout. This tends to be worse in warmer climates and may not happen in areas that stay cold year-round.
Are Tibetan Mastiffs aggressive?
Properly socialized Tibetan Mastiffs typically aren’t aggressive toward people, although they may be territorially aggressive toward other dogs. As guardians, most of their aggressive tendencies are reserved for predators and attackers. But lifelong socialization is needed to prevent them from misdirecting their aggression at the wrong targets.
Are Tibetan Mastiffs dangerous?
Without lots of socialization, this breed can be dangerous. Even well-trained and socialized Tibetans can pose a danger to children and small animals based on their size and strength and shouldn’t be allowed around them without close supervision.
Are Tibetan Mastiffs good family dogs?
Tibetan Mastiffs can be good family dogs—for the right family. With enough socialization, these dogs can fit in well and be quite devoted to an introverted family with older children or teens who don’t do a lot of entertaining. But due to their guard dog tendencies and large size, they’re not the best dog for families with young children or small pets or those who like to have people over.
What are the most popular Tibetan Mastiff names?
The most popular Tibetan Mastiff names are Andromeda, Amazon, Athena, Augustus, Axel, Bane, Beast, Boss, Buck, Bullet, Butch, Buzz, Caesar, Calisto, Captain, Champ, Chief, Diesel, Duchess, Duke, Electra, Goliath, Harley, Huntress, Hulk, Jojo, Justice, Katniss, Kodiak, Leia, Magnum, Maverick, Mystique, Nyx, Onyx, Rebel, Remington, Rex, Ripley, Roxy, Sable, Samson, Sassy, Spike, T-Bone, Ursula, Xena, Yukon and Zeus. Get more dog names here.
What are the most common Tibetan Mastiff mixes?
The most common Tibetan Mastiff mixes are:
- Tibetan Mastiff-Husky mix (Tibetan Mastiff-Husky)
- Tibetan Mastiff-German Shepherd mix (Mastiff Shepherd)
- Tibetan Mastiff-Great Dane mix (Tibetan Mastiff-Great Dane)
- Tibetan Mastiff-Rottweiler mix (Tibetan Mastiff-Rottweiler)
- Tibetan Mastiff-Poodle mix (Mastipoo)
- Tibetan Mastiff-Golden Retriever mix (Tibetan Golden Mastiff)
If you’re hoping to get a Tibetan Mastiff as a pet, you’ll have your work cut out for you. They’re sweet and loving to their family, but they’re introverted and protective guardians who aren’t fond of strangers. They need lots of socialization and training to help them fit in, and they don’t tend to do well with pet siblings or small children. These dogs are at their best as a guard dog with lots of land to patrol and animals to watch over—doing what they were bred to do.