Tibetan Mastiff Owner’s Guide

Tibetan Mastiff Dog Breed Guide

With a long flowing mane and regal stature, the ancient Tibetan Mastiff is often referred to as a gentle giant and the lion of all dog breeds. Interestingly, owners of Tibetan Mastiffs include Vin Diesel, Christina Aguilera, Dwayne Johnson, Bon Jovi and more. Check out our ultimate breed guide below to learn everything about the Tibetan Mastiff!

History of the Tibetan Mastiff

The origins of the Tibetan Mastiff remain a mystery today. Due to the isolated Tibetan region and ancient roots of the breed, no one truly knows what dogs contributed to its creation. However, they are believed to have descended from mastiff-like dogs into two types: the Do-Khyi and the Tsang Khyi. The Do-Khyi were the smaller of the two and lived in villages or travelled with nomads, functioning as their guardians. As well as a herding dog for livestock and property. Alternatively, the Tsang-Khyi were gifted to lamaseries (aka monastery of lamas), acting as guardians for monks, lamas, and other residents. The breed was also often gifted to travellers and visitors of Tibet.

It is believed the breed left Tibet with Alexander the Great, who took Tibetan Mastiffs on his travels around the globe. The first recorded appearance of the breed was not until 1847, when the Tibetan Mastiff was bought to England and gifted to Queen Victoria from Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy of India. Following this in 1875, the Prince of Wales owned two Tibetan Mastiff in his kennels which were exhibited at the Alexandra Palace Show. The Tibetan Mastiff breed standard was then finalised in the 1930’s. Finally, in the 1950’s the breed was gifted to the President of the United States from Tibet.

Today in Tibet and surrounding Himalayan regions the breed remains a devoted guard dog for families and their homes.

Tibetan Mastiff Dog Breed

The Tibetan Mastiff Personality

Aptly named the lion of all dog breeds, this ancient breed is watchful, aloof, imposing and intimidating. They are very protective of their owner and aloof and territorial with strangers. In the right hands, a Tibetan Mastiff is loyal, fearless, and hardworking.

However, their fierce independence means they may not look to you for guidance and often disobey orders. This stubborn personality trait results in the breed being harder to train in obedience and agility. So, they do not work for first-time dog owners. Additionally, their territorial nature means it is important to socialise the breed from a young age, allowing them to meet new people and animals.

The Tibetan Mastiff is also very playful, loving to roam outdoors in their backyard. But ensure your yard is securely fenced as this breed can become an escape artist, even scaling fences on occasion!

Tibetan Mastiff Dog Breed

Tibetan Mastiff Size

Tibetan Mastiffs are recognised for their large size. Males typically stand between 66cm to 76cm (26-30 inches) and weigh around 40kg to 72kg . Conversely, females are slightly smaller in height ranging from 60cm to 71cm (24-28 inches) and weighing an estimated 32kg to 54kg.

At six months Tibetan Mastiffs are as tall as 55cm to 65cm (21-26 inches) and weighing around 24kg to 40kg. With male puppies typically bigger in stature than their female counterparts.

Tibetan Mastiff Common Health Conditions

The Tibetan Mastiff, like any other breed, is predisposed to health conditions. These should be considered before owning this breed of dog.

  • Hip Dysplasia: This occurs when the thighbone does not fit correctly with the hip joint, which can cause discomfort and eventually arthritis. Some Tibetan Mastiffs do not even show symptoms of this condition, so it is important to stay vigilant and ensure you are taking your Tibetan to veterinary check-ups, as recommended by your vet.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: This occurs be abnormal growth or development, resulting in a weakened joint. Typically, this arises in larger dog breeds and varies in severity. Seek veterinary advice on best treatment options.
  • Hypothyroidism: This occurs when the hormone thyroxine (that controls metabolism) is not produced enough by the gland. Some symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, muscle loss, slowed heart rate, ear or toenail infections. Contact your local vet for best treatment options.
  • Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM): This occurs when the strands of pigmented tissue from the iris collarette attach to another section of the iris, the lens or cornea of the eye. Symptoms can include visual impairment, strands in the pupil space running from the iris to the other side, or abnormal iris movement. For treatment options, consult your vet.
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy: This disease results in the gradual weakness of all limbs and a change in neurological function. Symptoms include delayed reflexes, muscle tremors, and seizures. To determine the best treatment, contact a veterinary professional.
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This condition results in the improper growth of joint cartilage, typically occurring in the dog’s shoulders or elbows, and leads to painful joints and arthritis.
  • Panosteitis: This occurs due to a painful inflammation of the leg bones, often known as growing pains.It is typically found in younger dogs of larger breeds until they reach 2 years of age but will spontaneously resolve itself over time. Symptoms include lameness in the leg/s. Consult your vet for treatment options if you suspect your dog has this condition.


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How to Care for your Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiffs are playful dogs who enjoy regular exercise, most active in the mornings and evenings. As a result of the Tibetan Mastiff’s signature thick flowing mane and coat, they enjoy moderate exercise for only 20 to 30 minutes per. day. Longer jogging sessions can lead to them overheating. The breed is more active in winter, thriving in cooler climates and prefers to leisurely walk around the block over intense exercise. As a puppy they require more physical activity, however once they mature, they often sleep during the day and become mellow.

Tibetan Mastiffs as a working breed, enjoy focusing on work-related tasks such as patrolling their territory, rather than playing fetch or catching frisbees. A medium-sized and fully fenced backyard alongside daily walks is preferred to prevent them getting bored. When not exercised the breed can be mischievous often digging up holes in the backyard or attempting to escape. This could result in destructive, aggressive, or territorial behaviour.

It is also vital to train your Tibetan Mastiff and reinforce learnings throughout their lifetime, although they tend to not respond well to traditional obedience training. Due to their large size as well as their tendency to ignore rules and go with their instincts, they can be hard to control once fully grown. The breed is also not food driven and treats in training are not always effective. The Tibetan Mastiff should not be walked off-leash as they can get territorial or aggressive of their regular walking routes, and they do not have a reliable recall.

The breed is also highly protective of their owner and family and as such does not always do well when meeting new people or animals. To reduce this, Tibetan Mastiffs should be socialised from a young age.

Tibetan Mastiffs are independent dogs and can stay home alone up to 8 hours while their owners are at work. But they do prefer another dog as a companion, often keeping themselves entertained by playing together.

If kept outside at night, they are on-duty as a guard dog, patrolling their home to protect their families inside. As such they are prone to barking in the evenings.

In terms of general health care, it is important to brush your Tibetan Mastiff’s teeth and check their ears for redness or odour. This breed has smaller ear canals than others and can be prone to infections. So, ensuring a regular ear cleaning routine is essential. Also be sure to trim their nails monthly too, preventing tears.

Tibetan Mastiff Dog Breed

Feeding & Diet

Despite their huge size, Tibetan Mastiff’s don’t have a large appetite and eat much less than you would think. Often only eating when they are hungry and refusing when they are not. In fact, some are known to go on food strike. So, it is important to pay attention to how much your Tibetan Mastiff is consuming and feed them high-quality food.

As a giant breed, it is really important to feed Tibetan Mastiff puppies an age-appropriate large or giant breed puppy food to ensure optimal growth. The breed matures late, and should be transitioned to adult food around 18 months of age.

It is always recommended that you make an appointment with a vet to discuss an appropriate complete and balanced diet for your pet. You can also use the Petbarn Food Finder to help find the best nutrition choice for your pet.

Tibetan Mastiff Dog Breed

Looks, Colours & Markings

Tibetan Mastiff’s are known for their signature fluffy, luscious coat and flowing mane that covers their neck and shoulders. Their coat varies in colour from rich black, blue, brown, and gold. The Tibetan Mastiff also has distinguishable markings on its coat. Often with tan markings around their eyes, throat, muzzle, chest, underneath their tail and inside of their rear legs. Some also have white markings on their chest and feet.

Interestingly, their coat is double layered with a dense undercoat and a top straight coat. This functions to keep them protected from the elements, acting as insulation to keep warm in cooler climates and cool during the summer. Additionally, the outer layer or ‘guard hairs’ has longer hairs which enable cool air to circle close to the dog’s skin after their undercoat is shed. This has a straight and hard texture. While the thick, dense undercoat consists of short hairs and has a woolly texture. Male Tibetan Mastiff’s often have thicker coats than their female counterpart.

Due to this double coat, Tibetan Mastiff’s have a regular grooming routine. They must be brushed daily when the coat is shedding or up to twice a week when it is not, to keep their thick  coat detangled and healthy. Tibetan Mastiff’s should also be bathed frequently and as often as a weekly basis, but no longer than every 6 weeks due to their double coating.

Shaving your Tibetan mastiff’s coat is controversial, as it may take a very long time to grow back, and may not grow back the same. However, you can trim your Tibetan Mastiff to get rid of any matting and overgrown hair which may be falling into their eyes or face.

Children & Other Pets

Owning a large guard breed such as a Tibetan Mastiff is a big responsibility The breed does not do as well with young children, often taking loud kids and screaming as a sign of aggression. Due to their large size, they may also accidentally knock small children over. It is recommended that around children and new people all Tibetan Mastiffs are supervised.

The breed can get along with other pets if appropriately socialised when very young. Though it is best to pair them with a more submissive breed, due to the Tibetan Mastiff’s aggressive and territorial nature.

If you’re looking for how to best introduce your Tibetan Mastiff to your family or other pets, read this informative article from Greencross Vets here.

Tibetan Mastiff FAQs

What do Tibetan Mastiffs eat?

Tibetan Mastifs should be fed a good quality, complete and balanced large or giant breed dog food.

How much they eat is dependent on the brand and your Tibetan Mastiff’s size, weight, and age. It is always recommended that you make an appointment with a vet to discuss an appropriate well-balanced diet for your pet. You can also use the Petbarn Food Finder to help find the best nutrition choice for your pet.

What are Tibetan Mastiffs bred for?

Tibetan Mastiffs were bred to be guardians of travelling nomads, herding dogs for livestock and guard dogs for properties or land.

What does a Tibetan Mastiffs look like?

The Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog with a lion-like appearance featuring a flowing mane from its neck to its shoulders. Their body is sturdy with a feathered tail that curls at the end. The Tibetan Mastiffs double-coat comes in black, brown, and blue with markings of tan and occasionally white.

What is a Tibetan Mastiff?

A Tibetan Mastiff is an ancient dog breed originating from Tibet as early as 1100BC. They have a lion-like appearance and were used as guardians of monks, travelling nomads. Entire villages and property. The breed also herded livestock.

What is a Tibetan Mastiff mixed with?

It is still unknown to this day the exact breeds that contributed to the Tibetan Mastiff’s origin. However, it is believed to have contributed to most mastiff breeds such as English Mastiffs, Bulldogs, Great Pyrenees and more.

Where are Tibetan Mastiffs from?

Tibetan Mastiffs are from Tibet in the northern Himalayas, China.

How tall is a Tibetan Mastiff?

Male Tibetan Mastiff’s stand between 66cm to 76cm (26-30 inches) while females range from 60cm to 71cm (24-28 inches). They are known as the gentle giants of all dog breeds.

How to train a Tibetan Mastiff?

Tibetan Mastiff’s are known to be difficult to train due to their high intelligence and independent nature. While they understand obedience training, they do not always choose to obey their owner’s commands, often going by their own set of rules.

Therefore, engaging in respect training from a young age will aid in your dog respecting your commands. Additionally, obedience training and socialisation from a young age is vital.

At Greencross Vets, nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of your four-legged friend. If you have any more questions, please reach out to your local Greencross Vets. You can find your local Greencross Vets here. We are more than happy to help!

Or if you’re looking to adopt, find your new best friend with Petbarn adoptions.

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