Tibetan Mastiff: An Independent and Loyal Companion

Some dog breeds are easier to care for and raise than others. Not all breeds are suited for first-time, inexperienced dog owners; the Tibetan mastiff is a perfect example. These intelligent canines require kind-but-firm guidance and socialization. Although they don’t shed as heavily as other thick-coated breeds, the Tibetan mastiff requires daily grooming. Owners prepared to devote the time and energy it takes to raise one of these guardian dogs will be richly rewarded with a loyal, protective, and loving companion.1

Tibetan mastiffs are considered a large breed

Standing over 2 feet at the shoulder and weighing more than 100 pounds, the Tibetan mastiff has a strong, substantial build. Males weigh anywhere between 90 and 150 pounds when full-grown. Females are generally smaller, but it isn’t unusual for females to exceed 100 pounds. The Tibetan mastiff has a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years.2

Tibetan mastiffs have a regal, striking appearance

This is a truly beautiful large breed, but not a giant one. The Tibetan mastiff’s broad head, deep-set almond-shaped eyes, and athletic build create an impressively regal physical appearance. Yet, they also have a kind facial expression, although it tends to be a solemn one. One of the most recognizable features of the breed is its majestic tail, which curls over the dog’s back. When these canines feel relaxed, they may carry their tails down.3

They have a luxurious coat

Unlike other types of mastiffs, Tibetans have a long, thick double coat with a soft, but heavy, wooly undercoat. They shed their coats only once each year. This lasts for about eight weeks. The fur is especially thick around the neck, which creates a mane-like appearance. As a rule, the male’s coat is heavier than the female’s. Their coat is black, brown, or bluish-grey. Some have silver, gold, mahogany, or reddish-gold markings above the eyes, on the muzzle, throat, or the front legs.4

Tibetan mastiffs have paws similar to a cat

Breeders describe the Tibetan mastiff’s feet as “cat feet,” meaning the breed has high-arched toes and a short third digital bone. This type of foot is common among canine working breeds that require higher endurance levels. Cat feet provide a better grip with the ground. This type of foot made it easier for Tibetan mastiffs to travel across the rough, mountainous terrain of their Tibetan homeland.5

The breed is highly intelligent and independent

If you’re seeking a companion who will dote on your every move, this is not the breed for you. Tibetan mastiffs are super intelligent and become bored easily which can lead to destructive behavior like digging massive holes in the yard or chewing up their owner’s possessions. Their intelligence is matched only by its independent nature, which is why they’re not recommended for the novice owner. They may or may not come when you call them. Obedience training seldom works. The Tibetan mastiff will have no problem learning commands like “sit” and “stay,” but they’ll choose when—or if— they do them.6

They were bred to be guardians

While many breeds are protective of their families and territories, the Tibetan mastiff’s instincts to guard are the result of their breeding. Don’t feel surprised if they attempt to run off visitors, even if they’re close family or friends. They are a great companion for children, but they may become nervous around loud, rambunctious play that they could misinterpret as aggressive behavior. Leaving these dogs on their own without human companionship for long periods will likely lead to aggressive, destructive, or dangerous behavior. Plus, they can scale a tall fence with ease.7

Specific health issues are common in the breed

Although this is an overall healthy breed, Tibetan mastiffs are prone to elbow dysplasia and hypothyroidism. An eye issue called persistent pupillary membranes, which causes strands of tissue in the eye, is also common. Veterinarians can easily identify the condition in young dogs. It often becomes less prominent as the dog ages. While there’s no treatment for the membranes, some dogs also experience bluing of the cornea or cataracts. Eyedrops help in those situations, though a vet may prescribe surgery if cataracts develop.8

They’re active outdoors, but calm inside

The Tibetan mastiff needs exercise. A large yard where they can romp and play is ideal. They’re more active at night due to their breeding and guarding instincts. Tibetan Mastiffs are night barkers, so sleeping outdoors at night may cause issues with neighbors. Keeping this dog in your home while you sleep will keep you safe. Long walks with varying routes are a great way to socialize your canine, but always keep them on a leash. This is not a breed you can train to stay obediently by your side, heed your commands, and ignore distractions.9

Tibetan mastiffs can be raised with other pets

If you raise the dog alongside other pets, the Tibetan mastiff usually gets along fine with them. They’ll show dominance when they first meet another dog. However, due to the breed’s territorial instincts, adult dogs will not readily accept another pet into their living spaces. Close supervision and careful introductions are essential. They can be especially aggressive toward dogs of the same sex.10

The Tibetan mastiff has ancient origins

According to the many legends, the breed was once the guardian of ancient Tibetan temples. Because there are no accurate genetic records for the Tibetan mastiff, even historians know little about its origins. Through written accounts, they’ve found proof that the breed existed in China at least as far back as 1100 BCE, traveling with the armies of Attilla the Hun and Genghis Khan. Many dog experts also believe this breed is the biological ancestor of all modern mastiffs.

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