The Tibetan Mastiff is a rare and very large breed of dog that is powerfully built. It is slightly longer than it is tall with a well-boned and muscular profile. A massive head imparts a noble and dignified look which is augmented by a mane more pronounced in dogs. It has a broad, square muzzle, a black nose that has wide open nostrils with some wrinkling on the head that extends from the forehead to the corner of the mouth. It also features dark brown oval eyes, triangular pendant ears which are carried forward when the dog is excited and teeth that form a complete scissor bite. The neck is well-muscled which sufficiently carries the broad head. The front legs are muscular, straight and packed with strong bones while the back legs are equally muscular and powerful that carries the body with extreme efficiency. The limbs have fairly large and strong feet that are thickly padded for maximum cushion when the dog is on the move. A well laid-out and feathered tail that is usually carried curled over the back provides harmonious balance to the overall profile. The coat is dense, fairly long and thick with a soft, woolly undercoat during cold seasons which becomes a little sparse in warm weather.
The Tibetan Mastiff is truly an ancient breed which descended from ancient Tibetan dogs which are equally massive in size and has changed little until today. Evidence of a mastiff-like breed similar to the Tibetan mastiff appears in Stone Age cave drawings in the upper Himalayas which signifies that the breed is indeed ancient. It is believed that today’s modern Mastiff-type breeds and Molossus breeds are descendants of this huge dog. Known as “Do-Kyi” or “tied dog” or “gate dog” in its native origin, the Tibetan mastiff was often tied at the entrance of the house it was assigned to guard. Not only did it guard houses, it also acts as a protector of ancient monasteries and was even allowed then, to roam free in Tibetan villages to protect them from intruders. In the early 19th century, King George IV had two Tibetan mastiffs among the many that existed in England in 1906. Like almost all dog breeds, war efforts brought devastation to the breed’s population which nearly became extinct in 1959. Today, the Tibetan mastiff is steadily gaining popularity worldwide although it is still rather uncommon.
The breed’s temperament may vary, depending on the location of the Tibetan mastiff. The native Tibetan mastiffs that still exist today are described as ferocious and aggressive with unpredictable behaviour and very hard to train. However, this may be due to the breeding purpose and training methods, where the native lines are more of guard dogs rather than companion dogs compared to the English lines. Conversely, English-bred Tibetan mastiffs are obedient and very loyal subjects. It has a large barking voice which could easily intimidate. It has a tendency to bark a lot especially during the night, but will usually stay quiet if kept indoors.
Training and socialization are critical for this breed. Socialize the Tibetan mastiff early to prevent its somewhat reserved nature with strangers and very strong guarding instincts. It’s high intelligence yet stubborn streak requires attendance in obedience classes.
The coat is quite easy to groom; it only requires weekly brushing to keep it in excellent form. However, daily brushing should be done when the dog is shedding, usually during the spring or summer.
The Tibetan Mastiff is a fairly long-lived breed with an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years. Little human intervention has made a robust and healthy breed with relatively lower incidence of hereditary health problems. In some cases, hypothyroidism, entropion or ectropion, skin problems, and progressive retinal atrophy are found. Hip dysplasia, which is common in large breeds is also a minor issue.
This breed will do best in a base diet mixture that contains horse meat, barley, white rice and beet pulp. It must be supplied with foods high in animal fat and not vegetable fats.
The Tibetan mastiff requires enough space to get plenty of exercise. A typical living environment is a house with at least a medium-sized, well fenced yard. However, care should be taken as this breed is an excellent digger and climber which may try to escape. Besides self-exercise, the breed will enjoy walks but will not be otherwise with jogging or ball-playing.
In Tibet, the breed is known to defend women and children which makes it excellent with kids. It is an intelligent yet stubborn breed and will get along quite well with other dogs.