Monday, February 20, 2012

The Noble and Impressive Tibetan Mastiff

By Linda Cole

The Tibetan Mastiff is a perfect example of why getting the right dog for your lifestyle is so important. According to the American Tibetan Mastiff Association, “If you want an obedient dog, a dog that you can walk off leash, a dog that will come when called, the TM is not the dog for you. If you lead an active social life with many people coming in and out of your house, the TM is not the dog for you. If you have small children or many children come to visit, the TM may not be the dog for you. If you prize your wood furniture (or your plaster walls) and you will be upset if they were chewed on (or eaten in their entirety), the TM is not for you.”

It's not that the Tibetan Mastiff is a bad dog that can't be controlled. He's an intelligent, strong willed and independent dog who believes he knows more than his owner. However, he is loyal and extremely protective of his family and property. People the dog doesn't know will most likely not be allowed to enter your home. He's adaptable, likes to think on his own and make his own decisions, and is quite capable of having good judgment.


The Tibetan Mastiff was bred as a guard dog and will protect family and home with a fierce determination. This rare dog breed is descended from the ancient Tibetan Mastiff that is thought to go back as far as 1100 BC in China. Little is known about the history of the early dogs. They lived and worked in the high Himalayan Mountains as guard dogs and were isolated for centuries. During the day, the dogs were kept confined and released at night to patrol the entire town. Some villages only had one dog on guard duty at night.

The dogs were also effective fighters and protectors, and were used in armies of the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. They even went into Europe with Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. However, the breed continued to exist only in the Himalayans and central plains of Asia until 1847 when one was given to England's Queen Victoria. Today, this giant rare dog breed is even hard to find in their homeland. They are still used to guard livestock and protect their owner from mainly wolves and snow leopards.


This is not a dog to be reckoned with – they stand at 25-28 inches and weigh 140-170 pounds. They're set apart from other breeds because they are still considered to be a primitive breed. The female has only one heat cycle a year, which is usually during the fall. She doesn't reach maturity until around three to four years, and the male between four to five years.

They have a double coat that keeps the weather at bay, and shed it usually just once a year in the spring. It's an eight week process. Unless you live in the country, leaving a Tibetan Mastiff outside at night isn't recommended as they will instinctively bark all night. Inside the house, they're as quiet as a mouse.


This dog will not make a good pet for people who don't understand what this breed is all about. You can train them, but it requires lots of patience and commitment. They don't do well with obedience because they are so independent, but they are very intelligent. ‘Come’ is not a command the TM is likely to learn, although it never hurts to try. According to one Tibetan Mastiff owner, “Oh, TMs want to be with you, it’s just that TMs think that if they are in the same country as you, they are with you.”

This dog must be properly socialized with other animals and people in order to keep him under control. What's interesting about the Tibetan Mastiff is how sensitive they are to human moods. Our anger upsets the dog because of their long history of guarding and protecting people and property. They need plenty of exercise or lots of space to roam, but you don't want to let them wander outside a fenced in area. A bored TM can practically dismantle an entire house in one afternoon when left to his own entertainment. And digging is one activity this dog can really get into!

With the right owner, the Tibetan Mastiff is a wonderful and loving pet that will quickly bond with you. However, you have to be their leader and be ready to out think this smart and interesting rare breed.

Adult dogs: photos by Ken Schneider
Puppy: photo by Brent Olsen

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Wow, that is one impressive dog! I'm amazed by how big they get, and by their intelligence.

  2. That truly is a huge dog. We didn't know that much about them before and they sound like they need a special home with lots of space. But I bet they are great dogs.

  3. Very cool! I have come to love dogs that are independent thinkers (having six of my own) and have a high level of respect for such breeds. Your description of this dog just jumps out at me at just how impressive this breed is. Sounds like they could teach my dogs a few things. :)

  4. I have only heard of this breed but haven't seen it in person. However, it seems it's getting really popular in some far east countries and the dogs cost a bomb.

    Thanks for the info of this breed.

  5. Great article about the breed, the only correction is the weight is often over exaggerated and they weigh between 75 and 125lbs. They are a very athletic breed that can jump quite high (unlike a heavy Mastiff breed)…but the rest is quite accurate. Many also end up in rescue because they are not for everyone and people don't do proper research.

  6. They are excellent dogs. I got one from the shelter where he'd been abused. He was 1yr old, and let me tell you that dog was the best dog I ever owned. I have a 6' fence and the kids next door were teasing him one day, he came within inches of getting their hand, so yes they can get up there. About 3 months after I'd gotten him, I had the windows open, about 5am I heard him bark (anyone will, VERY deep bark) I came down and whoever was there, was gone & his head was "IN" the window. They are also very smart, my wife could be in the kitchen, and he'd know if she was cooking or just putting things away, cooking he'd be there, putting away nope. lol. Sometimes' we'd "play" and he'd get "between us" no way anyone would harm her.

    They are also more protective of kids & women. Mine was a "solid" 110 and could reach the shoulder of a 6' man. They are very protective of their "territory" also. Anything got in my backyard, if it didn't get out in time, it was history. But, you couldn't ask for a better and calm dog. Their temperament is very easy going.

    I'm looking for another one now as I won't have another kind. He was also good with the 2 females I have. They are also not afraid of anyone/anything, trust me on that one.


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