Other names: Drog-Khyi, Tsang-khyi
The Tibetan Mastiff is an excellent watchdog. Very attached to his owners without necessarily showing it, his priority is to protect all of his family and his territory. He is unpredictable, and can become aggressive if he deems it necessary. Being as strong and independent as he is, he is not suitable for everyone. Cohabitating with children or the elderly is not advised. Primitive, robust and powerful, he stands out of the lot and requires time to get to know. He needs to be accepted for what he is for the master-dog relationship to be harmonious and respectful.
Key facts about the Tibetan Mastiff
Life expectancy :
Origins and history
The Tibetan Mastiff, also known as the Drog-Khyi, is a very ancient breed that used to work at the side of Himalayan mountain nomads, and was the Tibetan monasteries’ designated watchdog. Left practically intact over the centuries, he is a direct descendant of the ancient Tibetan Mastiff from which practically all other, currently known Mastiffs, molossians and molossoids sprang. He was once even bigger than he is now. Marco Polo described him as follows: “As big as a donkey, with a voice as powerful as that of a lion”.
Physical characteristics of the Tibetan Mastiff
Female : Between 24 and 27 in
Male : Between 26 and 28 in
Female : Between 121 and 176 lb
Male : Between 121 and 176 lb
The Tibetan Mastiff’s coat can be:
- Deep black, with or without tan patching
- Slate grey, with or without tan patching
- Golden: going from intense fawn to deep red, sable
A little white mark (star-shaped) on the chest is admissible as well as subtle white patching on the paws.
Type of coat
The coat is long.
The coat is thin but coarse, straight, thick and more abundant in males than in females. In the winter, a dense and wooly undercoat helps the dog brave the cold.
The coat should neither be silky, curly nor wavy. On the neck and on the shoulder, the coat is abundant and forms a nice mane.
The eyes are a brown colour, of any possible shade and depending on the animal’s coat. Darker hues are more common.
The Tibetan Mastiff is a potent dog, of massive bone structure. The head is large and very imposing, the muzzle typical of a Mastiff but lighter than that of the English Mastiff, for instance. The eyes are medium-sized. The ears, pendant, are medium-sized, heart-shaped, smooth, close to the cheeks and turned forward when the dog is alert. The limbs are perfectly straight and strong. The tail is imposing, set high and curled over the back- very thick and feathered: covered in long and abundant hair.
Good to know
There are not many specimens in Europe, and he is practically extinct in Tibet, mainly on account of the effort it takes to maintain such a large dog. The current, main source of breeding is actually the UK.
One particularity is that- as is the case of many primitive breeds- the females are only in heat once a year, as opposed to twice a year in the case of breeds that have been more interfered with by Man.
Even if he is very attached to his family, the Tibetan Mastiff is a dog with a rather tough character: ‘nonchalant’ and independent, he rarely displays his feelings.
His reserved personality does not make this Tibetan ‘lion-dog’ the best playtime companion, even if, when still a pup, he can enjoy playful and educational game sessions.
Even if this giant molossian only reaches maturity at 3 or 4 years of age, he remains a very calm and still dog who enjoys his peace and who can react very temperamentally if some unsolicited thing or person happens to interrupt his nap time.
If you believe that the measure of a dog’s intelligence is his capacity to obey, then the Tibetan Mastiff is not the smartest of his species. Yet, in truth, it is usually those dogs that are good at strategizing their way out of a command that are the sharpest!
It is, in fact, sooner through his capacities to observe, analyse and protect that this molossoid is truly brilliant.
Not a hunter in the least, the Tibetan Mastiff is exclusively a watchdog. The only ‘prey’ he might come to ‘hunt’ are unwelcome intruders encroaching on his turf.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Tibetan Mastiff is extremely wary of strangers and can even resort to biting. He needs to be very well socialised in order not to become too aggressive or bite: this means that he needs to be exposed to many humans, and be in constant interaction with members of his family, in order to soften his naturally hard character.
This Tibetan dog is very attached to his territory and social group but he only ever rarely shows affection. He is very independent, which renders communication rather challenging if he is not accepted for what he is, and if you expect him to morph into the average companion dog.
Behaviour of the Tibetan Mastiff
This dog likes his alone time, and enjoys above all else being entrusted with a task to complete. As a result, he can stay at home or in the garden without a problem, devoting himself to his usual ‘mission’ of choice: guarding.
He proudly takes up position where he can best oversee his property, and is capable of not leaving his post for hours on end.
Easy to train / obedience
It is not easy to train the Tibetan Mastiff, on account of his ample independence and his very assertive character. The training process must be precocious, firm and coherent.
Resorting to any kind of coercion will quickly end in failure with this powerful dog, who will not tolerate any brutality. What’s more, it would in fact be dangerous to apply coercive methods to this Tibetan ‘lion dog’, as it would only serve to tease his aggression out.
His strong character must be softened from his youngest years, through a quality habituation towards various environments, persons, and animals.
You must brace yourself and be patient, as this dog attains full maturity only very late.
Last but not least, you shouldn’t place your bets on making this dog ‘a champion of obedience’- he is indeed capable of learning and respecting certain rules of conduct and disciplinary basics, but remains an independent and unpredictable dog.
His barking is akin to a lion’s roar! It is very imposing and an effective deterrent, and the mastiff does not hesitate to use it to chase intruders away.
Tendency to run away
The Tibetan Mastiff is much more of a guardian than a predator or hunter, and his territorial instinct is very pronounced. He indeed prefers to stay in his familiar environment to keep a watchful eye over potential intrusions.