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Tibetan Mastiff

Other names: Drog-Khyi, Tsang-khyi

Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan Mastiff
Puppy

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.

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Key facts about the Tibetan Mastiff

  • Life expectancy : Between 10 and 12 years
  • Temperament : Calm
  • Size : Very big
  • Type of coat : Long, Hard
  • Price : Between £1000 and £1350

Physical characteristics of the Tibetan Mastiff

Adult size

Female dog Between 24 and 27 in
Male dog Between 26 and 28 in

Weight

Female dog Between 121 and 176 lb
Male dog Between 121 and 176 lb

Coat colour

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.

Eye colour

The eyes are a brown colour, of any possible shade and depending on the animal’s coat. Darker hues are more common.

Description

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.

Temperament

Affectionate

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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.

Playful

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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.

Calm

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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.

Intelligent

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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.

Hunter

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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

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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.

Independent

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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

Tolerates solitude

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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

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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.

Barking

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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

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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.

Destructive

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Calm, composed and at ease with the notion of solitude, this dog is not destructive in the least.

Greedy / Gluttony

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He will never refuse a good bone to chew on, or a reward snack for good behaviour. On the flipside, it is not uncommon for this dog to skip meals simply because he’s not hungry. In this, his heritage as a nomad dog comes through: when the mountain people moved around, the Tibetan Mastiff would sometimes go for entire days without food.

Guard dog

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Incredibly brave, nothing scares this dog, which makes him a very good watchdog no matter the scale of danger. The Tibetan Mastiff is, in fact, almost exclusively used as a guardian, which is the role in which he can truly fulfill his full potential. 

Warning- this dog can prove to be very aggressive, and resort to biting, if his presence alone is not sufficient in deterring an (oblivious) intruder from trespassing on his territory.

First dog

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The physical and behavioural characteristics of the Tibetan Mastiff do not allow for novice owners to safely engage with him. It would actually be very dangerous to place this unpredictable dog in the hands of an inexperienced owner.

Lifestyle

Tibetan Mastiff in a flat

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This dog’s massive size, coupled with his strong guardian instinct, are not conducive of a seamless development within the confines of a flat. Having said this, city life does not have to be completely incompatible with him, if he lives in a house with a garden and is taken out on regular, daily walks. 

Of course, this dog’s ideal setting remains the mountains or countryside, where he can grow and live outside to his heart’s content. He appreciates the comforts of indoor living, especially in the summer when he needs to cool down, but generally prefers to sleep outside in order to ‘stand guard’.

Need for exercise / Sporty

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Far from being hyperactive, this dog does nonetheless need to stretch his legs by way of outdoor walks at least once or twice a day if he is to remain fully content. 

His large size does not allow for intense physical stimulation, and you will have to be careful not to overly burden his joints.

Travelling / easy to transport

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His wariness towards strangers, very strong guardian instinct, and large size, are not really compatible with public transport. To render the latter possible, a very comprehensive socialisation would have to be implemented from the Tibetan Mastiff pup’s youngest years- but then again, his unpredictable personality does not help the task. 

For car travel, a car adapted to the Tibetan Mastiff’s large size will be necessary. Placing him in a transport crate is not really an option- a harness attached to the carbelt will sooner ensure his security.

Compatibility

Tibetan Mastiff and cats

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If this Tibetan mountain dog has grown up alongside a cat, he will be able to include it in his family and will actually consider it a part of what he is obliged to protect. But be careful, as he does remain unpredictable and can, for no obvious reason, suddenly turn against the family cat.

Tibetan Mastiff and dogs

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This dog is more of a ‘lone wolf’ but, again, if he grows up alongside other dogs, the relationship could be seamless. 

At any rate, as soon as the Tibetan Mastiff pup is adopted, and preferably before he turns three months old, it is important to start exposing him to supervised, positive and regular interactions with fellow dogs, in order to develop his ‘canine code of conduct’ and teach him how to peacefully communicate with his peers.

Tibetan Mastiff and children

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Endowed with a rather unpredictable character, it is not advised to have this dog cohabitate with children. Having said this, older children who have been taught to respect him- and recognise warning signs urging to cease all contact- can grow up by this giant dog’s side.

Tibetan Mastiff and the elderly

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Persons considered to be ‘fragile’ (children, the elderly, etc.) should not interact with this Tibetan ‘lion dog’ as his strength and strong-headed nature are not conducive to completely reliable and safe cohabitation. 

Elderly people could quickly become overwhelmed by this rather inflexible dog.

Price

The price of a Tibetan Mastiff varies depending on its origins, age, and sex. You have to count an average of £1350  for dogs registered at the Kennel Club. 

Moreover, a ‘giant’ dog implies a ‘giant’ budget- with regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog this size, you have to estimate an average of £70 per month.

Grooming

Despite being abundant, the Tibetan Mastiff’s coat is by no means difficult in maintaining, but must be tended to regularly nonetheless. Weekly brushes will be needed to preserve its aesthetic and protective properties.

Hair loss

This Tibetan dog is subject to two moulting seasons a year, during which brushes must be daily in order to eliminate any residual dead hairs.

Nutrition of the Tibetan Mastiff

Feeding this giant dog is not difficult, since he can be satisfied with premium-quality kibbles (purchased in specialised shops). But, being the primitive dog that he is, the Tibetan Mastiff will also enjoy traditional nutrition (B.A.R.F or home-cooked meals). The nutritional regimen will have to be adapted to his needs, but also to the owner’s availability and budget. 

It is important to ensure quality nutrition- by seeking out veterinary supervision for instance- throughout the dog’s growth period (roughly 24 months). Given that the Tibetan Mastiff pup’s growth is quite spread out and impressive, a well-adapted, nutritious diet is key. 

It is not uncommon for this dog to skip a meal- but this is no reason for concern, as long as it is not coupled with other worrying symptoms. Being rather low-performance, this dog will sometimes need a brief fasting period to digest any excess food, or when it gets hot. 

Given his size, it is advised to provide him with two meals a day (a light meal in the morning, and a more substantial one in the evening), to prevent him for ingesting too much at once. Self-service is not advised. 

Once an adult, the portions should not be too rich in fat, so as to avoid any potential skin or intestine-related issues.

Health of the Tibetan Mastiff

Life expectancy

Life expectancy is 11 years on average.

Strong / robust

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This dog is robust, and very resilient but does not, unfortunately, enjoy a particularly long life.

Withstand heat

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His impressive fur coat protects him from the cold, and also to some extent from the heat, but high temperatures are not the intended climate for him. In the summer, it is important to take him out on walks only once it’s cooled down, and to let him take refuge from the heat inside the house.

Withstand cold

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His double coat and solid constitution do equip him with a resistance to cold and rain without a problem. The Tibetan Mastiff actually prefers to sleep outside rather than inside, even during the winter.

Tendency to put on weight

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Given that this mountain dog is not the biggest of athletes, it is important not to overfeed him, to prevent any risk of obesity.

Common illnesses

  • Epilepsy
  • Demodicosis 
  • Ocular anomalies 
  • Hip dysplasia

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.

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”.

Names

Good names for a Tibetan Mastiff: Ezra, Lana, Roger, Zoo

Find out more dog name ideas here