Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Tibetan Mastiff
Average Cost to keep/care for a Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan Mastiffs are impressive looking dogs that boast an extremely dense double-coat and large bushy tail that dogs carry curled over their backs. They are powerful, well-built and although they may seem slow and heavy, Tibetan Mastiffs can show a good turn of speed when they need to. They are definitely not a good choice for first time owners because although stunning these dogs needs to be well handled and trained by someone who is familiar with the breed or similar type of dog.
For centuries these imposing dogs guarded homes and temples in remote parts of their native Tibet and were highly prized for doing so. More recently, a Tibetan Mastiff was sold for a record price, making the dog the most expensive in the world.
Although the actual origins of the Tibetan Mastiff have been lost in the midst of time, what is known is that their ancestors existed in Tibet for centuries and that they are probably descendants of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Newfoundlands and other large dogs of this type. With this said, the dogs we see today are very much the same as the dogs seen in ancient times. They are called "Dok-Khyi" in their native Tibet which translated means "Tied Dog", a reference to the fact Tibetan Mastiffs were often seen tied at the entrances of the temples, tents and houses they guarded.
With this said, Alexander the Great was known to have a number of Tibetan Mastiffs which travelled with him on his expeditions which is when they started to appear in other regions of the world. The dogs we see today outside of Tibet have been around for over a 100 years with the Prince of Wales owning one in the 1880's.
It was early in the 19th century that explorers came across these dogs during their expeditions into the far reaches of Tibet. A few dogs were sent back to the UK and were placed in zoos as objects of curiosity. Lord Hardinge, Viceroy to India sent a Tibetan Mastiff as a gift to Queen Victoria, but there are no records of the dog being used for breeding purposes.
It was not until the 1930's that a breed standard was set and the Tibetan Mastiff was officially recognised as a unique breed in its own right by The Kennel Club here in the UK. Today these impressive dogs are still quite rare with not many of them being bred or puppies registered with The Kennel Club. As such anyone hoping to share their home with a Tibetan Mastiff might have to go on a waiting list if a breeder can be found that is.
Height at the withers: Males 66 cm, Females 61 cm
Average weight: Males 45 - 72 kg, Females 45 - 72 kg
The Tibetan Mastiff is a powerful looking dog that boasts a lot of bone. They are well-built and boast thickish, long double coats with an extremely bushy tail that dog's curl over their backs. Although heavy looking, the Tibetan Mastiff is very light on their feet and they are capable of showing a fast turn of speed when needed. Males have a more pronounced mane than their female counterparts.
They have broad, heavy heads with a well-defined occiput and stop. Their muzzles are quite board and blunt with nice broad, black noses with open nostrils. Dogs can have a little wrinkling on their heads when they mature which adds to their overall appeal. Their eyes are dark brown in colour, medium in size with a very expressive look about them. They are set wide apart, oval in shape slanting slightly. Eyerims are dark and tight.
Their ears are triangular, pendent and moderately large, hanging close to a dog's head although when they are alert, dogs carry their ears a little forward. Ear leathers are well covered with lots of soft hair. Mouths are strong with dogs boasting a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their neck is muscular and strong with dogs carrying them slightly arched. Shoulders are well laid back and their front legs are straight, well-muscled and powerful.
Tibetan Mastiffs boast strong, level backs with muscular, broad loins with a slightly sloping croup. Their chests are deep and moderately broad with an oval ribcage and well sprung ribs that are carried well back. Their hindquarters are extremely muscular and powerful with dogs having strong well-muscled back legs with some dogs having double dewclaws. Feet are quite large with dogs having thick, well rounded and compact paw pads and lots of feathering between each of their toes. Their tail is well feathered and can be quite long which is set high and a dog carries it loosely over their backs and typically to one side.
When it comes to their coat, the Tibetan Mastiff boast fairly long, thick double coat with the undercoat being heavy and woolly. The top coat is finer and straight with the hair on a dog's face being shorter than on the rest of their body. The hair on their neck and shoulders is longer and thicker which creates their mane. Tails and the upper parts of their back legs are very well feathered. Acceptable colours include the following:
Marking above a dog's eyes, on their muzzles, chests, lower part of their legs and underside of their tail are a very rich colour. Dogs can have a white star on their chests and spectacles around their eyes. Some white on their feet is also acceptable.
The Tibetan Mastiff is a large, imposing and impressive dog and one that needs to be well socialised as a puppy and then trained by an experienced person from an early age for them to be truly well-rounded dogs. As such they are not the best choice for first time owners.
They are known to be fiercely loyal, protective, thoughtful, quiet and calm. A Tibetan Mastiff is also very protective of their families and homes. They need to be handled firmly, but always fairly so they understand their place in the "pack" and who is alpha dog in a household. These dogs are never happier than when they get all the direction and guidance they need from their leader. If a Tibetan Mastiff does not get the right sort of guidance they will start to show a more dominant side to their natures which often results them becoming unruly and wilful.
They respond very well to positive reinforcement training and dislike any sort of harsh correction. For such large dogs, they are very capable of showing remarkable affection and gentleness when treated with the respect that they deserve, but they are not necessarily suited to families with children, especially younger children and toddlers. With this said, the Tibetan Mastiff loves to be part of a family and to be involved in everything that goes on in the home. They are known to form very strong bonds with their owners, but can be wary around strangers although they would rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards people they don't know, unless they feel threatened.
The Tibetan Mastiff is known to be an intelligent dog, but their training has to be consistent right from the word go. They do boast a bit of a stubborn streak in them and will show a more dominant side to their nature if they are not correctly handled and trained when they are young.
It's also essential for puppies to be well socialised from a young age which means introducing them to new people, situations and other animals as soon as they have been fully vaccinated for them to mature into well-rounded dogs.
Tibetan Matiffs are not the best choice for people with young families because not only are they extremely large dogs, but they boast a natural instinct to guard. However, if well socialised they are a good choice for people with older children who would know how to behave around such a large dog. With this said, any interaction between children and dogs should always be supervised by an adult to make sure things don’t get too boisterous.
Care needs to be taken when a Tibetan Mastiff first meets any new animals, but if they have grown up with other pets in a household, they will generally tolerate them being around. If a dog has been well socialised from a young age and met lots of other dogs, they are usually alright around them, but some TMs will still try to be the dominant dog so care has to be taken when they meet any new dogs.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Tibetan Mastiff is between 9 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and impressive looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Tibetan Mastiffs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Tibetan Mastiff boasts having a thick, double coat with the hair around their necks being quite a bit longer than on the rest of their body which gives these dogs their lion-like looks. Although their coats are quite heavy, it is not that hard to keep these dogs looking tidy because they are not prone to matting. A twice weekly brush would be enough to take out any dead or loose hair and keep things tidy.
Unlike many other breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff loses their coat once a year between the months of April and July when more frequent brushing would be necessary. It's at this time of the year that dogs blow their undercoat and it comes out in large lumps. However, they do not shed constantly throughout the year like other Mastiff-types and dogs.
It's important to check their ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears it provides the perfect environment for an infection to flare up which can be very hard to treat.
Tibetan Mastiffs need to be given at least an hour's exercise every day and they also need to be given a lot of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters. However, because they have such thick, dense coats it's important not to over-exercise them when the weather is hot because these dogs feel the heat and are prone to overheat extremely quickly. It's best to take them out first thing in the morning for a short walk and then again late in the afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky and the temperature is cooler.
Young Tibetan Mastiff puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives.
If you get a Tibetan Mastiff puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Some adolescent dogs can be a little fussy about their food, but it is important to persevere and not to spoil them which could make it harder to find a suitable diet they would eat as adult, mature dogs. It's also important to keep an eye on the protein levels in a Tibetan Mastiff's diet which should not be anything above 20 - 22%.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because they are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. You should never feed a Tibetan Mastiff just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more a risk of suffering from bloat.
If you are looking to buy a Tibetan, you may have trouble finding a breeder and if you do, you may well have to accept being put on a waiting list and you should expect to pay over £1000 for a pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Tibetan Mastiff in northern England would be £56.54 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £109.10 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £60 - £70 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Tibetan Mastiff and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1500 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Tibetan Mastiff would be between £130 to £200 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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