This still primitive dog breed was developed centuries ago in Tibet. Originally used as guard dogs for livestock and property, Tibetan Mastiffs can still be found performing that role, but they also enjoy life as a family companion and show dog.
The Tibetan Mastiff originated, where else, in Tibet. Like so many breeds, he has little documented history from before the late 19th century, but he’s believed to have been around for many centuries.
DNA evidence tells us that mastiff-type dogs originated in Tibet some 5,000 years ago, and the Tibetan Mastiff is no doubt a descendant of those dogs. They developed into two types: the Do-Khyi, who lived in villages or traveled with nomadic shepherds and functioned as flock guardians, and the larger Tsang-Khyi, which were often given to lamaseries, where they served as guardians for the Tibetan Buddhist monks, or lamas, who lived there.
Little is known of the Tibetan Mastiff before 1800. In 1800, a Captain Samuel Turner mentioned the use of “huge dogs” in his memoir, An account of an Embassy to the Court of the Teshoo Lama in Tibet, but he gave no description of them.
In 1847, the first dog from Tibet was imported to England and given to Queen Victoria as a gift from Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy of India. In 1873, England’s Kennel Club was formed and the Tibetan Mastiff was officially entered into the Stud Book as the Tibetan Mastiff, leaving its earlier title as “large dog from Tibet” behind.
In 1874, the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII, imported two more Tibetan Mastiffs to England and they were shown in 1875 at the Alexandra Palace Show. Tibetan Mastiffs continued to be imported occasionally into England and Europe, and the first Tibetan Mastiff breed club was formed in 1931. World War II put an end to breeding, and it wasn’t until 1976 that English breeders began importing the dogs again.
The breed had a similar history in the United States. The late 1950s saw two Tibetan Mastiffs given to the President of the United States, but the dogs were taken to a farm and vanished from public scrutiny. It wasn’t until 1970 that several more Tibetan Mastiffs were imported into the United States and they became the foundation dogs of the United States line.
The Tibetan Mastiff Club of America was founded in 1974, as was the American Tibetan Mastiff Association. The first show that the Tibetan Mastiffs appeared in was the first National Specialty Match in October 1979.
The breed was only recently recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the Working Group in January 2007. Today, in Tibet, it’s difficult to find a purebred Tibetan Mastiff, but occasionally one can be found traveling with caravans and traders, and guarding livestock and homes.
Before considering the drawbacks, here’s what we love about this breed. The Tibetan Mastiff is loving, gentle, patient, and understanding. His centuries of working closely with humans have made him very sophisticated in the ways he understands people.
He’s a hard worker, protective of his family, fearless, and loyal. His large size and substance makes him a wonderful guard dog, and centuries of breeding for that specific task has perfected him as a protector.
As attractive as that sounds, it’s essential to weigh carefully the other qualities that can make him a challenging proposition.
This is an independent guardian breed who will not always look to you for guidance. He will enjoy your company and bond with you, but he won’t always obey you, especially in a situation in which he believes he’s right. The Tibetan Mastiff is stubborn and usually doesn’t do well in obedience or agility competitions.
Tibetan Mastiffs are generally quiet dogs when their needs and living conditions are met, but if left outdoors at night they can be barkers. Of course there’s an easy solution: bring your dog inside.
If you use a yard, make sure it’s well-fenced; Tibetan Mastiffs have been known to climb fences to escape. And be sure not to leave these dogs outside for very long because they may start to dig and become territorial and aggressive.
Under certain conditions, Tibetan Mastiffs are tolerant with children in their own families, especially if raised with them. But they’re generally not well suited to homes with young children. Tibetan Mastiffs can mistake the yelling, screaming, and playing of visiting children as a sign of aggression and often won’t allow your child’s friends to come visit.
This territorial drive can affect not only your children’s social life but also your own. If you are a social person with many people coming and going, this breed is probably not for you, as the Tibetan Mastiff may try to limit the number of people allowed into the house.
Socialization is essential for this breed. It’s important to take your Tibetan Mastiff puppy and adult dog to as many dog-friendly stores, parks, and events as possible. Let him meet new people, but understand if he’s wary of specific people.
Tibetan Mastiffs have a strong instinct concerning people, and if they don’t get over their initial dislike of a particular person, there’s usually a reason. Tibetan Mastiffs cannot be walked off leash and should be taken on several different routes during their daily walks to prevent them from becoming territorial of their walking route.
The Tibetan Mastiff can be a wonderful breed for the proper owner and home, but he can’t fit into just any lifestyle. If you’re interested in this breed, do your homework and talk to breeders and other Tibetan Mastiff owners.
One thing is certain: if you do acquire a Tibetan Mastiff, your life is sure to be an interesting adventure with this beautiful, loyal companion.
- Be mindful the your small, cute teddy bear of a puppy will grow into a 75 to 160 pound dog. The Mastiff’s size makes him unsuited for apartment living.
- Tibetan Mastiffs are usually active in the morning and evening. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to exercise them during these times, this may not be the breed for you.
- They are generally calm indoors.
- The Tibetan Mastiff should not be left to live outside. He’s a companion dog and thrives in the presence of his family.
- Because of his protective nature, a Tibetan Mastiff should never be walked off leash. Vary his walks so he doesn’t become territorial over a specific route.
- Tibetan Mastiffs are highly intelligent, independent, and stubborn, yet sensitive to human moods. They will become upset if you yell at or discipline your children or argue with your spouse. They enjoy your company but are never fawning.
- This is not the breed for people who wish to compete in dog sports such as agility or obedience.
- Tibetan Mastiffs who are left outdoors at night will bark to let you know they’re on the job — so don’t leave them outdoors at night. On the upside, they are generally quiet during the day.
- Tibetan Mastiffs shed little, except for once a year. a They require weekly brushing, except during their seasonal shed, when they should be brushed more frequently.
- The Tibetan Mastiff needs early socialization that should continue throughout his life. Without it, he can be inappropriately aggressive toward dogs and people he doesn’t know. Socialization helps him learn discrimination, which is essential for a guardian breed.
- The Tibetan Mastiff is not recommended for a timid or first-time owner. This breed needs a confident trainer who is consistent and firm but also loving. The Tibetan Mastiff is strong-willed and will test whether you really mean what you say.
- Tibetan Mastiffs can become bored without proper physical and mental stimulation. This can lead to destructiveness, barking, and other negative behaviors. If you’re interested in owning a Tibetan Mastiff, please bear in mind that you’ll lose at least a few items to his sharp teeth before he reaches three years of age.
- Tibetan Mastiffs can do well with children if they’re raised with them, but they can mistake the yelling, screaming, and playing of children as a sign of aggression that requires action on their part. They may not warm up to neighborhood kids. They are not recommended for homes with young children.
- Never buy a Tibetan Mastiff from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn’t provide health clearances or guarantees. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases and of sound temperament.
A male Tibetan Mastiff stands at least 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs in the vicinity of 100 to 160 or more pounds; females are at least 24 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 75 to 125 or more pounds.
The word “challenging” is frequently applied to this independent, stubborn breed. He’s intelligent and has a strong sense of self, expecting to be treated as an equal, not as a pet.
He wants to please his people, but he also has his own agenda and must often be reminded of what he’s been asked to do. The Tibetan Mastiff is a loyal family guardian who takes his job seriously and is aloof or reserved toward strangers.
Early socialization that continues throughout his life will help prevent him from becoming territorially aggressive. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start.
Summary from Dogtime.com