Photo by © 2-Dog-Farm

Tibetan Mastiff - Breed Profile:

Origin: Tibet
Colors: Black, brown, and blue/grey, shades of gold; with or without tan markings
Size: Extra large
Type of Owner: Experienced
Exercise: Moderate
Grooming: Regular
Trainability: Somewhat difficult to train
Combativeness: Tends to be dog-aggressive
Dominance: Very high
Noise: Likes to bark

Physical characteristics

The Tibetan Mastiff is an extra large dog with a broad, massive head, powerful build and heavy boning. The body is slightly longer than tall. The topline is straight and level. The large skull has a strongly defined occiput. The stop is deep and distinct. The square muzzle is wide and blunt. The teeth should meet in a level or scissor bite. The upper lip is loose and usually covers the lower lip. The medium size ears hang down; they are V-shaped and thick-leathered, set high on the head. The almond shaped eyes are somewhat sunk; they are slightly slanted and very expressive. The colour can be any shade of brown. The plumed tail curls over the back like in Spitz dogs. The gait is powerful, steady and balanced. The dog's overall look is noble and impressive.
Tibetan Mastiffs weigh 140 to 180 pounds. Their height is 22 to 28 inches.


Very protective, territorial, brave and fearless. Aloof, dignified, and noble. Tends to be strong-willed and determined, but has a desire to please. The owners should be firm, confident, calm and consistent pack leaders, otherwise this highly intelligent dog will take initiative and try to rule the household in its own way. This can result in a lot of behaviour problems. The Tibetan Mastiff must be thoroughly socialized at an early age and trained; this is the only way for the dog to become the great family guard and companion this breed can be. Well-balanced Tibetan Mastiffs are patient, loyal, gentle, and obedient. Introducing to other animals should be supervised. The dog can do well with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood.
Tibetan Mastiffs enjoy climbing and digging. They may also try to escape from their enclosure. A six foot fence (with an undiggable surface below) is the minimum requirement for safe confinement of a Tibetan Mastiff. Don't forget to take the dog indoor at night as it was was bred to be a nocturnal barker. In the house, the dog is rather quiet. The Tibetan Mastiff requires daily walks, but should not be over-exercised as too much physical load can be hard for the joints.

Coat and grooming

The medium length coat is very heavy and dense, especially in males. It consists of thick, coarse guard hair and woolly, soft undercoat. The outer hair is hard, straight and stand-offish; never silky, curly or wavy. The head is covered with short hair while there is a distinct ruff around the neck. The tail is heavily feathered. In summer months the coat becomes rather sparse. Once a year shedding lasts about a month in spring or summer. Weekly brushing is necessary throughout the year, while daily brushing is recommended in shedding periods.
7,5 month old Tibetan Mastiff puppy. Photo by mastino0100.

The Tibetan Mastiff is usually black, sometimes with gold or tan markings, though the breed may also come in chocolate, blue and tan, sable, gold, cream, or red (all with or without tan markings). Some individuals also have white markings.


This breed is prone to hip dysplasia, skin conditions, thyroid problems, ear infections and a genetic problem called Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy (CIDN). Dogs affected by CIDN die before 4 months of age. Unfortunately, there are no tests to detect the disease, and the carriers can only be identified with age. The first symptoms usually appear at 7-10 weeks.
The lifespan is stinkingly long for a dog of this size - 15 years and more.

Other interesting facts

The origin of the Tibetan Mastiff is somewhat murky. The earliest written accounts place a large dog around 1100 BC in China. The breed was isolated in the Himalayan mountains, where it developed into the Tibetan Mastiff we know today. This breed, though highly valued as a guard in its homeland, does not have a history of close association with people.