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the search for a dog
Tibetan mastiff in snow

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Working group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height – 26 to 29 inches
  • Weight – 70 to 150 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Medium-length, thick wooly undercoat with coarse guard hairs
  • Coat color – Black, black, brown, tan; red/gold, blue/gray, red/gold/sable, blue/gray/tan; and brown and tan. Each color can include minimal white markings on the chest, head, and paws.
  • Exercise needs – Moderate
  • Intelligence – High intelligence
  • Barking – Average
  • Life span – 10 to 12 years
  • Temperament – Supreme guardian dog, independent and devoted to their families
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – Tibet

Tibetan mastiff fun facts 

  • One of the largest breeds on earth
  • Believed by Tibetan Buddhists to possess the souls of monks and nuns
  • Origins in the freezing mountains of Tibet led to dense coats they “blow” once a year
Tibetan mastiff in the mountains

Tibetan mastiff temperament and characteristics 

This breed is not ideal for first-time dog owners thanks to their stubborn demeanor and imposing presence. Tibetan mastiffs are protective of their families and are usually laid-back at home. But they can quickly turn territorial when faced with strangers. Often weighing in at well over 100 pounds, these powerful protectors are prized as top-notch guardian dogs.

Common Tibetan mastiff health problems 

This large breed is generally healthy, but due to their size and other genetic health problems, they tend to have a higher probability of developing certain conditions. These include:

Costs of caring for a Tibetan mastiff

While Tibetan mastiffs are a generally hardy breed, always keep up with annual vet visits and preventative care. If your Tibetan mastiff puppy develops any health issues, the cost of caring for them can go up drastically, especially if they develop joint problems. Planning for emergencies by insuring your pet early on or creating a pet savings account can help in times of need.

History of the Tibetan mastiff

The full history of this ancient breed is unclear thanks to the isolation of Tibet and the lack of written records. What we do know is Tibetan mastiffs originate from the Himalayas where it’s believed they guarded the mountains in Tibet and China. Tibetan mastiffs were first introduced to the Western world in the mid-1800s when they came to England and entered into The Kennel Club registry. The breed ultimately arrived in the Americas around 100 years later. The American Tibetan Mastiff Association was established in 1974.

Tibetan mastiffs

Caring for your Tibetan mastiff

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming, but a Tibetan mastiff may require more than other types of dogs. Here are some of the basics of what you’ll need to know.

Exercise

The Tibetan mastiff thrives on moderate daily exercise, such as morning or evening walks around the property. Structured play, like fetch or obedience training, isn’t always preferred by this breed as they tend to conserve energy until they need it. They also require cooler temperatures because of their thick coats and large size, so it’s important not to work them hard outdoors in the heat or humidity.

Tibetan mastiff on leash

Grooming

This breed’s thick double coat has a heavy wool undercoat that requires surprisingly little brushing and grooming through most of the year. Brushing their coat out weekly to remove tangles or dirt is often all that’s needed — until they blow their coat once a year. During this time, using an undercoat rake can help speed up the shedding process.

Diet and nutrition

It’s important to feed your Tibetan mastiff a high-quality food formulated for large dog breeds. This breed doesn’t eat as much as you’d think (usually two to four cups per day) and they tend to be grazers. In other words, it’s not uncommon for them to skip a meal entirely as they only eat when truly hungry.

Training your Tibetan mastiff

Tibetan mastiffs may not respond well to traditional training, making them a challenge for new dog owners. They’re intelligent and learn things quickly but don’t feel the need to work on what they already know. Your pup may listen to you out of respect and trust, but if there’s hesitation, they’ve been known to follow instincts over training. It’s especially important to train with a firm hand in households with small children. Tibetan mastiffs are also notorious for their stubbornness, so they aren’t ideal for off-leash training.

Tibetan mastiff puppies

Breeds similar to the Tibetan mastiff

Not quite sure that a Tibetan mastiff is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Chow chow. Also known as a stubborn breed, chows chows can be a better choice for first-time dog owners.
  • Great Pyrenees. Generally more affectionate and patient than Tibetan mastiffs.
  • Central Asian shepherd. These large dogs can be known to be more vocal and more reserved than Tibetan mastiffs.

Frequently asked questions

How much does a Tibetan mastiff cost?

Tibetan mastiffs are extremely hard to find in the United States, but if you happen to find a reputable breeder, a puppy can range from around $1,500 to as much as $5,000.

Is the Tibetan mastiff the most powerful dog?

They are known to be one of the world’s oldest and most powerful dogs. They have a bite force equaling 550 pounds of pressure, and can also haul heavy loads.

Can you have a Tibetan mastiff as a pet?

This breed makes for better guard  dogs (in cool climates) than strictly indoor pets, but they can still thrive in a family environment so long as they have a large yard to roam and get exercise.

How big are Tibetan mastiffs?

This breed ranges from 70 to 150 pounds, depending on the sex, with females weighing less on average.