AKC Dog Breeds: Tibetan Mastiff

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Working Group
Height:25-28 inches   Weight: 140-170 pounds  
black and tan, golden brown, plain black, or grey with or without tan markings

An impressively large dog with noble bearing, the Tibetan Mastiff is an aloof and watchful guardian breed. They possess a solemn but kind expression, with an immense double coat it can be black, brown and blue/grey, with or without tan markings, and various shades of gold. Although seen in shows in the United States today, they may not enjoy participating in organized activities such as obedience or agility due to their highly independent natures. The origins of the Tibetan Mastiff are somewhat murky, but earliest written accounts place a large dog around 1100 BC in China. The breed remained isolated in the Himalayan mountains, where it developed into the Tibetan Mastiff we know today. Primarily a family and property guardian, the breed was traditionally kept confined during the day, then let loose at night. They were left behind to guard the tents and families when the flocks were moved to higher pasture. The Tibetan Mastiff was introduced in England in the mid-1800s, when one was sent to Queen Victoria. One hundred years later two of these dogs were sent to President Eisenhower. The breed was registered with the AKC in 2005.

General Appearance

The Tibetan Mastiff is a powerful dog with a sturdy bone structure. It is a very large dog with a broad, massive head and a heavy, dense, medium-length coat. The bear-like head is wedged-shaped with a wide, blunt muzzle. The upper lip usually covers the lower lip. The nose is large and generally black. The teeth form a scissors or level bite. The v-shaped, thick-leathered ears hang down. Mature dogs, particularly males, tend to have moderate dewlap. The body is slightly longer than tall and the legs are heavy-boned and powerful. Marco Polo described it as "tall as a donkey with a voice as powerful as that of a lion." The muzzle is lighter than that of the English Mastiff, with an extremely strong jaw. Rear dewclaws should be removed, but front dewclaw removal is optional. The coat forms a heavy ruff around the neck. The hair on the head is short. The plumed tail curls over the back in Spitz fashion. The Tibetan Mastiff is usually black, sometimes with gold or tan markings, though he may also come in chocolate, blue & tan, sable, gold, cream, or red, with or without tan markings. Some also have white markings.


Fearless and protective, yet patient and gentle, the Tibetan Mastiff is a dog that makes a fine family pet for those with the confidence and experience to handle him. Best suited to more experienced dog owners, the Tibetan Mastiff is a loyal, devoted, and reliable creature. He definitely has a mind of his own, and is alert, confident, and self-reliant. He is also highly intelligent and very quick to learn. These dogs are fierce family protectors, whilst remaining patient and docile with their loved ones. The Tibetan Mastiff needs an owner that has the confidence and assertiveness to handle him properly, with consistent and positive training. Early training and socialization is recommended with the Tibetan Mastiff to promote stability in his temperament. The Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog and does need a fair amount of exercise to keep fit and healthy, although he is not an overly active dog. He is and agile climber and jumper, and this means that he will need a safe, secure - and large - area in which to play and exercise when not on a leash. They can be keen on the sound of their own voices too, not to mention being dedicated diggers in some cases. The Tibetan Mastiff can be very cautious around strangers until he has determined who can be trusted and who cannot. They can be good with other pets, but again early socialization is important, particularly with outside pets. He is a little on the large side for very small children, but does get along well with gentle, older kids.


The Tibetan Mastiff has very little dog odor, but does blow his undercoat once a year making grooming a chore. Regular brushing should be performed during this stage. Weekly brushing otherwise should be sufficient.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
For a large/giant sized dog, the Tibetan Mastiff has a relatively long life expectancy of 10-14 years. There are a number of health issues to look out for with this breed, and this includes thyroid problems, HD, heart problems, eye disorders, allergies, autoimmune problems, and sensitivity to chemicals and drugs.

Activity Level

Tibetan Mastiffs should always have regular exercise, but it should be regulated as too much can cause problems with the joints due to his size. Regular walks should be sufficient, but he should have at least a medium sized yard.


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