Tibetan Mastiff?: a combination of strength and endurance

Dignified, loyal and bear-like, a Tibetan Mastiff is a dog who is smart and energetic, ready to protect you with all his might. ATibetan Mastiff is a noble and impressive dog with a solemn but kindly appearance. Their look is alert and watchful. Their gait is powerful, steady and balanced, yet at the same time light-footed. It is indeed a pleasure to the eyes to watch a Tibetan Mastiff pass-by. A Tibetan Mastiff is a very intelligent breed and are capable of doing simple things like undoing latch, undoing locks, getting things out and putting them back, etc.

“I have a beautiful female Tibetan Mastiff who has amazing capabilities. She sneaks into the kitchen and if no one is around, she even opens the fridge and drinks/eats whatever is inside it. But she makes sure that no one is watching her in her act,” proudly tells Himmat Singh Sekhon of Saras Tibetan Mastiffs, a well-known breeder in Punjab.

Susie Ochsenbein, ABR, Rose & Womble of USA admires the strength and power of a Tibetan Mastiff while Sekhon feels that a Tibetan Mastiff is one of the most adaptable and hardy breed as they can tolerate extreme temperatures of heat as well as cold.

General appearance

They are large, powerful, heavy built with big outstanding head and heavy bones. Their body is slightly longer than tall. They have a long coarse coat. What sets them apart is their large, strong, well-muscled body with a large outstanding head and powerful muzzle. Their bear-like head is wedge-shaped and they have very expressive, medium-sized brown eyes which are deep set, well-apart and almond shaped. The nose is large and generally black. The v-shaped, thick-leathered ears hang down. The hair on the head is short. Their well-feathered tail curls over the back.

They are found in varied colours like black (with or without tan), grey (with or without tan) and golden & sable (a gold variation which basically means having golden tips). The average height for females is 24” while that for males is 26”. According to Susie, there are no weight standards for them. “A male that might weigh 50 kg at 1 year might weigh 60 at 6 years,” she added. They have a life span of 12 –15 years.

But they are slower to mature, both physically and emotionally. Most common breeds physically mature by 1.5-2 years of age but Tibetan Mastiff females mature after 3-4 years and male matures after 5-6 years to form adult characteristics.

Temperament

They are aloof and one of the most independent natured breed. “They are too intelligent to accept orders but if the Tibetan Mastiff wants to do something, he does it at his own free will,” tells Sekhon. They are very good with family and children, if they are properly introduced from puppyhood. They are strong-willed and determined, but with a desire to please. It needs a lot of patience to keep this breed. They don’t go for walks or play with toys. They love to become family members, especially your bodyguard. When you will come home, they will greet you and when you go away, they just watch. As per Susie, although they need interaction, but at the same time, they are very independent. “So someone who wants a dog to chase a ball or play a Frisbee, a Tibetan Mastiff will not do that,” warns Susie. Besides, they love to play with each other.

They are extremely protective about their family and property and make wonderful guardian dogs. They are ideal for people who have huge premises and want to keep strangers away. When it’s quiet at night, they are mostly watchful.

This breed can truly bark for twelve hours. Besides, if they don’t like something, they keep their distance. “I enjoy the fact that they are so smart and entertaining,” tells Susie.

Tibetan Mastiff pup

A puppy keeps on recording everything that is going around in the house, so since young everything that you do has to be kept correct. They learn things very quickly, just like a naughty child. “If he pulls his leash when he is young, it is very cute but it might encourage him to have a dominant behaviour when he grows,” tells Susie. “A lot of puppy’s behaviour is developed by nature and nurture. If they have a very protective mother, and they are with her for more then 10-12 weeks, then they take on the similar characteristics of the mother. Hence, take the puppy out and socialise him to a group of people, so that he becomes accustomed to people. Early socialisation is a must as after they are 8-10-months-old, their guarding characteristics are strong,” adds Susie. Sekhon tells that a Tibetan Mastiff puppy requires balanced diet for optimum growth as the breed is large. “The puppy requires proper introduction to family members from the very beginning and should not be left alone,” he adds.

Upkeep

According to Sekhon, they are one of the easiest breeds to keep as they are very clean and have almost no odour. However, they are not suitable for living in small apartments. They need a lot of activity and since they are an athletic breed, they need a lot of free exercise and free enclosures where they can run freely. They are happiest when there are with other dogs and have lots of activity. They get bored very easily. They also enjoy socialising with other animals like cats, parrots, ferrets, etc. They also love children but should be socialised with them. Sekhon however feels that they should be handled with firmness as they can be very stubborn at times due to the independent nature of the breed. “It is also important to mention that they have only one breeding cycle a year,” adds Susie.

Grooming

Their coat has a under coat, which is soft and fluffy and tends to pick up dirt. “It does not matte or tangle much but the dog coat grows through which is very coarse and hard,” tells Susie. Their coat is weather proof and adapts to the climate where they are staying. They blow there undercoat what we call as “coat blowing”, once a year, usually in spring. But they don’t shed otherwise. “If you just take a large comb or blow dry them, the whole coat comes out at the same time. It’s like blowing cotton everywhere,” tells Susie. They are very easy to clean and are very clean dogs. The coat is very easy to keep since it is coarse. So just wet a towel and wipe would keep his coat clean of dust.

Health

“Large breed dogs always suffer from hip dysplasia, but we don’t have it with them since ordinarily they have a strong structure. Basically, this is a breed with very little health problem apart from checking their weight,” tells Susie.

(Inputs from Susie Ochsenbein, ABR, Rose & Womble of USA (vahousehunter@aol.com) and Himmat Singh Sekhon of Saras Tibetan Mastiffs (Ph: 9356125115, www. sarastmdokhyi.org).)

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