The Tibetan Mastiff is considered a primitive breed. It typically retains the hardiness which would be required for it to survive in Tibet and the high-altitude Himalayan range, including the northern part of Nepal, and Bhutan.
Instinctive behaviors including canine pack behavior contributed to the survival of the breed in harsh environments. It is one of the few primitive dog breeds that retains a single estrus per year instead of two, even at much lower altitudes and in much more temperate climates than its native climate. This characteristic is also found in wild canids such as the wolf. Since its estrus usually takes place during late fall, most Tibetan Mastiff puppies are born between December and January
Its double coat is long, subject to climate, and found in a wide variety of colors, including solid black, black and tan, various shades of “red” (from pale gold to deep red) and bluish-gray (dilute black), often with white markings. Some breeders are now (2014) marketing “white” Tibetan Mastiffs. These dogs are actually very pale “gold” (like the Great Pyrenees), not truly white.
The coat of a Tibetan Mastiff lacks the unpleasant “big-dog” smell that affects many large breeds. The coat, whatever its length or color(s), should shed dirt and odors. Although the dogs shed somewhat throughout the year, there is generally one great “molt” in late winter or early spring and sometimes another, lesser molt in the late summer or early fall.
s a flock guardian dog in Tibet and in the West, it is capable of confronting predators the size of wolves and leopards, although it uses all the usual livestock guardian tactics (e.g., barking, scent-marking perimeters) to warn them away and avoid direct confrontations.
As a socialized, more domestic dog, it can thrive in a spacious, fenced yard with a canine companion, but it is generally not an appropriate dog for apartment living. The Western-bred dogs are generally more easy-going, although somewhat aloof with strangers coming to the home. Through hundreds of years of selective breeding for a protective flock and family guardian, the breed has been prized for being a nocturnal sentry, keeping would-be predators and intruders at bay, barking at sounds throughout the night. Leaving a Tibetan Mastiff outside all night with neighbors nearby is not recommended. They often sleep during the day to be more active, alert and aware at night. They are excellent family dogs—for the right family. Owners must understand canine psychology and be willing and able to assume the primary leadership position.
The breed has fewer genetic health problems than many breeds, however hipdysplasia can occur, skin problems including allergies, autoimmune problems like demodex, Addison’s disease and Cushing’s disease. Cataract and small ear canals with a tendency for infection are also known.