The Tibetan Mastiff has several characteristics which are unique in the dog world. This is still a primitive breed, as marked by the fact that the Tibetan Mastiff bitch has a single estrus per year, which normally occurs during the fall months. Tibetan Mastiffs mature slowly, with females reaching fill maturity between three and four years, and males between four to five years of age.
The Tibetan Mastiff keeps its double coat all year, with little shedding until spring/summer (depending on climate). Whelping bitches may "blow" their coats twice a year. Shedding normally lasts about eight weeks. Tibetan Mastiffs retain the longer guard hairs until fall when the undercoat again begins to grow. During shedding, a Tibetan Mastiff requires regular brushing.
The Tibetan Mastiff, being a large dog, does require enough room to romp and exercise properly. While they are an active dog out-of-doors, they are usually fairly quiet when in the house. Because of centuries of being bred for guarding flocks and homesteads, the Tibetan Mastiff does tend to be a "night barker," and this may be a consideration depending on where you live, and whether or not your Tibetan Mastiff will sleep outdoors or indoors at night.
This is a highly intelligent breed which has the ability to adapt to a variety of functions, but it is a breed which has been making its own decisions for thousands of years. The Tibetan Mastiff by nature is a guardian dog, and is used in livestock-predator control by some. Their natural instinctive ability makes them an excellent home protector. They are patient with children, when children and puppy are taught to be considerate of each other.
They are truly a beautiful sight to behold in the show ring, and can be taught obedience. One should never compare them to the more easily trainable breeds, because they are intelligent and independent. They are aloof and capable of making good judgments.
Personality and Temperament
In 1985 the American Tibetan Mastiff Association conducted an informal survey of Club members and Tibetan Mastiff fanciers regarding Tibetan Mastiff personality and temperament. The results of the survey are summarized below for your information.
[It is important to note that the survey is not considered a definitive personality and temperament survey. Owners of fewer than 10% of the Tibetan Mastiffs registered in the United States responded.]
• Tibetan Mastiffs are fast learners. However, they are strong-willed and sometimes extremely stubborn. Tibetan Mastiffs are not recommended for formal obedience competition, although they are quite capable of learning obedience.
• Tibetan Mastiffs are territorial and are natural guardian dogs. Some Tibetan Mastiffs are more protective about guarding and watch dog work than others. The breed can be highly territorial though it is usually confined to his property, auto and other normal boundaries. Once off territory, they are usually non-territorial.
• Tibetan Mastiffs often displays dominance over unfamiliar dogs to which they are introduced. They get along well with other animals and guests when properly introduced. They should be carefully introduced and supervised with new animals, adults and children. They may also be aggressive with dogs of the same sex.
• Tibetan Mastiffs are good family members. When Tibetan Mastiffs are raised with children or exposed to them frequently, they do very well.
• Tibetan Mastiffs are clean dogs and are easy to housebreak.
• Tibetan Mastiffs tend to be more active in the evenings and early morning hours. They are relatively inactive while indoors, and moderate to active outdoors.
• Tibetan Mastiffs are not excessive barkers during the day. However, most people with close neighbors bring their "night barkers" in at night.
• Some Tibetan Mastiffs are noted to roam neighborhoods and surrounding areas if they are not kept in a fenced yard or kennel run. Some dogs can be very athletic, and have been known to climb high chainlink fences to escape.
• A growing number of Tibetan Mastiffs have been formally obedience trained and successfully show in obedience competition.
Tibetan Mastiffs have the following unique traits:
1. Females have a single estrus
2. Tibetan Mastiffs are not always willing to please their owners.
3. Tibetan Mastiffs can be extremely determined to get their own way.
4. Tibetan Mastiffs are very cat-like in their behavior.
5. Before buying a Tibetan Mastiff, you should consider that a Tibetan Mastiff needs a large fenced yard, may be very vocal at night, requires socialization with other animals and people, and may act very stubbornly.
It should be stressed that the Tibetan Mastiff is a strong willed breed, and proper socialization with people and other animals, and training, is necessary for dog and owner to enjoy their life together to the fullest.
Okay, so you've decided you want to purchase, or have just acquired, a TM puppy or an older TM, and you've read up on the breed and you've followed the directions of the breeder, providing a fine quality food, and lots of toys and chewies, and a lovely dog bed big enough for a king, and you've got an excellent veterinarian. So far so good.
What is the single thing you can do now to give your dog and yourself the best and happiest life possible? The simple answer is to socialize your dog like mad--and by socialize I do not mean that you need to buy a ball gown or Tuxedo for your puppy, and take him or her to parties (although that has been done) or that s/he will be be indoctrinated in voting left of center. No, what I am referring to is the enjoyable process of getting to know your dog and having him/her get to know you and your world, by taking pup about with you, and especially by training your dog.
The first and most important part of the process of socialization, therefore, is also the most natural and fun--take your dog about with you, as soon as his/her shots have made it safe. Take him or her to every possible venue you can safely imagine-parks, errands, on drives in the car, on walks around the neighborhood and in other neighborhoods, to the groomer's if you have decided to have professional grooming be a part of your life, to class if you are attending school and it is permissable, and to work if it is safe, permissible, and practical.
Equip your car for a dog who will need to be confined every so often, as you run into a store for a few things. The dog must be kept safe and contained, and the car must also be protected from puppy mess. If you have a van, you might equip it with a crate--which is the safest way to travel with a large dog (You will probably want a crate at home, too, and to begin crate training very early, also.)
Crate training is the opposite side of the coin from socialization, in some ways. It is getting your pup used to spending time alone--quietly, safely, securely, and non-destructively, when his/her presence is not wanted or when s/he needs to be confined for other reasons. It is also, however, one of the most useful aids for facilitating socialization, since it can be used for training purposes, too.
After your pup has become accustomed to going about on leash with you, you will surely want to look into training as quickly as possible. Pre-training classes for very young puppies exist in most communities, and information about them can be acquired; through the local dog clubs, the local vets or the local pet supply shops.
Do not, under any circumstances give up on an older, untrained TM, either. I know of one particular kennel dog whose training began at two, when she was finally properly placed, and she eventually went on to acquire an advanced level of obedience in the local classes. It was tough at first, but it was well worth the effort. Here's why: A beautiful, and beautifully behaved dog is a great delight to have around, a tremendous advertisement for the breed, and can even be something of a magnet for desirable potential mates [Please believe me, I know what I'm talking about.]
A badly behaved dog, like a badly behaved person, is a total nuisance for everyone to have around, and usually therefore doesn't get to share much of it's person's life (a tragedy, from the dog's standpoint) and reflects very negatively on the breed and on you, and it might even possibly lead to more serious consequences. Landlords who permit dogs, welcome nice ones. They bill for damages if the dogs do damage, and they evict people whose dogs are a safety, health, or aesthetic problem, to take one example.
So if your motivation to get a Tibetan Mastiff extends to doing the very best by yourself, your dog, your friends and family, and your community, you will train and socialize your dog from the moment you are able to do so, at every possible opportunity. The more interesting and new situations you expose the dog to when young, the more at ease your dog will be with ordinary situations and unusual ones, when he or she is older.
Be certain to be supportive when your dog or pup shows fear of something. A bag blowing in the breeze may look very strange and terrible to a young puppy. I always follow the practice of not making the dog approach the thing at first. I use a long leash for early walks, and walk to the thing myself, while the puppy cowers at the other end of the leash. I touch whatever it is and say that it is "okay" and that there is nothing dangerous. I speak in soft and reassuring tones. Gradually, the puppy will approach the thing, very fearfully, and take a tentative sniff. Usually he or she will jump back several times, and return several times, getting bolder and bolder each time. I "cheerlead" the pup, "yes, yes, very good, you are a brave little puppy, it's not so terrible is it?"
The object is to expose the pup to new experiences, to support the pup in exploring them. so he or she is not terrified, and to help the pup to become a happy, well adjusted and self confident animal. Your training classes will also help you and your dog develop "tools" that will enable you keep puppy from approaching things that would be dangerous to him or her. Your dog should learn the commands, "NO!" Leave it!" "Wait!" and "Sit!" very quickly, and all of these may be used to prevent actions that would create problems for you and your pup.
It's a good idea to vary your daily walks with your new TM, if possible. TMs quickly "take possession" of everything that they commonly inhabit or visit. Their vigilant nature makes them want to explore every environment very quickly, secure it so that it is safe for themselves and their people, and prevent any other animal from encroaching.
In practice, this might mean that your dog will resent or threaten another dog encountered on a particular street, or any dog who wants to enter your home or whose home he or she regularly visits. With some TMs, this extends to people, too.
Since it is undesirable for your dog to threaten other dogs or people on the street, it is best to take the dog on varying routes as often as possible, early in life, so the dog gets the idea that other people and dogs live all over the place, and that not every place is his or hers. This will also help to reinforce the dog in understanding which areas really do belong to him/her and his/her family. The dog will eventually guard these areas, and for many people that is one of the desireable reasons to own a Tibetan Mastiff. If you do not wish to own a dog with a strong sense of responsibility for protecting the family s/he lives with and their property, perhaps it would be better to acquire a different breed.
Greet people on the street, allow them to approach your dog respectfully and pat him/her, if they ask, and appear reasonable. Encourage your dog to enjoy meeting and greeting admiring people. There are likely to be throngs of them, if your dog is well behaved. Nothing fascinates people more than a beautiful Tibetan Mastiff, with its' tail jauntily bouncing in the breeze, walking proudly with its' person.
By all means expose your dog to children very early. The love of Tibetan Mastiffs for children is legendary and apparently, bred in the bone. This is obviously not true of every dog with every child, but it is a general rule. Watch the children very carefully, to see that they approach in a non-threatening fashion, and that the dog isn't becoming uncomfortable. Your dog will "tell" you by his/her body postures, gestures, and vocalizations. But you will quickly develop a sense for which situations are positive and which are likely to lead to trouble.
Obviously, never, ever, allow your dog to be treated disrespectfully or abusively by anyone--no matter how young or how innocent. Stop the action immediately and impose yourself between the dog and the person, if necessary. The last thing you want is an "incident',"especially in the current emotional and legal climate.
And never tie your dog outside and leave him/her out of sight, even for a moment. It's an invitation for other dogs to bother your dog, for other people to do things you might not permit--including feeding things that are not safe for the dog, and even for people to steal your dog. Dogs that are tied habitually, may become defensive and even menacing, on the theory that "offense is a good defense." It's not worth the risk.
You have to exercise judgement about socialization. It's important not to "wish" your dog on situations in which he or she would not be welcome, so do be certain to find out whether your dog is welcome in a shop or restaurant that you wish to take him or her to visit.
We have checked, and locally there are several restaurants with patios, in our region, which welcome well behaved dogs. They will even make a little grilled chicken for them, and provide clean water, and my dogs attract a great deal of friendly interest when they are sitting politely, taking tidbits from my fingers.
I always call in advance to find out if another dog is likely to be there, in which case I leave them home, and I also exercise caution about bringing the dogs during very popular times. Why put the restaurant owner in an awkward position? I take them when there will be people to meet, but not crowds, and when other animals are less likely to be about.
I also call shopping centers and ask if they are "dog friendly" or not before I visit. My local mall welcomes dogs so seriously that it supplies biscuits and clean up bags at various places, and they are considered acceptable in most of the cafes and all the stores. Obviously, you are responsible for your dog. If you take your dog into a store, and he or she destroys any merchandise, you've bought it. And if he or she "does something" you are responsible to clean it up. Those are "the rules."
Tibetan Mastiffs adore their people, although they tend not to be "sloppy" about it. There is nothing more that they desire in life, than to be with those they love. The more you are able to bring your dogs with you on your activities and errands, the more your dog will be comfortable and well adjusted in new situations. And the more you train and socialize your dog, the more easy and pleasureable it will be for you to become trusted and affectionate companions in the joys and experiences and of a shared life.
Here's to your enjoyment and fun, on the great adventure you are about to begin together!