The Breed History
These massive quintessential guardians originated in Tibet, and were traditional guards of home and monastery. Though used for livestock defense, they are territory guardians first and foremost. Some consider these dogs to have been the original Mastiff-type dog which was exported to develop other versions of the mastiff in Europe and the various mountain dogs. The first Mastiff is thought to have arrived in England around 1847, with a pair arriving around1874. The year 1931 marked the first recognition of the breed in the UK kennel club. In the early 1970s, breeding stock was introduced to the US. Because of the nomadic life style of the Tibetans, regional variations in type occurred, so variation in conformation and size is a hallmark of the native stock. The AKC accepted the breed as its 155th in 2006. DNA analysis suggests that the breed is more ancient than other domestic dog breeds, diverging from the grey wolf lineage approximately 58,000 years ago.
Breeding for Function
The Himalayas are a harsh mountainous region, with extremes of temperature and terrain. These hardy strong dogs were bred exclusively for guardian function and to withstand the rigors of their environment.
Height at Withers: males 26-30in." (66-76cm), females 24-28 in. (61-71 cm)
Weight: males 100-165 lbs. (45-72.5 kg) females 75-120 lbs. (34-54.5 kg)
Coat: Haircoat is thick, double, with wooly undercoat and stiff outer hairs that are not curly. Feathering is present on the tail and breeches. Colors accepted include black, black and tan, chocolate brown, gray or dilutes. White markings OK in specified locations. Longevity: Lifespan is long for a giant breed (10+ years).
Points of Conformation: Only slightly longer than tall this is an extremely agile dog, powerful and impressive for its' size and substance. The massive broad skull has a prominent massive occipital protuberance, typical of a heavily boned animal. The muzzle is broad and square, and the well muscled neck is embellished by a mane. The head is held high. The stop is prominent. A curved tail is carried high over the dorsum, and is not longer than the hock when measured. Moderate flews are acceptable, and the facial skin may be somewhat wrinkled in the mature animal. Wide set almond shaped eyes are pigmented brown, and not prominent. Ears are triangular, covered with short hair, with thick leather, and hanging to the head when resting, but high set and carried high when active. A scissor or level bite is acceptable. Some dewlap may be present. Straight level back, and thorax deep and broad but not barrel. The abdomen is tucked up. The dog has low set hocks, and tight large strong compact feet. A TM may single track during motion. Single dewclaws are present on the forefeet, single or double may be present on the hind feet. Rear dewclaw removal is optional.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Loyal to family and home, these dogs are generally aloof with strangers. Dogs of this breed need plenty of exercise and some people contact. They are too intelligent to be left alone and can be very destructive if bored and lonely. Lots of room in the home to accommodate their large stature, and plenty of room outdoors to run are essential. Can night bark. Instinct for protection of home is strong. Socialize with children early. High intelligence and strong independence makes them a tougher dog to train than some. Some refer to them as having a strong stubborn streak. Early socialization and plenty of training is essential. Crate training is important so the dog learns to be alone and comfortable in a safe "den". Highly territorial, these dogs will defend vigorously. May be quite dominant with other dogs, and must be supervised when introduced to new people or animals to prevent possible mishaps. They are capable climbers, so a high sturdy fence is necessary. Not for off leash, these independent dogs may not come when called. A dog may not allow visitors into a home without introduction so caution is needed if children come to play. Can be destructive, especially when young; with their strong jaws, they can chew extensively. Needs daily brushing while blowing their coat using a rake, otherwise a weekly slicker brush is usually adequate. Moderate exercise requirements-are less active indoors, more active outdoors.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Females have a once yearly estrus, usually in fall. They shed once a year in the spring (4-8 weeks).
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 14.2% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 11.9% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Tibetan Mastiffs have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Autosomal recessive progressive degeneration of the retina leading to blindness. There is no test for carriers.
Hypertrophic Neuropathy (Canine Inherited Demyelinative Neuropathy (CIDN)): An autosomal recessive neurological disorder causing generalized weakness with hyporeflexia between 6-10 weeks of age. Most affected dogs die by nine months, although some that do not develop limb contractures can became clinically stable for long periods. There is no test for carriers.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis is reported in the breed. 10.2% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Osteochondrosis Dessicans (OCD) of the Shoulder: Inherited cartilage defect of the shoulder joint, causes lameness in young growing dogs. More prevalent in males. Mild cases may heal on own with rest. Severe cases require surgery. Reported on the Tibetan Mastiff Club of America website.
Panosteitis: A self-limiting disease involving the diaphyseal and metaphyseal areas of the tubular long bones, characterized by medullary fibrosis and both endosteal and subperiosteal new bone deposition. Affected dogs show intermittent lameness. Reported on the Tibetan Mastiff Club of America website.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. Unknown mode of inheritance. Reported on the Tibetan Mastiff Club of America website.
Cataracts: Cataracts are reported in the breed. Location and age of onset are not reported. Undetermined mode of inheritance. Do not breed a Tibetan Mastiff with a cataract.
Ocular Disorders: Too few Tibetan Mastiffs have been DERF examined to determine accurate frequencies for inherited ocular disorders.
Demodicosis and Factor VIII Deficiency are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for coat color are available from VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests are; CERF eye examination, hip radiographs, and thyroid profile, including autoantibodies. Optional recommended test is elbow radiographs. (See CHIC website: caninehealthinfo.org)
Recommend patella evaluation and cardiac examination. Miscellaneous
- Breed name synonyms: Do-Khyi, for the smaller herding type, the name Tsang-Khyi is used for the most massive type. TM.
- Registries: UKC, AKC, CKC, FCI, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 128 (210 registered)
- Internet resources: American Tibetan Mastiff Association: tibetanmastiff.org
Canadian Tibetan Mastiff Society: canadatms.org
Tibetan Mastiff Club of Great Britian: tmcgb.net
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