Tibetan Mastiff

Are These Dogs Worth a Million Dollar Price Tag?

Thinking about buying a Tibetan mastiff? You might have a bit of sticker shock. China’s king-sized dog has been getting a lot of attention lately due to a price tag that’s fit for a king himself.

Would you pay $2.5 million for a dog?

In the past few years, headlines have put a spotlight on several Tibetan mastiffs purchased individually for $2.5 million, $1.5 million and more than $625,000, respectfully.

One of those proud new owners gave “spoiled pooch” new meaning by escorting his new puppy home in a caravan of 30 limousines.

So, what is it about this larger-than-life dog that makes it such a hot ticket?

Tibetan mastiff

Owning one of the world’s most ancient dog breeds may be one reason the Tibetan mastiff is in high demand. The dog itself has become more of a status symbol amongst the elite than a lovable couch potato that greets you with slobbering kisses when you come home.

DNA studies have revealed that the Tibetan mastiff—which isn’t technically a “mastiff” by breed—genetically descended from the wolf more than 58,000 years ago, as compared to common dog breeds who trace back to wolves 42,000 years ago.

In part, because this particular breed traces back so far, its true roots have been difficult to determine. One theory, although disputed by some experts, is that the Tibetan dog is an ancestor of the Ancient Greek’s Molossus breed.

While the Molossus breed is now extinct, it is directly tied to modern breeds such as the St. Bernard, Great Pyrenees, Rottweiler, Great Dane, Newfoundland, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and Bernese Mountain Dog.

Like those large breed dogs, the Tibetan mastiff was mainly used as a guard dog, in this case for nomadic cultures in Central Asia. Its role was to protect herds, flocks, tents, villages, monasteries, and even palaces. It’s Mandarin nickname? “Big ferocious dog.”

Ferocious or not, the Tibetan mastiff became domesticated over time and gained popularity worldwide in 1980 when the breed began making appearances at dog shows and competitions.

On average, healthy Tibetan mastiffs weigh between 140 and 200 pounds, depending on gender. They can stand more than three feet tall.

There is some discrepancy about a Tibetan mastiff’s temperament, but many believe that with proper training this breed can become a good family pet.

Some owners have discovered that no amount of training can turn a Tibetan mastiff into an approachable pet, while others say training effectively socialized their dogs and that they have thrived in spacious environments. (Note to apartment dwellers: This king-sized dog may not be the best choice in your current situation.)

The Tibetan mastiff is a very intelligent breed with a strong-willed, stubborn nature, so obedience training is highly recommended in order to establish a good working relationship with the dog.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to have control over a dog that may weigh more than you.

Tibetan mastiff

On average, healthy Tibetan mastiffs weigh between 140 and 200 pounds, depending on gender. They can stand more than three feet tall.

The breed has a variety of coat colors, including solid black, black and tan, gold, blonde, chocolate and, in the rarest of shades: red or white.

Tibetan mastiff pups born in the same litter can have one of two “looks”: Lion head or tiger head. To give you an idea, one resembles an oversized chow while the other looks like a super-sized Bernese mountain dog.

The breed has a thick double coat which requires routine care in order to maintain good health.

While these may be common medical conditions, not all Tibetan mastiffs will necessarily develop any of those listed below. Today, reputable Tibetan mastiff breeders are working to reduce genetic problems through selective breeding.

  • Canine inherited demyelinative neuropathy (CIDN) is a rare inherited neural disease that appeared in one Tibetan mastiff bloodline in the early 1980s.
  • Cataracts: an opacity of the lens of the eye. May cause blindness if not treated surgically.
  • Demodectic mange, also called Demodex, is caused by a mite (Demodex canis) that is a normal resident of the skin. It is transmitted from the mother to puppies during suckling. Genetic factors and immunologic response play a role in the development of the disease. The disease is treatable in most cases and not considered contagious.
  • Entropion, inward curling of the lower eyelid or ectropion, rolling out of the eyelid, is fairly common in the breed. The condition should be corrected surgically to prevent damage to the cornea of the eye.
  • Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joints that causes arthritis, is especially crippling in large breeds of dogs, although most Tibetan breeders routinely screen their dogs using X-rays evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals in an effort to strengthen the dog's gene pool.
  • Hypothyroidism is a condition caused by low thyroid hormone production of the thyroid glands. Lack of this hormone causes weight gain, lethargy, poor hair coat, infertility and susceptibility to chronic infections.
  • Otitis (ear infections) refers to an inflammation of the ear canal, and can be caused by a foreign body in the ear canal, parasites, yeast or a bacterial infection. The Tibetan mastiff has very narrow convoluted ear canals, which can be difficult to clean. Cleaning your dog’s ears beginning at a young age will help train your dog to tolerate routine cleanings and help prevent infection.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset condition which gradual degeneration of the retina leading to blindness.
  • Skin allergies: The Tibetan mastiff’s dense, heavy undercoat predisposes them to external parasites and matted, dirty-hair coats that can cause scratching. Regular, vigorous brushing can help prevent this from occurring.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.