Training the rarest of the rare- a Tibetan Mastiff

Last week in Australia the media was full of the story of a Tibetan Mastiff puppy that sold for the incredible figure of over $100 k US. In one of those strange six degrees of separation moments, the next day  I was booked to train a six month old Tibetan Mastiff show puppy now living locally. As I live in a small country area of only 20,000 people in NSW Australia, I was amazed that two of the rarest of the rare breeds of  Australian dogs reside locally. The new owners have just embarked on a show career with these two beautiful but unique dogs. There is only a handful of Tibetan Mastiff breeders Australia wide and luckily for me the only NSW breeder lives in my area. To say I am excited about this wonderful opportunity is an understatement.

As a positive reward based trainer and animal communicator I train dogs as individuals, based on what the dog in front of me is telling me via its body language and behaviour (Read about my training philosophy). Pedigree dogs have many years of selective breeding history which usually results in strong breed specific personalities that I can use to get a head start on the information I may be presented with. Having never seen or trained a TM the place to start this training process was an Internet search aimed at  understanding the history of this ancient breed. and the history of the dogs owned by Jangbu Kennels

Tibetan Mastiffs are an ancient Tibetan breed that many consider to be the forerunner of modern mastiff breeds that have been recorded for many centuries, even as far back as the 13th century by Marco Polo. They are a giant breed dog weighing from 90-150 pounds (40-68 kg) originally bred in the Himalayan foothills as a strong working flock guard where the isolation and need for this dog ensured they have remained relatively unchanged. Inherently protective they are also used as a guardian for homes and monasteries. They appear to be gentle giants, naturally reclusive with strangers, mischievous, intelligent, strong willed and independent.

Kathryn Hay of Shanti Soul Tibetan Mastiffs Tasmania Australia summarized the breed in this way,

The Tibetan Mastiff, belonging to the Molosser group of dogs was introduced to the western world in the 19th century and western breeding began in the 1970s. TMs are now owned and loved across the world. The person who respects the breeds’ independence and sense of self will suit the TM character and from there mutual respect and admiration will grow and a very strong bond will endure.


To some people, meeting a TM for the first time can be quite an intimidating experience possibly because of their majestic appearance and air of aloofness. However on further acquaintance they will discover a delightful dog that is sweet natured, affectionate, playful, mischievous, curious and very gentle to both people and other animals.

TMs are very serious about guarding and will bark loudly should someone walk by while they are on duty at the front gate. They may also bark at strangers and sometimes even visitors until they are shown, through the actions of their owner, (with whom they have a solid bond) that there is no threat with which to contend.


Their intelligence is what actually makes any ‘training’ more difficult! I remember that we were the top of the class in our obedience group but after a few weeks, when the other breeds had finally come to realize what was being asked of them and started to rejoice in knowing and doing what their beloved parents wanted from them, our TM was bored, had already learnt that and didn’t see why he had to do it three times in a row!!

You see they know EXACTLY what you want from them, but they don’t necessarily agree that it’s needed. Many other breeds do things by rote learning and not ever questioning. Get prepared to ‘debate’ with your new TM puppy!!! 6

Kathryn Hay’s summary matches the picture I have in my head of a TM following my research. Many years ago I owned a Chow Chow, another of the Asian guarding breeds. With a very similar temperament to what is described for the TM’s Chi was not an easy dog to train or understand, that is until I recognised that positive reward based training was the way to interact with aloof, intelligent, independent guarding breeds.

Sedna Chi Chi – my beautiful Chow Chow

Tomorrow I start the training sessions with this rare breed. I have the video camera set up, my mind open to what I may see as the personality of this dog and a range of rewards that hopefully this dog will also agree is rewarding to her. Watch this space for my blog next week and see how we progress as I report on what did and did not work when it came to training this unusual breed for the show ring.

Hopefully this client will also see the pet care magic that Louise, the Pet Care Magician from Elite Pet Care & Education has become renowned for.



Posted on March 26, 2011, in Dog Training, Training and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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