Tibetan Mastiff vs Caucasian Shepherd: What’s the Difference?

Both the Tibetan Mastiff and the Caucasian Shepherd are ancient breeds with histories that go back thousands of years. The former got his start in the Himalayas, although his exact origins are lost to time. The latter also resided in rugged terrain, with his homeland in the Caucasus Mountains of Turkey and the surrounding area.

These dogs have a commanding presence, if just because of their size. It was a point in their favor, given the like roles. They also have similar personalities. However, there are some significant differences between the two. Which breed is right for you? Let’s do a deep dive to help you make an informed choice.

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Visual Differences

Tibetan Mastiff vs Caucasian Shepherd
Image credit | Left: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock; Right: DragoNika, Shutterstock

A Quick Overview

Tibetan Mastiff
  • Average Height (Adult): 24–26 inches
  • Average Weight (Adult): 70–150 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–12 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours/day
  • Grooming Needs: Moderate
  • Family-Friendly: Yes
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes
  • Trainability: Independent, sometimes challenging
Caucasian Shepherd
  • Average Height (Adult): 23-30 inches
  • Average Weight (Adult): 99-170 pounds
  • Lifespan: 11-12 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours/day
  • Grooming Needs: Moderate
  • Family-Friendly: Somewhat reserved
  • Dog-Friendly: Only with early socialization
  • Trainability:  Independent, sometimes challenging

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Tibetan Mastiff Overview

Tibetan Mastiff
Image Credit: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

The Tibetan Mastiff resembles a cross between a Saint Bernard and a Mastiff, with a Chow Chow thrown in the mix, too. While he is a giant breed, the Caucasian Shepherd has a slight edge on weight. This pup has a thick, double coat. It makes sense, given his probable origins. His main jobs were guarding livestock and their owners. Records of an early ancestor go back to 1100 BC in China.

This pup faced some formidable enemies, including snow leopards. However, much of his history is unknown, given the harsh environment and remote country. Westerners didn’t learn about the existence of these dogs until well into the mid 20th century. However, he’s held onto his hardworking attitude. He is a pooch that likes having a job, even if it’s just playing catch.

Personality

Like many herding and guardian dogs, the Tibetan Mastiff has an independent streak that comes from being alone in the field. He isn’t a shy animal, but he is often reserved. As a watchdog, he is protective and even sometimes territorial. This pup is also wary of new people, which is a common trait of dogs related to the Spitz breeds.

The Tibetan Mastiff takes his job of protecting the home seriously. He is a loyal pet and will forge strong bonds with the family members. This pup isn’t the most affectionate companion, but you’ll know that you’re in safe hands with this pooch in your home. Surprisingly, he dislikes conflict in his world. He is a sensitive dog that prefers the company of his family.

Another trait worth noting is the Tibetan Mastiff’s tolerance of children, especially if they grow up together. The same thing applies to other pets in the home. However, the key to success is always early socialization, especially when it comes to meeting new people.

Mountain Mastiff tibetan
Image credit: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

Training

The Tibetan Mastiff is quite intelligent. It was something he needed to stay alert for threats to the livestock in his charge. However, he’s also a willful dog. That’s one reason why it’s imperative to start training early. This pup does best with positive reinforcement. Stern reprimands are not appropriate for a pet as sensitive as this one.

We suggest using treats as training aids to kickstart your pup’s lessons. However, it’s essential to keep them just for this purpose. Unfortunately, the Tibetan Mastiff has a tendency to gain weight. The other point to remember is consistency. It’s standard advice when you’re dealing with a dog as intelligent as this guy. He needs guidance and a good reason to obey you.

Health and Care

Like many large breeds, the Tibetan Mastiff is susceptible to joint and skeletal conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Therefore, it’s imperative to only buy from reputable sellers who undergo the recommended pre-breeding health screenings. The rarity of the breed is a point in this pup’s favor since it’ll lessen the risk of overbreeding.

This pup is also prone to some eye disorders and hypothyroidism. Otherwise, the Tibetan Mastiff is a relatively healthy breed. We strongly urge you to check his eyes and ears as part of your grooming routine for signs of infections or irritation. Regular grooming is also a part of your pet’s health care. It’s also another way to bond with your dog.

Suitable For:

Individuals or families who have the time and energy to devote to their Tibetan Mastiff. He has a moderate prey drive and will generally stay close to home. However, early training is vital to prevent him from developing a bad habit like nipping. It’s also critical to provide mental stimulation for your pet, especially one as big as this guy.


Caucasian Shepherd Overview

Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Image Credit: DragoNika, Shutterstock

The Caucasian Shepherd looks similar to the Tibetan Mastiff with a kinder, gentler-appearing face. He even seems like he has some Great Pyrenees in him. Like the previous dog, this pup also worked as a guardian for livestock and all-around watchdog. Enthusiasts selectively breed him to develop into the muscular and athletic dog that he is.

The Caucasian Shepherd’s history includes work with the army, both the Armenian Tsar Tigran in ancient times and the USSR as late as the 1920s. His background has given this pup the confidence and fearless nature that he has today. He’s a laidback pet that isn’t as energetic as some herding dogs. However, he does have a strong prey drive, probably a result of the breed’s early life.

Personality

The Caucasian Shepherd shares many of the same qualities as the Tibetan Mastiff. He is a loyal pet that will defend his family and territory to the hilt. His size gives him the brawn to back up any challenge. He isn’t overly sensitive and is moderately tolerant of being alone—as long as it doesn’t happen frequently. He develops strong bonds with his human companion but is wary of strangers.

The Caucasian Shepherd is happiest when he’s getting regular exercise outdoors. This pup is independent, which is a common trait among dogs of his type. He is also always on guard. Unfortunately, he sometimes becomes vocal because of it. It’s a bad habit you’ll have to control early and gently. He is quite intelligent and occasionally bold. Both are products of his guardian/watchdog past.

Training

We strongly urge you to take the lead on training right from the start, given the size of the adult Caucasian Shepherd. Again, positive reinforcement is the best plan of action to gain his trust and get the results that you want. Consistency is essential when dealing with a smart like this guy. He sometimes makes training a challenge because of his stubborn streak. Treats will work wonders.

Regular exercise is vital for the physical and mental health of the Caucasian Shepherd. He needs new activities and things to do to stay engaged. Remember that a bored pooch is a destructive one. With a dog this size, that could spell disaster. His territorial nature is another thing you must watch. We suggest that you teach your children to respect your pet’s space.

Caucasian Shepherd
Image credit: Aleksandra Saveljeva, Shutterstock

Health and Care

The Caucasian Shepherd is a relatively healthy breed, thanks in part to his rarity. He is susceptible to the skeletal and joint issues of other large dogs, including degenerative myelopathy. Therefore, it’s vital to only purchase puppies from reputable sellers who conduct the recommended tests as advised by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). We recommend requesting this info before buying a pup.

Another concern with the Caucasian Shepherd is obesity. While he’s somewhat active, monitoring his diet is an excellent way to ensure that he stays fit and trim. Regular grooming is also essential. You should plan on brushing him a couple of times a week to prevent mats in his thick coat. Check his eyes and ears frequently for signs of infection.

Suitable For:

Like all large dogs, the Caucasian Shepherd will do best in a home where someone can spend the necessary time on training to make him an obedient pet. While he’s intelligent, this pup isn’t the best choice for the first-time dog owner. His independence and size require someone with experience in handling animals like this guy. Mental stimulation is imperative to keep him mentally healthy.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

The one thing that both the Tibetan Mastiff and Caucasian Shepherd have in common is their large size. A male of either breed can tip the scales at over 100 pounds. Interestingly, the two sexes are markedly different in stature. That’s not unusual for guardians and watchdogs as both of these pups were historically. It’s essential to bear that factor in mind, considering obedience training.

Puppies of either breed are expensive, with prices starting at least $2,000. You’ll likely pay more for a pup with a respectable pedigree. The American Kennel Club recognized the Tibetan Mastiff in 2006 as part of the Working Group. The Caucasian Shepherd has yet to gain that status. This dog remains in the Foundation Stock Service ranks on the path to certification.

The Tibetan Mastiff is the more active of the two breeds. He also has a more playful nature. Both dogs will make excellent and loyal watchdogs with the proper training. While the Caucasian Shepherd is the less sensitive pet, a positive approach works best with either one. In return, you’ll get the reward of having a pup that will always be there for you, no matter what the threat.