Tibetan Wolfhound

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Tibetan Wolfhound
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Mixing the large, bear-like Tibetan Mastiff with one of the tallest modern dogs, the Irish Wolfhound, has created a giant designer dog called the Tibetan Wolfhound. These large crossbreeds can be hard work as they require an extensive amount of training and are not always friendly with new people. They can get along well with family members when properly socialised and trained.

A colossal beast weighing upwards of 70kg with a muscular physique, this dog is undeniably imposing. Their fur type can vary but their coat is typically quite dense and wiry and comes in a number of shades of grey and brown. Sadly, health issues are often magnified the larger a dog, meaning Tibetan Wolfhound breeders need to be particularly cautious to avoid creating an unhealthy population.

About & History

The Tibetan Wolfhound is an exceedingly rare hybrid that is likely to have been created during the 21st century. With only a few breed members in existence, they are very slowly carving their way into the history books.

The Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is an ancient breed that is thought to have descended directly from wolves. Many historians agree it is one of the earliest Molosser type dogs and a number of today’s breeds are related to this large, Tibetan dog. Traditionally, the Tibetan Mastiff was used in a variety of roles throughout the Himalayan region, including as a guard dog for people and their properties, as well as a pastoral dog that protected the local flocks.

This breed was introduced to the UK by King George the Fourth, who presented them to the public in the zoo! They are currently recognised by the Kennel Club within their Working Group.

The Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is a tall, grey sighthound that features heavily in Irish folklore. As with the Tibetan mastiff, this dog is believed to be one of the most ancient breeds remaining, spanning back several thousand years. Originally it came in two coat variants but today only the rough-coated variety remains. The Wolfhound would offer protection to its owners from large predators, such as wolves; an animal that they would eventually hunt to extinction within Ireland.

During the Irish famine in the 19th century, the Irish Wolfhound itself almost became extinct and it was necessary for them to be outbred with dogs, such as the Borzoi, the Scottish Deerhound, and even the Tibetan Mastiff, in order to prevent them from disappearing completely. They belong to the Kennel Club’s Hound Group and are much-loved as pets for their gentle and calm demeanour.


A rather unusual looking dog, the giant Tibetan Wolfhound is not as lean and lanky as the Irish Wolfhound nor as broad and well-muscled as the Tibetan Wolfhound. It sits somewhere in between these two extremes with a good deal of individual variation within the breed. Their head is not as colossal as that of the Tibetan Wolfhound and they lack their loose jowls. They have a rectangular muzzle with a well-defined stop and brown, intelligent eyes that are well-spaced.

Their pendulous, triangular ears hang closely to their cheeks. Their broad neck may have a thick ruff of fur and leads to a very deep chest and well-sprung ribs. Their limbs are long and straight, contributing to their impressive stature, as well as their athletic prowess. They have a long tail, which is usually more densely furred than their body and may or may not curl over their back.

One of the most impressive features of this newly developed breed is their sheer size. Weighing between 70kg and 80kg and standing at heights from 65cm to 75cm, this giant dog is one of the largest designer dogs that has been developed. The coat of the Tibetan Wolfhound is medium in length and wiry. Coat colours include grey, brown, black, red and fawn and many will have varying shades of the same colour within their dense coat.

Character & Temperament

With a personality to match its size, the Tibetan Wolfhound can be a lot to handle. They quickly and unquestioningly devote themselves to their family and become especially protective of the youngest children. However, they cannot typically be trusted with members of the general public and are very untrusting of strangers. These traits make them good guard dogs as, of course, does their striking appearance.

When these dogs are not socialised adequately at the right age they can become problematic adults and aggression may be an issue towards both humans and other dogs. Even the most trustworthy of Tibetan Wolfhound require constant supervision when around others due to its strength and size.


Training of the Tibetan Wolfhound needs to start from the moment they come home as puppies and to continue throughout the duration of their lives. They require a firm and unbending trainer that does not pander to them and is consistent in their methods. Novice trainers typically find this dog’s stubborn personality a step too far.

A dog that likes to roam and hunt and one that does not always have stellar recall, it is usually advised for the Tibetan Wolfhound to be kept on a lead when outside. Due to this, having a well-fenced garden is a real perk and gives them the opportunity to walk and run off-lead to their heart’s content.


Suffering from a number of health issues, the Tibetan Wolfhound may incur hefty vet bills during its life and it is a sensible idea to have them insured from a young age.

Hip Dysplasia

Over time, hip dysplasia leads to local arthritis and muscle wastage. While dogs can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications, the disease is inevitably progressive. Poorly formed hips can limit mobility so severely that affected animals may eventually be put to sleep on welfare grounds. Surgical interventions do exist with a total hip replacement offering a good chance of recovery in some.

Elbow Dysplasia

The condition ‘elbow dysplasia’ refers to a group of orthopaedic issues that occur within the elbow and have a genetic component. As they often do not show up well on an x-ray, any Tibetan Wolfhound with persistent forelimb lameness should be referred for more thorough imaging, such as a CT scan.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

OCD tends to affect the larger breeds and can occur in several joints, including the elbow and shoulders. Some small lesions may potentially heal over time with rest and conservative management, but larger lesions usually require arthroscopy to remove the cartilage.


Deep chested dogs are at a higher risk of developing bloat, whereby the stomach inflates with gas and liquid. The substantial pressure created eventually leads to shock and organ failure if left untreated. The first signs of bloat include restlessness, panting and a visibly enlarged abdomen. Owners should not delay in seeking treatment as, within hours, this devastating condition can prove fatal.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

A heart disease in which the heart walls weaken and stretch, the enlarged heart is less able to pump blood around the body efficiently and an animal subsequently develops heart failure.

Affected dogs will become easily out of breath and will pant and cough regularly. Chest x-rays, ECGs and echocardiograms may all be used to help confirm the diagnosis. While there is no cure, certain medications can help to relieve symptoms and prolong life.


A reduction in the amount of circulating thyroid hormone can have drastic effects on the body and cause weight gain, sluggishness and a propensity towards developing chronic infections. A blood test can confirm the diagnosis and dogs will be managed with daily thyroid replacement.


A malignant cancer of the bone, osteosarcomas tend to grow quickly and aggressively, causing a great deal of localised pain. Their dramatic appearance on an x-ray has been described as a ‘sunburst’ affect. While it may seem dramatic, amputation of the affected limb is often advised to help alleviate the associated pain. As this cancer rapidly spreads, most dogs will have cancer in other regions at the time of their diagnosis.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Though large, the Tibetan Wolfhound has moderate exercise requirements and should be quite content with a couple of 30-minute walks each day. They do, however, require a good deal of space and prefer to have access to their own back garden.


It’s important that such a large dog willingly accepts being groomed, so owners should get them used to fur trims and claw clips from a young age. Brushing their coat every day or two will help to keep it in good condition and prevent matting.

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