Tibetan Mastiff vs German Shepherd: How Are They Different?

As we all know, the Tibetan Mastiff and the popular German Shepherd mainly function as guard dogs for most families. Despite this striking similarity, a plethora of differences is obvious when comparing both breeds.

So, how different are these strong canines? Well, they vary mainly in appearance, size, temperament, energy level, and grooming needs. Other more unique features are present and you’ll discover them one by one once you experience having either of them!

Learn which one of them has certain traits that are closer to your liking, so you can arrive at a well-thought-out decision.  

Breed Origins

Tibetan Mastiff

Photo from: sanna_sander (IG)

Fame is reaching an unprecedented height for the Tibetan Mastiff these days. However, for us to learn the whole image of how he became the dog we know of today, unraveling his history would be the first step. Unfortunately, not a lot of records can be found regarding this breed until 1800. In spite of that, it is suggested by DNA evidence that he descended from Mastiff dogs who were present in Tibet, India, Nepal, and the Himalayas to name a few.

Having a flock is a common thing before and it is the primary duty of this dog to ensure that not one animal in the herd gets hurt or preyed on by wild beasts that roam around. Aside from this dog being seen in the fields, he also functioned as a guardian together with a Lhasa Apso who would alert him to stay on guard to guarantee the safety of the Tibetan Monks. 

This dog reached various places including Europe and America. It suffered badly during world wars, but the dedication to increasing its numbers saved the breed from being gone in England. 

German Shepherd

Considered to be a relatively new breed, the German Shepherd, as with the name, comes from Germany. Captain Max von Stephanitz was the key figure to the success of its existence. 

Many centuries before, people have already widely used dogs as helpers in their fields. However, Stephanitz has noticed that none were developed into a distinct breed. Since he was already retired from the military, he moved on by experimenting with dog breeding until he finally attained the creation of the best herding dog- the German Shepherd which is now known as one of the most exceptional breeds!

Although the dog was primarily for herding, the decline in its demand prompted Stephanitz to suggest to his military connections that the German Shepherd can be a great aid as a rescuer, messenger, and Red Cross dog. For so long, he has proven how intelligent and excellent he is which is why he is the number one choice for thousands of families in the US.

Size, Appearance, & Coloring

Tibetan Mastiff

The noble appearance and attractive colors of the Tibetan Mastiff are enough to stop passersby from walking. Anyone who’d be able to see a dog like this in person will instantly fall in love with him as he’s undeniably a majestic and good-looking dog. 

Let’s point out his prominent “lion” mane that is dense, thick, and bushy. It makes his head appear larger and his overall appearance resembles the king of the jungle. His whole image consists of two dropped ears, a set of striking brown eyes, an eminent well-angled jaw, four sturdy legs with cat paws, a well-proportioned body, and lastly, a curvy feathery tail.

The coat comes in a variety making it a challenge to choose which color you should go for if you want a Tibetan Mastiff. Check out some of his natural shades below:

  • Black
  • Black & tan
  • Sable
  • Cream
  • Red gold
  • Brown
  • Cream sable

German Shepherd

Photo from: dinoidas (IG)

The German Shepherds’ height is about 22-26 inches and can be 50-90 pounds in weight. Categorically, he is a medium-to-large dog. Fame does wonders as he’s now among those who are easily recognizable. He proudly exhibits his alert and erect ears and long, pointy snout that is darker in shade. He has inquisitive eyes which match well his intelligence level. The streamline of his body slopes down on the rear since his forelegs are long and straight and the hindlegs are angular. 

On his back is a shade of black called a “saddle” and this comes with a variety of coat colors like:

  • Black & cream
  • Black & red
  • Black & tan
  • Black & silver
  • Liber
  • Grey
  • Blue 


Tibetan Mastiff

For dog lovers who love a challenge, the Tibetan Mastiff will give it to you abundantly. After all, he’s a stubborn and independent dog. He decides and acts on his own, but training him to obey commands while he’s still young will make things easier for you plus that he’s also a people-pleaser type.

He’s a loyal and protective guardian who prefers to sleep during the day and stay awake at night. He doesn’t like to compromise on situations where he’d think might jeopardize his family’s safety. He is great with other dogs and people as long as he’s properly socialized and the introduction was done appropriately and not rushed. 

German Shepherd

Although the German Shepherd is naturally protective, he’s not instantly aggressive at all. He is aloof toward strangers, very reserved, and observant. It won’t be easy getting along with this dog, but once his walls are down, he’ll show extreme loyalty and love. He is highly approachable to his family, but if someone dares harm any of his family members, he’ll jump in and deal with the stranger. 

Taking note that he’s extremely intelligent, teaching him things to do is easy-peasy. Let him have some work to do regularly since this makes him feel happier and fulfilled. On the other side, if he’s bored, undesirable behaviors may show. Socialization and other kinds of training are still imperative despite his non-aggressive behavior. 

Exercise Needs

Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is an indoor dog who would constantly need access to a large and fenced yard. He doesn’t have high levels of energy, so a walk in the park or letting him play would be enough. If you want him to play with another pooch, going for a breed that is close to his size is ideal. You can allocate an hour for his sweating off and this has to be divided into two sessions.

If it’s scorching hot outside, give him access to shade and a bowl full of refreshing water. 

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is a very active breed. He’d need at least 2 hours of daily exercise to keep him physically and mentally stimulated. For laid-back dog lovers, the German Shepherd might not be for you. It would require a commitment to always indulge him in activities not just to keep him fit and healthy, but as well as to make use of his intelligence. This is why you see many service German Shepherds dogs. 

Grooming Requirements

Tibetan Mastiff

The double-coat of the Tibetan Mastiff is composed of long coarse guard hair and a dense, wooly, and soft undercoat. This dog sheds very little. Once a year, he’ll blow off all his coat so prepare to brush and wash him more often. Other than that, a weekly brush is enough to keep his coat clean and tangle-free. Give more attention to areas where his hair is thicker and bushier.

Grooming should also include dental and nail care. Ears must be free from infection or parasites.

German Shepherd

Some people joke that the breed should’ve been called the German Shedder. This is because he sheds all year round! To cope with this, brush him as often as needed. Baths shouldn’t be done too often as this will affect the health of his coat and skin. Do so only when it’s necessary. Use high-quality grooming tools to ensure his hygiene.

Health Problems 

Tibetan Mastiff

Health problems don’t usually appear until the Tibetan Mastiff reaches adulthood. It’s best to be aware of what commonly affects this breed either for prevention or early diagnosis and treatment. Here are some of his health problems:

  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • Panosteitis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is typically healthy. Sadly, he’s still susceptible to diseases that can affect his daily performance. The ones common to this breed are:

  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Bloat
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Allergies 

Breed Popularity

The American Kennel Club’s breed popularity ranking currently puts the following dog breeds in their respective orders out of 200 dog breeds:

Tibetan Mastiff: 131st

German Shepherd: 2nd

Which Dog Breed Should I Choose?

Determine what kind of lifestyle you have first. The Tibetan Mastiff would need a spacious place while the average German Shepherd would need lots of activities and exercise drills. There is a huge difference regarding temperament and their other needs, especially in coat maintenance. Whichever of the two breeds you can accommodate would be the better dog to consider bringing to your home.