Tibetan Spaniel: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Tibetan spaniel lying on grass

Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

The Tibetan spaniel is a small non-sporting dog breed from Tibet with a medium-length, silky, flat double coat that features longer fur, referred to as a “lion’s mane,” around the dog's neck. Its head is domed, and its muzzle is short. Plus, its large, expressive eyes and fluffy tail that curls over its back help to give it character. This breed is generally a very devoted companion that doesn’t like being left alone. It also can make for an excellent little watchdog.

Breed Overview

Group: Non-Sporting

Height: 10 inches

Weight: 9 to 15 pounds

Coat: Medium-length double coat

Coat Color: Black, black and tan, cream, gold, red, sable, white, or silver sable with/without white markings and/or parti-color

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Temperament: Friendly, playful, affectionate

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Tibet

Characteristics of the Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan spaniel generally has a bright and social temperament. It loves to be around its family, though it can be reserved around strangers. A somewhat independent and stubborn streak also is usually a part of the breed’s personality, but it still takes fairly well to training. 

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan spaniel is an ancient dog breed. Early versions of the breed are depicted on Eastern artwork dating back all the way to 1100 BC. Buddhist monks in Tibet kept these dogs in their monasteries as both companions and watchdogs. The vigilant Tibetan spaniel would alert its larger cousin, the Tibetan mastiff, of potential dangers to check out.

The monks greatly valued these dogs and even called them “little lions” or “lion dogs,” an honor given that lions were considered sacred. They also offered Tibetan spaniels as prized gifts to royalty. 

The Tibetan spaniel made its way to the Western world in the late 1800s. The Tibetan Spaniel Club of America formed in 1971. And the American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1983.

Tibetan Spaniel Care

Tibetan spaniels don’t need a great deal of exercise each day. Their coat requires regular grooming to keep it tidy. These protective little dogs should receive consistent training and socialization starting at a young age.


Plan on at least an hour per day of exercise for a Tibetan spaniel. That can include morning and evening dog walks plus playtime in between. Puzzle toys can provide mental stimulation for your dog. The Tibetan spaniel may also enjoy dog sports, such as agility, for mental and physical challenges. 


The Tibetan spaniel’s coat does not need trimming unless there are areas of fur you want to tidy up. Brush the coat at least a couple times per week to remove loose fur and prevent tangles and mats. Pay special attention to the fur behind the ears and the longer feathering, as it’s prone to matting. Expect periods of higher shedding, often when the weather changes, during which you’ll have to brush more frequently to keep up with the loose fur.

Give your dog a bath roughly every month, and check its ears at least weekly to see whether they need cleaning. Also, check its nails monthly to see whether they’re due for a trim. Aim to brush its teeth every day with a canine toothpaste.


The Tibetan spaniel is smart, but it can be stubborn about training at times. It’s important to start training from a young age to prevent bad habits from forming. Always use positive-reinforcement methods, such as treats and praise, as the breed can be sensitive to harsh corrections. And keep training sessions varied and fun to hold your dog’s attention. 

You might have to work extra on training your dog to be comfortable when you leave it alone. Tibetan spaniels are prone to separation anxiety and are best in a household where someone is home for most of the day. A professional dog trainer or behaviorist can give you tips on how to combat separation anxiety.

Furthermore, start socializing your Tibetan spaniel from puppyhood. This breed’s protective instinct can cause it to be wary of strangers, which in turn can trigger alert barking. But allowing your dog to have lots of positive interactions with strangers can go a long way to boost its comfort and confidence. 

Tibetan spaniel headshot on white background
GlobalP / Getty Images 
Tibetan spaniel puppy lying down against white background
MirasWonderland / Getty Images 
Tibetan spaniel doing an agility course
mb-fotos / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

Tibetan spaniels generally are healthy dogs, but they are prone to some hereditary health issues, including: 

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your Tibetan spaniel. Feed it a quality, nutritionally balanced dog food, typically via two measured meals per day. You might want to select food that’s specially made for small breeds. But be sure to discuss both the type of diet and the amount with your vet. Also, be mindful of treats and other extra food. These perky little dogs can be good at begging, but it’s important not to overfeed them to prevent excess weight gain.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan spaniel isn’t an extremely popular dog breed. But it is still possible to find at animal shelters and rescue groups. You just might have to wait some time, so try to get your name on a breed wait list if possible. Responsible breeders also can be hard to come by, depending on where you live. Plan to spend around $800 to $4,000 on average for a puppy from a reputable breeder.

For further information to help you find a Tibetan spaniel, check out:

Tibetan Spaniel Overview

  • Exceptionally devoted to its family

  • Affectionate and playful

  • Doesn’t require a lot of exercise

  • Some alert barking

  • Often doesn’t do well when left alone

  • Might be timid if not well socialized

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any dog breed, do thorough research before bringing home a Tibetan spaniel to make sure it’s right for your lifestyle. Talk to Tibetan spaniel owners, responsible breeders, rescue groups, and veterinary professionals. Spend some time with Tibetan spaniels, too, if possible. 

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are Tibetan spaniels good family dogs?

    Tibetan spaniels are generally good with children. They are best for a household that has respectful older children. Young kids might be too rough for this small dog.

  • Are Tibetan spaniels aggressive?

    Tibetan spaniels have a protective nature and can be wary of strangers. But as long as they have proper socialization and training, that typically does not turn to aggression.

  • Are Tibetan spaniels good apartment dogs?

    Tibetan spaniels can do well with apartment living, as long as they get outside for enough exercise each day. However, their alert barking might disturb neighbors, so they should be trained to know a "quiet" command.

Article Sources
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  1. Tibetan Spaniel. American Kennel Club.

  2. Tibetan Spaniel Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet