Tibetan Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Standing profile of a Tibetan Terrier Dog

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The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-sized Tibetan dog breed in the non-sporting group with long fur, floppy ears, facial hair, and a curled tail over its back. This ancient breed was once revered in its native Tibet and thought to bring good luck to its owners. Tibetan Terriers were raised as companions for Buddhist monks, and they also made excellent guard dogs for the nomadic high-plateau herdsmen. Nowadays, with their affectionate and laid-back personalities, these dogs are popular as family pets.

Breed Overview

Group: Non-Sporting

Height: 14 to 17 inches

Weight: 18 to 30 pounds (most commonly 20 to 24 pounds)

Coat: Soft, woolly undercoat; Dense, long, fine topcoat

Coat Color: Solid or any combinations of black, white, gold, brindle, and sable

Life Span: 12 to 16 years

Temperament: Affectionate, even-tempered, playful, loyal

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Origin: Tibet

Characteristics of the Tibetan Terrier

The Tibetan Terrier is known for having a gentle, loving, and companionable personality that thrives with human company. These dogs make excellent family pets, providing the children are respectful and gentle. They also generally get along well with other dogs and can live peacefully with cats (if introductions are done carefully).

Because they rely on company and affection, this breed is best suited to a household where someone will be around most of the day. Tibetan Terriers typically have a calm temperament inside the home, but they're also happy to play and exercise with their family when opportunities are presented. Barking is a common trait in this breed, so owners should be prepared for a vocal dog and consider special training techniques if it becomes excessive.

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

History of the Tibetan Terrier

The Tibetan Terrier's name is a bit misleading, as this breed isn't actually a Terrier at all. These dogs were given this name because of their size when they were introduced to Western countries. They do not have traditional terrier personality traits.

In their native Tibet, they're referred to as the Tsang Apso, which refers to the dogs' shaggy appearance. This thick coat helped to keep them warm in the cold, mountainous weather conditions of their origin.

The Tibetan Terrier's history is long, and it's believed that this breed was first introduced as far back as 2000 years ago in the remote Himalayan monasteries of Tibet. Buddhist monks kept them as companions, watchdogs, and as good luck charms. This also earned them the nickname 'Holy Dogs of Tibet' thanks to their owners.

This breed was never sold in ancient Tibet, but rather gifted to preserve luck. They were frequently owned by the nomadic herdsmen that traveled across the country's harsh, high plains. Tibetan Terriers also helped protect the herd and kept guard outside the tents at night.

The breed was first introduced to a wider audience when an English Doctor, Agnes R. H. Greig, was gifted a puppy by the grateful husband of a patient she treated. Once she was able to acquire another dog, she started a European breeding program in the 1920s. The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom recognized the breed in 1937.

Tibetan Terriers were first imported to the United States in the 1950s, and they gained official recognition by the AKC in 1973. The gentle and loving nature of these dogs has helped their continued popularity. Tibetan Terriers have also contributed to the development of other popular dog breeds like the Shih Tzu and the Lhasa Apso.

Performer Kit Hesketh Harvey, wife Katie, baby daughter Augusta and their two Tibetan Terriers having lunch at home

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The Dalai Lama and his Tibetan Terrier dog

Bonnie Brock

Tibetan Terrier Care

Tibetan Terriers have average exercise requirements, but they need plenty of time with their families to thrive. Thankfully, training is relatively simple for these intelligent dogs. Grooming can be high-maintenance, so owners should be prepared to keep up with their dog's long, tangle-prone coat.


While they still require a decent amount of daily exercise and won't be averse to joining their owner on an adventurous hike, Tibetan Terriers aren't a high-energy dog breed. They won't need excessive amounts of exercise to stay stimulated and free from boredom, which makes them popular dogs for apartment living and owners without active lifestyles.

A few short walks each day (about 15 minutes each) should suffice to keep this breed healthy. While owners for this breed can be generally low-energy, it's important that they be home often to prevent their dog from developing separation anxiety.


Prospective owners need to be prepared for an intensive grooming schedule with a Tibetan Terrier. If you don't keep this dog's hair trimmed short, it can easily become tangled. These tangles can quickly develop into thick, uncomfortable mats, which will require professional help to remove.

Daily brushing is necessary to keep the Tibetan Terrier's coat in good condition. Detangling sprays are a great option to help the brush or comb move through your dog's coat freely and without pain when removing tangles.


The Tibetan Terrier's history as a watchdog means that alert barking can sometimes be an issue. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to discourage excessive barking if the habit grows.

This breed's intelligence and desire for attention make positive reinforcement training especially effective. Provide your dog with treats, toys, and affection as rewards for desired behavior during puppyhood. Basic obedience training can begin for Tibetan Terrier puppies as young as seven weeks old.

Four Tibetan Terrier puppies
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Tibetan Terrier being shown in the ring
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Tibetan Terrier going over a jump
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Common Health Problems

Although they're known for their longevity, Tibetan Terriers, like most breeds, can be prone to certain genetic health problems. To increase your dog's chances of living a healthy life, only adopt from reputable breeders that perform health tests on prospective parent dogs.

Some common conditions for Tibetan Terriers include:

  • Eye Problems: Common conditions for this breed include Cataracts, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), and Primary Lens Luxation (PLL).
  • Hip Dysplasia: This condition affects your dog's hip joints, causing abnormal development as they age. Severe cases may require surgery.
  • Hypothyroidism: Also known as underactive thyroid, this condition affects your dog's ability to produce important hormones and can lead to a variety of other health problems.
  • Luxating Patella: Affecting the knee joints, a luxating patella causes your dog's knee to pop in and out of place. Corrective surgery can improve quality of life.

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your Tibetan Terrier high-quality dog food twice per day. It's also important to limit treats and be mindful of portion sizes to prevent excessive weight gain, as canine obesity can lead to other health problems in the future.

Talk with your veterinarian to determine a healthy diet and portion schedule for your specific dog based on its age, weight, and activity level. The best food for your Tibetan Terrier will vary throughout its life, as age-specific diets can provide the proper nutrients for various stages of life.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Tibetan Terrier

While purebred Tibetan Terriers may be difficult to find in local rescues, check with shelters in your region to find similar breeds in need of forever homes. The process of rescuing a dog can be incredibly rewarding, and many dogs like Tibetan Terriers could be waiting to come home with you.

If you have your heart set on a Tibetan Terrier puppy, it's essential to research options in your area to find a responsible breeder. This will increase the chances of your puppy being happy, well-adjusted, and healthy. Ensure the breeder allows you to see the conditions their dogs are kept in, along with readily providing the medical history for the litter's parents. Puppies from breeders can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500, though prices can vary based on pedigree and availability.

To start your search, check with resources like the national breed club, rescues, and the AKC:

Tibetan Terrier Overview

  • Affectionate and gentle

  • Well suited for apartment living

  • Gets along with respectful children and other pets

  • High-maintenance grooming requirements

  • Prone to alert barking

  • Needs owners who are home often to prevent separation anxiety

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you want to learn more about similar breeds to the Tibetan Terrier, check out:

There are plenty of wonderful dog breeds out there to bring home. With a little research, you can find the perfect fit to join your family!

  • Is a Tibetan Terrier a Good Family Dog?

    Tibetan Terriers make great family dogs thanks to their calm temperament and easily trainable nature. Owners of this breed should be home often, and children in the house should be respectful of the dog's space.

  • Are Tibetan Terriers Affectionate?

    Tibetan Terriers are very loving dogs that bond closely with their owners. They're typically happy to be close to their families, but it's important to socialize this breed when it first comes home to ensure it does well with strangers and other animals.

  • Is a Tibetan Terrier Hypoallergenic?

    The Tibetan Terrier is considered a hypoallergenic dog breed, although no dog is truly hypoallergenic. These dogs have very low-shedding coats that do not produce much dander, which makes them a good breed choice for owners with mild to moderate allergies.