Tibetan Terrier: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Black and White Tibetan Terrier

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The Tibetan Terrier is an ancient breed that was once revered in their native Tibet and thought to bring good luck to their owners. They were raised as companions for the Buddhist monks and were excellent guard dogs for the nomadic high-plateau herdsmen. Nowadays, with their affectionate and laid back personalities, they make popular 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 and woolly undercoat and a dense, long and fine topcoat

Coat Color: Wide range of colors, single colors and mixed patterns are common

Life Expectancy: 14 to 16 years

Characteristics of the Tibetan Terrier

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

Their name is a bit misleading, as this breed isn't actually a Terrier at all. Tibetan Terriers were given this name when they were introduced to Western countries on account of their size. They don't have traditional terrier traits.

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

Their history is a long one, and it's believed they were first introduced as far back as 2000 years ago, in the remote Himalayan monasteries of Tibet.

The Buddhist monks kept them as companions, watchdogs and as good luck charms. This also earned them the title of the 'Holy Dogs of Tibet'.

The breed was never sold in ancient Tibet, but rather gifted to preserve luck. They were also frequently owned by the nomadic herdsmen that traveled across the harsh high plains on the country. The dogs helped to protect the herd and would sit outside the tents at night keeping guard.

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 had treated. Once she was able to acquire another dog, she started a breeding programme back in Europe in the 1920s.

The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom recognized the breed in 1937, and they were first imported to the United States in the 1950s. Tibetan Terriers weren't, however, recognized by the AKC until 1973.

The gentle and loving nature of the Tibetan Terrier has meant they have continued to grow in popularity, and they have contributed to the development of other popular breeds like the Shih Tzu and the Lhasa Apso.

Tibetan Terrier Care

The Tibetan Terrier is known for generally being a gentle, loving and companionable breed that thrives on human company.

They make excellent family pets, providing the children are respectful and gentle. They also generally get along well with other dogs and can live peaceably with cats, if introductions are done carefully.

Because they enjoy company and affection so much, this breed is best suited to a household where someone will be around most of the day.

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 super high energy. They won't need excessive amounts of exercise to keep them stimulated and free from boredom. This also makes them an appealing choice for apartment living.

Their history as a watchdog means alert barking can sometimes be an issue. You should be mindful of this and be prepared to work on some training if this habit grows.

Their intelligence and desire for attention mean that Tibetan Terriers respond incredibly well to positive reinforcement training methods using food rewards, toys and affection.

You'll need to be prepared for an intensive grooming schedule with a Tibetan Terrier. If you're not keeping their hair trimmed short, it can easily become tangled, and these can quickly develop into uncomfortable and difficult to remove mats.

Daily brushing will be required to keep the coat in good condition. You may even want to use a detangling spray to help the brush or comb move through the coat more freely.

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 minimize the chance of these developing, you should always look for a reputable breeder that performs health checks on prospective parents.

Some of the conditions they can be prone to include:

Eye Problems: These include Cataracts, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), and Lens Luxation.

Hip Dysplasia: This is when one or both of the hip joints form abnormally. The problem is a progressive one and, in severe cases, an operation may be needed to increase mobility and decrease the pain levels.

Hypothyroidism: This is when your dog has an underactive thyroid, and it slows their metabolism down. Symptoms can include weight gain, hair loss, lethargy, skin issues and even behavioral changes. While there's currently no cure, once diagnosed, it can be effectively managed with medication.

Luxating Patella: Caused by the knee cap slipping out of the groove, this problem can range in severity. In some cases, it may only happen occasionally and then pop back into place easily. In the most severe cases, it will remain permanently out of the groove and require corrective surgery to improve the dog's quality of life.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, you should feed your Tibetan Terrier a high-quality diet. Obesity is a major problem for dogs in the United States. Ensuring that you don't overfeed your dog, especially on unhealthy treats and table scraps, is key to maintaining a healthy weight, along with a good exercise regime.

Pros
  • Affectionate and gentle

  • Well suited to apartment living

  • Lives well with respectful children and other pets

Cons
  • High maintenance grooming regime

  • Can be prone to alert barking

  • Best suited to a home where someone is around most of the day

Where to Adopt or Buy a Tibetan Terrier

If you have your heart set on a Tibetan Terrier puppy, don't neglect to do your research to find a good breeder. This will increase the chances of you having a happy, well adjusted and healthy puppy. It also ensures you're not inadvertently supporting the cruel trade of puppy mills or backyard breeders.

A good place to start your search is through the Tibetan Terrier Club of America (TTCA).

If you want to offer a home to a deserving dog in need, why not consider adoption? The TTCA have a rescue committee or you could reach out to your local shelters.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you want to find out more about similar breeds to the Tibetan Terrier, here are a few other suggestions:

When considering which breed to offer a home to, do your research and look at their temperament and activity levels. Ask yourself honestly if you will be a good match. There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there, not just the Tibetan Terrier.