Height: 14-17 inches
Weight: 18-30 pounds
Life Span: 12-20 years
Coloring: Any color or color combination including white are acceptable.
Area of Origin: Tibet
Similar Breeds: Lhasa Apso, Lowchen, Pekingese, and Tibetan Spaniel.
History and Origin:
The Tibetan terrier was bred initially over 2,000 years ago in Tibet by the Lamaist monks primarily as a companion animal with the ability to occasionally assist with chores around the farm such as herding. The exact development of the breed has been lost to time and myth, however, these “Luck Bringer” dogs were never sold but given to those for services rendered.
The breed made its way out of Tibet and was exposed to the world in 1922 when a Dr. Greig received one for treatments given. She was intrigued by the breed and started to breed them for herself. She had originally registered them as Lhasa Terriers but in 1930 that name was changed to the Tibetan Terrier by the Kennel Club of India.
These dogs finally made their way to England and the English dog shows in 1937 and then made its way to the United States in 1956.
The breed itself was recognized by the Kennel Club in 1937 and the American Kennel Club in 1973.
Personality and Temperament:
The Tibetan terrier is an extremely affectionate dog with their family and wants nothing more than to be with their owners at all times. This is a huge contrast to how they greet strangers, however, as they are known to be wary, shy and aloof.
These dogs make wonderful family dogs as they are not overly excitable yet will happily play with children for hours and generally gets along with other family pets with ease.
These dogs can be housed in an apartment provided that they are properly exercised to eliminate excessive energy.
While this dog will play with children for hours, they are just as happy finding a comfortable spot on the couch or their person’s lap and cuddling up for as long as you will allow.
Exercise & Training:
The Tibetan terrier, despite their small size and activity level, require about an hour of exercise a day. At least half of this should consist of walking, jogging or allowing for a good run in a fenced dog park. The other half of their exercise can consist of fetch or other such games, tug should be avoided as it puts unnecessary strain on the dog’s teeth as well as enforces bad behavior.
A well-exercised Tibetan terrier is a joy to have around the house as their upbeat attitude is infectious and their quirky attitudes will have you smiling whether you want to or not.
Training a Tibetan terrier can be challenging at times. While they are fairly easy to train, they do have a stubborn streak and have been known to adopt a selective listening policy. To get the most out of training sessions, ensure you are calm and consistent, that there is plenty of praise and repetition and that it remains fun for all involved.
Rewards should be given in the form of praise, physical affection and toys as opposed to treats as they are the most effective form of reward as the Tibetan terrier is known to only listen if you have a biscuit if they are treat-trained. This can get frustrating for the owner very quickly and it is best avoided.
With their stubborn attitude, they are prone to “Small Dog Syndrome” which may end up with biting, guarding, barking and other behavioral problems. This should not be allowed, even though it may be cute when they are a puppy, do not allow any pushy behavior; stopping it before it becomes a problem is the key to a long and happy relationship with your dog.
The other thing to keep in mind is that with their stubborn streaks, these dogs do not respond well to yelling, hitting or any other form of physical or verbal abuse. This is a good way for a trainer to truly lose all respect from the dog and will take a significant amount of time to earn it back, if they are able to.
Grooming a Tibetan terrier is not for the faint of heart. It is important that while a puppy may not require grooming in the first 6 months, that they go at least twice to acclimatize them to the smells, sounds and other scary thing of a grooming salon. These visits should include a bath, blow-dry, full-body handling and brushing, teeth brushed, nails trimmed and possibly even have the trimmers on to get the dog used to the sound of that as well. The sooner the dog is exposed to this, and associates positive experiences with it, the easier it will be for everyone involved over the years and will even make trips to the vet easier as they will be used to the handling and will not be tempted to guard themselves, particularly their feet despite the fact they hate their feet touched/played with. Ensure you are taking your dog to a groomer who is experienced with the breed as well as young dogs as a bad experience can be difficult to overcome.
Tibetan Terriers should be bathed at least once a month with a mild dog shampoo and conditioner. It is helpful to brush the dog out prior to the bath to avoid mats. When bathing the Tibetan terrier you should take care to not scrub too hard as tangles are prone to happen. Working from the root to the tip is a good way to ensure mats do not form. This is the perfect time to trim their nails as they are softer after a bath and less likely to split or fray.
After the bath, the terrier should be blown dry starting at their head and move down their back and then down to their feet while taking care to brush the dog continuously. Care should be taken to ensure that you do not focus on one area for an extended period of time as this can cause the dog to overheat.
Between baths, the Tibetan terrier should be brushed at least every other day ensuring to use a spray bottle with some conditioner added to the water to ensure the hair does not break or tangle. They should also have their teeth brushed at least twice a week.
There are two ways of caring for your Tibetan terrier’s coat. You can either leave it long or you can have them trimmed.
If you are leaving it long, they will need to go to the groomer every 4-6 weeks to ensure they stay in the best condition. The groomer will ensure that their eyes are free of hair, the insides of their ears are plucked and the hair between the pads on their feet is trimmed. They will also ensure that the hair is thoroughly brushed through and that their coats are even.
If you are having it trimmed, it will be much easier to keep looking nice and much less chance of matting. A puppy clip is commonly used with these dogs and it does not take so much hair from the dog that you can see the skin, nor leave so much on that it takes more than a couple minutes a day to brush through. When having your dog clipped it is important that the groomer be experienced with dogs of this breed so they know the most flattering way to trim them as a poodle type cut would not look flattering on this breed.
Health and Wellness:
While the Tibetan terrier is a rather hardy dog which does well even in weather extremes, their long hair can cause issues if it is not trimmed from around their eyes as this can lead to infections, scratches, etc. which can cause blindness. Along with this, unfortunately they are prone to:
- Cataracts can be genetic and cause cloudiness to the dog’s lens. Usually affecting both eyes, this disease does not usually show up until the dog is over 3 years old. Parents can be tested for this prior to breeding to avoid the chances of this.
- Hip Dysplasia
- A genetic condition where the dog’s hip joint is shaped incorrectly causing painful rubbing and tearing of the surrounding tissue. This is usually treated by medication, physiotherapy, massage therapy and diet for mild cases. Severe cases may require surgery to either fix or replace the affected joint. This can be tested for by the parents.
- A condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroxine which can cause a large number of symptoms such as hair loss, hyperactivity, obesity and seizures while left untreated. While is no cure, just as with human hypothyroidism, this can be easily and successfully managed with the assistance of a qualified veterinarian and daily medication.
- Lens Luxation
- This is an exceptionally painful genetic disorder which causes the lens to move to the wrong position in the eye and can quickly cause blindness. This can be tested for with DNA testing to see if a dog is a “carrier,” “clear,” or “affected.”
- Luxating Patella
- A genetic issue with the knee which causes the knee to pop out of place. It may be as simple as an occasional issue or severe enough to prevent the dog from ever walking properly even with surgery.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- A genetic condition which causes the dog to eventually go blind. There is no treatment however there is a simple DNA test which can be taken by the parents prior to breeding to prevent the likelihood of this being passed on to any offspring.
Making sure your dog comes from a good, healthy lineage is very important to reduce the chances of most of the above issues. Genetic testing should always be done on both the sire and the dam prior to breeding. Issues such as Cataracts, Hip dysplasia, Progressive retinal atrophy, and primary lens luxation can all be screened prior to breeding. If a breeder comes up with excuses as to why their dogs have not been tested, choose a different breeder immediately.
There is also research that shows that temperament may be somewhat genetic so ensuring you see the parents and how the dogs are raised prior to them coming home with you will ensure you are doing all that is possible to ensure you get the best dog for your family. While rescues do not always have the information breeders do on the dogs they have, they do have a good idea what that individual dog is like as they have been in their care. Finding out what socialization and training has been started prior to adoption of either a puppy from a breeder or a rescue dog is important.
Interesting Facts about the Tibetan Terrier:
- While happy in any weather, this dog prefers to be inside with its people at all times.
- Even though the Tibetan Terrier is the breed’s name, it is not actually a terrier but rather a small herding dog.
- Tibetan terriers make wonderful watchdogs and will loudly announce any expected (or unexpected) guest far before they are within reach of your door.
- If someone mistreated a Tibetan terrier it was believed their entire village would suffer the bad luck.
- The dogs Dr. Greig started with were a bicolor female named Bunti and later received a male she named Rajah.
- The Tibetan terrier does not shed like normal dogs but rather has hair like humans, this leads some to believe they are hypoallergenic. While there are no true hypoallergenic dogs, many allergy sufferers are much more tolerant to the Tibetan terrier.
Organizations dedicated to the Tibetan Terrier:
- The Tibetan Terrier Club of America – https://ttca-online.org/
- The Tibetan Terrier Club of America Rescue – https://ttca-online.org/html/rescue.html
- Tibetan Terrier Association of America Inc. – https://tibetanterrierassociation.org/