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Tibetan Terrier

Did you know that Tibetan Terriers are not precisely Terrier, despite their name?

Tibetan Terriers actually belong to the Non-Sporting Breed Group. But because of their similarities in appearance with terrier breeds, they were named terriers, too.

The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-sized Tibetan dog breed, typically standing 14 to 17 inches tall from the shoulders and weighing 18 to 30 pounds. Female Tibetan Terriers are slightly smaller than male Tibetan Terriers in comparison.

When cared for properly, this breed can reach up to 15 to 16 years lifespan.

The Tibetan Terrier is 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.

Affectionate and adaptable, these pups fit in well with just about any family, even apartment dwellers. They do, however, have a lot of energy and need plenty of exercise. They also don’t like being left alone for long hours of the day. If you can give your dog plenty of attention, affection, and physical activity, you’ll have a loving, furry family member.

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.

Tibetan Terrier Coat Color

The Tibetan Terrier is protected by a double coat: a soft, woolly undercoat and an abundant topcoat with fine hair that can be wavy or straight. The long hair stops just short of the ground, enough that you can see light beneath the dog’s body. The hair often falls in a natural part along the spine. The Tibetan Terrier comes in a range of colors and patterns, including white, gold, tricolor, brindle, silver, black, and more.

That long coat requires daily brushing during adolescence as the coat changes to keep it free of tangles. Once the adult coat has come in, by approximately 18 months of age, you can get by with grooming one to three times a week. Grooming tools you’ll need include a pin brush, a metal “greyhound” comb, ear powder, and a spray bottle for misting the coat.

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).

True to their heritage, they make wonderful watchdogs and will bark an alert if they see or hear anything suspicious.  Because they rely on company and affection, this breed is best suited to a household where someone will be around most of the day. They don’t like to be left alone for long periods. 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.

Tibetan Terriers are known for adaptability and a sense of humor.

Like every dog, Tibetan Terriers need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Tibetan Terrier puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

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.

Although it’s nice for a Tibetan Terrier to have a securely fenced yard where he can play, it’s not a great idea to leave him out there for long periods. A bored Tibetan Terrier is a barker, and a really bored Tibetan Terrier is an escape artist who’s perfectly capable of climbing, jumping, or digging his way over or under a fence.


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.

Mist the coat with a mixture of water and conditioner as you brush to avoid damaging the hair. Be sure to brush all the way down to the skin. Simply running the brush over the top of the coat won’t ensure that you find and remove any mats or tangles. Check frequently for mats behind the ears, on the chest and belly, and at the areas where the legs and tail intersect with the body. Using ear powder to make the hair less slippery, pluck excess hair in the ears, and trim the hair between the footpads. After you’re finished brushing, go over the coat with the comb to remove any loose or dead hair. You can also use it for the hair on the face.

If all this grooming becomes too much for you, it’s kinder and less work to keep your TT in a cute puppy clip. You’ll both be happier. Whatever his coat length, you’ll probably want to bathe your Tibetan Terrier at least monthly. He may need a bath more often if he plays outside frequently and gets dirty.


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.

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.

Tibetan Terrier Feeding

Recommended daily amount: 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 cups of high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.

How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl.

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 CataractsProgressive 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 the quality of life.

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