Tibetan Terrier: Breed Characteristics, Training, Care & Nutrition

Although the Tibetan Terrier originally comes from Tibet, it is not a terrier because it was never used for hunting, but as a herding and guard dog. The breed name is therefore partly misleading. The FCI therefore also groups the Tibetan Terrier in Group 9: Companion and Companion Dogs, Section 5: Tibetan Dog Breeds, without a working test.

Tibet Terrier Dog Breed Information

Size: 35-41cm
Weight: 09.12.2017 kg
FCI Group: 9: Companion and Companion Dogs
Section: 5: Tibetan dog breeds
Country of origin: China (Tibet)
Colors: Pied, Tricolor, Gold, White, Black, Gray, Brindle
Life expectancy: 12-15 years
Suitable as: therapy, herding, and family dog
Sports: dog dancing, agility
Personality: Energetic, Affectionate, Sensitive, Kind, Gentle
Leaving requirements: high
Drooling potential: low
The thickness of hair: high
Maintenance effort: high
Coat structure: luxuriant, fine, long, smoothly wavy topcoat and fine and woolly undercoat
Child friendly: yes
Family dog: yes
Social: rather yes

Origin and Breed History

More than 2000 years ago, Tibetan monks in a monastery in the high, snow-covered mountains of the Himalayas worshiped their small, long-haired dogs as “sacred temple dogs”. Several of today’s Tibetan dog breeds probably go back to these ancestors, including the medium-sized, long-haired, and extremely friendly Tibetan Terrier, which is referred to as “Apso” (= long-haired dog) in its home country. However, he was not only used as a revered fellow-creature in the Buddhist faith but also in very mundane activities such as tending the herds of cattle in the inhospitable high altitudes of the mountains or as a guard of the huts and tents of his people.

Since, according to Buddhist belief, the immortal soul is reborn in another form, there was no trade in the dogs. They were and still are revered as lucky charms. However, a dog could be given as an expression of deep friendship, great appreciation, or deep gratitude. So it happened in 1922 to the British doctor Dr. Greig after successfully operating on a wealthy Tibetan. With the little white and gold-colored bitch named Bunti, Dr. Greig started his own breed in England, where the breed was officially recognized for the first time in 1930 under the (wrong) name “Tibet Terrier”. Since then there have been repeated attempts by some breeders to change the name to “Tibet Apso”, but so far without success. So the Tibetan Terrier remains a “false” Terrier, but always a real Tibetan.

Nature & Temperament of the Tibetan Terrier

The funny, tousled face and the friendly look of a Tibetan Terrier show its cheerful, open-minded, and gentle nature and its irresistible charm. He is an affectionate member of the family who likes to be an active part of his people’s daily routine.

Tibetan Terriers are very smart and intelligent, they learn quickly and with pleasure. But they also have a mind of their own, which can sometimes be interpreted as stubbornness or stubbornness. They just want to be kept busy and mentally challenged – and not just cuddle up with their master or mistress on the sofa. If the Tibetan Terrier sees the meaning of a command or an exercise, he will willingly follow it – or not. Only loving but consistent persuasion can help here.

The Appearance of the Tibetan Terrier

With a shoulder height of 35 – 41 centimeters and a weight between 11 and 15 kilograms (males are larger and heavier than females), the Tibetan Terrier is one of the medium-sized breeds. Its almost square, powerful body, the muscular neck and the rounded head with a long muzzle, close-fitting floppy ears, and large, dark eyes are covered by a dense, double-layered, and long coat of fur that doesn’t leave out the legs either. While the warming undercoat feels fine and woolly, the long topcoat is rather firm, may be straight or wavy, but not curly, and should not cover the dog’s eyes. However, this does not always work, so a hair clip is often used to help the dog see better. The tail, which is also very hairy, is carried rolled over the back.

Almost all shades of color are allowed with the Tibetan Terrier except chocolate or liver brown. So there are these dogs in plain white, cream, smoky or blue-grey, gold, light, and reddish-brown or black. Two- or three-colored spotted fur is also permitted, but not the so-called merle factor, i.e. a mottled multicolored coat.

How Big Does a Tibetan Terrier Get?

These dogs reach a shoulder height of about 35 – 41 centimeters.

Training and Husbandry of the Tibetan Terrier – This is Important to Note

A Tibetan Terrier puppy is almost irresistibly cute – the shaggy fur, dark eyes and jet black nose are reminiscent of a cuddly stuffed animal. These dogs are friendly, affectionate, and not aggressive at all, very intelligent, and have a distinctly strong character, which demands a loving consistency from the owner right from the start so that his little Tibetan doesn’t step on his nose at some point.

Even if one or the other expectation on the part of the owner is first discussed before the Tibetan Terrier accepts them as given, the basic commands should certainly be retrievable. Here the best results with this breed are achieved with lots of praise, reward, and love. On the contrary, pressure, and coercion lead to the stubborn person showing himself and, in the worst case, to the dog completely refusing.

The medium size makes the Tibetan Terrier suitable for a smaller apartment and does not require much effort on the part of the owner. Always provided he gets enough exercise and can work out because he is a muscular, energetic powerhouse and not a lap dog, he is an ideal dog for families, couples, or singles as well as for seniors. However, he does not like to be alone and is happiest when he can accompany his people as often as possible.

How Much Does a Tibetan Terrier Cost?

Puppies from a reputable, healthy breed cost around $1000 or more.

Nutrition of the Tibetan Terrier

Fortunately, Tibetan Terriers are not prone to food intolerances. However, like all dogs, they are primarily carnivores and therefore require high-quality, good meat-based food. Whether wet or dry food does not play a decisive role if the composition is right. The breed also tolerates the so-called BARF (= Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding) as long as a sufficient supply of nutrients and a healthy composition of the fresh food is guaranteed. Of course, the individual state of health, the age, and the activity of the individual dog must always be taken into account when calculating the ration.

Access to fresh drinking water must also be guaranteed, although wet feeding requires less water and the dog drinks less. Some dogs don’t like tap water and prefer to use rainwater-filled watering cans or other water sources. Caution is advised if the dog drinks from puddles or standing water, as pathogenic germs can quickly multiply in the water, especially in summer.

Healthy – Life Expectancy & Common Diseases

Since the Tibetan Terrier is a very original breed that has not been “bred” to become a fashion dog, there are hardly any diseases typical of the breed. Life expectancy is around 12-15 years. Nevertheless, there are also some diseases in this robust breed that are known from other dog breeds or mixed breeds, such as

  • Hip dysplasia (HD);
  • Patellar dislocation;
  • Progressive retinal atrophy;
  • Lens luxation.

Breeding clubs, therefore, require their breeders to carry out check-ups on the potential parent animals in order to prevent these hereditary diseases as far as possible.

How Old Do Tibetan Terriers Get?

The life expectancy of this breed is between 12 and 15 years.

Grooming the Tibetan Terrier

The Tibetan Terrier does not make any great demands on its diet and does not necessarily need its own garden. However, its long and very dense fur needs good and intensive care so that it does not become matted and unsightly. Daily brushing is the order of the day here and you should get the puppy used to it from day one in the new home. Many dogs do not like the brush so much, especially on sensitive areas such as the inner thighs or on the tail, but this is where the hair is often particularly soft and matted all the more quickly. Once larger patches of felt have formed, the only thing that usually helps is going to the dog groomer. But be careful: the Tibetan Terrier’s coat is his air conditioner, it warms him in winter and protects him from the sun in summer, so it shouldn’t be clipped at all if possible.

Should the hair on the head grow too long so that the dog can no longer see unhindered, this must be counteracted with scissors or a hair clip. A clear view of the world around him is important to a Tibetan Terrier, especially if he can also let off steam in sports.

Can You Shear a Tibetan Terrier?

The Tibetan Terrier’s long, thick coat acts like an air conditioner and should therefore not be clipped if possible. Careful clipping should only be carried out if the hair is severely matted.

Tibetan Terrier Activities and Training

The small powerhouse from Tibet was originally a workhorse and therefore wants to be actively employed. The Tibetan Terrier loves long walks, bike rides, hikes in the mountains or on the beach, and romping around with fellow dogs or children. So that he also gets his money’s worth intellectually, he is enthusiastic about a wide variety of dog sports, be it agility, obedience, or dog dancing. Since he likes to jump powerfully and even climbs, an obstacle course is an exciting challenge for him.

Because of their gentleness and friendliness, Tibetan Terriers can also be trained very well for therapeutic purposes, such as visiting dogs in retirement homes or in psychotherapy.

Good to Know: Special Features of the Tibetan Terrier

A special feature that does not occur in any other breed of dog is the very round, flat, and wide paws of the Tibetan Terrier. In the impassable, sometimes dangerously steep and snow-covered terrain of his country of origin Tibet, the agile dog found a good footing when guarding the herds of cattle and was able to dart over the rocks as quickly as possible to drive escapees back to the herd.

The most prominent owner of a Tibetan Terrier is certainly the Dalai Lama, who for many years was accompanied everywhere by his white dog “Ssengge”.

What is a Tibet Doodle?

A Tibetan Doodle is a cross between two purebred parents of different dog breeds, namely a Tibetan Terrier and a Poodle.

Cons of the Tibetan Terrier

Especially when bored or left alone, the Tibetan Terrier tends to bark vigorously and for a long time. Careful acclimatization to short phases of being alone and otherwise a good utilization of his enterprising spirit and his urge to move help to keep this tolerable and to keep the peace with the neighbors.

The intensive and necessary care of the long, dense fur of the Tibetan Terrier requires some time from its owners to prevent the lush coat from knotting and matting.

Is the Tibetan Terrier Right for Me?

Before getting a dog, no matter what breed, you should always ask yourself a few basic questions:

  • Do I have enough time to occupy myself with my Tibetan Terrier, to walk him several times a day, and also to do sports?
  • Do all family members agree to this breed of a dog moving in?
  • Are dogs allowed in our house/apartment?
  • Do I have enough time and patience for the intensive grooming that this breed requires?
  • Who can look after the dog if I am ill or unable to attend?
  • Am I willing to take my Tibetan Terrier with me on vacation?
  • Do I have sufficient financial resources to cover not only the purchase price for the puppy (after all, around $1000 or more) and the initial equipment with a leash, basket, and feeding bowl but also the running costs for good food, visits to the vet, necessary vaccinations and medication, Dog school, dog tax, and liability insurance? After all, a dog costs about the same as a small car over the course of its lifetime!

If you have finally thought everything through and decided to bring a Tibetan Terrier into the family as a new family member, you should first find a reputable breeder. A good breeder keeps their dogs close to their family and if possible only has one litter at a time to which they can devote their full attention. He asks questions of the prospect, wants to know how and where his puppies should be kept, and may also refuse to sell a dog if he doesn’t like the answers. Recommendations for feeding, information on veterinary treatments such as initial vaccinations and deworming, and the offer to contact you after the purchase should be a matter of course for a good breeder. It is best to visit the breeder and take a look around before you finally buy the puppy. But beware: Tibetan Terrier puppies are incredibly cute and quickly tempted to make hasty decisions!

You should never buy a puppy from a pet market or from the trunk of a shady dog ​​dealer! Although these dogs are usually cheaper than a reputable breeder, there is almost always unscrupulous and cruel animal cruelty behind them! The mother animals are kept under terrible conditions as pure “litter machines”, the puppies are neither vaccinated nor otherwise veterinary treated, often suffer from acute, in the worst case fatal illnesses soon after purchase or remain a lifelong case for the vet – and that is under much more expensive than the puppy from a reputable and responsible breeder!

In addition to purchasing from a breeder, it may also be worth going to an animal shelter – purebred Tibetan Terriers are always waiting to find a new home here. Various animal welfare organizations have also dedicated themselves specifically to helping pedigree dogs in need and are looking for suitable, loving owners for such dogs.

Once all the criteria have been met and all questions have been answered in favor of the dog, then look forward to the day when your little “holy temple dog” will move in with you – he will turn your life upside down and whirl it upside down! And before long you’ll be wondering how you even got through the boring days and years without this happy, personable whirlwind.

Can You Leave a Tibetan Terrier at Home Alone?

A Tibetan Terrier prefers to be with its people and therefore does not like to stay at home alone. If this cannot always be avoided, the dog should be gradually accustomed to short periods of being alone.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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