Tibetan Spaniel

Small but active and alert, the Tibetan Spaniel dog breed hails from mountainous Tibet, where he served as a companion and watchdog. He’s known for his intelligence, easy-care coat, and his desire to keep watch over his family from high perches in the house.

See below for complete list of Tibetan Spaniel characteristics!

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Dog Names
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Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
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Teaching your dog tricks
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Breed Characteristics:

Adapts Well to Apartment Living5More info +

Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make — plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

See Dogs Not Well Suited to Apartment Living

Good For Novice Owners4More info +

Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

See Dogs That Are Good For Experienced Owners

Sensitivity Level5More info +

Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

See Dogs That Have Low Sensitivity Levels

Tolerates Being Alone1More info +

Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

See Dogs Poorly Suited To Be Alone

Tolerates Cold Weather1More info +

Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

See Dogs Poorly Suited For Cold Weather

Tolerates Hot Weather2More info +

Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

See Dogs Poorly Suited For Hot Weather

All Around Friendliness
Affectionate with Family5More info +

Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family

Incredibly Kid Friendly Dogs5More info +

Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

See Dogs Not Kid Friendly

Dog Friendly4More info +

Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

See Dogs That Are Not Dog Friendly

Friendly Toward Strangers3More info +

Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

See Dogs That Are More Shy

Health Grooming
Amount Of Shedding3More info +

If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

See Dogs That Shed Very Little

Drooling Potential1More info +

Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.

See Dogs That Are Not Big Droolers

Easy To Groom4More info +

Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

See Dogs That Require More Grooming

General Health5More info +

Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

See Dogs More Prone To Health Problems

Potential For Weight Gain3More info +

Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

Size1More info +

Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right large dog for you!

See Medium Dogs

See Small Dogs

Easy To Train4More info +

Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

See Dogs That Are Challenging To Train

Intelligence4More info +

Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

See Dogs That Have Low Intelligence

Potential For Mouthiness3More info +

Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

Prey Drive3More info +

Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by — cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars — can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

See Dogs That Have Low Prey Drive

Tendency To Bark Or Howl4More info +

Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

See Dogs That Are Mostly Quiet

Wanderlust Potential3More info +

Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

See Dogs Less Prone To Wander

Exercise Needs
Energy Level3More info +

High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

See Dogs That Have Low Energy

Intensity3More info +

A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

See Dogs With Low Intensity

Exercise Needs4More info +

Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

See Dogs That Don't Need Tons of Exercise

Potential For Playfulness4More info +

Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

See Dogs That Are Less Playfull

Vital Stats:

Dog Breed Group: Companion Dogs
Height: From 10 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 9 to 15 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 15 years
  • The Tibetan Spaniel is a small dog with a long history. Bred in Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries to be companions and alarm dogs, they were popular gifts to foreign dignitaries. Today the little canine ambassadors are still prized as companions, thanks to their sweet, smart, and attentive nature.

    Said to resemble a little lion, a powerful Buddhist symbol, he retains the watchfulness bred into him centuries ago and can be aloof toward strangers, but he's a fond and friendly family companion. Tibbies, as they're nicknamed, are active enough to enjoy dog sports such as agility, but not so demanding of exercise that they'll run you ragged. Their portable size makes them suited to any home, from apartment to estate, as long as they have plenty of human attention.

    When they're not cuddling with their people, Tibbies enjoy a high perch that allows them to see everything that's going on. They'll climb on whatever piece of furniture gives them the best view, giving them the reputation of being catlike.

    Like many small dogs, they prefer being approached at their own level rather than having someone looming over them. They're highly intelligent and take well to training when it's accompanied by positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards.

    Tibetan Spaniels are sensitive to the moods and needs of their families and they're happy to try and meet them. This loving breed is uncommon, but he's the ideal match for the right homes.

  • Highlights

    • Although Tibetan Spaniels can learn quickly, they may be stubborn when it comes to obeying commands.
    • Tibetan Spaniels shed small amounts year-round and need weekly brushing to get rid of dead hair.
    • Although Tibetan Spaniels are affectionate toward and protective of children, they're better suited for homes with older children because they can be injured during rough play.
    • Tibetan Spaniels generally get along well with other dogs and pets. They do well in homes with multiple dogs.
    • Tibetan Spaniels thrive when they're with their families. They're not recommended for homes where they'll receive little attention or will be left alone for long periods.
    • Barking can become a favorite pastime of Tibetan Spaniels if they're bored. They'll also bark when people come to the door or when they hear something suspicious. The upside is, they make great watchdogs.
    • Tibetan Spaniels only need moderate exercise and are quite happy with a daily walk or free play in a fenced yard.
    • Tibetan Spaniels must be walked on leash to prevent them from running off to explore. Yards should be fenced.
    • The Tibetan Spaniel is fairly rare, so if you're buying a puppy, it may take a while to find a good breeder, and once you do, there may be a wait for puppies to be available.
    • To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn't provide health clearances or guarantees. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments.
  • History

    The Tibetan Spaniel is an ancient breed from Asia. Depictions of small dogs with pushed-in faces and lionlike coats date back centuries in China and Tibet.

    It's believed that Buddhist monks, known as lamas, bred the little dogs to sound the alarm if anyone approached the lamasery. With the ruff of thick fur around their neck and the richly plumed tail, they were said to resemble little lions. In Buddhist symbology, lions represent Buddha's triumph over violence and aggression, so dogs with a lionlike appearance were popular.

    The dogs were frequently given as gifts to ambassadors and other notables, with dogs from those countries being received in return. Thus the Tibetan dogs made their way to the courts of China and Japan, where they no doubt interbred with other small Asian dogs. Today's Tibetan Spaniel probably shares a common ancestry with the Japanese Chin and the Pekingese.

    Often bred by Tibetan villagers as well as lamas, early dogs of this type came in a wide range of sizes. The smallest, most prized puppies were given to the lamaseries where they were probably bred with the more elegant dogs that arrived as gifts from China.

    During the late 19th century, the first Tibetan Spaniel was brought to England by Mrs. McLaren Morris. More arrived in the 1920s, courtesy of Dr. Agnes R. H. Greig, who sent some of the dogs to her mother. The breed gained some popularity, but its foothold in England was almost completely wiped out during World War II.

    In 1947, after several successful breedings and importations, the breed began to recover in England. In 1958, The Tibetan Spaniel Association was formed and in 1960 England's Kennel Club recognized the breed.

    The first known litter in the United States was born in 1965, to parents imported from Tibet by a Mr. Harrington. Thanks to Leo Kearns, sexton of Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, Connecticut, the Tibetan Spaniel began attracting notice. Kearns had a Tibbie puppy, and his parishioners were quite taken with her. He imported a male, and the puppies the two dogs produced were soon placed in doting homes.

    Among those enthusiastic new owners was Mrs. Jay Child, who made it her mission to see the breed established in the U. S. The Tibetan Spaniel Club of America was founded in 1971, with Child as president. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1984.

    Despite his charm, the Tibetan Spaniel is still pretty rare, ranking 101st in popularity among the breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club.

  • Size

    Tibetan Spaniels stand about 10 inches high at the shoulder and weigh 9 to 15 pounds.

  • Personality

    Trusting and affectionate toward family members, Tibetan Spaniels may be aloof toward strangers, although never aggressive. True to their heritage, they make excellent watchdogs and will bark to alert you of anything that seems unusual.

    Tibbies seem to be especially responsive to their people's moods and feelings. As loving as they are, however, they're independent thinkers and won't always obey, especially if they think they know better or don't see any good reason to do as you ask.

    As with all dogs, Tibetan Spaniels need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Tibetan Spaniel puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

  • Health

    Tibetan Spaniels are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can get certain conditions. Not all Tibetan Spaniels will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

    If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog's been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.

    In Tibetan Spaniels, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for patellas (knees) and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that the eyes are normal.

    Because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren't issued to dogs younger than 2 years old. Look for a breeder who doesn't breed her dogs until they're two or three years old. The following problems are not common in the breed, but they may occur:

    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative eye disorder. Blindness caused by PRA is a slow process resulting from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. A reputable breeder will have their dogs eyes certified on a yearly basis.
    • Patellar Luxation, also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts — the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) — is not properly lined up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
  • Care

    Tibbies are housedogs. They thrive on spending time with their people, and they're not suited to living outdoors or in a kennel. Because they may run off to explore, yards must be fenced and they should be walked on leash.

    Intelligent and willing to please, Tibetan Spaniels can be easy to train, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll always listen to you. They have a mind of their own and will ignore commands if they don't feel like obeying. For best results, begin training early and be consistent.

    Some Tibetan Spaniels are yappy and some aren't, but they'll generally bark when someone comes to the door or when they hear or see anyone or anything unusual. With patience and consistency, you can teach them to stop barking after they've briefly sounded the alarm. If you live in an apartment with noise restrictions, however, this may not be the breed for you.

    Like all dogs, the Tibetan Spaniel needs reguar exercise, but he doesn't need a ton of it. Usually a good playtime in the backyard or one or two walks in a day will fit the bill.

    Tibetan Spaniels are generally easy to housetrain, but crate training is strongly recommended. It will make housetraining easier and keep your Tibetan Spaniel from chewing things while you're not there to supervise. The crate is a tool, not a jail, however, so don't keep your Tibetan Spaniel locked up in it for long periods. The best place for a Tibetan Spaniel is with you.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 3/4 to 1 cup of a 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.

    Keep your Tibetan Spaniel in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.

    For more on feeding your Tibetan Spaniel, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat Color And Grooming

    The Tibetan Spaniel has a silky double coat that's smooth on the face and the front of the legs and moderately long on the rest of the body. The ears, tail, and backs of the forelegs and buttocks have longer hair, and a mane of long hair (sometimes referred to as a shawl) surrounds the neck. The Tibbie's coat can be any color or mixture of colors.

    Weekly brushing will keep your Tibetan Spaniel's coat free of loose hair. Expect them to shed small amounts year-round, with a heavier shed once or sometimes twice a year. Bathe them as needed, usually every 6 to 8 weeks.

    Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Tibetan Spaniel's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the accompanying bacteria. Daily is better. Trim his nails once or twice a month, as needed. If you can hear the nail clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short nails keep the feet in good condition, don't get caught in the carpet and tear, and don't scratch your legs when your Tibetan Spaniel enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.

    Start grooming your Tibetan Spaniel when he's a puppy to get him used to it. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

  • Children And Other Pets

    Tibetan Spaniels are affectionate and protective of children, but because they're small, they can be injured easily by rough handling, so they're best suited to homes with children who are at least 6 years old and know to be gentle and not to tease.

    As with any dog, always teach children how to approach and touch your Tibetan Spaniel, and supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear pulling from either party.

    Tibetan Spaniels usually get along well with other dogs and cats. Most enjoy having another dog as a companion.

  • Rescue Groups

    Tibetan Spaniels are sometimes bought without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. Other Tibetan Spaniels end up in rescue because their owners have divorced or died. If you're interested in adopting an adult Tibetan Spaniel who's already gone through the destructive puppy stage and may already be trained, a rescue group is a good place to start.