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Tibetan Terrier

Nicknamed Luck Bringers or Holy Dogs, this breed guarded the tents of nomadic herdsmen and were companions to Buddhist monks.

Tibetan Terrier Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Companion Dogs
Height
Weight
Life Span
12 to 15 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


Summary

The Tibetan Terriers dog breed was created to be companions and friends. They love being with people and are adaptable to a variety of homes and lifestyles. Their shaggy coat is attractive but requires frequent grooming.

Additional articles you will be interested in:

Adoption
Dog Names
Bringing Home Your Dog
Help with Training Puppies
Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
Dog games
Teaching your dog tricks
How to take pictures of your dog

  • Overview

    Born in Tibet, Tibetan Terriers were bred in lamaseries to be companions not only to the holy men who raised them but also to nomadic herdsmen as they wandered the high plains with their flocks. The shaggy, medium-size dogs were thought to bring good luck, so they were never sold but only given as gifts or thanks for favors. People who live with the breed today understand just what a gift they are.

    The breed's name is a bit of a misnomer, as the Tibetan Terrier is not a true terrier at all. He was given the name on account of his size, but he doesn't share the terrier's tendency to go to ground (dig for vermin) or the typically sharp-edged terrier temperament. Lively and fun loving, he is, but those characteristics are tempered with a sweet and kind nature. Beneath a fall of hair, his eyes twinkle with good humor.

    Like all dogs, Tibetan Terriers thrive on human companionship. It's no wonder they excel as therapy dogs. While they're not demons for activity, they are active enough to compete in agility and do well in obedience and rally. Hearkening back to their history as lamasery alarm dogs, they are alert to anything different and make super watchdogs. Their gentle demeanor doesn't suit them to work as guard dogs, however.

    It's not unusual for Tibetan Terriers to be reserved with strangers, but they shower affection on their people. They can adapt to life in many different types of households and are a good choice for families with older children who understand how to treat dogs. With their protective double coat and large, flat, round feet to provide traction — in much the same way as snowshoes — they're well suited to homes in snowy climates.

    The Tibetan Terrier is a pleasant dog who enjoys life and loves people. He'll adapt to life with a couch potato or an active family, always approaching every day with an endearing sense of humor and a sparkle in his eye.

  • Highlights

    • Tibetan Terriers are wonderful family dogs but are best suited for homes with school-age children who know how to treat a dog properly.
    • Tibetan Terriers generally do well with dogs and other pets, especially if they have been raised with them.
    • The Tibetan Terrier requires frequent brushing and a bath at least once per month.
    • Tibetan Terriers make great watchdogs and will bark when they see or hear anything unusual.
    • If they get daily exercise, Tibetan Terriers can do well in apartments or condos.
    • Tibetan Terriers thrive on human companionship and do best in homes where they get plenty of attention and aren't left alone for long periods.
    • Barking is a favorite pastime for a Tibetan Terrier. He'll bark when people come to the door, when he sees or hears something unusual, or just out of boredom.
    • Tibetan Terriers require daily exercise and will enjoy a couple of 15-minute walks or one longer walk.
    • The Tibetan Terrier can be easy to train with positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards.
    • 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

    With its mountainous terrain, Tibet is sometimes referred to as the Roof of the World. It was in that harsh, high, remote land that the Tibetan Terrier was created. Prized as companions, the dogs were raised by Buddhist monks, known as lamas, from whom they took their name Holy Dog. But the shaggy, medium-size dogs weren't limited to life in the lamaseries where they were born. Considered to be luck bringers, they traveled the high plateaus with nomadic herdsmen, guarding their tents. Fearful of tempting fate by "selling" their luck, neither the lamas nor the herdsmen ever sold the dogs. Instead, they were given as gifts in return for favors or services or presented to officials as a mark of esteem.

    The Tibetan Terrier might have remained an obscure breed if not for a grateful Tibetan man who gave a Tibetan Terrier to Dr. Agnes R. H. Greig, who had saved his wife's life. Dr. Greig named her new puppy Bunti and became a fan of the breed. Eventually, she acquired a male, also as a gift, and began a breeding program, establishing the Lamleh line of Tibetan Terriers. Being neither a sporting dog nor a mix, the breed was given the name Tibetan Terrier, despite the fact that it wasn't a true terrier in either instinct or temperament but merely resembled one in size.

    A breed standard was created by the Kennel Club of India in 1930, and the Tibetan Terrier was officially recognized by England's Kennel Club in 1937. The first Tibetan Terrier imported into the United States, Gremlin Cortina, arrived in 1956. Owned by Dr. Henry S. and Alice Murphy, she was so beloved by them that she inspired Alice Murphy to establish her own kennel, Lamleh of Kalai. The Tibetan Terrier Club of America was formed in 1957, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1973. Today the Tibetan Terrier ranks 95th among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC.

  • Size

    Tibetan Terriers stand 14 to 16 inches at the shoulder and weigh 20 to 24 pounds.
  • Personality

    The Tibetan Terrier is smart, pleasant, and affectionate. Gentle but fun loving, he's dedicated to his family but may be cautious or reserved toward strangers. Puppies are active and lively — what puppy isn't? — but settle down as they reach maturity.

    True to their heritage, they make wonderful watchdogs and will bark an alert if they see or hear anything suspicious. They don't like to be left alone for long periods, preferring the company of the people they love. 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.

  • Health

    Tibetan Terriers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be subject to certain health conditions.

    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative eye disorder eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don't make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs' eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
    • Lens Luxation is an inherited disorder in which the lens is improperly positioned in the eye. The displacement can be partial or complete. It's sometimes treatable with medication or surgery, but in severe cases the eye may need to be removed.
    • Hip Dysplasia is a condition in which the femur doesn't fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. Some dogs exhibit pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. Screening for hip dysplasia can be done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs that have hip dysplasia shouldn't be bred. If your dog displays signs of hip dysplasia, talk to your vet. Medication or surgery can help.
  • Care

    Tibetan Terriers are adaptable dogs at home in a variety of households, from condos to castles. They should live indoors with their people, not stuck out in a backyard or kennel.

    Once they've matured, they are just as happy being couch potatoes as they are active family dogs. Like any dog, an adult Tibetan Terrier requires daily exercise to stay healthy and happy, but he'll be satisfied with a couple of 15-minute walks daily or one longer walk. Naturally, puppy and adolescent Tibetan Terriers are filled with energy and excitement and require higher levels of stimulation and exercise.

    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.

    Housetraining can take time, but you'll be successful if you're patient and give your Tibetan Terrier a regular schedule and plenty of opportunities to potty outdoors, praising him when he does so. Crate training is strongly recommended. It will make housetraining easier and keep your Tibetan Terrier from chewing things while you are away. The crate is a tool, not a jail, however, so don't keep your Tibetan Terrier locked up in it for long periods. The best place for a Tibetan Terrier is with you.

    TTs are generally amiable, but sometimes they have their own agenda. Keep training fun, be consistent, and use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 cups 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.

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

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    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.

    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.

    Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Tibetan Terrier's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar build-up 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 Terrier enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.

    Begin accustoming your Tibetan Terrier to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. 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 Terriers love kids and can match their energy levels all day long, but they're a little rambunctious for households with children under the age of 6 years.

    Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.

    Tibetan Terriers usually get along well with other dogs and cats, especially if they're introduced to them in puppyhood.

  • Rescue Groups

    Tibetan Terriers 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 Terriers end up in rescue because their owners have divorced or died. If you're interested in adopting an adult Tibetan Terrier who's already gone through the destructive puppy stage and may already be trained, a rescue group is a good place to start.

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Sometimes

    Adapt well to apartment living

    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.

  • Extremely

    Affectionate with family

    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.

  • Minimal

    Amount of shedding

    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.

  • Sometimes

    Dog friendly

    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.

  • Moderate

    Drooling potential

    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 that rates low in the drool department.

  • Not particularly

    Easy to groom

    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.

  • Very

    Easy to train

    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.

  • High

    Energy level

    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.

  • High

    Exercise needs

    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.

  • Sometimes

    Friendly toward strangers

    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.

  • Fairly good

    General health

    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.

  • Sometimes

    Good for novice owners

    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.

  • High

    Intelligence

    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.

  • High

    Intensity

    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.

  • Very

    Kid friendly

    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.

  • High

    Potential for mouthiness

    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.

  • High

    Potential for playfulness

    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.

  • Moderate

    Potential for weight gain

    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.

  • Low

    Prey drive

    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.

  • Moderate

    Sensitivity level

    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.

  • Small

    Size

    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.

  • High

    Tendency to bark or howl

    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?

  • Not particularly well

    Tolerates being alone

    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.

  • Quite well

    Tolerates cold weather

    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.

  • Quite well

    Tolerates hot weather

    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.

  • Moderate

    Wanderlust potential

    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.

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