Tibetan Terrier

Updated: October 27, 2022
Tibetan Terrier

Despite being categorized within the group of dog breeds known as Terriers, the Tibetan Terrier differs greatly from other Terrier breeds. It does not present the character and characteristics typical of these dogs. They previously accompanied Buddhist monks in temples, but now have adjusted to life with different families all over the world. This is understandable thanks to their affectionate and playful personality. Learn more with our AnimalWised breed file on the origins, temperament, physical characteristics, health, care and more of the Tibetan Terrier dog breed.

  • Asia
  • China
FCI classification
  • Group III
Physical characteristics
  • 5-14
  • 14-18
  • 18-22
  • 22-27
  • 27-31
  • More than 31
Adult weight
  • 2-7
  • 7-22
  • 22-55
  • 55-100
  • 100-220
Life expectancy
  • 8-10
  • 10-12
  • 12-14
  • 15-20
Recommended physical activity
  • Low
  • Meidum
  • High
Ideal for
Recommended climate
Type of hair
  1. History of the Tibetan Terrier
  2. Characteristics of the Tibetan Terrier
  3. Tibet Terrier character
  4. Tibetan Terrier care
  5. Education of the Tibetan Terrier
  6. Health of Tibetan Terrier dogs
  7. Where to adopt a Tibetan terrier dog?

History of the Tibetan Terrier

As their name indicates, Tibetan terriers come from the region of Tibet. These dogs served in monasteries as guardian animals while accompanying the monks both for companionship and to work as shepherd dogs. Due to their distant origins and the isolation of their area of origin, the breed has remained practically unchanged over the years, being one of the best preserved today.

The origins of the Tibetan Terrier dogs go back more than 2,000 years. It is said they arose when the Tibetans decided to separate their dogs into large and small specimens. The large individuals became what we know as the Tibetan Mastiff, while the smaller Asian dogs became the Tibetan Terrier. It was these latter dogs which became the precursor to breeds such as the Tibetan Spaniel and the Polish Lowland Sheepdog.

The breed arrived in Europe in the 1920s as a result of a doctor named Agnes Grey. She was attending to some locals, one of whom thanked her for her medical work by gifting her a Tibetan Terrier puppy. This puppy became part of a breeding program after she traveled to England in 1922. By 1930, the breed was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in England with their distribution increasing through Europe in the 40s. By 1956, they have finally arrived in the USA and were officially recognized there in 1973.

Formerly known as the Tsang Apso or the ‘shaggy dog of the Tsang province’, they took the name of terrier because foreign travelers saw them as very similar to the terriers known in Europe. Other names include the Tibetan Apso or Dokhi Apso.

Characteristics of the Tibetan Terrier

Tibetan Terriers are medium-sized dogs, weighing between 8 and 12 kg (17.5-26.5 lb) and a height at the withers that ranges from 35 to 45 cm (14-18"). Females are slightly smaller than their male counterparts. Their life expectancy normally ranges between 12 and 14 years, with some specimens being able to reach 17 or more.

Some characteristics of the Tibetan Terrier dog breed are:

  • Body: is solid and compact, while square in shape.
  • Head: is also square in shape, lining up at the snout, and presenting a stop.
  • Face: a noteworthy feature in the breed standards is that the distance from the nose to the eyes must be the same as the distance between the eyes and the base of the head. These eyes are round, large and expressive. They are dark brown with slightly lighter shades being accepted if the coat is also a very light color.
  • Ears: Tibetan Terrier ears are fringed and shaped like a ‘V’. They hang down on the sides of the skull.
  • Coat: dense due to their double layer. The outer coat is long and straight. The inner coat is finer and more woolly, making it a great insulator against the inclement weather typical of their region of origin.

Tibetan Terrier dog breed coat colors

The colors of the coat of the Tibetan Terrier dog breed can cover the entire color spectrum. The only exceptions are chocolate and liver. Now that you know the characteristics of the Tibetan Terrier, let's focus on their character.

You can also check out our related article to learn about other Asian dog breeds.

Tibet Terrier character

Despite being within the category of terriers, the Tibet Terrier differs from some others due to a sweeter and more docile character. They love to play and spend time with their family, although they are wary of strangers. If you are going to live with children, we must get them both used to living together and interacting respectfully. That is why we have to educate our terrier from a young age and ensure that their socialization is complete and satisfactory.

They are tenacious and very brave. If the situation requires it, they will prove themselves as indisputable heroes. Many Tibetan Terrier dogs work as therapy animals, collaborating in sessions for the benefit of various groups, such as children, the elderly or people who need help with their physical or mental health.

They are sociable animals, so they do not tolerate loneliness well. They need constant affection and attention. If they have receive these there will be no problem in living in a flat or apartment, as long as they can release their energy with long walks. They are a playful, cheerful and balanced animal who can become a dear part of almost any family.

Tibetan Terrier care

  • Diet: we must choose a balanced diet adapted to the needs of both the breed in general and the individual animal. With will need to adapt their diet to their specific nutritional needs. For example, if they suffer from liver or kidney problems we will need to adapt them to a diet which will not cause further harm to their organs. Also, when they are young and when they enter old ages, their diet will need to be amended accordingly. Generally, the food we give a Tibetan Terrier need to have the right levels of minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates to improve or maintain their health.

  • Exercise: as we have mentioned in the section on the character of the Tibetan terrier, they are a playful and active dog. They will need at least one hour of daily exercise. Do not hesitate to teach them tricks and play with them when you go for a walk, as they will always be receptive.

  • Grooming: due to the fact their hair is long and dense, our Tibetan Terrier will need closer attention than many other breeds. We must brush their coat frequently so it remains soft and shiny, as well as avoiding tangles and knots. It is also recommended to give them at least one monthly bath to keep it clean and neat. As they have a significant amount of hair on the inside of the ears, we will have to be vigilant. If necessary, we may need to trim this area as complications may arise due to knots or the accumulation of dirt or moisture.

    Except for this brushing, the Tibetan Terrier will need the same attention we give any other breed. This includes brushing their teeth several times a week, giving them enough time for physical activity, trimming their nails regularly and cleaning their ears with ear products suitable for use in dogs.

    Education of the Tibetan Terrier

    In general, Tibetan terriers are easy dogs to train, but we have to be constant and dedicated when it comes to their education. They can be stubborn and sometimes a lot of patience from us to make their training effective and satisfactory.

    One of the most relevant aspects in the training of this breed is socialization. This must be done from the earliest possible ages. Otherwise, difficulties may arise when living with both people and other animals. This happens due to their distrustful character and their skills as a guard dog. If we follow the guidelines and are patient and consistent, we will undoubtedly achieve our goal.

    Health of Tibetan Terrier dogs

    In general, we can say that the Tibetan Terrier is a breed with enviable health. However, they can present some hereditary pathologies such as hip dysplasia which will require regular veterinary supervision. They will need to perform the appropriate radiological tests and provide them with supplements such as chondroprotectors which help keep the joints in good condition.

    In turn, the breed is considered to be somewhat prone to developing progressive retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia, both of which can lead to problems as significant as blindness. Likewise, we also highlight cataracts and ocular dislocation as common pathologies.

    That is why we have to carry out regular veterinary checkups every six to twelve months. It will also be essential to identify the Tibetan Terrier with a microchip and tag. We should follow the vaccination schedule and the deworming routine as standard with any dog breed. In this way we can prevent and detect various diseases early.

    Where to adopt a Tibetan terrier dog?

    The distribution of Tibetan Terriers is much wider than we may think. However, they are a pedigree dog and not always available in your area. It is unlikely you will find them in a shelter as a purebred Tibetan Terrier, although you may find mixed-breed dogs with some TT heritage. If this is the case, they will still likely carry many of the traits and behaviors typical of the Tibetan Terrier breed. We also encourage adopting shelter dogs to help give them a much-needed home.

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