Dog Breed Review

Tibetan Spaniel




Down on your luck? Well, it sounds like you’re in need of a Tibetan Spaniel. That’s right, the dog from the Rooftop of the world, Tibet, is said to be a symbol of good luck. This small, rather active, non sporting group has been the charm on monks for at least 3,000 years.

While their exposure in the states is minimal, others see their rarity as a token of good.

Moreover, the Tibbie is one of many breed that hails from the land of Tibet. In fact, it is the Tibetan Spaniel that would work together to keep monks safe with the large and in charge, Mastiff.

So should you take a chance on this spiritual fur ball? Will they be a good fit for your home?

Here is what you need to know about the Tibetan Spaniel.


The Tibetan Spaniel’s early origins is as good as anyone’s guess. There is some debate, as there is, typically dealing with the history of a breed, whether the breed descends from the Pekingese or the Pekingese descends from the Tibetan Spaniel.

What we do know about the Tibbie is that the breed is ancient. Very old. Some estimates peg them around 3,000 years old. Enthusiasts and breed historians say that the breed appears in ancient art dating back 11100 BC, while the American Kennel Club cites 200 B.C as the earliest date.

A Tibetan Spaniel was held in high regard as a sacred symbol. Emperors would gift the breed but never sell them. Monks would keep the breed as companions and bed warmers. Furthermore, the name “spaniel” is usually in reference of a gun dog. In fact, there is nothing about this breed that indicates they are a “spaniel.”

That’s because the Tibetan Spaniel isn’t a spaniel. Moreover, it is said that the breed takes the name from a French word, “epagnuel,” which means comforter or companion dog. That makes sense considering the breed’s history as a confidante.

Lounging and being lazy lapdogs wasn’t the only task for the Tibetan Spaniel. Lamas and monks would use them as capable watchdogs. A Tibetan Spaniel was ideal thanks to their size, but also their keen senses and the way the breed would perch up above a high platform to keep watch of strangers and possible danger. True to form of today, the Tibetan Spaniel would bark if they saw something they didn’t agree with. What’s more, if it was a threat, the breed had the intelligence to alert their owners or enlist the help of the Tibetan Mastiff.

For centuries, trade between the Chinese and Tibet would stir debate as to the ancestry of the breed. Most people believe that the breed’s ancestry is the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. 

While the Tibetan Spaniel would remain exclusive for centuries, they would begin to surface in Europe during the 15th century brought by missionaries. However, a brief stop in England during the late 1800’s, would lead to the Tibetan Spaniel’s greater presence in England following World War 2. 

The United States would have to wait until 1966, when the first imports of the Tibetan Spaniel came. Once the breed came, however, it wouldn’t take long for the doors to open with the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America. And that it did in 1971. The breed would gain recognition in 1984, finding themselves in the Non Sporting Group. The UKC would follow suit in 1992.

Today, the breed still has the spiritual prestige back in Tibet. However, their role as companion has become greatest and the AKC lists them as rare, being the 121st most popular breed in America.


As a classic lapdog from Tibet, the Tibetan Spaniel is part of the small breed class. Both male and female Tibetan Spaniels should stand at 10 inches.

With regards to weight, the American Kennel Club states that both male and females should weigh between 9 to 15 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

Do you want a best bud for life? You’re in luck with the Tibetan Spaniel. This is the happy go lucky and glad to be with you dog you’ve been dreaming about. The smallest things in life make this breed happy. Such as your attention and affection. They have plenty of that to offer as well. Full of self-love and bright, it is their adorable eyes and sweet nature that really pull people into them. This is a breed that wants to lay with you, snuggle on the couch, or hop up in bed. When you come home at night, they are the first to greet you with a heavy heart. 

The breed is wonderful with children and pretty good with dogs. Strangers will not see the same result, however. The breed is known to be a bit aloof with strangers  until they know them better. 

Love and protector. Their keen eyes and curious nature makes this breed such a wonderful watchdog. While they may not look like the biggest threat, they certainly can alert you without problem. The American Kennel Club states that the breed is quiet but others disagree. Once you get this dog jabbering, they never seem to quit. Full of animation and personality, the Tibet Spaniel has no problem vocalizing with their people.

Apartment friendly, that may like to wander a bit and sometimes is a bit stubborn to the calls of their owner. However, most people believe the Tibetan Spaniel is easy to train and eager to please with the right person.

All in all, this is an adventurous dog, that has a nose to dig around and see what’s happening. They’ll watch over your home and children just as much as they’ll play along. They are climbers ad that’s what made them such good watchdogs in Tibet. Experts say this breed is similar to that of a cat. 


A Tibetan Spaniel has a pretty healthy life. They live between 12 to 15 years if you do your part. Of course, when you do your part you do it by buying from a reputable breeder. Someone that doesn’t operate puppy mills and can provide you with the proper paperwork and health clearances. Don’t be afraid to ask around, read reviews, so that you can ensure you’re getting the Tibetan Spaniel possible.

In addition, you’ll want to schedule regular veterinarian visits to ensure your dog’s health.

Portosystemic Shunt is a serious condition. It’s also known as Liver Shunt. This is an abnormal blood flow around the liver, that can have an affect on the liver as well. Surgery will be necessary to correct this condition and your dog may exude weakness, depression, a lack of appetite and display depression if they suffer from Liver Shunt. Consult a veterinarian if you suspect your dog suffers from this/

Progressive Retinal Atrophy can lead to permanent blindness. It begins with night time blindness typically and is seen mostly in Tibet Spaniels between the ages of 18 to 24 months. It is the result of a systematic failure of the photoreceptor cells forcing the breed to lose its vision during night and eventually completely.

Cherry Eye is another condition that affects this breed more commonly than others. Cherry Eye is a red protrusion in the corner of the eye, which inflames around their third eyelid. Surgery and a little force on the spot can help this disorder. You’ll know that the dog suffers from this if you see swelling or irritation at the eye. An infection is likely to occur if you don’t treat it appropriately.

Weeping Eye is an odd condition that is due to consistent tearing of the dog’s eye. The facial hair of the Tibet Spaniel causes irritation against the breed’s eyes. This isn’t as serious as other disorders but can be of annoyance for your Tibetan Spaniel.

Your Tibetan Spaniel is likely to suffer from a kneecap that slips out of place or Patella Luxation. In fact, the authority on this issue, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals did a survey and found the breed to be the fourth worst of over 100 breeds. The breed has a staggering 12.2% dysplastic rating out of only 230 evaluations. This ranks them among other breeds like the Cocker Spaniel, the Aussie Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier.

Hip Dysplasia is the malformation of the hip joint and it can cause a great deal of pain and lameness. There is a possibility, like most breeds, that your Tibetan Spaniel may encounter this condition.

Allergies and hernias are other areas to concern over and keep an eye out for.


The Tibetan Spaniel can be sensitive to harsh training techniques and should receive positive reinforcement. You’ll need patience and consistency with this breed. While they may be simple to train, for the most part, they are independent in nature. It may not behoove them to do what you want right away. They do need early training and socialization to help steer them away from being aloof with dogs, children and all strangers.

Due to their curious nature, it is best to keep up a fence or put them on a leash when you exercise them. Regular exercise should be mandatory to keep them happy and healthy. They shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time or outdoors. This is an indoor dog, that can live in apartments. Ultimately, they just want to have a special bond and close contact with their family.

While the breed drools quite a bit, they are simple to care for. They are great watchdogs and companions. They can be vocal but at times they can be quiet. A Tibetan Spaniel will do best in mild climates and shouldn’t be left out in too cold or too hot of weather.


How much your Tibetan Spaniel eats will depend on their age, metabolism, and energy. Not all dogs are the same and not all dogs will have the same portions. That said, most owners of this breed seem content with 3/4 cups to 1 cup of high quality kibble per day. You can break that up into two meals per day to help reduce the chances of obesity and Bloat. Bloat is a fatal condition that is due to an excess of air or gas.

Meat should be the first ingredient and don’t be afraid to mix in a raw diet. You’ll want balance with minerals, vitamins and other key nutrients your Tibetan Spaniel should be getting. If you aren’t quite sure what you should feed your Tibetan Spaniel, then always consult a veterinarian or kennel owner.

As always, you should proivde your Tibetan Spaniel with fresh drinking water.


A Tibetan Spaniel will have a double coat. The coat should be smooth to the touch and appear silky. The length is of medium length and shouldn’t be that abundant or too dense. Feathering can represent the forelegs. 

The breed does tend to mat up around the ears, so be sure to pay special attention to the coat’s region. A simple one over once a week should suffice this breed’s grooming requirements. They are seasonal shedders, which means, typically, that they blow coat heavier twice a year, usually in the fall and spring.

According to the American Kennel Club, there are eight acceptable coat color options: Black, black and tan, cream, gold, red, sable, silver sable and white. 

There are two acceptable markings: Parti-color and white markings.

Fun Tibetan Spaniel Facts

  • Stanley Coren’s “Intelligence of Dogs” has the breed as the 81st most intelligent. This means they’ll obey the first command 50 percent of the time.
  • The breed may also have ancestry with the Shih Tzu, Tibetan Terrier, Pug and Japanese Chin.
  • According to, the smaller the Tibetan Spaniel the more precious the dog’s value was to monks. The smaller Tibet Spaniels would be gift to monasteries.
  • Monks believe in reincarnation into the Tibetan Spaniel or other dogs. This speaks to the breed’s holy reputation.
  • The FCI gave the breed recognition in 1961.

Closing Words

Certain cultures hold near and dear their breed of dogs. The Tibet monks are no different. Even today, people believe in the Tibetan Spaniel’s value and worth as a symbol of good luck and good fortune.

For those with the Tibetan Spaniel  in their life, they are fine that the breed isn’t a household name in the United States. For them, that just means more of this happy go lucky, high spirit breed to themselves.


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