Dog Breed Review

Tibetan Terrier



What’s in a dog name? Not much, that is, if you’re the Tibetan Terrier. Indeed, one of the most misleading breeds by name sake, the TT has no relation to any terrier. Much like their relative, the Tibetan Spaniel, the breed was stuck with a name that doesn’t really represent them.

As you can probably guess, the breed hails from the  rooftop of the world, Tibet. And it was there that the Tibetan Terrier made a friend and legacy. Insomuch, the monks call them the “Holy Dog of Tibet.”

While the breed is relatively rare in the West and United States, interest in the breed continues to grow.

So what is this breed’s story and should you take a chance?

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


It is the belief of Tibetan Terrier specialists, that this breed’s origins stretch back some 3,000 years ago in the Himalayan region of Tibet. And it was there, where the breed made a name for itself. It was there that the breed became a companion, watchdog, herder, mascot and good luck charm. Much like the TT’s relative, the Tibetan Spaniel, a Tibetan Terrier was never to be sold. While only few people had these dogs, most of the land would cherish them. In retrospect, monks or Lamas thought of the breed as a marker of good will. A lucky charm.

Although the Tibetan Terrier was always a favorite as a companion, they also made their name herding and retrieving lost goods on the slopes.

Exposure outside of Tibet or India wouldn’t come until the 20th century. It was a woman, a surgeon, Dr.Greig, who would help launch the breed into the West. Moreover, Greig was blown away by the breed. In 1922, the doctor would receive her own Tibetan Terrier as a gift from a patient. In the 1920’s, in India, she began showing the dogs at a dog show and was told she should start breeding. She did.

It was 1926, when she went back to England with three Tibetan Terriers. Perhaps, it was her alone that was responsible for the breed’s success outside of Tibet. The formation of the Tibetan Terrier Club of England began in 1956.

Around that time another woman would help bring the breed into North America. Dr. Murphy was responsible for breeding and exposing the  Tibetan Terrier, so much, that by 1957, the formation of the Tibetan Terrier Club of American began to take shape.

Many experts believe that the breed’s most popular moments came in the 1970’s, and it was in 1973, that both, the United Kennel Club and American Kennel Club gave recognition to the breed. Although the breed was competing in Miscellaneous events a decade before. A year after getting recognition in the United States, the Canadian Kennel Club would follow suit.

Today, the breed is seen more as a companion. 

The American Kennel Club lists the breed as the 101th most popular breed in America.


A Tibetan Terrier belongs in the medium dog breed class. While females are slightly smaller, the standard calls for 18 to 30 pounds for both sexes.

With regards to height, either sex can stand between 14 to 17 inches.

Personality and Temperament

The Tibetan Terrier isn’t for everyone. In fact, if you’re looking for a dog that will do as you say, be a star in obedience, then the TT isn’t quite the match. That isn’t to say they will run roughshod all over you. They won’t. The breed is definitely capable of listening and learning, that is, from someone that is fair and consistent.

Tibetan Terriers will make you earn their performances. While they do pick up on the first command 30 percent of the time, according to the Intelligence of Dogs, they aren’t big on learning new trades for the sake of doing so. It needs to interest them. This is a breed that does like to play but they certainly don’t mind being mellow. Indeed, you’ll find them on occasion mellowing out on your bed or couch. While they are on the smaller scale or medium, dog lovers consider the breed  “a large dog in a small dog’s body.”

The breed can be vocal, especially when they are missing a special someone. They’ll bark when something isn’t right, but may just feel like chatting. However, those familiar with the Tibetan Terrier claim they don’t just yap to yap. 

A Tibetan Terrier is better with a family that as older children. While they would much rather be an only dog , they can live with other canines. 

Active, agile, and alert, these traits made the breed such great watchdogs in the past. They do adapt well to apartment living and will fit in out in the country. Cold or hot, the breed should be fine.

A special bond is important to the Tibetan Terrier. People refer to them as “little people,” because they are sensitive as one. Especially with their people. The TT can tell with your body language if you’re having a bad day. Or they’ll wag their tail along with your happiness.

All in all, this is a loyal, affectionate and independent breed. Tibetan Terriers have a mind of their own. Sometimes a troublemaker, playing and close contact with humans the breed appreciates. Prepare yourself, this is a long investment, and don’t find it shocking when they live until 15 or 16 years old. Aloof with strangers, willing to protect the home, the Tibetan Terrier is a unique soul with a fun spirit.


Generally healthy, you can expect your Tibetan Terrier to live on average between 15 and 16 years. When you buy a Tibetan Terrier make sure you purchase from a reputable breeder. The last thing you want is a breeder who owns a puppy mill. Ask the right questions, ask around or read the reviews but never settle, because you’ll likely end up with a dog that isn’t for you. A reputable breeder can provide you with essential health clearances and documents. Additionally, you’ll want to schedule routine veterinarian visits to ensure your Tibetan Terrier remains healthy.

There is a laundry list of possible disorders or complications. It doesn’t mean your TT will inherit these conditions, however. Common malformations like hip and Elbow Dysplasia are common but abundant in the breed.

For instance, the malformation of the hip joint, Hip Dysplasia is a low possibility in the breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals lists the breed as the 151st worst for the disorder.  Out of 7700 plus evaluations, 5.8% of TT’s have Hip Dysplasia. This ranks them the Cocker Spaniel and Irish Wolfhound. Abnormal growth in the elbow, which will cause pain and lameness, Elbow Dysplasia affects 4.3% of TT’s, which ranks the breed 64th worst on the OFA list. This puts them in the company of the Leonberger, Beauceron and Alaskan Malamute.

When the kneecap slips out of place it can cause other orthopedic problems like lameness, discomfort and pain. Patella Luxation is a problem for the breed, and the OFA lists them as 35th worst in that department with a 4.6% dysplastic rating. That puts them among the Bulldog and Bichon Frise.

Cloudiness of the lens, which may cause blindness is also known as Cataracts. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is the systematic failure of the photoreceptor cells in the eyes that initially cause night time blindness and eventually complete blindness.

Hypothyroidism is when your Tibetan Terrier has a lack of hormonal production in the thyroid which causes issues all throughout the body. Lethargy, weakness, depression are common symptoms. For this breed, the OFA ranks their thyroids as the 9th worst on their list for that category near their relative the Tibetan Mastiff. 

Other issues include Lens Luxation of the eye, a congenital neurological disorder — Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, which can impact their motor skills and mental abilities, cancer and deafness.


If you really want a Tibetan Terrier but have smaller children, then supervision is a must. You’ll also want to teach your children how to handle and properly respect a dog. the TT won’t tolerate rough play or abuse. This is a breed that is better for a family with older children. 

They are adaptable to many environments but should live indoors. If you’re too busy for a dog, then look for a different breed. This breed needs special consideration and time. They rely on close contact. If you live somewhere noisy, probably not the best fit. At the same time, the Tibetan Terrier can be quite vocal and isn’t afraid to bark when necessary.

The breed requires sufficient exercise. One walk a day should do the trick and backyard play. A 15 minute walk appears to be standard. A fence is necessary or a leash to keep them from running off. Most fans of this breed  will say that you can’t trust the breed not to run away.

Early training and socialization is a must for this breed. They need someone fair, consistent, while training them with positive reinforcement. Some Tibetan Terriers will bark at almost everything. If you spend time with the breed, you can easily break that habit.

If you have allergies, then this breed is good for people with pet dander sensitivity. Bathe at least six times a year, trim nails regularly to protect from overgrowth and splitting, check their ears for bacterial buildup.


The first important note for any breed is that not all dogs will or can eat the same. That logic applies for the Tibetan Terrier as well. Things like; age, metabolism, activity requirements can play a role in how much your breed will eat.

On average, most enthusiasts seem comfortable feeding their Tibetan Terrier between 1 to 1 1/2 cups of high quality dry kibble per day. Meat should be the first ingredient. You can break the portion up into two meals to help alleviate the chances of Bloat or obesity. Bloat is a deadly condition of the stomach that a dog gets from an excess of gas. 

Quality sources of protein, crude fat, and calories should be a priority for an owner who wants their Tibetan Terrier to remain healthy and active. The average TT should consume a caloric intake between 610 to 894 calories per day.

As always, you should provide your Tibetan Terrier with fresh drinking water.


Tibetan Terrier do require some upkeep. Regular grooming is necessary to keep their double coat looking its best. Two to three times a week of brushing will help do the trick. The breed is a seasonal shedder and many consider them to be a hypoallergenic breed, which is a dog that is good for someone with allergies.

The double coat should have a profuse topcoat and fine in texture. It can be straight or have a slight wave to it. The coat can be long yet neat. The undercoat is wooly and soft to the touch.

According to the American Kennel Club, there are 11 acceptable coat color options; Black and white, black, black, white and gold, brindle, gold, gold and white, gold and brindle, sable. white, white and black, white and gold.

There are two acceptable markings: White markings and black markings.

Fun Tibetan Terrier Facts

  • 1937 was the year of recognition by the Kennel Club of England for the Tibetan Terrier.
  • The Tibetan Terrier is one of three breeds from Tibet in the Non Sporting Group.
  • The Lhasa Apso is a cousin of the breed.
  • Stanley Coren lists the breed as the 117th most intelligent in the world of dogs.

Closing Words

The Tibetan Terrier is like having another child. A six year old child, that is. You love them, even when hey resist the things you want them to be doing. But in the end, they are still really loyal and well behaved.

That’s the Tibetan Terrier in a nutshell. Independent, with a mind of is own, this breed has the mystical stigma of a spiritual symbol, with the working ability of a herding and guard dog. 

Where the breed really earns their merit is as a family dog. Loyal and forthcoming, this long term investment is a breed of dog you can count on for a long time.




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