Tibetan Spaniel

Canis lupus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Originally bred to be a companion dog in Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries.


Tibetan Spaniel Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Tibetan Spaniel Locations

Tibetan Spaniel Locations

Tibetan Spaniel Facts

Fun Fact
Originally bred to be a companion dog in Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries.
Smart and attentive to owner

Tibetan Spaniel Physical Characteristics

  • Red
  • Black
  • White
  • Gold
  • Tan
  • Cream
Skin Type
12 – 15 years
15 lbs

Tibetan Spaniel as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
$800 to $3,500
Dog group
Male weight
9-15 lbs
Female weight
9-15 lbs

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The Tibetan spaniel was originally bred in Asia to alert Buddhist monks of anyone who might approach their lamasery.

Friendly and vocal, the Tibetan Spaniel loves to spend time with his family. This dog is sometimes called a “Tibby,” and the breed was originally bred for Buddhist monks, eventually reaching the US in the 1960s. They prefer to spend time with their family, and they shouldn’t be left alone for long.

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The Tibetan Spaniel is rather adventurous and active and will bark incessantly at any visitor or passerby.

Tibetan Spaniel vs. Pekingese

The Tibetan Spaniel has a longer face and a less fluffy coat than the Pekingese. They also don’t have extra skin near their eyes as the Pekingese do.

Breeders sometimes mix the genetics of these pups for a different look. However, due to the roots of the Pekingese breed, breeders may have chosen to mix the Tibetan spaniel to ultimately create the former.

History of the Breed

Tibetan spaniel playing on the green grass on a hot day.

Tibetan spaniels were first introduced to the United States in the mid-to-late 1960s.

The Tibetan spaniel is believed to date back over 2,000 years, originating in the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet. As there is artwork that dates back to 1100 BCE that has Tibetan spaniels appearing in it, it is believed that they are perhaps even older, at least 3,000 years old but this is not exactly known. These dogs were owned and bred by Buddhist monks and lamas and were referred to as “little lions”. They were intended as guard dogs, or lookout dogs, standing watch over the monasteries.

Health and Entertainment for your Tibetan Spaniel

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This breed was historically never bred for sale but rather was given as gifts to other Buddhist countries, Chinese leaders, and esteemed friends. They were first introduced to England in the late 1800s and eventually made their way to the United States in the mid-to-late 1960s.

3 Pros and Cons of Owning a Tibetan Spaniel

Before adding a Tibetan Spaniel to the home, consider a few pros and cons to decide if they are a good match for the household.

Loving and sweet: Perhaps the greatest advantage of owning a Tibetan spaniel is how much they love to dote on their family members.Explorative nature: The Tibetan Spaniel is rather adventurous and active, so it is not wise to bring them outside without a leash.
Incredibly intelligent: The Tibetan spaniel aims to please, so it is important to always give them positive reinforcement while training.Very vocal: Though the Tibetan spaniel thinks itself to be quite the watchdog, he will also bark incessantly at any visitor or passerby.
Playful: This dog loves to prance and perch around the home.Rare: As wonderful as the Tibetan spaniel is, it isn’t bred by many breeders. The cost may be high, and the wait for a litter of puppies to be born may be a while.

Size and Weight

Purebred Tibetan Spaniel dog outdoors on a grass meadow.

Purebred Tibetan Spaniels often weigh 9-15 lbs. and stand 10 inches tall as an adult.

The Tibetan Spaniel is a small, non-sporting dog, and there is little difference between females and males in their size. They often weigh 9-15 lbs. and stand 10 inches tall as an adult.

Height (Male)10 inches tall
Height (Female)10 inches tall
Weight (male)9-15 lbs., fully grown.
Weight (female)9-15 lbs., fully grown.

Common Health Issues

The Tibetan Spaniel has the good fortune of having relatively few health issues, but that doesn’t mean that they are completely safe. Choosing puppies from good breeders will greatly reduce the risk of inherited disease, especially if they’ve been tested. These genes for certain inherited diseases can be tested by a vet.

In the eyes, progressive retinal atrophy is relatively common, causing blindness as the condition progresses. Luckily, a vet can screen for this issue far earlier than when the eyes start to degenerate, giving a better chance of preserving the dog’s vision.

Patellar luxation – which is caused by the misalignment of the kneecap, calf, and thigh bone – is also common, eventually leading to surgery if it is not caught early enough. These dogs may also suffer from deafness (which can be detected from birth), epilepsy, and other eye disease.

Unfortunately, the majority of health issues aren’t fully seen in the pup before they reach adulthood. That’s exactly why breeders should wait until their dogs are at least 2 or 3 years old to breed them. Ultimately, the health issues that most commonly plague the Tibetan spaniel include:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Patellar luxation
  • Congenital deafness
  • Epilepsy
  • Other eye diseases


Tibetan Spaniel close-up

These pups like to roam around the home with their active personality, though they don’t need a bunch of space.

The sweet nature of the Tibetan spaniel makes it the perfect breed for any home with the same environment. These animals love to spend a little extra time with their owners, doing anything to get the snuggles and playtime that comes with human attention. They are incredibly in tune with the emotions of their owners, so it is important to keep a relatively consistent home for good behavior.

These pups like to roam around the home with their active personality, though they don’t need a bunch of space. They are just as happy in a small apartment as they are in a large house, but they’ll need plenty of attention. They like to get up on tops of couches and other areas with a little height to perch, giving them a full view of what’s going on around them.

With consistent training, their intelligence and perception of their owner’s mood help them to maintain relatively good behavior. Their quick learning is a great advantage, though they may not listen to commands when they are feeling more stubborn.

How to Take Care of Tibetan Spaniels

Introducing any new dog into a home – whether from breeders or a rescue – is a challenge. Your home is their home, and the Tibetan Spaniel needs to feel at home. Here are a few ways that you can make your home more welcoming as you take care of your furry friend.

Best Dog Food

Tibetan Spaniel isolated on a white background.

Buying high-quality food will ensure that he eats enough without becoming overweight.

Every dog deserves to have a mix of high-quality dog food, and this breed is no different. However, their body is relatively small, so they should only need a total of ¾ to 1 cup of food each day. Since their stomach can only take in so much food at once, this total amount should be divided into two meals each day.

The age and size of your particular dog will determine if he needs more or less of this food. When he’s done with a meal, put away his food dish. Buying high-quality food will ensure that he eats enough without becoming overweight.

A-Z Animals says the best dog food for Tibetan Spaniels is Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Shredded Formula Lamb & Rice Adult Dry Dog Food.

The perfect lamb and rice formula for these small dogs, it includes optimum amounts of phosphorus and calcium for the growth and maintenance of strong bones and cartilage. It’s supplemented with poultry ingredients for glucosamine and added joint support to minimize the risk of patellar luxation. Manganese and potassium are essential for the nervous system since this breed can have Epilepsy.

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Best for Small Breeds
Purina Pro Plan Small Breed Shredded Formula Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Nutrient-dense bite-sized kibble and small tender, shredded pieces for a taste and texture dogs love.
  • High protein formula with real chicken as the first ingredient.
  • Fortified with guaranteed live probiotics to support digestive and immune health.
  • Used to be known as SAVOR Shredded Blend Chicken and Rice Formula.
  • Formulated high in protein to meet the needs of highly active small dogs.

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Maintenance and Grooming

Keeping up with a Tibetan spaniel’s grooming is crucial, especially because shedding happens throughout the year for this small dog. It is best to brush their coat weekly to eliminate the dead hair that can get stuck in their coat. However, this dog has a double coat that is incredibly silky, so don’t let the texture fool you – brushing is necessary.

Baths come much less frequently. Unless the dog becomes incredibly dirty, it shouldn’t need to be bathed more than once every 6 to 8 weeks. Brushing their teeth is much more frequent at no less than 2 to 3 times a week, though some owners prefer to brush them every day.

Nail trimming is another “as-needed” grooming task, but it is best to do it once or twice monthly. A good rule of thumb is to listen when your dog walks – if you hear their nails, it’s time for a trim. Handling their paws will make your dog less antsy about having them handled during grooming.


Tibetan Spaniel running in the snow.

Any training should be done at their level to avoid intimidating this pup.

The Tibetan Spaniel is easily intimidated by the large size of its owner, so any training should be done at their level. Get down on your knees to be less intimidating and adopt positive reinforcement while training with treats and play. They are sensitive to the mood of their owner, so keep a confident and hopeful demeanor during training to keep them in the same responsive mood.

Though the Tibetan spaniel can be trusted around the home, many owners prefer to housetrain or even crate-train when they are not home to prevent chewing. If you choose to keep your dog in a crate while away, do not keep them in it for long periods or they may become anxious.


As active as the Tibetan spaniel may be, they don’t actually require that much exercise. This pup is just as happy running around an open yard as they are climbing up yet another piece of furniture to sit up tall. They work well in an apartment setting, but they are also excited to jump around all of the space in a massive estate.

Usually, the Tibby is happy to go on a walk up to twice a day to get all of the outdoor activity that they need. As long as they can hold the attention of their owner, they are perfectly happy.


Tibetan Spaniel puppy playing on the grass.

When they are 6 months old, they can safely eat 2 meals a day.

Caring for a small puppy is a lot of work. When they are 8 to 12 weeks old, they’ll need 4 meals a day, though this number drops down to 3 meals a day until they are 6 months old. When they are 6 months old, they can safely eat 2 meals a day, though they won’t need quite as much as an adult.

Tibetan Spaniel and Children

When it comes to time with family, these dogs are all too happy to spend time with their family. They are always ready to cuddle, but they prefer to have someone come up to them at their own height. This might be exactly why young children are such a good companions for them. These pups are incredibly attentive when given the attention they need, but their high sensitivity to emotions can be stressful during tantrums.

As much as this dog loves little ones, they should be supervised. The small physique of the Tibetan spaniel can be hurt unintentionally if they engage in rough play.

Dogs Similar to the Tibetan Spaniel

If a Tibetan spaniel isn’t for you, consider one of these breeds instead.

  • Pekingese – This dog has similar genetic roots and may actually be related to the Tibetan spaniel.
  • Pomeranian – With a similar build and a love for their owner, the personality of a Pomeranian is quite similar.
  • Bichon Frise – This dog is meant to show off, but they have a friendly personality.

Famous Tibetan Spaniels

These dogs are most famous for their use in Tibetan monasteries. However, in pop culture, the Tibetan spaniel is featured in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. This breed is featured in children’s books as well, though they are much easier to spot in animated films.

Some popular names for these spaniels include:

  • Bubbles
  • Champ
  • Cinnamon
  • Trixie
  • Titus

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Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


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About the Author

Melissa Bauernfeind was born in NYC and got her degree in Journalism from Boston University. She lived in San Diego for 10 years and is now back in NYC. She loves adventure and traveling the world with her husband but always misses her favorite little man, "P", half Chihuahua/half Jack Russell, all trouble. She got dive-certified so she could dive with the Great White Sharks someday and is hoping to swim with the Orcas as well.

Tibetan Spaniel FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Tibetan spaniels good family dogs?

Absolutely. These dogs love to be around family members, though they will often shy away from strangers and unfamiliar visitors. However, children should be taught the proper way to engage in play with this small dog.

How much does a Tibetan spaniel cost?

Due to the rarity of the Tibetan spaniel, a puppy can cost anywhere from $800 to $3,500. On average, they cost about $1,990. While it is possible to find a puppy from a rescue for much cheaper, it may take a bit of searching. Check out nearby rescue groups for small dogs to increase the chances.

Can Tibetan spaniels be left alone?

Typically, the Tibetan spaniel doesn’t like to be alone for very long. While some owners choose to crate-train their dogs when they will be gone for a while, it is best to not leave them in this small area for excessive periods. These dogs become anxious when left without their owner.

Do Tibetan spaniels like to cuddle?

Yes. In fact, the Tibetan spaniel will often cuddle much more than the average dog. They like to spend plenty of time with loved ones.

How do you groom a Tibetan spaniel?

This dog requires weekly brushing, eliminating the mess of the year-round shedding. Furthermore, they should be bathed every 6-8 weeks, and their nails should be trimmed every 2-4 weeks.

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