Tibetan Terrier

Canis lupus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Sue Thatcher/Shutterstock.com

Tibetan terriers have round, flat, “snow shoe” feet that evolved to give them traction on snowy Himalayan paths


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Tibetan Terrier Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Carnivora
Family
Canidae
Genus
Canis
Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Tibetan Terrier Conservation Status

Tibetan Terrier Locations

Tibetan Terrier Locations

Tibetan Terrier Facts

Fun Fact
Tibetan terriers have round, flat, “snow shoe” feet that evolved to give them traction on snowy Himalayan paths
Temperament
Energetic, playful and stubborn quiet and lazy
Diet
Omnivore

Tibetan Terrier Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Grey
  • Black
  • White
  • Gold
  • Brindle
Skin Type
Hair
Lifespan
12-15 years
Weight
30 lbs

Tibetan Terrier as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Shedability
Trainability
Intelligence
Tendency to Chew
Size
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
High
Hypoallergenic
Yes
Separation Anxiety
Moderate
Preferred Temperature
Cold climate
Exercise Needs
Moderate
Friendly With Other Dogs
Moderate
Pure bred cost to own
$1,000 - $2,000
Dog group
Terrier
Male weight
26-30 lbs
Female weight
22-26 lbs

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Tibetan terriers have round, flat, “snow shoe” feet that evolved to give them traction on snowy Himalayan paths.

A Tibetan terrier could easily be mistaken for a larger version of its cousin, the Lhasa apso. Like Lhasa apsos, Tibetan terriers have a long, historic association with Buddhist monasteries, and they also have that long front fringe, which frequently obscures their eyes. Despite their name, though, Tibetan terriers are not true terriers; they were not bred to hunt vermin but to guard the monasteries and help nomadic herdsmen tend their flocks. The lamas nicknamed this breed, “the Holy Dog.”

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Tibetan terriers are medium-sized dogs with a squarish build, though it can be difficult to glimpse their bodies beneath their wooly double coats. They are friendly, energetic dogs who require a fair amount of exercise. Their highly independent natures make it critically important to establish who’s the boss when you first enter into a relationship with a Tibetan terrier. Hint: That boss should be you!

3 Pros And Cons Of Owning A Tibetan Terrier

Pros!Cons!
They’re adorable: With their shaggy hair, distinguished beards, long eyelashes, and quizzical expressions, it’s hard to find a dog that’s cuter than a Tibetan terrier.They require a lot of grooming: You’ll need to brush your Tibetan terrier at least once a day to avoid mats and tangles. This breed also benefits from a bath every 10 days or so. If you decide to leave your pet’s coat long, it will become a magnet for leaves, twigs, mud, and other debris that will be tracked around your house, so many Tibetan terrier owners opt for keeping their pets’ coats short.
They’re very intelligent: Tibetan terriers learn tricks quickly and can be easily trained to participate in canine sports such as agility, obedience, tracking, and flyball. Their active minds make them mischievous when they think no one is looking, so it’s important to start training them from the time they’re puppies on how to be good when they’re alone in your house.They shed: Tibetan terriers are often billed as hypoallergenic dogs that do not shed, but strictly speaking, this is not true. They lose their hair at about the same rate that humans slough their hair, but their coats are so long that the shed hair gets caught in their coats rather than on your sofa. They shed most vigorously when the seasons change.
They’re amiable with those they know: Once a Tibetan terrier understands you and your other family members are part of its pack, you couldn’t ask for a better-natured or more loyal companion. Like other dogs originally bred as watchdogs, however, these canines can be wary around strangers. They bark a lot at people they don’t know.They’re stubborn: Tibetan terriers naturally believe they’re alpha dogs, and you’ll need to devote a lot of time and training to make them understand they’re not. They respond best to consistent corrections with a lot of positive reinforcement.
Tibetan terrier playing with a ball

©Fotokostic/Shutterstock.com

History Of The Breed

The Tibetan terrier is a breed that dates back at least 2,000 years in Tibet, where they were bred and raised in monastaries by lamas. They originated in the region of Tibet known as the Lost Valley and they were considered to be prized companians and for those blessed to own one, they were thought to bring good luck. Which also meant if you mistreated them, misfortune would come your way.



Types Of

There is only one type of Tibetan terrier but they do come in a variety of different colors, including black, brown, white and a combination of colors. While there is only one Tibetan terrier breed, there are two additional types of native Tibetan breeds – the Tibetan spaniel and the Llasa Apso.

Size And Weight

The Tibetan terrier is a medium-sized dog that stands between 14 and 17 inches high and weighs approximately 18 to 30 pounds. A three-month-old puppy will weigh approximately 7 pounds while a six-month-old puppy will weigh approximately 14 pounds. These dogs assume their adult heights and weights between the ages of 12 and 14 months. Females are slightly smaller than males.

Health and Entertainment for your Tibetan Terrier

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Height (Male)17” tall
Height (Female)15” tall
Weight (male)30lbs, fully grown
Weight (female)26lbs, fully grown

Common Health Issues

Tibetan Terrier isolated on white background

Tibetan terriers are prone to a collection of retinal diseases called progressive retinal atrophy.

©iStock.com/cynoclub

Tibetan terriers were first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1973 and have been bred in the U.S. ever since. Like all purebred dogs, they’re characterized by a certain amount of inbreeding. That inbreeding may sometimes be associated with hereditary health issues. These health conditions can also be found in dogs that are a mix between Tibetan terriers and another breed, The lifespan of a healthy Tibetan terrier ranges between 15 and 16 years.

Tibetan terriers are prone to progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). PRA is not a single disease but a collection of disorders, including red cone dysplasia, progressive rod-cone degeneration, photoreceptor dysplasia, and cataracts, that may culminate in degenerative deterioration of the retinal cells. Primary lens luxation, a deterioration of the fibers that hold the lens of the eye in place, is another vision-related issue that affects these dogs. Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, a condition caused by abnormally high accumulations of ligopigments within the tissues of the body, is also found in members of this breed; symptoms include night blindness, motor abnormalities, and epilepsy. Tibetan terriers may also be affected by canine hip dysplasia and luxating patellas. Additionally, some Tibetan terriers have allergies to dairy and wheat, which can cause them to break out in dermatitis.

There are DNA tests for many of these conditions. Responsible breeders will make sure you’re aware of the potential for these health issues in any Tibetan terrier pup or Tibetan terrier mix you buy from them.

In summary, health issues that affect Tibetan terriers include:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Primary lens luxation
  • Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis
  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patellas
  • Food allergies

Temperament

Tibetan terriers have a sweet but stubborn temperament. Unless you stay on top of their training, they’re smart enough to try and run your household. Their temperaments and reactions can seem very human in other ways, too. They appreciate relationships based on mutual respect and cooperation. These dogs don’t like to be scolded, and repetitive training bores them. They have unconditional love for the human members of their families, but it can take them a while to warm up to outsiders.

How To Take Care Of Tibetan Terriers

Tibetan Terrier in the garden

Tibetan terriers will rebel against any negative disciplinary routines.

©Aggata/Shutterstock.com

Tibetan terriers are mellow in most respects, but there’s no denying that they have high-maintenance hair both as puppies and as full-grown dogs. Some of these dogs have a tendency to become obese, so it’s important to stick to feeding guidelines. They will also rebel against negative disciplinary routines and unrealistic expectations so set achievable objectives for your Tibetan terrier pup, and keep your training methods consistent.

The Best Dog Food For Tibetan Terriers

Tibetan terriers are naturally lean dogs. They’re unusual among canines in that they don’t typically bolt their food but chew it carefully, and they often leave food in their bowls. The staples of this dog’s diet in its homeland were barley gruel and meat broth. These dogs should not need more than two cups of high-quality dog food a day. If you rely too much on treats as a training incentive, your Tibetan terrier may grow greedy and show a tendency to overeat, which could turn into obesity.

If your Tibetan Terrier shows signs of food allergies, talk to the vet about your dog’s diet, and ask about which allergy-alleviating or limited-ingredient dog food to try.

In our opinion at A-Z Animals, the best dog food for Tibetan Terriers is Purina Beyond Simply, Natural Chicken Adult Dry Dog Food.

That’s because this simple chicken, rice, and barley recipe balance protein, fat, and nutritious carbohydrates without any soy, wheat, corn, peas, lentils, and potatoes that can lead to health problems. Real meat is a good source of natural glucosamine for stabile joints. Also, omegas and vitamins can help improve any lingering skin irritation from their previous diet.

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Best All Natural
Purina Beyond Simply Natural Chicken Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Chicken and whole barley recipe for adult dogs 
  • Real farm-raised chicken raised without steroids and natural probiotics for digestive health
  • No corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meal or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives


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Maintenance And Grooming

Black and white Tibetan Terrier running on grass

Tibetan terriers have very thick hair that needs to be combs regularly or it will form thick mats.

©Sue Thatcher/Shutterstock.com

Tibetan terriers need to be combed daily with a metal comb. Their hair is very thick, and if you don’t comb it regularly from root to tip, it will form thick mats that can become a perfect hiding place for fleas, ticks and doggy hot spots. Always mist your pet’s coat with water and conditioner before you attempt to comb out the tangles. Bathe your pet, too, at least once every two weeks. You’ll need to use a shampoo specially formulated for dogs and a high-end conditioner. Tibetan terriers have double coats that take a long time to dry without help so consider investing in a dog-safe hair dryer.

If you let it, a Tibetan terrier’s hair can easily reach the ground. This is the basis for the classic Tibetan terrier show cut. Regular trips to a professional groomer will give you other style options. If you’re not showing your dog, a short haircut is more practical. You can count on your Tibetan puppy to get into everything, so he or she may do best with a short hair puppy cut between one and two inches long. Another short haircut between three and five inches preserves your pet’s characteristic hair but makes the daily comb out far less of a chore.

Trim your pet’s nails regularly, too, and get into the habit of brushing his or her teeth at least once a day.

Training

Tibetan terriers will always assume they are the alpha dogs of any pack they’re in unless you demonstrate otherwise. That’s why it’s critically important to begin training your pup as soon as possible. These dogs do not respond well to coercion. Vocal praises and a very occasional treat make the best incentives.

Exercise

Tibetan terriers are active dogs. They should be taken out for at least two long walks every day, and they make excellent jogging partners. If you don’t give this dog an opportunity to burn off all its extra energy, your dog may turn to random acts of destruction to amuse itself. This dog is a rover, so apart from the dog park, it’s best to keep him or her on a leash at all times when you’re outside together.

Puppies

Among the llamas of the Tibetan monasteries, a Tibetan terrier puppy was the most highly prized of all gifts. These adorable bundles of fluff are ready to leave their parents and their breeders at around 10 to 12 weeks of age.

Tibetan Terrier dog puppy is sitting on the table

©Zanna Pesnina/Shutterstock.com

Tibetan Terriers And Children

Tibetan terriers love the children they live with, but they tend to be distrustful of strangers, so you should not allow kids your dog doesn’t know to pet your dog. They’re not the best dog for toddlers, either, because when their ears and tails are being pulled, they will do whatever they need to do to make a child stop pulling.

Dogs Similar To Tibetan Terriers

Bearded collies, shih tzus and Havanese are similar to Tibetan terriers.

  • Bearded collies – Bearded collies are herding dogs that hail originally from Scotland. At 22 inches and 90 pounds, they are considerably larger than the Tibetan terrier. Their shaggy facial fringes are similar, though.
  • Shih Tzus – Shih Tzus were prized as companion dogs of their temple’s inner sanctums back in Tibet. They’re smaller than Tibetan terriers and their long hair is much silkier. Their dispositions are also more placid.
  • Havanese dogs – Like Tibetan terriers, Havanese dogs are classified as hypoallergenic. The breed originated in Cuba during the 16th century. These dogs are small, but they have that distinctive facial fringe.

Famous Tibetan Terriers

Hugh Bonneville, the actor who plays Lord Crawley on “Downton Abbey,” has two Tibetan terriers named Teddy and Sasha.

  • Dorjee
  • Kalden
  • Jompa
  • Lopsang
  • Zaya

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What's the right dog for you?

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

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If you have kids or existing dogs select:

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How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
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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 Terrier FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How much do Tibetan terriers cost to own?

Plan on a price between $1,000 and $2,000 if you buy a Tibetan terrier pup from breeders. If you acquire a dog from a rescue organization, adoption costs will set you back around $450. Vaccinations, microchipping, neutering, and acquiring the things your new dog will need during that first year like food bowls, beds and crates will cost another $600 or so. Thereafter, plan on spending between $900 and $1,000 a year on food, vet bills, and training.

Are Tibetan terriers good with kids?

Tibetan Terriers are good with children they know well.

How long do Tibetan terriers live?

The lifespan of a Tibetan terrier ranges between 15 and 16 years.

What is a Tibetan terrier?

Tibetan terriers are an ancient breed of dog that Tibetan monks bred to be watchdogs.

Is a Tibetan terrier really a terrier?

No.

When do Tibetan terriers calm down?

Tibetan terriers were bred to be watchdogs, so they are wary of strangers and barking can be an issue. After they get to know you, they calm down.

Are Tibetan terriers good pets?

Yes.

Can a Tibetan terrier be left alone?

It’s a good idea to begin training your Tibetan terrier pup to spend time alone early. Otherwise, he or she may develop separation anxiety. Incessant barking can be a sign of separation anxiety.

Do Tibetan terriers shed?

Tibetan terriers do shed, but they shed into their own hair rather than on your furniture.

How much is a Tibetan terrier?

The price of a Tibetan terrier puppy is typically between $1,000 and $2,000. If this is too high a price to pay, or you don’t have the energy to take on puppy training, regional Tibetan terrier rescue missions exist where you will pay less for a full-grown dog. Many of these rescue organizations are affiliated with local chapters of the Tibetan Terrier Club of America. Hybrid dogs that are a mix between a Tibetan terrier and another breed like a cocker spaniel or a golden retriever can sometimes be found in shelters.

What are the differences between Tibetan Terriers and Lhasa Apsos?

The most obvious difference between Tibetan Terriers and Lhasa Apsos is their size. Other differences include appearance, temperament, exercise, and age of maturity.

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Sources

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  2. American Kennel Club / Accessed March 25, 2021
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  6. Your Pure Bred Puppy / Accessed March 25, 2021
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