AKC Dog Breeds: Tibetan Terrier

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Non Sporting Group
Height: 12-16 inches   Weight: 18-30 pounds  Color: black/white, tricolor, silver, gray, cream, golden, black

The Tibetan Terrier evolved over many centuries, surviving in Tibet’s extreme climate and difficult terrain. The breed developed a protective double coat, compact size, unique foot construction, and great agility. The Tibetan Terrier served as a steadfast, devoted companion in all of his owner’s endeavors. Once considered a symbol of good luck, the Tibetan Terrier was developed in Tibet, where he lived in monasteries. Despite his name he is not actually related to the terrier breed, and was bred for companionship. The breed was registered with the AKC in 1973.

General Appearance

The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-sized squarely proportioned dog that looks more like a sheepdog than a terrier. The double coat protects the entire dog, even falling in front of the dark, large, widely spaced eyes. The fine outer coat can be straight or wavy. The undercoat is soft and woolly. The coat should be long, but should not touch the ground. Any color (or combination of colors) including white is acceptable except for chocolate. The feathered tail is heavily furnished and carried over the back. The desirable mouth is a tight scissors bite or a tight reversed scissors bite. A reversed scissors bite is where the inner surface of the lower teeth touches the outer surface of the upper teeth. The topline is level. This breed's unique, large, flat feet are well furnished with hair and produce a snowshoe effect that provides traction and flotation in snow.


A devoted, loyal, and friendly little dog, the Tibetan Terrier - despite his name - is not related to the terrier breed. He is a spirited and playful dog with a fair amount of energy, but also knows when to be calm and sensible. These dogs are agile and very adept at climbing, which is why it is important to ensure that his play and exercise area is safe and secure. He does enjoy regular walks as part of his exercise regime, and loves to frolic around in the snow. The Tibetan Terrier loves to be around his family, enjoys interaction, and is not the right dog for those with little time for their pets. He is cheerful, sociable, and good natured, and is also very adaptable in terms of his living environment. These dogs have high problem solving skills, are intelligent, and quick to learn. However, training can still be a bit of a challenge, as they can be very stubborn and independent. Although a confident, assertive, yet positive owner is necessary, these dogs are well suited to both experienced and inexperienced dog owners. There is timidity and shyness in some lines, so it is advisable to provide your Tibetan Terrier with early socialization to promote confidence and stability in his temperament. The Tibetan Terrier will usually bark to raise an alarm, and is cautious around strangers, making him an effective watchdog. He is small and doesn't like to be handled roughly, so he is best around older, more gentle children. When it comes to other pets, the Tibetan Terrier will be generally accepting, if a little bossy. These dogs are keen diggers in some cases, so those with gardens that are their pride and joy may want to think twice before opting for this breed. All in all, the Tibetan Terrier makes for a loving and loyal companion as well as an entertaining and devoted pet.


The Tibetan Terrier has a long and beautiful coat--which means that it also requires a great deal of grooming. Expect to give your dog a good brushing at least once every two to three days, and more during certain stages of the dog's life. What's the upside of the breed, as far as grooming goes? Almost no shedding--if you brush the dog regularly. Tibetan Terriers are an ideal breed for allergy sufferers (or inconsistent housekeepers) for just this reason.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
The life expectancy of the Tibetan Terrier is around 12-15 years, and there are a number of health problems to look out for with this breed. Tibetan Terriers are prone to hip dysplasia, hernias, cataracts, lens luxation, and progressive retinal atrophy. Because of this genetic propensity for eye ailments, anyone who intends to breed or show his or her Tibetan Terrier should make sure to have the dog's eyes checked early and often for signs of potential genetic disorders.

Activity Level

The Tibetan Terrier requires daily regular exercise in the form of a long walk or play session. They are suited for apartment living provided they are given sufficient exercise. Tibetan Terriers are energetic and strong and do very well in agility. They are excellent hiking companions and enjoy a vigorous run in a securely fenced yard or safe open space. Whenever you're walking your Tibetan Terrier, make sure of one thing: don't let them off the leash. Tibetan Terriers have a mischievous streak coupled with a high degree of intelligence, which is a recipe for frequent attempts to escape and explore this curious world they find all around them whenever they're outdoors.


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