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Tibetan Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

The Tibetan Terrier is a very hardy breed, developed to handle the difficult climate and terrain of Tibet. It is a medium sized purebred and while its name suggests it is a terrier in fact it is not, Europeans gave it that name because of how it looked like terriers back home. Its name in Tibet is Tsang Apso which translates as shaggy or bearded dog. Tsang is the province in Tibet that it comes from. It does well in events such as obedience, flyball, herding, agility, showmanship and tracking.

The Tibetan Terrier at A Glance
Name Tibetan Terrier
Other names Tsang Apso, Dokhi Apso
Nicknames None
Origin China
Average size Small to medium
Average weight 20 to 30 pounds
Average height 14 to 17 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Thick, long
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color White, black, silver grey
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 90th by the AKC
Intelligence Below average – training can be harder with this breed
Tolerance to heat Very good can handle being in warm to hot climates
Tolerance to cold Very good can handle being in cold weather
Shedding Low to moderate depending on length the coat is kept at
Drooling Low – not a dog prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – weight gain can happen if allowed to eat too much but it is not prone to obesity
Grooming/brushing Brush daily to keep tangles to a minimum
Barking Occasional – some barking will happen
Exercise needs Very active – needs active owners
Trainability Moderate – can be a stubborn and independent dog
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Good but better with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good, need socialization as may want to chase small animals
Good with strangers Good but needs socialization
Good apartment dog Excellent – very adaptable breed
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Some issues can include eye problems, flea sensitivity, heart problems and hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $460 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $140 a year for dog treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $530 a year for grooming, basic training, toys, license and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1130 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,250
Rescue organizations Several including the Tibetan Terrier Club of America Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Tibetan Terrier’s Beginnings

The Tibetan Terrier is an ancient breed of dog from Tibet and has been a part of the development of several other breeds such as the Tibetan Spaniel, Shih Tzu and Lhaso Apso. Tibetan monks kept the Tibetan Terrier as long as 2000 years ago. They were considered to bring good luck, and were used as companions, for herding and as watchdogs. As well as being kept by monks they were also used by nomadic herdspeople to tend their flocks so were bred to be very hardy.

Monks would give them as a gift to people but these were not dogs that were bred to be sold. They were also called Holy Dogs of Tibet and by locals and the monks themselves were often referred to as the little people. Being a bringer of luck it was considered to be bad luck to sell or poorly treat this dog. Being so isolated there was the potential for this breed to become obscure but due to the fact dogs were gifted to a large variety of people from a range of different places, this has not been the case.

New Lease on Life

In the 1920s a Doctor Greig visiting from England working for the Women’s Medical Service of India was gifted two Tibetan Terriers, one from the Dalai Lama and one from a patient. She bred the pair and they were first called Lhasa Terriers but the Indian Kennel Club changed that to Tibetan Terrier in 1930. When she came back to England she brought some with her and established a kennel there and they were recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1937.

The US did not have any Tibetan Terriers until 1956. The Tibetan Terrier Club of America began in 1957 and it was recognized by the AKC in 1973. Currently it ranks as 90th most popular registered purebred by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

Tibetan Terriers are a small to medium sized dog weighing just 20 to 30 pounds and standing 14 to 17 inches tall. It is a squared and powerful dog with a feathered tail that curls over its back. Its front legs are actually a little shorter than its back legs. The dewclaws are removed in places where this is still practiced. It has unusual feet in that they are flat and broad with hair growing between the toes. They have developed like this to make them more capable on the mountainous terrain. It has a double coat, woolly and soft beneath and a straight to wavy top coat that is long and thick. Common colors are grey, white, silver and black but any color is possible though gold is very rare. It actually quite closely resembles a small Old English Sheepdog.

It has a medium sized head, a black or sometimes brown nose and wide set eyes that are dark and big. Its ears are pendants that hang down on either side of its head and are v shaped and feathered, set high up. Its eyes have long eyelashes and it tends to have hair that falls over its face and eyes.

The Inner Tibetan Terrier


A Tibetan Terrier makes a great watchdog as it is a very alert breed and it will bark to alert you of intruders. However usually it is not that protective so may not act to defend you. Its bark is very distinctive and you will likely need to to train it to control it. It is good for new owners but best with experiences ones as training can be tricky. Despite the name this is not a terrier like breed in its behavior or temperament. It is energetic, lively and playful but is also more kind and sweeter than terriers usually are. They have a great sense of humor and are affectionate and loyal.

It is an intelligent dog but has an independent nature that can mean a stubbornness that for some is harder to deal with. However they are also friendly, brave, dedicated and good natured in general. Around strangers it tends to be more reserved until it is used to them and knows where they fit in. It is important to be clear and firm with them about rules and to ensure they get enough stimulation to prevent them getting bored. Be warned they do needs lots of attention and they can get jealous if other pets are around getting attention that they want. It also does not like to be left alone for long periods.

Living with a Tibetan Terrier

What will training look like?

As mentioned this is not an easy breed to train, it has its own ideas and can be very stubborn. You will need a lot of patience and at least some experience will help. Make sure you are completely consistent and stick to the rules and make it clear you are serious about always following the rules. Stay positive and offer praise and rewards to give it encouragement and support. House training too may be a gradual process, create and stick to a regular schedule and consider using crate training to help. Early socialization is also important otherwise its natural tendency to being wary around strangers can develop into being overly suspicious and shy and that create a timid dog that can snap in fear.

How active is the Tibetan Terrier ?

It will need at least somewhat active owners, it is an active breed but being small to medium that translates to about 30 to 60 minutes a day of walks along with opportunities to run safely off leash and play, somewhere like a dog park for example. It can live in an apartment as long as it gets enough exercise, if it gets bored and restless this can lead to destructive behavior. Ideally though it would have access to a yard even if it is just small or average sized. When indoors it is calm and happy to take over the couch or nap in its favorite spot. Once outside though it will be more energetic.

Caring for the Tibetan Terrier

Grooming needs

The Tibetan Terrier takes a lot of care when it comes to grooming and maintenance so be prepared to put the time in. It is not a heavy shedding dog but its hair tangles easily and needs regular brushing. Make sure the coat is not dry when you brush to prevent damaging it, use a mister with water and conditioner in it to make it go easier. Without regular care it quickly becomes a tangled mess. It will also need some attention from a groomer on a regular basis too.

If you prefer less work and you are not keeping it to show standards you can opt to have its coat clipped shorter. A long coat is also prone to picking up leaves, mud, fecal matter and such, and its beard will drip water after drinking and can collect food debris after its eats. This will need cleaning too. Give it a bath when it needs one and make sure you only use a dog shampoo. Try not to bathe too often as it can dry out its skin. The hair between its toes will need trimming and hair in the ears will need plucking.

Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week. Check its ears for infection signs once a week and then give them a wipe, making sure you do not insert anything into them. When its nails get too long give them a clip or have a vet or groomer do it for you as they can bleed if you cut too low down.

Feeding Time

Tibetan Terriers will eat between ¾ and 1 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day split into at least two meals. How much exactly can range from one dog to another depending on its size, metabolism, rate of activity, health, build and age.

How is the Tibetan Terrier with children and other animals?

The Tibetan Terrier can be good with children as it loves to play and be lively and get up to some mischief. When raised with them and with socialization it can be very loving and affectionate towards them too. They are best with older children or ones at least over 6 years as they may get too rambunctious with ones that are younger. Make sure the children are taught how to play nicely and how to properly touch dogs and if there are younger kids around make sure there is supervision.

When it comes to other dogs and other animals this is a dog that can get along with everyone with early socialization. It is important though that it has strong leadership otherwise it might be less trustworthy and may try to dominate other dogs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The lifespan of this breed is about 12 to 15 years. It is a healthy dog in general, there are some issues that can occur but it is not prone to a great deal of health issues like some breeds. Problems can include being flea sensitive, hip dysplasia, eye problems, patella luxation, heart problems, allergies and Batten disease.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people in Canada and the US in the last 30 or so years, the Tibetan Terrier is not mentioned. It is not a dog to be concerned over in terms of aggression against people but there is a chance they can be dog aggressive when dominance is in question. It is also a fact that any dog, even the most friendly breeds, can have off days and can snap, over react or act in an unpredictable manner. It is important to recognize this and to be a responsible owner by taking steps to give the dog what it needs. Attention, training, early socialization, stimulation and exercise and a place to live and good food to eat.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Tibetan Terrier puppies can cost somewhere between $1000 to $1500 for a good quality pet from a good breeder. Show dogs from top breeders will cost a lot more, up into at least several thousand dollars. For a lower cost of $50 to $400 you might get one from a shelter or rescue. It will come with medical needs dealt with and you get the joy of giving it a new forever home. A lot of shelter dogs that need homes tend to be adults though not puppies. Please take your time to look around and investigate breeders. You can avoid ones from puppy mills, backyard breeders, pet stores and local ads, as in many cases these dogs tend to be of questionable health and the practices of the breeders are also worrying.

When you have a puppy or dog there are some costs for initial needs to cover, your pet will need some medical things taken care of and it will need some items at home like bedding, bowls, collar and leash, carrier and crate. The latter costs amount to around $200. An exam by a vet, blood tests, deworming, micro chipping, spaying or neutering, shots and such are going to cost another $280.

Each year there will be more expenses such as food and treats for $140, basic medical care and pet insurance for $460 a year and then miscellaneous costs. Grooming, license, miscellaneous items, toys and basic training will cost around $530 a year. A total yearly cost starting figure comes to $1130.


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A Tibetan Terrier is a mix of being a lively and outgoing dog but also one that likes its nap times and is a lot calmer indoors. It is a dog prone to shaggy dog syndrome so will need a lot of time spent on its grooming if its coat is being kept long. It also needs a lot of attention and is not one to be left alone in the house all day every day while you work. It is a very adaptable breed so it makes a great companion but being hard to train means that it is best with experienced owners.

Featured Image Credit: manfredxy, Shutterstock

Meet Ttoodle – Tibetan Terrier x Poodle Mix

Tibetan Terrier, Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Medium
Height 15 to 18 inches
Weight 30 to 50 pounds
Life span 12 to 16 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Loyal dog
Wonderful companion
Good Family Pet



Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.