Tibetan Terrier – Breed Profile & Characteristics

| Updated: November 5, 2023
Tibetan terrier playing in snow

If you are looking for a loyal, affectionate, and playful companion, you might want to consider the Tibetan Terrier. This ancient breed has a long and fascinating history, as well as a unique appearance and personality. In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about the Tibetan Terrier, from its origins to its care tips.

What is a Tibetan Terrier?

The Tibetan Terrier is not actually a terrier at all. It was given this name by Western explorers who were impressed by its size and resemblance to other terrier breeds. However, the Tibetan Terrier is more closely related to the Lhasa Apso, another Tibetan dog breed.

The Tibetan Terrier is a small-to-medium-sized dog that stands about 15 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 20 and 24 pounds. It has a profuse double coat that can be any color or combination of colors and that requires regular grooming to keep it clean and tangle-free. 

One of the most distinctive features of the Tibetan Terrier is its large, flat feet, which are adapted to walk on snow and rough terrain. These feet are sometimes called “snowshoes” and give the breed a graceful and agile gait.

History of the Tibetan Terrier

The Tibetan Terrier is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, dating back to over 2000 years ago. It originated in the remote Himalayan region of Tibet, where it was kept by Buddhist monks as a companion, a watchdog, and a good luck charm. The Tibetan Terrier was also used by nomadic herdsmen to guard their flocks and tents and to retrieve lost items.

The Tibetan Terrier was highly revered and respected in its native land and was never sold or traded. It was only given as a gift to those who were worthy of its friendship and loyalty.

These dogs remained isolated and unknown to the outside world until 1922, when a British doctor named Agnes Greig received a Tibetan Terrier as a thank-you gift after she saved a woman’s life. She was fascinated by the breed and brought it back to England, where she proceeded to show and breed these dogs, establishing the first Tibetan Terrier kennel. The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1973.

What does a Tibetan Terrier look like?

The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-sized dog with a square appearance, a square-cut head, and a square-cut muzzle. The head is moderate, with a strong muzzle of medium length and a skull neither rounded nor flat. The eyes are large, dark, and set pretty far apart. The V-shaped drop ears are well-feathered and should be set high on the sides of the skull. The hair usually covers the eyes, and the tail curls up over the back.

black Tibetan terrier dog side profile

The Tibetan Terrier has a beautiful and profuse double coat that can be any color or combination of colors. The coat consists of a soft, woolly undercoat and a dense, long, fine topcoat. The coat requires regular grooming to keep it clean and tangle-free. The coat also helps to protect the dog from the cold and harsh weather conditions of its native Tibet.

One of the most distinctive features of the Tibetan Terrier is its large, flat feet, which are adapted to walk on snow and rough terrain. These feet are sometimes called “snowshoes” and give the breed a graceful and agile gait. They also make the breed very good at digging holes in your backyard, so watch out for that.

The Tibetan Terrier varies widely in height and weight, ranging from 14 to 16 inches at the shoulder and 18 to 30 pounds, with 20 to 24 pounds preferred for either sex. All weights are acceptable if in proportion to the size.

Tibetan Terrier Temperament

The Tibetan Terrier is a gentle, loving, and intelligent dog that thrives on human company. It is very devoted to its family and can be very protective of them. It is also playful, energetic, and adaptable and enjoys a variety of activities, such as walks, games, and agility. The Tibetan Terrier is usually friendly and sociable with other dogs and pets as long as it is well-socialized from an early age. It can also get along well with children who are respectful and gentle with it.

The Tibetan Terrier is not a suitable breed for people who are away from home for long periods of time, as it can suffer from separation anxiety and become destructive or vocal. It also needs a lot of attention and affection and does not like to be ignored or left out. The Tibetan Terrier is a sensitive and clever dog that responds well to positive reinforcement and praise. It can be trained to do many tricks and commands, but it can also be stubborn and independent at times. It is essential to establish a consistent and firm leadership with the Tibetan Terrier and to provide it with mental and physical stimulation.

Health Problems of Tibetan Terriers

The Tibetan Terrier is a generally healthy and hardy breed, but it can be prone to some genetic and environmental health issues. Some of the most common health problems of the Tibetan Terrier are:

  • Hip dysplasia: A condition where the hip joint is malformed, causing pain and arthritis.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy: A degenerative eye disease that leads to blindness.
  • Lens luxation: A condition where the lens of the eye dislocates, causing pain and vision loss.
  • Allergies: A hypersensitivity to certain substances, such as pollen, dust, or food, causing itching and skin infections.
  • Hypothyroidism: A condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, causing weight gain, lethargy, and hair loss.

To prevent or reduce the risk of these health problems, it is advisable to buy a Tibetan Terrier from a reputable breeder who performs health tests on the parents and provides a health guarantee for the puppies. It is also important to provide the Tibetan Terrier with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and routine veterinary check-ups.

Caring for a Tibetan Terrier

The Tibetan Terrier is a low-maintenance breed that does not require a lot of grooming. However, it does need some basic care to keep it healthy and happy. Here are some tips on how to care for a Tibetan Terrier:

  • Brush the coat at least once a week to remove dirt, mats, and loose hair. Use a slicker brush and a metal comb, and be gentle around the ears, eyes, and tail. You can also trim the hair around the feet, ears, and eyes to keep it neat and clean.
  • Bathe the dog once a month or as needed, using a mild shampoo and conditioner. Rinse well and dry thoroughly. You can also use a blow dryer on a low setting to fluff up the coat.
  • Check the ears regularly for signs of infection, such as redness, odor, or discharge. Clean them gently with a cotton ball and a vet-approved ear cleaner. Do not insert anything into the ear canal.
  • Trim their nails every few weeks or as needed, using a nail clipper or a grinder. Be careful not to cut too short and cause bleeding. You can also file the nails to smooth the edges.

Are Tibetan Terriers Rare?

The Tibetan Terrier is not a cheap dog to buy or own. It is considered one of the most expensive dog breeds on the market due to its rarity and quality. The average Tibetan Terrier price ranges from $1,300 to $2,500, depending on the breeder’s reputation, the puppy’s health, and the registration papers.

The Tibetan Terrier is also a rare breed in the United States, as it was only introduced to the country in the 1950s. There are only a few reputable breeders who produce Tibetan Terrier puppies, and they often have long waiting lists. The breed is also not easily found in shelters or rescues, as it is highly prized and respected by its owners.

The Tibetan Terrier’s rarity and cost reflect its ancient and mystical history, as well as its unique and beautiful appearance. It is a breed that requires a lot of commitment and care, but also rewards its owners with loyalty, affection, and joy. If you are interested in owning a Tibetan Terrier, you should do your research and find a reputable breeder or a rescue group near you. You should also be prepared to pay a premium price for this rare and precious breed.

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