Tibetan Spaniel Facts

Did you just bring home a new Tibetan Spaniel puppy and want to learn more about the breed?

Maybe you are thinking about buying a puppy and want to know if this is the right breed of dog for you and your family?

No matter what your situation may be, you will find the answers to your questions right here!



Breed History

The breed originated more than 2,000 years ago in the Himalayan mountains. It's one of only three dog breeds in the Non-Sporting group (the other two are the Lhasa Apso and the Tibetan Terrier) that can claim Tibet as their birthplace.

Because of their resemblance to the Chinese Imperial guardian lions, these dogs became known as "Little Lions". Today, the breed is also known affectionately as the "Tibbie".

Despite the "Spaniel" part of his name, the Tibetan Spaniel is not related to the spaniel breeds that were bred for hunting. The name was probably derived from the French word "epagnuel" which referred to companion dogs.

The breed's early history is closely tied to Tibetan monks and their monasteries. There are old stories about Tibbies being used to turn the monks' praying wheels and working as watchdogs. While their small size makes it highly unlikely they could turn a praying wheel, watchdogging is something the breed excels at even today.

Highly regarded, these dogs were often given as gifts to monasteries and palaces in China and other Buddhist countries. In return, the monks received reciprocal gifts of Tibetan Spaniels born in China and other places. As a result of this exchange, many experts believe the breed shares common ancestors with such Asian breeds as the Pekingese and the Havanese Chin.

The first Tibetan Spaniels were imported to Great Britain in the late 19th century but it wasn't until after the end of WWII that the breed experienced growth in popularity.

The first Tibetan Spaniels born in United States were part of a litter produced by two dogs that were imported from a Tibetan monastery in 1965. The breed was recognized by AKC in 1984.

Physical Characteristics of Tibetan Spaniel Puppies

Often confused with the Pekingese, Tibbies are small, well balanced dogs.

Their body is slightly longer than it is tall, with a short but strong neck, level back, and a well-feathered tail that is set high and carried over the back when the dog is moving and may drop when the dog is standing.

When viewed from the front, the front legs are slightly bowed. The back legs are strong, with well developed stifle and, when viewed from behind, straight hocks. The feet are small and hare-like.

The head is small in proportion to body. The medium size, oval eyes are set far apart and are dark brown. The ears are medium size, set high, and well feathered. The preferred nose color is black.

The double coat is moderately long and silky in texture. It's smooth on face and the front legs, with feathering on ears and back of front legs. The hair is longer on tail and buttocks, and the neck is covered with a mane which is more pronounced in males. It comes in many colors and shades, including tan, cream, red, black, gold, and fawn. It can also be solid, in which case the golden is the most common color.

    Height Weight
  Male 10 inches 9 - 15 pounds
  Female 10 inches 9 - 15 pounds


Tibetan Spaniels are intelligent, sensitive, and cheerful dogs. They are good-natured and have calm, laid-back personalities.

They enjoy attention and love to be included in family activities. They are also devoted and affectionate towards family members, including children, and get along well with other dogs and household pets.

One thing Tibbies don't like is being left alone for extended periods of time. Many develop numerous behavioral problems and may resort to destructive behaviors. Read more about separation anxiety in dogs and what you can do to prevent it.

While not known as excessive barkers, they will bark at intruders and strange noises. This, in combination with their wariness of strangers, makes Tibetan Spaniels excellent watchdogs.

Tibbies seem to understand and respond to your moods and feelings but despite being intelligent, they are independent thinkers and on some occasions may be stubborn. If a Tibetan Spaniel decides he has nothing to gain from obeying you, most likely, he will not. This can make them a bit hard to train...

Tibbies also love to be held and be close to you, making them good lap dogs and bed companions. When you also consider their independent personality, no wonder they have been compared to cats! Another trait they share with cats is their love for high lookouts, such as window sills.

A Tibetan Spaniel can benefit from socialization training. A well socialized dog will be less timid and suspicious of strangers. Begin socialization training while your pet is still young.

Best Owner / Living Conditions

This breed will do fine with any type of owner. Their low exercise needs make them perfect companions for older people.

They will adjust equally well to any environment but their small size and laid-back personality make them a perfect breed for an apartment lifestyle.

Some Tibetan Spaniel breeders may interview prospective owners to make sure this breed is compatible with them and their lifestyle.

Activity and Exercise

Despite being only a moderately active breed, Tibetan Spaniels require daily exercise to stay fit. The exercise can consist of a walk, playing and running off leash in a fenced yard, or even playing indoors.

But no matter how much exercise your pet gets from playing and running off leash, you still need to take him for at least one daily walk.

Grooming your Tibetan Spaniel

Many assume that this breed's medium length coat requires a lot of maintenance but that's not the case. Unlike many breeds with similar coats, Tibetan Spaniels don't need to be clipped, stripped, or plucked.

Tibbies are average shedders for most of the year and will get by with several brushings per week to remove dead hair. Some owners brush them daily but I don't think it's really necessary. Once a year they shed their entire coat and need to be brushed more often.

Use the pin brush or the FURminator Deshedding Toolicon to remove the dead undercoat and finish with a soft bristle brush to give the coat some shine. Use a comb or mat rake when you need to remove small mats that often form behind the ears.

In addition to brushing, check and trim the nails, clean the ears, and brush your dog's teeth. Bathe or dry shampoo when necessary.

Health Concerns

While it's generally considered a healthy breed, like most breeds, Tibetan Spaniels experience their share of health problems...

Some diseases common to this breed include PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), Liver Shunt, and patellar luxation (a common problem with many small breeds). Visit dog health problems for more information about dog diseases and health.

Buy only from reputable Tibetan Spaniel breeders to reduce the risk of the above and many other health problems (visit dog breeders to learn how to identify responsible dog breeders).

Even healthy dogs get sick. While many health problems will require an immediate attention from your Vet, there are many others that you may handle on your own. Learn how to save time and money (and how to prevent small problems from becoming big problems) by diagnosing and treating dog health problems that don't require your Vet's attention.

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for healthy Tibetan Spaniel puppies is between 12 and 15 years.

Did you ever consider adopting your next pet?

If this is the breed you are interested in, and adoption appeals to you, consider contacting your local Tibetan Spaniel rescue. There are thousands of pets waiting for a loving home and, yes, it's possible to adopt a purebred dog.

Puppy Training

Not happy with your pet's behavior? Need help with training your dog for obedience? If you answered "YES", then check this dog behavior and obedience training guide.

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