Tibetan Terrier

The boiling desert, precipitous mountain inclines, high plains covered with grass in summer and snow in winter are all natural turf to the Tibetan Terrier.


The Tibetan people have never purposefully bred dogs, and so it was evolutionary necessity — sheer survival — that helped to the development of the breed’s traits such as its compact size, a balance of substance with agility, its double coat and its specialized feet.

The Tibetan Terrier fits well into the group of breeds categorized by the British as Utility Dogs for it has never been ornamental in form or function. It traditionally served its master in a variety of ways: as companion, caravan dog, herder and guardian of the flock, occasional retriever and participant in the everyday routine of a monastery, peasant village or nomad encampment. Its solid and balanced moderation in all aspects of size, structure, manner of movement and character enabled it to withstand privation, to endure and thrive where more massive, delicate or specialized breeds could not.

In particular, the moderation of the Tibetan Terrier in all things and exaggeration in none may best exemplify the reasons how this ancient, evolved breed has successfully made the transition from isolated ancient Tibet to the contemporary world. In the United Kingdom, the Tibetan Terrier and the Lhasa Apso were originally classified as one breed — the Lhasa Terrier.


The Tibetan Terrier has a pleasing disposition. It makes a fine companion and watchdog, is neither hyperactive nor destructive and is not an incessant barker. The disposition of the breed ranges from a puppy’s exuberance to amiable mature reserve, but the Tibetan Terrier clearly prefers human companionship to all else in life. It is a charming, generally sensible, sturdy dog.


The male Tibetan Terrier is about 15-16 inches/ 38-40 cm (the female is slightly smaller) at the withers, and it is slightly longer in length than in height. Its head is divided into two equal parts: from nose to the stop, and from the stop to the occiput. It has a proud head carriage, dropped ears, bright dark eyes, black pigment, level topline, and a long tail carried well up and over the body drooping to one side. Its legs are strong and feet rather large and spread. Its coat is luxurious, long and double, parting naturally down its spine and in many hues and colors (both solid as well as particolors — there are no preferred colors or combinations of colors). Its nose must be black. The Tibetan Terrier is an attractive pet, show dog or obedience worker.


The Tibetan Terrier is fairly long lived and has overall good health. Hip dysplasia is occasionally seen, but it is rare for the disease to disable or limit the affected dog. Hereditary eye diseases and juvenile cataract are also reported, but the rate of incidence in the breed is low.

Special Care and Training

Attention must be paid to the Tibetan Terrier’s heavy double coat. The coat is not meant to be trimmed and thorough brushing once or twice weekly is important. Bathing with mild shampoo, thorough rinsing, and then careful drying with a hair dryer on a warm setting while brushing the coat to the skin will render the coat more manageable. The ears of the breed should be kept clean. Beyond its grooming requirements the Tibetan Terrier is an “easy keeper” that remains healthy and active to its thirteenth or fourteenth year on average and often well beyond.


The Tibetan is not at all a terrier in mind or body, despite the misnomer given to the breed — because of its size — during the 1920s. Young dogs need daily exercise and all, young or old, crave a daily period of attention from their owners. Innate curiosity and great speed for its size make the Tibetan Terrier a bad risk in an unfenced yard. To provide both exercise and personal attention, increasing numbers of owners are training their dogs in Obedience, Agility and similar activities. The dog’s enjoyment may stem as much from interaction with its owner as from love of the sport, but it works enthusiastically and can do well. A properly trained Tibetan Terrier is a sensitive, responsive therapy visitor and the breed really loves this work. It will easily adapt to many kinds of environment and lifestyles.

Gallery of Tibetan Terrier