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A Tibetan terrier standing on snow

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Non-Sporting group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 14–16 inches
  • Weight — 18–30 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Long, wooly double coat
  • Coat color — Tibetan terriers exhibit a wide range of coat colors, including white, black, gold, gray, or a mix of these. Puppies can be born with different coat colors, which may change as they grow.
  • Exercise needs — Average
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 12–15 years
  • Temperament — Affectionate, amiable, energetic, gentle, and sensitive
  • Hypoallergenic — Yes
  • Origin — Tibet

Tibetan terrier fun facts

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Tibetan Terriers Oliver and Walter. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Tibetan Terriers love Daisy, then Stella.

  • Not actually a terrier. Despite their name, Tibetan terriers are not true terriers. The name was given by Westerners due to the breed’s size and resemblance to known terrier breeds.
  • Snowshoe feet. Tibetan terriers have large, flat feet that act like natural snowshoes. This is a result of their adaptation to the snowy, mountainous terrain of Tibet.
  • The “Holy Dogs” of Tibet. Tibetan terriers are often referred to as the ‘Holy Dogs’ of Tibet. They were highly valued and considered bringers of good luck by Buddhist monks. It was customary to give a Tibetan terrier as a gift.
A Tibetan terrier walking in snow

Tibetan terrier temperament and characteristics 

The Tibetan terrier is a compassionate and adaptable breed, known for its affectionate and amicable temperament. These dogs are incredibly playful and enjoy both indoor puzzles and outdoor adventures, making them an excellent companion for active families or individuals.

When it comes to children and other pets, Tibetan terriers prove to be quite kid-friendly and generally get along well with cats and other animals. Their gentle and patient nature makes them suitable playmates, although supervision is always recommended during interactions with younger children.

Tibetan terriers are often reserved around strangers, but they are not typically aggressive. They might take some time to warm up to new visitors in your home, displaying their protective side.

These dogs are versatile and can adapt to various living conditions, be it a city apartment or a house with a large yard. They thrive on attention, so it’s best to include them in your day-to-day activities. They crave companionship and do not like being left alone for long periods. Regular mental stimulation and physical exercise are key to keeping this intelligent and energetic breed happy and healthy.

Common Tibetan terrier health problems 

Tibetan terriers are generally healthy dogs with a good life expectancy. However, like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Early detection and appropriate care can make a world of difference for your pet’s wellbeing.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). PRA is an eye disorder that eventually leads to blindness. Regular eye exams can help detect this condition early, allowing for better management and potentially slowing progression.
  • Hip dysplasia. This is a common condition in many dog breeds, including Tibetan terriers. It’s a genetic disorder that affects the hip joint, causing pain and mobility issues. Regular check-ups and early detection can help manage this condition effectively.
  • Canine lens luxation. This eye-related issue is another potential health problem for your Tibetan terrier. It involves the dislocation of the lens in the dog’s eye, which can cause discomfort or even lead to blindness if not treated promptly.
  • Allergies. Tibetan terriers, like many other breeds, can be susceptible to various types of allergies, ranging from food allergies to environmental ones. Identifying the allergen and managing exposure can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life.

Cost of caring for Tibetan terrier

The cost of caring for a Tibetan terrier, especially considering these potential health problems, can vary widely. Regular vet check-ups, potential surgeries, medications, and special diets can add up. Pet health insurance can be a great way to mitigate these costs, providing the most benefit when implemented early in your pet’s life. It can cover everything from routine check-ups to emergency surgeries, ensuring your pet gets the care it needs without putting a strain on your finances.

Alternatively, creating a budget specifically for pet expenses and setting up a pet savings account can also help manage these costs. Regular contributions to this account can build a safety net for any unexpected vet bills. Remember, investing in your pet’s health today can save you from potential financial stress down the line while ensuring your furry friend leads a happy, healthy life.

History of the Tibetan terrier

The Tibetan terrier, a breed steeped in history and tradition, hails from the mountainous regions of Tibet. The story of this ancient breed begins over 2000 years ago in the Buddhist monasteries nestled amidst these rugged landscapes. Monks lovingly bred these dogs not for herding or hunting but as companions and lucky charms, earning them the local name “Luck Bringer.”

The Tibetan terrier was highly cherished by the monks and local people alike. They were often given as gifts to esteemed visitors or traded among villagers, but never sold, preserving their sacred status. These dogs were seen as family members rather than pets, and their presence was believed to bring good fortune.

Their journey to the western world began when an English surgeon, Dr. Agnes Greig, was given a Tibetan terrier after performing a successful operation in India. Enthralled by the breed, Dr. Greig established the first Tibetan terrier kennel in England, and it was actually in Europe where these dogs picked up their name.

Despite having “terrier” in the name, these dogs aren’t members of the terrier breed. In Tibet, they’re known as Tsang Apso, or “shaggy dog,” and they’re more closely related to the Lhasa apso and Tibetan spaniel. In 1973, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Tibetan terrier as part of the Non-Sporting group.

Related breeds

  • Lhasa apso
  • Tibetan spaniel
  • Shih Tzu
  • Tibetan mastiff
A Tibetan terrier on a snowy mountain

Caring for your Tibetan terrier

Caring for your Tibetan terrier involves understanding their unique needs and personality traits. You’ll want to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your pup’s vaccinations. We can even help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. No one likes to think about losing their new dog but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to the Tibetan terrier.


Tibetan terriers are an active breed, requiring regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy. They typically need up to an hour of activity per day. This can include long walks through landscape settings, which they particularly enjoy, or playtime in a secure yard. They’re also known to make excellent jogging partners for those who lead more active lifestyles. However, it’s important to remember that their exercise needs may vary with age and health conditions. During extreme weather conditions, adjust their exercise routine to ensure their safety, as they might not do well under intense heat or cold.

A Tibetan terrier outside


The Tibetan terrier’s double coat is wooly and long, providing protection against harsh weather conditions. Regular grooming is necessary to prevent matting and tangling. Brush their long coat a few times a week and bathe them once a month or as needed. Pay attention to their ears, teeth, and nails; regular cleaning and trimming will help prevent infections and other health issues. Check out these guides on nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing for more detailed advice.

👉 No breed is truly hypoallergenic. Allergic reactions occur due to the protein found in a dog’s dander, hair, and saliva. Dogs that are considered hypoallergenic simply shed less, and thus have a smaller effect on those with dog allergies.

Diet and nutrition

Tibetan terriers don’t have any breed-specific nutritional requirements, but they do best on a balanced diet that supports their active lifestyle. The amount of food they require can vary based on their size, age, and activity level. Always consult with your vet to determine the right portion sizes for your dog.

Training your Tibetan terrier

Tibetan terriers are known for their intelligence and trainability, making them a delight to work with. These dogs are independent thinkers but also eager to please, striking a unique balance that can make training both fun and rewarding.

When it comes to training strategies, respect training is particularly effective for Tibetan terriers. This involves teaching your dog to respect personal space and boundaries, which can help form a strong bond and promote good behavior.

Trick training is another great method for this breed. This can involve teaching your Tibetan terrier commands like sit, stay, or something even more complex. They respond well to positive reinforcement, so always remember to reward good behavior with treats or praise.

Understanding that the puppy stage can last up to 24 months in Tibetan terriers is crucial for managing expectations during training. Patience and consistency are key, and the effort will pay off with a well-behaved and happy companion.

A Tibetan terrier training

Breeds similar to the Tibetan terrier

Not quite sure that a Tibetan terrier is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Tibetan spaniel. In the same way that the Tibetan terrier isn’t a true terrier, the Tibetan spaniel also isn’t a true spaniel. The Tibetan spaniel was bred to be a companion dog, not a gun dog. Despite their size, they’re fiercely independent and have a natural watchdog instinct.
  • Lhasa apso. This small, but sturdy breed is known for its distinctive long hair and keen intelligence. Like the Tibetan terrier, the Lhasa apso is also from Tibet and was considered a bringer of good fortune.
  • French bulldog. Also a member of the Non-Sporting group, the French bulldog is a charming, lovable breed with expressive eyes and playful demeanor. “Frenchies” have lively, unique personalities and enjoy cuddling with their humans.

Frequently asked questions

Are Tibetan terriers good family dogs?

Tibetan terriers are wonderful family pets. They get along well with children and can adapt to various living situations. Their friendly and protective nature makes them great companions for families. As always, it’s important to supervise interactions between dogs and young children to ensure safety for all.

Are Tibetan terriers cuddly?

Tibetan terriers are known for their affectionate nature. They love spending time with their human family, whether it’s playing a game or snuggling up on the couch. Their friendly disposition and fluffy coat make them excellent cuddle buddies. Remember, every dog has its own personality, so some may be more cuddly than others.

Do Tibetan terriers suffer from separation anxiety?

Yes, Tibetan terriers can experience separation anxiety. They’re a breed that thrives on companionship and doesn’t enjoy being left alone for extended periods. If you’re away for long hours, consider pet-friendly activities or even a pet sitter to keep your furry friend company.

What is the typical temperament of a Tibetan terrier?

Tibetan terriers are typically friendly, affectionate, and intelligent. They’re known for their loyalty and can be quite protective of their family. Although they might be a bit reserved with strangers initially, they usually warm up quickly. Every Tibetan terrier is unique, and their temperament can vary based on their individual personality and upbringing.

How much exercise does a Tibetan terrier require on a daily basis?

On average, a Tibetan terrier should get about an hour of exercise each day. This could include walks, playtime in the yard, or mental stimulation activities like puzzle toys. Remember, exercise is key to keeping your Tibetan terrier healthy and happy.