Meet the Breed: The Tibetan Terrier



  • Height: 14"- 17”
  • Weight: 18-30 pounds
  • Historical function: Monastery watchdog
  • Modern function: Companion, agility and obedience competitors 
  • AKC classification: Non-Sporting group

Physical Characteristics:

Tibetan TerrierThe Tibetan Terrier is called the Tsang Apso, which roughly translates to " shaggy-bearded dog from the Tsang region." This is a medium-sized dog that is about as long as it is high at the withers. A grown Tibetan Terrier with a full coat resembles a miniature Old English Sheepdog, especially the ones with a grey and white coloring. The medium-sized head has a moderate stop and a medium-length muzzle. The nose is usually black. The bite may be level, scissors, or slightly undershot. The wide-set eyes are large and brown. The eyelashes are typically long enough to keep the long topknot out of their eyes. The v-shaped ears are pendant, set high and well feathered. They are muscular and sturdy. The feet are unusual in that they are large, flat and very furry, which make ideal for snowy conditions. The tail curves over the back and is plumed. The double coat is heavy with a woolly undercoat and a silky topcoat that is either straight or wavy. The weather-resistant coat comes in many colors and patterns and has been documented to protect the hearty dogs at -58°F.  

History of the Breed:

The Tibetan Terrier was considered to be a good-luck charm by Tibetan monks. They were never sold; they were only given as gifts to treasured friends. The Tibetan Terrier contributed to the formation of other breeds including the Lhasa Apso, the Tibetan Spaniel and the Shih Tzu. This dog functioned as a watchdog and bed warmer. He also did some light herding and retrieval. 


The Tibetan Terrier is an intelligent, cheerful, lively dog that has a medium to high energy level, but is relatively quiet indoors. This breed can do well in an apartment when sufficiently exercised. Suitable for agility and obedience competitions. With a history of being a monastery watch dog, this pup can be suspicious of strangers and requires early socialization. This dog is usually not prone to barking excessively but the watchdog instinct may have some owners correcting it. The bark is deep and assertive. This dog makes a delightful, adaptable family companion when he knows his proper place and every family member leads him. This dog is sensitive to their humans' needs. 

  • Best suited for: Active families, apartment dwellers, and agility fans.  
  • Preferred living conditions: This dog is highly social and does best with regular human interaction. 

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: Extensive brushing is required for a coat that is kept long. Always mist the coat with a detangling conditioner first. 
  • Exercise needs: Daily walk as well as mental exercises in the form of learning tricks or puzzle play toys. 
  • Life expectancy: 12-15 years.
  • Health concerns: May be prone to flea bite sensitivity, hip dysplasia and eye problems. 

Breed Club Links: Tibetan Terrier Club of America Perfect Pairings: Dogs BFF Coat Detangling by Pet Head

Have any stories about a Tibetan Terrier? Please share!

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This entry was posted by Mary.
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