Tibetan Spaniel

Breed Group: Non-Sporting

Temperament and Behavior

Tibetan Spaniels have an independent, almost cat-like nature. They enjoy surveying their domain from a high point, the back of the couch or chair is frequently a favorite observation post. As adults sometimes they are lively and playful but at other times calm and laid back. Young dogs have sudden bursts of energy. But in either case, the good-natured Tibetan Spaniel is easy to live with on an estate, in an apartment, or anywhere in between. Because of their small size, they should not be with younger children who do not understand how to treat a dog. They readily accept almost any pet both canine and otherwise. But they are cautious of people they do not know and many dislike being scooped up by strangers. As with most small dogs, their exercise needs are easy to meet. A daily walk around the block and rigorous play session are all they need. They enjoy playing with any familiar person from teenager to senior citizen. But they tend to be less active outside than indoors where they are ever watchful. This results in a dog with exceptional watchdog skills while at the same time not barking excessively. But as with any small dog, they can not be counted on as a guard dog.

Physical Characteristics

Small, a Tibetan Spaniel is about 10 inches tall and weighs between nine and 15 pounds. Somewhat unusual for a small dog they do reasonably well in low temperatures but respond less favorably to heat. Their most common coat colors are white, gold, cream, red, and black in solid, sable, and parti-color patterns although other colors are available. They require less grooming than most dogs and sheds less too; with the exception that shedding is heavy in the spring when these dogs lose most, if not all their coat. Daily brushing during this time is virtually mandatory.

Trainer's Notes

Although Tibetan Spaniels require no more than an average effort to socialize them, it is important not to ignore this process so that they do not become overly timid when facing strangers. They are bright, inquisitive dogs that seem to have an innate understanding their owner's moods. They also frequently use their intelligence to solve problems. This includes pawing open base cabinet doors to access food if it is kept there. Using force in their training will only bring out their obstinate side. Without the resistance to house training most dogs this size have, they are a good choice for first-time dog owners, especially seniors.

Photo © by Ladykransteer available from Public Domain
Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniel


Never mass produced for the pet trade, Tibetan Spaniels remain a relatively healthy breed. Just less than 11% suffer from patellar luxation and about 8% suffer from Hip Dysplasia. Some lines are susceptible to PRA and Liver Shunt. A Tibetan Spaniel lives between 15 and 18 years.


Never extremely popular, the Tibetan Spaniel ranks 102nd in popularity on the list of American Kennel Club recognized breeds. Only about 700 dogs are registered on a yearly basis so if you want one of these desirable little dogs, expect to search for a breeder and wait for a puppy.

Breed History

The Tibetan Spaniel is known to have existed 2,000 years ago. Although they originated in Tibet their name is still a misnomer as he is unrelated to any other spaniels. The breed is intertwined with Buddhism which values small “lion-like” dogs. The Tibetan Spaniel was one of these breeds. Although the Tibetan Spaniel was bred throughout Tibet, the best were bred in the monasteries where they would lay on top of the walls surrounding the monastic compound and sound a warning bark when either a stranger or wolves approached. This warning bark was an alert call to the Tibetan Mastiff guard dogs and is the underlying foundation for the exceptional watchdog abilities they exhibit today. Although the earliest Tibetan Spaniels were imported to the west (England) in the late 1800’s, the lineage of most western dogs goes back no further than the 1940’s. It wasn’t until the 1960’s the breed was imported to the US with the first documented breeding there in 1965. The breed was not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1984.

Additional Information

The National (US) Breed Club is the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America.

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