≡ Menu

Tibetan Terrier Dog Breed… Everything You Need to Know at a Glance!

The Tibetan Terrier is considered to be one of what is regarded as an ancient dog breed and, for over 2,000 yrs, remained a purebred. This was capable simply due to the breed’s remote origins high in the hills of the Himalayas in Tibet.  This is pretty impressive; however, we should point out that even though this medium-sized dog has a terrier as part of its name, they are, in fact, not a member of the terrier dog group. (The addition of terrier to their name was something of a faux pas by English travelers who gave this breed their name due to their appearance being similar to the terrier breed.)

Which is why…

We wanted to take a moment and discuss what it might be like to own a Tibetan Terrier that sometimes becomes their “name” and can give folks the wrong impression.  That is, of course, assuming that you’re in the US, where the term “terrier” will often give folks a specific “impression,” which can be good or bad depending on how you feel about the “terrier” dog breed as a whole.

Now if you’re…

Not from the US, you may not even refer to these little guys as a “terrier.” In fact, in Tibet, this breed is named Tsang Apso; Tsang roughly translates to shaggy or bearded, and Apso is the word for dog. Some old accounts also refer to a Dokhi Apso, a hairy or bearded outside living working dog.

In either case, knowing how this little guy is likely to behave will go a long way in determining if he might be the “right” kind of dog for you.  So, without further ado, let’s begin discussing this remarkable little dog breed.

Tibetan Terrier Dog Breed Facts

Country of Origin: Tibet (China)

Original Purpose: Herder, companion animal, and gift for Important People

Height: 13 to 17 inches

Weight: 19 to 25 pounds

Dog Breed Classification: Non-sporting Group

Life Span: 10 to 14 years

Tibetan Terrier Dog Breed History

In Tibet, this dog breed is known as the ‘Holy Dogs of Tibet,’ living in monasteries, and was only given as gifts, never to be sold, by Buddhist monks, to bring good fortune.  Mistreatment or selling a Tibetan Terrier was thought to bring bad luck to the family and the village. People called these dogs “the little people” because they were valued as companions. These companions were not only considered to bring good luck, but they were also excellent watchdogs and herding dogs. (They even retrieved items that had fallen down the mountainside.)

Then In 1920…

A physician named Dr. A.R.J. Greig, from England, brought the first Tibetan Terrier into Europe. Dr. Greig was gifted a gold and white puppy named “Bunti” after a successful surgery was performed on a patient in Tibet.  As a result, Dr. Grieg is credited for establishing one of the first (if not the first) breeding programs for these dogs outside Tibet after he acquired ‘Rajah’, a male Tibetan Terrier.  Shortly after that, a litter was born in 1924, registered initially as Lhasa Terriers (similar to Lhasa Apso).

The Kennel Club of India…

They later changed the breed’s name, in 1930, to Tibetan Terrier. In 1956, Dr. Henry and Mrs. Alice Murphy of Virginia imported the first Tibetan Terrier into the United States, and despite their initial popularity, the American Kennel Club (AKC) didn’t decide to “officially” recognize the breed until 1973, and they were given a non-sporting group classification.

Physical Characteristics

Tibetan Terriers are medium-sized dogs with thick double coats. (Remember, they are a native of Tibet, where winter temperatures can average close to 0F.) The undercoat on this breed is thick, akin to wool, and the hair may be straight or wavy.

The hair/fur of the…

Tibetan Terrier parts along the middle of its back. There is no set color for a Tibetan Terrier, so they can be any combination of colors and patterns, including; white, silver, gold, harness, or black. This breed has eyes that are dark brown and are both large and wide-set. The ears of the Tibetan Terrier have what’s called ‘pendant ears,’ and they typically have a black nose. The teeth of a Tibetan Terrier have a scissor or reverse scissor-like bite. This dog has a long muzzle with a trim beard on its chin.

We should point out that…

The coat of a Tibetan Terrier needs to be brushed daily to avoid the long hair getting tangled and matted. Before touching, the skin needs to be moistened; this keeps the hair from fracturing and breaking off. Like all dogs, they require regular maintenance, such as nail trims and teeth brushing. These dogs will need regular grooming to keep their hair at a decent length.

Temperament and Personality

As with all dogs, it is essential for early socialization when they are puppies. If a Tibetan Terrier is not exposed to other animals and people, they will grow up shy and reserved. This breed is susceptible to developing separation anxiety but, luckily, doesn’t bark extensively, so please remember that they do not like being left alone for any extended period.

As with all dogs…

We at IndulgeYourPet believe that you will receive the best results during training when you strictly adhere to positive reinforcement in training. With the Tibetan Terrier, remember that treats can be used as rewards.  Overall, Tibetan Terriers love people and have a lovely and gentle temperament. Thus they can make excellent therapy dogs, but without proper socialization, they may be aloof with strangers.

But remember…

Tibetan Terriers are relatively high-energy dogs, so they will do best if they get daily exercise, including; hikes, runs, and daily walks. Since they have a higher level of intellect, they do well with agility and some advanced obedience training.  Also, please note this breed does mature a tad slower than some other breeds. So please have patience during their puppy stage. When this dog is fully grown, they are an intelligent and loyal dog. Remember that they are clever and innovative dogs which can cause them to be stubborn.

Potential Health Concerns

Although the Tibetan Terrier is an athletic breed, it is susceptible to some health problems related to its joints and eyes. Some of the conditions that a Tibetan Terrier is known to be susceptible to include;

(This breed also has a history of being allergic to wheat, grains, and dairy.)

Tibetan Terrier clubs highly recommend getting a Tibetan from a reputable breeder. A good breeder will have done hip and eye testing such as Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

There is also…

A genetic disease, neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (Batten disease in humans) is a neurodegenerative disorder that Tibetan Terriers are predisposed to. An early symptom of this disease is night blindness; some years later, it will result in blindness and neurological symptoms, including; epilepsy, dementia, and aggression.


In 2009, the gene responsible for causing neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis in Tibetan Terriers was found. There is now a DNA test for the gene, and in Germany, they found that approximately 1/3 of all Tibetans are carriers of the gene. Since this DNA test’s introduction, pages are no longer bred in Germany. There is no known cure for this disease.

Potential Costs

  • Hip Dysplasia: $1,500-$5,500
  • Luxating Patella: $1,300 – $3,650
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: $1,900-$3,600
  • Lens Luxation: $500-$3,750
  • Cataracts: $1,300-$3,650
  • Heart Murmur: $500-$5,500

And while many of these conditions may not be life-threatening, they can become quite expensive, particularly if they become recurring issues.  This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment