The Tibetan Terrier or TT is a sturdy small- to medium-sized dog with a profuse coat. Tibetan Terriers have a square and powerful build with a fall of hair that covers their dark brown eyes. Although you may not see their eyes, the TT’s have long eyelashes that keep the hair away from their eyes and have very good eyesight.
TT’s have a well-feathered tail that curls up and falls to one side over the back. The heavily feathered pendant ears hang beside the head. TT’s have a double coat with a long and luxuriant outer coat that can be wavy or straight and a dense and woolly undercoat. The TT’s feet are large, flat and round and act like snowshoes to provide traction in the snow. Any color combination is acceptable but the most common are gold, white, black, silver, red and cream with or without white or tan markings. TT’s are about 14 to 17 inches tall at shoulder height and weigh from 18 to 30 pounds.
Tibetan Terriers are members of the American Kennel Club (AKC) Non Sporting Dog Group.
Tibetan Terriers originated in Tibet almost 2,000 years ago where they were bred and raised as companion dogs for the Lamas in monasteries. TT’s were considered as good luck charms and were called “Little People” by the Tibetans. They were called terriers because of their small size but there is no terrier in their backgrounds. TT’s were prized as companion dogs and bringers of good fortune and cross breeding was never undertaken as that was thought to bring bad luck. The first TT’s were imported into England in the 1920’s and then exported from England to the US in 1956. The AKC recognized the breed in 1973. The Tibetan Terrier was ranked 93rd out of 154 dog breeds registered by the AKC in 2005.
The TT is good-natured, happy, lively, affectionate and very intelligent. This breed is very athletic and agile and is adept at using its paws to hold toys and open cabinet doors. TT’s can be somewhat stubborn and mischievous and they mature slowly and will need puppy socialization and training longer than many other faster maturing breeds. Properly socialized TT’s get along well with older children and family cats and dogs. Tibetan Terriers love to play games and participate in family activities. The breed can be somewhat difficult to train because of its slightly stubborn nature but since it is intelligent and wants to please its owner, reward-based training will succeed. TT’s will be calm indoors as long as they get sufficient daily exercise. The breed is somewhat reserved with strangers and will announce their arrival. Tibetan Terriers do fine with first time or novice owners and make fairly good watchdogs.
Tibetan Terriers are very adaptable and do well in an apartment if they get walked daily or in a house with a large yard. TT’s also adapt to their families lifestyle and do well with active families that like to go hiking and camping or with couch potato families. TT’s like to play in the snow and a TT that gets sufficient outdoors exercise will be much calmer indoors. TT’s love to play ball games and fetching games and are happy just to be with their owners. Tibetan Terriers are very intelligent and can be trained to participate in agility and obedience competitions.
The TT requires daily brushing and combing to prevent tangles but, if he is not being shown, the coat can be clipped to reduce matting. Pay special attention to the tangle-prone areas like the beard, breeches and behind the ears and keep the bottom trimmed for cleanliness. TT’s seem to pick up a lot of dirt and debris when playing outdoors and can be bathed regularly.
Tibetan Terriers are quite healthy and can be expected to live for 12 to 15 years. The breed is slow to mature and there are some common genetic or hereditary diseases such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy and lens luxation. Information on these genetic diseases can be found in our article Hereditary Diseases in Dogs. Prospective buyers should ask for the breeding parents Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) test results for hip dysplasia and also the Canine Eye Registry (CERF) recent ophthalmologists report for eye disorders.