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Tibetan Spaniel


The Tibetan Spaniel, also known as the Tibbie, is a dog breed in the Non-Sporting Group. This little Spaniel is not only an excellent companion, but they are highly valued watch dogs that were once called 'little lions' by the Buddhist monks of Tibet. The Tibetan Spaniel was approved by the AKC in 1983.
The average Tibetan Spaniel stands 10 inches high at the shoulders and weighs between 9 and 15 pounds. Their coat requires frequent brushing to help prevent mats and control shedding, and their ears should be cleaned regularly and frequently checked for any signs of infections.

History & Health


The Tibetan Spaniel is from Tibet where they were originally kept as small guard and watch dogs for the Tibetan monasteries. The exact age of the breed is unknown, but there is speculation based on historical artifacts that the breed could be well over 1000 years old. This breed was cherished and highly valued, and they were commonly given, and exchanged, between royal families as gifts.


The average life expectancy of the Tibbie is between 12 and 15 years. Health risks associated with this breed include progressive retinal atrophy, cherry eye, allergies, and a liver condition known as portosystemic shunt.

Temperament & Personality


Tibetan Spaniels were held in high regard and often given as gifts among the Tibetan nobility. This regal air is still common in modern Tibetan Spaniels, who believe themselves to be royalty, and expect their families to treat them as nobility and not helpless lap dogs. They were also used as watchdogs for Tibetan Monks, taking their place on top of the high walls surrounding the monastery and sounding the alarm that intruders were on the horizon. Tibetan Spaniels make excellent companions for older people who have the time to devote all of their attention to their dog, as this breed demands a lot of attention. They adore their immediate family but are wary of strangers, which makes them excellent little watchdogs. They are better with small children than other tiny breeds, and often consider themselves to be the kids' nanny, supervising their activities and keeping a watchful eye on them. Tibetan Spaniels have been compared to cats – they are graceful, enjoy a good nap and like to perch on the highest possible location in the house to be able to keep an eye on things.

Activity Requirements

Tibetan Spaniels are adaptable to all sorts of living arrangements. They are small enough to enjoy apartment life, but are just as happy in a sprawling estate. They do not require a lot of vigorous activity in order to maintain health, a daily walk and some play time will meet their needs. Do not simply leave your Tibetan Spaniels to their own devices in the back yard. These dogs crave companionship and prefer that playtime be interactive.


Tibetan Spaniels can be difficult to train. You must begin early to establish leadership and a chain of command with you at t the top. Trying to train this breed when they have established themselves as the leader of the pack is almost always futile. Food is an excellent motivator, as is lots of excited praise. Keep sessions short and vary the activities in order to hold his interest.

Behavioral Traits

It can be easy to shelter a Tibetan Spaniel. They are tiny and people love to carry them and tote them around in purses. You must walk a fine line, though. Over-sheltered Tibetans can become very high strung. It is important to give your dog plenty of independence. Let him walk on a leash rather than tote him around in a bag and socialize him around people and other animals so that he knows how to greet and be greeted with proper manners. Like all small dogs, the Tibetan Spaniel prefers to be greeted at his own level. Ask guests to crouch down before just swooping in on the dog, as he will become startled and defensive.
Separation Anxiety is common in this people-loving breed. Tibetans love people and hate being left alone for long periods of time. People who work long hours can expect to come home to a dog that is anxious, who has probably chewed your personal belongings, driven the neighbors nuts with incessant barking and may have relieved himself on the rug. They are best suited for retirees or families where there is a stay at home parent who can be his constant companion.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
Should be small, active and alert. The outline should give a well balanced appearance, slightly longer in body than the height at withers. Fault Coarseness of type.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size Height about 10 inches. Body slightly longer from the point of shoulder to root of tail than the height at withers. Weight 9-15 pounds being ideal. Faults - - Long bodied or low to ground; leggy or square.

Small in proportion to body and proudly carried, giving an impression of quality. Masculine in dogs but free from coarseness. Eyes dark brown in color, oval in shape, bright and expressive, of medium size set fairly well apart but forward looking, giving an apelike expression. Eye rims black. Faults--Large full eyes; light eyes; mean expression,blue eyes, or eyes with bluemarks. Ears medium size, pendant, well feathered in the adult and set fairly high. They may have a slight lift from the skull, but should not fly. Large, heavy, low set ears are not typical. Skull slightly domed, moderate width and length. Faults--Very domed or flat wide skull. Stop moderately defined.Medium length of muzzle, blunt with cushioning, free from wrinkle. The chin should show some depth and width. Faults--Accentuated stop; long, plain down face, without stop; broad flat muzzle; pointed, weak or wrinkled muzzle. Black nose preferred. Faults Liver or putty-colored pigmentation. Mouth ideally slightly undershot, the upper incisors fitting neatly inside and touching the lower incisors. Teeth should be evenly placed and the lower jaw wide between the canine tusks. A level mouth is permissible, providing there is sufficient width and depth of chin to preserve the blunt appearance of the muzzle. Teeth should not show when mouth is closed. Faults--Overshot mouth; protruding tongue. A bite that is so severely undershot, that the lower teeth are exposed.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck moderately short, strong and well set on. Level back. Well ribbed with good depth. Tail set high, richly plumed and carried in a gay curl over the back when moving. Should not be penalized for dropping tail when standing.

Shoulders well placed and firm. When viewed from the front, the bones of the forearms are slightly bowed toallow the front feet to fall beneath the shoulders. Moderate bone. Faults-Extremely bowed or straight forearms, as viewed from front. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet - Small, hare foot. Fault--Cat feet.

Well made and strong. Stifle well developed, showing moderate angulation. Hocks well let down and straight when viewed from behind. Faults--Straight stifle; cow hocks. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet as in front.

Double coat, silky in texture, smooth on face and front of legs, of moderate length on body, but lying rather flat. Ears and back of forelegs nicely feathered, tail and buttocks well furnished with longer hair. Neck covered with a mane or "shawl" of longer hair which is more pronounced in dogs than bitches. Feathering ontoes, often extending beyond the feet. Should not be over-coated and bitches tend to carry less coat and mane than dogs.

Presentation--In the show ring it is essential the Tibetan Spaniel be presented in an unaltered condition with the coat lying naturally with no teasing, parting or stylizing of the hair. Specimens where the coat has been altered by trimming, clipping, or by artificial means shall be so severely penalized as to be effectively eliminated from competition. Dogs with such a long coat that there is no rectangle of daylight showing beneath, or so profuse that it obstructs the natural outline, are to be severely penalized. Whiskers are not to be removed. Hair growing between the pads on the underside of the feet may be trimmed for safety and cleanliness. Feathering on toes must not be trimmed.

All colors, and mixtures of colors allowed.

Quick moving, straight, free, positive.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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