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Tibetan Terrier


The Tibetan Terrier, also known as the Luck Bringer, the Holy Dog, the Dhokhi, the Dhokki Apso, the Bhutan Terrier, the Bhutanese Dog, the Bhuteer Terrier, the Bhuteer Dog, the Lhasa Terrier, the Tibetaanse Terrier and the Darjeeling Terrier, was eveloped to herd flocks of sheep and to be a trusted family companion. It is not truly a terrier at all, as it does not have a terrier's disposition and never was bred to "go to ground" as an earth dog to flush prey. The Tibetan Terrier's present name is thought to be derived from his size, which arguably resembled that of other terriers of the day more so than sheep-herding dogs. Rigorous natural selection has contributed to the health and stability of this hardy breed. Tibet has difficult terrain and extreme climatic conditions, both of which suit the Tibetan Terrier just fine. The breed is known for being happy, healthy, intelligent, affectionate and fond of barking. It has been described as resembling a smaller Old English Sheepdog, or a larger, longer-legged Lhasa Apso. The Tibetan Terrier was recognized by the American Kennel Club and admitted to its Non-Sporting Group in 1973.
The adult Tibetan Terrier ideally stands 14 to 16 inches at the withers and weighs 18 to 30 pounds. Its profuse double coat is soft and woolly beneath and long and fine on the outer side. It parts naturally over the center of the neck and back and requires regular combing to prevent tangles and mats. Any color or combination of colors, including white, is acceptable in this breed, without any given preference over another. The Tibetan Terrier is not much of a shedder, making it a good choice for people with allergies.

History & Health


This small terrier has been bred and raised in Tibetan villages and monasteries for hundreds of years. It originated in the Lost Valley of Tibet, whose access road was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th century. The Tibetan Terrier was treasured by the monks in this remote and largely inaccessible area as a companion and "bringer" of good luck. He was also used in the villages to herd flocks of sheep; his coat was shorn in summer along with the sheep's wool and was woven with yak hair to create cloth for the garments of the villagers. A particular trait of this breed was its ability to run upon and over the backs of sheep when passing through narrow ravines. The rare visitor to the Lost Valley was often gifted a Tibetan Terrier to watch over him on the treacherous return journey to the outside world. Early in its history, the Tibetan Terrier never was sold, as its owners believed that would bring bad luck and tempt fate.
The history of the Tibetan Terrier and the Lhasa Apso share much in common, and there is some confusion and much debate over the precise development of each breed. Many authorities believe that the Tibetan Terrier is the progenitor of most other Tibetan breeds, including the Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu. They include the ancient North KunLun Mountain Dog and the Inner Mongolian Dog among the Tibetan Terrier's ancestors. The first reported written mention of the Tibetan Terrier as a distinct breed appeared in 1895, with the author remarking that it could be taken to be "neither more nor less than a rough terrier." This gave rise to the unfortunate designation of "terrier." Over time, the indigenous Tibetan dogs developed into two distinct lines: the Tibetan Mastiff as a guard dog, and the Tibetan Terrier for herding and companionship.
In the 1920s, a medical missionary working on the border of Tibet and India was given a female Tibetan Terrier named Beauty by a grateful man whose ailing wife she had saved. Dr. Grieg received additional Tibetan Terriers from the Dalai Lama in appreciation of her service and interest in the breed, and she bred and raised a number of these terriers during her stay in India. She was especially fond of the Tibetan Terrier's courage and endearing temperament. Allegedly she was almost bitted by a rabid dog, but was saved by one of her Tibetan Terriers who defended her, was himself mauled and later died. When Dr. Grieg returned to England in the 1930s, she established the now-famous Lamleh Kennel and continued to promote the Tibetan Terrier under that kennel prefix. She successfully convinced The Kennel Club (England) to recognize the breed in 1937. She also contributed to development of the Tibetan Spaniel, a separate breed with separate ancestry.

The first reported Tibetan Terrier came to America in 1956 from the Lamleh Kennel, imported by Alice Murphy of Great Falls, Virginia. Mrs. Murphy subsequently acquired 10 more Tibetan Terries from Dr. Grieg and helped establish the breed in the United States. She was instrumental in founding the Tibetan Terrier Club of America in 1957. The breed has slowly but steadily grown in popularity in North America since that time, both as a show dog and as a delightful companion. The Tibetan Terrier was accepted into the Non-Sporting Group of the American Kennel Club in 1973.
Today's Tibetan Terrier, like the Tibetan Spaniel, has not achieved wide popularity in this country. However, those who do fancy the breed are taken by its gentleness and bouncy disposition. It is still used to control movement of sheep flocks in its native Tibet. In America, it is an able participant in outdoor activities and performance competitions, including obedience and agility, as well as in the conformation ring. Above all, the Tibetan Spaniel makes an endearing, affectionate companion.


The average life span of the Tibetan Terrier is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include canine neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL), cataracts, diabetes mellitus, glaucoma, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, patellar luxation, primary lens luxation, retinal dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.

Temperament & Personality


The name "Tibetan Terrier" is actually misleading, as these dogs are not technically terriers and don't exhibit common terrier traits. They were given the "terrier" moniker because of their size only. Though they are lively and plucky like a terrier, Tibetans are also very gentle and good matured and are rarely high strung. They are highly adaptable dogs and can live in an apartment or sprawling estate, in the city or in the country. All they ask is that they be walked daily, be given the opportunity to romp and play (especially in snowy weather) and that they be the center of your world. Tibetans were designed to be companion dogs only, they have no history as hunters or herders, and are happiest when they are with the people who they love. They are excellent all-around family dogs who will romp and play happily with children and then curl up next to mom and dad for an evening of rest and relaxation.

Activity Requirements

Tibetan Terriers are not as athletic as other terriers, but they do need regular exercise to maintain health, happiness and their sweet temperament. Daily walks and the regular opportunity to run and play are all they require. Active owners will find enjoyment from enrolling their Tibetan Terrier in advanced obedience where they excel, and agility, where they tend to be late bloomers, but definitely hold their own.


Tibetan Terriers are moderately difficult to train, but once they catch on, they learn quickly and soak up new lessons. It helps to start training early, when your terrier is a puppy and more amenable to the training process. Sessions should be kept short to hold is interest, and treats should be the motivator. Once he knows there is something in it for him, a Tibetan Terrier will do whatever he can for a treat.
The sweet and sensitive nature of the Tibetan Terrier makes this breed exceptional therapy dogs. They love people, soak up attention whenever possible and are very sensitive to the needs and emotions of the people around him. They have an uncanny way of knowing whether a person would appreciate a simple head in their lap for comfort, or if that person needs a good laugh. This skill makes him a natural with the elderly and infirm.

Behavioral Traits

Tibetan Terriers adore their own people and shower them with love, attention and affection. If not properly socialized around new people, however, they can be quite standoffish and reserved. If left unchecked, this can become possessiveness and lead to problems. As a puppy, you must introduce a Tibetan Terrier to as many new people as possible, to help him develop the trademark Tibetan nature with people. Because this breed is so needy of human companionship, they can develop severe separation anxiety. Proper exercise can help, but Tibetan Terriers are best suited for retirees or with families who have flexible work schedules, or where there is a stay at home parent.

Breed Standard

The Tibetan Terrier evolved over many centuries, surviving in Tibet's extreme climate and difficult terrain. The breed developed a protective double coat, compact size, unique foot construction, and great agility. The Tibetan Terrier served as a steadfast, devoted companion in all of his owner's endeavors.

General Appearance
The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-sized dog, profusely coated, of powerful build, and square in proportion. A fall of hair covers the eyes and foreface. The well-feathered tail curls up and falls forward over the back. The feet are large, flat, and round in shape producing a snowshoe effect that provides traction. The Tibetan Terrier is well balanced and capable of both strong and efficient movement. The Tibetan Terrier is shown as naturally as possible.

Skull--Medium length neither broad nor coarse. The length from the eye to the tip of the nose is equal to the length from eye to the occiput. The skull narrows slightly from ear to eye. It is not domed but not absolutely flat between the ears. The head is well furnished with long hair, falling forward over the eyes and foreface. The cheekbones are curved but not so overdeveloped as to bulge. Muzzle--The lower jaw has a small amount of beard. Stop--There is marked stop but not exaggerated. Nose--Black. Teeth--White, strong and evenly placed. There is a distinct curve in the jaws between the canines. A tight scissors bite, a tight reverse scissors bite or a level bite are equally acceptable. A slightly undershot bite is acceptable.

Eyes-- Large, set fairly wide apart, dark brown and may appear black in color, neither prominent nor sunken. Eye rims are dark in color. Ears--Pendant, falling not too close to the head, heavily feathered with a "V" shaped leather proportionate to the head.

Faults--Weak pointed muzzle. Any color other than a black nose. Overshot bite or a very undershot bite or a wry mouth. Long narrow head. Lack of fall over the eyes and foreface.

Neck and Body
Neck-- Length proportionate to the body and head. Body--Compact, square and strong, capable of both speed and endurance. Topline--The back is level in motion. Chest--Heavily furnished. The brisket extends downward to the top of the elbow in the mature Tibetan Terrier. Ribs--The body is well ribbed up and never cloddy or coarse. The rib cage is not too wide across the chest and narrows slightly to permit the forelegs to work free at the sides. Loin--Slightly arched. Tail--Medium length, heavily furnished, set on fairly high and falls forward over the back, may curl to either side. There may be a kink near the tip.

Shoulders--Sloping, well muscled and well laid back. Legs--Straight and strong when viewed from the front. Heavily furnished. The vertical distance from the withers to the elbow equals the distance from the elbows to the ground. Feet--The feet of the Tibetan Terrier are unique in form among dogs. They are large, flat, and round in shape producing a snowshoe effect that provides traction. The pads are thick and strong. They are heavily furnished with hair between the toes and pads. Hair between the toes and pads may be trimmed level with the underside of the pads for health reasons. The dog should stand well down on its pads. Dewclaws--May be removed.

Legs--Well furnished, with well bent stifles and the hind legs are slightly longer than the forelegs. Thighs--Relatively broad and well muscled. Hocks--Low set and turn neither in nor out. Feet--Same as forefeet. Dewclaws May be removed.

Double coat. Undercoat is soft and woolly. Outer coat is profuse and fine but never silky or woolly. May be wavy or straight. Coat is long but should not hang to the ground. When standing on a hard surface an area of light should be seen under the dog. The coat of puppies is shorter, single and often has a softer texture than that of adults. A natural part is often present over the neck and back. Fault--Lack of double coat in adults. Sculpturing, scissoring, stripping or shaving are totally contrary to breed type and are serious faults.

Any color or combination of colors including white are acceptable to the breed. There are no preferred colors or combinations of colors.

The Tibetan Terrier has a free, effortless stride with good reach in front and flexibility in the rear allowing full extension. When gaiting the hind legs should go neither inside nor outside the front legs but should move on the same track approaching single tracking when the dog is moved at a fast trot. The dog with the correct foot and leg construction moves with elasticity and drive indicating that the dog is capable of great agility as well as endurance.

Average weight is 20 to 24 pounds, but the weight range may be 18 to 30 pounds. Proportion of weight to height is far more important than specific weight and should reflect a well-balanced square dog. The average height in dogs is 15 to 16 inches, bitches slightly smaller. The length, measured from the point of shoulder to the root of tail, is equal to the height measured from the highest point of the withers to the ground. Faults--Any height above 17 inches or below 14 inches.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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