Diminutive but alert, the Tibetan Spaniel is an ancient watchdog breed from the mountains of Tibet. Sometimes mistaken for the Pekingese, the Tibetan Spaniel ranks 119th of 193 breeds by the American Kennel Club.
Tibbies, as they are affectionately called, were bred by Buddhist monks in Tibet to be companions, but also to work as alarm dogs in unison with Tibetan Mastiffs to guard their monasteries. Tibbies paced along the high monastery walls, keeping an eye out for enemies. They were bred to resemble little lions. British travelers brought the first Tibbies back to the West in the late 1800s, and they weren’t well-known in the United States until 1960. Today, they make prized family companions.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE TIBETAN SPANIEL
Here’s a bit more info about the appearance and temperament of the Tibetan Spaniel.
Tibetan Spaniels reach about 10 inches in height and can weigh up to 15 pounds. They have a slightly longer but well-balanced body. They are quick, deliberate little dogs. Their nose is black and rests at the end of a blunt, medium-length muzzle. Their dark brown eyes are set far apart and help give Tibbies their “curious, expressive” look.
Tibbies are well-known for their silky coat and their “lion’s mane” around their neck. Their tail is plumed and is held curved over their body. Their coat, while less profuse than their Pekingese counterparts, is soft and medium-length and can come in a wide variety of colors and markings.
Regular brushing and baths with a dog shampoo will keep their coats in good condition. Tibbies do shed, but not at any particular time of the year; giving them a bath and a good conditioning can help when they do. If taken in for grooming, do not let the breeder give your Tibbie a “sanitary cut,” as these cause Tibbies to lick and itch profusely.
Tibbies are cheerful and clever. They are very curious and known to form a close bond with their owners. They make very good watchdogs and like to be perched up high for a better vantage point. They are not overly yappy, but they will bark at intruders and strange sounds. In addition, if left alone for long periods of time, the barking may become a symptom of boredom. Their average life expectancy is 12 to 15 years.
Tibbies will do best with a family that can give them decent amounts of attention. They love children but are perhaps not the best-suited for homes with small children, as they can get injured easily. They get along well with other dogs and other animals. However, if your Tibbie considers itself the pack leader, you may experience issues with overprotectiveness, strangers, and potentially also your children. Make sure to establish a clear pack order and lead your Tibbie with a firm but fair demeanor to avoid them becoming stubborn or aggressive.
CARING FOR A TIBETAN SPANIEL
Here is some further information about the Tibetan Spaniel’s nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs to make sure they have a long, happy life.
Tibbies do best on high-quality, dry dog foods. They prefer small-bite kibble, so go for something specifically made for small dogs if possible. As with any breed, how much your Tibbie eats will depend on their age, size, and activity level. Be sure to feed age-appropriate food (puppy, adult, senior). In addition, smaller dogs are more prone to obesity problems, so be careful not to overfeed or overtreat. As always, be sure to consult with your vet to find the best meal plan for your dog. Fresh, clean water should be kept available for your dog at all times.
Tibbies are not hyperactive dogs, so they don’t require a ton of exercise. A daily walk on-leash will keep them content. They like being with family, so walks, playing around in the yard, or just hanging out around the house will make your Tibetan Spaniel happy. Be sure to keep them on-leash or fenced-in whenever outdoors, though; their curious nature will have them running off to explore, so be safe.
Tibetan Spaniels are independent dogs with their own way of doing things. Because of this, they can often be difficult to train. However, some form of training is important if you want your dog to be a well-mannered member of the family. It is always recommended to start them in puppy and obedience classes from a young age. Socialization from an early age is also immensely important.
However, Tibetan Spaniels are very smart and are also eager to please their owners (when they respect them), and you will find that if you’ve established yourself as a strong, confident leader, they will be quite receptive trainees. In these instances, they can be quite good at canine sports such as obedience, agility, nose work, and rally.
Tibetan Spaniels are a generally healthy breed. They are also quite rare in the United States, so be sure to work with a trusted breeder to ensure they are purebred and have been tested for various genetic diseases such as patellar luxation, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, “cherry eye,” and similar disorders.