Contrary to what its name suggests, this long-haired pedigree dog isn’t a terrier, but a herding dog of Tibetan origin deployed for watching over herds of cattle. Its robust health, excellent jumping and climbing ability and its attentive, charming nature have made it a present-day family dog.
The Tibetan Terrier is well known for its lush, long coat.
Charming dogs that know their own mind
These charming, long-haired pedigree dogs make suitable partners for active individuals with a sense of humour, since the Tibetan Terrier is a real clown that knows how to win the hearts of people with its loving, cheerful and playful nature. It loves spending time with its family in the great outdoors and shows its outstanding talent for jumping and love of barking both on hikes in the mountains and during dog sport. However, you should make sure that these friendly, high-spirited dogs don’t exert too much influence on you. The Tibetan Terrier knows its own mind and can be stubborn in the face of commands from its owner.
Stubborn but willing to learn
Thankfully, the Tibetan Terrier can be trained well despite all its stubbornness. Its people-focused, friendly nature, quick comprehension and intelligence make it a willing-to-learn pupil. Consistency and patience are the most important criteria for successful training. This breed will deliberately ignore commands if they are put under pressure. In addition, they will show defiant behaviour in the face of significant changes. Only after some time will the Tibetan Terrier accept alterations to its food or walk times, a new spot to sleep or a different food. With a fixed routine and a bit of patience you can easily get a grip on this breed.
How suitable is the Tibetan Terrier as a family dog?
If you accept their quirks, you will enjoy the company of these endearing pedigree dogs.
The Tibetan Terrier is a sporty companion, cheerful playmate and an attentive guardian. It loves its family and children in particular more than anything. It approaches strangers with gentle reservation, though it never comes across as nervous or aggressive. Its attractive appearance and its good social skills make it a well received guest that can be taken anywhere without problems. You should do this wherever possible, because these affectionate dogs don’t cope well at all with long periods alone.
Not just the breed’s friendly nature, but its medium size and robustness too make it a pleasant family dog. Tibetan Terriers reach a shoulder height of 35 to 41cm and weigh 11 to 15kg depending on their size and sex. Females are generally somewhat smaller and lighter than males.
Abundant protective coat in many colours
The most typical feature of the Tibetan Terrier is its long, abundant coat that offers reliable protection in the harsh Tibetan climate. Even snow storms and temperatures of -40ºC can’t harm these dogs. In addition, they tolerate heat very well.
The long, fine top hair, which can be both smooth or wavy, covers a thick undercoat. The fur is very diverse in terms of colour, with almost all colours and combinations from chocolate to bronze permitted. In addition, white, cream, golden, grey and black fur varieties are found. Bicolour and tricolour dogs are accepted along with those with monotone fur. Regardless of their colour, all dogs have a black leathery nose and dark rings around their eyes.
Sporty and compact
The long coat conceals a powerful, muscular and square-shaped body, which makes them remarkably good at dog sport. Unlike with the Lhasa Apso or Maltese, the fur should never reach the ground or limit the dog’s movements.
In keeping with its nickname “snow lion”, as the Tibetans respectfully called the breed, the Tibetan Terrier has very wide, round and flat paws, which are not found in this form with any other dog breed and allow these dogs to run in snow without any problems.
The exact origin of the “snow lion” is largely unknown. It is assumed that these dogs were kept as sacred temple dogs in a Tibetan monastery over 2,000 years ago. Over the course of the centuries, they adapted perfectly to the harsh conditions of their homeland. Their abundant coat and wide paws made them robust, skilled climbers and valuable assistants in the inhospitable areas. Their main purpose was herding cattle and if necessary bringing lost cows back to the herd. They mostly worked in parks and alongside their big brother, the Tibetan Mastiff (Do Khyi).
From Tibet to England
To this day, the people of Tibet believe that the Tibetan Terrier is a lucky charm. Belief in reincarnation alone prohibited them for trading these sacred dogs. They only found their way to England when the British Dr. Greig operated on a Tibetan lady in 1922 and was given a golden-and-white puppy as a thank you gift. Captivated by these dogs, Dr Grieg developed her own Tibetan Terrier breed under the name “of Lamleh” back in Britain. In 1930, the British Kennel Club officially recognised the breed as the Tibetan Terrier. To this day, it remains unclear why the actual breed name Tibetan Apso (Tibetan Longhair) wasn’t used. Attempts to remove the misleading affix “Terrier” from the name have thus far failed. At the middle of the 20th century, more breeding sites were developed in Europe and were mostly traced back to the Tibetan Terrier from England.
Thanks to the efforts of many breeders, the Tibetan Terrier has maintained its primitiveness to this day. In terms of health, it is one of the more robust dog breeds with a high life expectancy of 13 to 15 years. There are hardly any diseases known to be typical of this breed, though it is not immune from typical canine diseases like hip dysplasia (HD), luxating patella or eye diseases (e.g. progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and ectopia lensis). Breeders who are members of a registered association therefore have to get their animals tested for hereditary diseases before deploying them for breeding.
Abundant fur, plenty of grooming?
You can usually recognise how well a Tibetan Terrier is by the state of its fur. It’s not uncommon for ailments to be accompanied by changes to the texture of the fur or a loss in shine. Hence, good grooming is essential and it isn’t always easy with such a long, abundant coat. Don’t worry though, as even first-time dog owners will soon get the grip of grooming with a bit of practice, the right tools and the necessary expertise. In principle, the fur has to be brushed several times a week, which mainly involves removing dead hairs from the undercoat. There is no way around regular baths with long fur, in which dirt always gets caught after walks in the woods.
Please don’t trim the coat!
You absolutely shouldn’t shear your Tibetan Terrier’s fur if you’re in despair about how time-consuming grooming is! The length of the fur is a natural form of protection for the breed against all kinds of bad weather. In winter it acts as a warming protective blanket, whilst in summer it has a cooling effect. If you’re overwhelmed by grooming this Tibetan breed, contact your breeder or a registered breed association. Experienced Tibetan Terrier owners will happily give you tips and show you how to care for your dog’s fur.
Along with grooming, nutrition too has a significant influence on a dog’s health. Since there is no breed-specific danger of allergies with the Tibetan Terrier and it rarely tends to gain weight due to its urge for exercise, its diet isn’t fundamentally different to that of other dog breeds. Like all dogs, the Tibetan Terrier descends from wolves, making it a carnivore. Meat is the most important source of protein for dogs. High-quality meat such as lean meat, rumen or innards like the heart and liver should be first on the menu. In order to fully cover your dog’s nutrient requirements, you should add vegetables, boiled rice or pasta as a supplement.
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Is it better to buy food or to make it yourself?
If you wish to make your pet’s food yourself, you should definitely get a precise overview of what nutrients and minerals your dog needs and in what proportion these should be found in the food. Adding high-quality fats or extra vitamin preparations is recommended. Alternatively, you can of course give your Tibetan Terrier wet or dry food from a pet store. In this case too, it’s worth taking a closer look at the exact information on the packaging. The quality of different types of food on offer can differ greatly. If the ingredients list starts with “grain” or “animal by-products”, this is a sign of a low-quality food.
Nowadays, you can find breeding associations in numerous countries in Europe and North America. Official associations are generally members of the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) and take responsibility for upholding the Tibetan breed, its health and unique characteristics. It makes sure that its members breed according to the stipulated breeding requirements and are a good port of call for anyone interested in the Tibetan Terrier breed. Contacting an official association is worthwhile to find out more about the breed and to meet Tibetan Terrier owners, as well as establishing contact with serious breeders.
Why you should only buy from a serious breeder
Breeders who tout their puppies in online or newspaper ads aren’t usually members of an association and aren’t very trustworthy. Their breed isn’t monitored, therefore the bargains on offer are often animals that are sick. If you’re concerned about the welfare and long for a healthy puppy, you should only purchase from a serious breeder who is a member of a registered association and adheres to the stipulated breeding conditions. Buying a dog should always be well thought out – after all, it will be an important family member for many years to come and will need training, grooming, feeding and entertaining. A good breeder will support you and give you numerous tips throughout. A personal connection with a breeder who you can always ask for advice can be priceless.
What you should bear in mind when owning a Tibetan Terrier
Things certainly won’t be boring with a Tibetan Terrier at home! Active people who love exercise, enjoy hiking and have plenty of time to groom their dog will find an ideal partner for their activities in the Tibetan Terrier. It loves long walks and doesn’t shy away from tough hikes in steep terrain. If you don’t live in the mountains, you can still wear out your Tibetan Terrier with dog sports. Be it agility, dog dancing, competitions or obedience, the Tibetan Terrier is a keen participant in activities that stimulate it mentally and physically.