Tibetan Spaniel Lying in Grass

Tibetan Spaniel Dog Breed

Other names:

Pronunciation: [ Ti·bet·an span·iel ]

The Tibetan Spaniel is an ancient breed that comes from Tibet but is not a Spaniel. They were long ago developed to be watchdogs that were trained to sit atop monastery walls as lookouts and to be companions otherwise. This breed was accepted by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1961. The American Kennel Club (AKC) formally recognized the breed in 1983, and in 1992, the United Kennel Club did too.

Tibetan Spaniel Breed Details

The Tibetan Spaniel is categorized by the AKC in the Non-Sporting Dog Group. These small dogs are perfect as companion animals but not for therapy work that requires labor beyond walking. They are good for first-time dog owners, homes with other pets, and around kids who understand how to play and treat these dogs gently. As with all little dogs that have an attitude that far exceeds their size, you should understand these Tibetan Spaniel facts:


  • Very playful
  • Great watchdogs
  • Calm personality
  • Popular in Europe
  • Low exercise needs
  • Loves to be carried
  • Gets along with other pets
  • Will snuggle at every chance


  • Not a Spaniel
  • Loves to climb
  • Easily injured
  • Might bark a lot
  • Moderate shedder
  • Not hypoallergenic
  • Aloof to strangers
  • High grooming needs
  • Not a good guard dog
  • Many health problems
  • Expensive to adopt and maintain
  • Coat blowout can occur twice yearly
  • Requires a great amount of attention
  • Popularity in the U.S. has remained stagnant for years
12 - 15 yrs.
8 - 10 in.
9 - 15 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Tibetan Spaniel Breed Description

The Tibetan Spaniel is not a Spaniel but an Asian Toy breed closely related to the Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, and Japanese Chin. They are not as fussy as most such dogs. They can be easily trained to distinguish approaching friends from potential threats, and they are eager to please you rather than to be pleased by you. It's not difficult to find a lot of Tibetan Spaniel information as these dogs are very popular in Europe.

This breed's intelligence is high, and these dogs must be trained and socialized early on so that they don't become overly protective or jealous. Tibbies are extremely devoted dogs with a calm demeanor and adaptability. They are expressive and they love to snuggle. They walk briskly, exhibit constant alertness, and are confident where they go.

Tibetan Spaniels only need a moderate amount of exercise, and they tend to get some on their own as they explore and climb. They also prefer some daily agility play to keep them healthy and mentally stimulated. Having lots of puzzle toys helps too.

Tibetan Spaniel Breed History

The age of the Tibetan Spaniel is unknown, but the breed is believed to be several thousand years old. A study by a professor, Ludwig von Schulmuth, claims that these dogs ultimately came from the Gobi Desert Kitchen Middle Dog which was alive 10,000 years ago. That small dog was said to have evolved into the Small Soft-Coated Drop-Eared Hunting Dog. That dog was apparently responsible for later spawning a number of Far Eastern breeds, among them the dogs that became named the Tibetan Spaniel.

Like all ancient dogs from the region, Tibetan Spaniel history is mysterious despite the specific role the dog had as small yet fearsome-looking alarm dogs for Buddhist monasteries. These "little lions" were revered for their looks. In turn, they became entitled by their position that was literally atop the walls where they could see far and wide. They were also used as prayer dogs and allegedly had the less visible but apparently no less important task of rotating prayer wheels for the lamas.

Because of the dog's prized position, they were also given as gifts to visiting dignitaries. To the Buddhist monks, the lion symbolized Buddha's vanquishment of violence; it was a significant action when one of the dogs was presented to a person. These dogs eventually traveled throughout Japan and China, and with them, they carried the representation of Buddha.

It was not until the late 19th century that the breed became known to the Western world. It was recorded that McLaren Morris exported a Tibetan Spaniel to England at that time. More were sent in the 1920s by a Dr. Agnes R.H. Greig. During World War II, many of these Spaniels in England died. Shortly after the war, in 1947, breeding and more imports helped to rebuild the breed's population. By 1958, the Tibetan Spaniel Association had been founded, and The Kennel Club formally recognized the breed in the 1960s. During that decade, the dog became known in the United States. The Tibetan Spaniel Club of America formed in 1971, and by 1983, the AKC had formally recognized the dog. By 1987, the FCI had recognized the breed too.

Tibetan Spaniel Variations

There are no varieties of this breed. There have been Internet accounts of backyard breeders (BYBs) who claim to have short haired Tibetan Spaniels, but these would most likely be crossbred dogs. There is basically one coat style and one size of these dogs, and you can find details about these aspects elsewhere on this page.

Tibetan Spaniel Temperament

The dog's desire to never be left alone even as she prefers to be at the highest point in the room (or outside) is born of loyalty. These dogs love to climb, and they'll climb most anything to be with you or to watch out for you. The Tibetan Spaniel temperament is very protective, highly affectionate and remarkably empathetic, and they'll mirror your moods and be there for what you need as best they can.

One of the best Tibetan Spaniel personality traits is their intelligence. They are easy to train, seek to learn tricks, and will devote themselves to please the master and family. They are dominant, however, so they must be socialized from an early age. Likewise, kids must be taught to properly approach and play with these dogs, as they are small and can be wary of quick movements, attempts to grab them and people who loom over them rather than getting on their level.

Tibbies are alert creatures that will be aloof to strangers. While they don't make good guard dogs, their devotion will prompt them to try to be just that.

Tibetan Spaniel Health

The Tibetan Spaniel has a number of health problems that may develop or which the dog might inherit. They are small dogs that have been inbred for a long time to keep the lineages pure, and this almost always prompts genetic issues. In particular are eye, liver, and knee complications. Some of the many concerns are:

  • Seizures
  • Cherry eye
  • Liver shunt
  • Skin allergies
  • Weeping eyes
  • Over-sleeping
  • Stunted growth
  • Eating disorders
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Kidney and bladder stones
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

The average lifespan for a Tibetan Spaniel is 12 to 15 years.

Tibetan Spaniel Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Tibetan Spaniels.

Respiratory problems

Related Pages

About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:April 28, 2017