Tibetan Spaniel

Table of Contents

tibetan spaniel portrait
Welcome to the charming world of Tibetan Spaniels, a breed that's sure to steal your heart with their unique blend of regal elegance and playful spirit! These small pups are more than just adorable fluff balls - they're intelligent, affectionate, and bursting with personality.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Tibetan Spaniel is best suited for individuals and families who appreciate a loving, loyal, and intelligent companion that possesses a touch of independence. Their adaptable nature makes them an excellent fit for both city dwellers and those living in suburban or rural environments.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMETibetan Spaniel
OTHER NAMESTibbie
ORIGINTibet
BREED GROUPNon-Sporting Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT10-11 inches
WEIGHT9-15 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSLow
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK127th
tibetan spaniel sitting in a flower field
Photo: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

Appearance

The Tibetan Spaniel is a small, well-balanced dog that exudes an air of elegance and grace. With their expressive eyes and unique blend of physical characteristics, they possess a distinctive appearance that sets them apart from other breeds.

In terms of size, Tibetan Spaniels typically stand between 10 to 11 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 9 to 15 pounds. This compact sizing makes them suitable for various living situations, including apartments and homes with limited space.

The body of the Tibetan Spaniel is slightly longer than it is tall, contributing to their well-balanced appearance. They have a strong, level back and a deep chest that houses their heart and lungs. The tail of the Tibbie is another notable feature; it is plumed, set high, and typically carried in a curl over their back.

Their legs are well-boned and straight, with the hind legs being slightly longer than the front legs. This unique structure gives them a slightly elevated rear, which was historically useful for navigating the mountainous terrain of their native Tibet. Their feet are small, oval-shaped, and well-cushioned, with thick pads that provide traction and stability.

One of the most striking features of the Tibetan Spaniel is their head, which is small in proportion to their body. The skull is slightly domed, while the muzzle is of medium length, giving them a refined and dignified look. Their ears are medium-sized, pendant-shaped, and set high on the head, framing their expressive face.

The dark brown eyes of the Tibbie are oval-shaped, set wide apart, and have a bright, intelligent expression that exudes warmth and friendliness.

Tibetan Spaniels boast a double coat, with the outer coat being silky and of medium length, while the undercoat is soft and dense. The coat is notably more profuse around the neck and shoulders, forming a mane-like appearance, which is more pronounced in males.

The coat can come in a variety of colors and patterns, including gold, cream, fawn, red, white, black, and black and tan, as well as various shades of sable and brindle.

Overall, the Tibetan Spaniel’s appearance reflects their unique blend of strength, agility, and elegance. These charming dogs have a captivating presence that is both regal and endearing, making them a truly special breed to behold.

tibetan spaniel relaxing in a park
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Temperament

The Tibetan Spaniel, a charming and captivating canine, embodies the essence of a wise philosopher. This breed possesses a soulful soul, a deep thinker with a heart full of wisdom and understanding. Their spirit is both dignified and affectionate, leaving all who encounter them mesmerized by their unique charm.

Loyalty defines the Tibetan Spaniel, much like a true friend who always listens with empathy and offers comfort without judgment. They become your devoted companion, a supportive presence in both good times and bad, standing by your side like a trusted confidante.

Playfulness and mischief lie beneath their gentle demeanor, akin to that of a jester, always ready to bring joy and laughter to your day. This charming quality makes them irresistible, like that delightful friend who can effortlessly lighten the mood and create happy memories.

The Tibetan Spaniel also possesses a regal air, much like an esteemed scholar, exuding an air of dignity and grace in their every movement. Their presence is captivating, like that of a respected mentor who commands attention and admiration.

Independence is another facet of their personality, akin to a free spirit who cherishes moments of solitude and self-reflection. They remind you of the importance of finding solace within oneself, just like that wise friend who encourages personal growth and introspection.

Warm and affectionate, the Tibetan Spaniel showers loved ones with love and devotion, like a nurturing caregiver who envelops you in warmth. Their affectionate nature is infectious, leaving you feeling cherished and valued, just like being in the presence of a dear family member.

Despite their small size, the Tibetan Spaniel possesses a bold spirit, like that of a courageous adventurer, unafraid to explore new territories. They inspire you to face challenges head-on, with determination and bravery, just like an intrepid explorer.

tibetan spaniel running in the garden
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Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

The Tibetan Spaniel is an adaptable breed that can thrive in a variety of environments, making them suitable for different types of pet parents and living situations.

Their compact size and moderate energy levels allow them to adjust well to both small apartments and larger homes with ample space. However, they do appreciate having access to a secure yard or outdoor area where they can explore and play safely.

Climate Adaptability

Regarding climate adaptability, the Tibetan Spaniel has a double coat that provides them with some level of protection against both cold and hot temperatures. However, there are certain precautions that should be taken to ensure their comfort and well-being in extreme conditions.

In colder climates, their dense undercoat helps keep them warm, but it is still important to provide them with a warm, draft-free shelter and limit their exposure to freezing temperatures. Extra care should be taken during snow and ice, as the Tibbie’s small size makes them more susceptible to the cold.

In hotter climates, it is crucial to protect your Tibetan Spaniel from overheating, as they can be sensitive to high temperatures. Provide them with plenty of shade, fresh water, and cool resting spots, and avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day. Be mindful of the signs of heatstroke and take immediate action if you notice any symptoms.

Ideal Owner

In terms of their ideal pet parents, Tibetan Spaniels are well-suited to individuals and families who can provide them with affection, mental stimulation, and moderate exercise. They are a great choice for first-time dog owners, as well as experienced pet parents who appreciate the unique blend of qualities this breed has to offer.

Tibbies are known for their intelligence and independence, so they will thrive with owners who can support and nurture these traits through positive reinforcement training and engaging activities.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, Tibetan Spaniels are generally sociable and can coexist harmoniously with other dogs, cats, and even smaller animals. However, it is essential to ensure proper introductions and monitor interactions between pets, particularly during the initial stages, to establish a peaceful and happy multi-pet household.

tibetan spaniel on a hill
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Grooming

The Tibetan Spaniel’s unique appearance and double coat require regular grooming to keep them looking their best and maintain their overall health. While their grooming needs are not overly demanding, it is essential to establish a consistent routine to ensure they stay clean, comfortable, and free from potential issues.

Coat Care

One of the primary grooming tasks for a Tibbie is brushing their coat. Their medium-length, silky outer coat and soft, dense undercoat should be brushed at least twice a week to prevent tangles and matting.

Using a slicker brush or a pin brush will help remove loose hair and dirt while distributing natural oils that keep their coat healthy and shiny. During shedding seasons, which typically occur in spring and fall, you may need to increase the frequency of brushing to keep up with the additional hair loss.

Bathing your Tibetan Spaniel should be done as needed, usually every 4 to 6 weeks, depending on their activity level and whether they have developed an odor or become dirty.

Use a gentle dog shampoo to avoid stripping the natural oils from their coat, and be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue. Take care to avoid getting water in their ears, as this can lead to infections. After bathing, towel-dry your Tibbie and use a hairdryer on a low-heat setting to finish drying their coat, being careful not to overheat them.

Dental Care

Dental care is another crucial aspect of grooming for the Tibetan Spaniel. Regular teeth brushing, ideally daily, will help prevent plaque buildup, tartar, and bad breath while reducing the risk of dental diseases. Introduce teeth brushing gradually, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-specific toothpaste. Dental chews and toys can also be beneficial in promoting good oral hygiene.

Nail Trimming

Trimming your Tibbie’s nails is essential for their comfort and well-being. Overgrown nails can cause discomfort, affect their gait, and potentially lead to injuries. Aim to trim their nails every 3 to 4 weeks, using a pair of dog nail clippers or a nail grinder. Be cautious not to cut the quick, which is the blood vessel inside the nail, as this can be painful for your dog and cause bleeding.

Ear Care

Tibetan Spaniels are prone to ear infections due to their pendant-shaped ears, so it is important to check and clean their ears regularly, at least once a week. Use a gentle ear-cleaning solution and cotton balls or pads to remove dirt and debris. Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can push debris further into the ear canal or damage the delicate structures within the ear.

tibetan spaniel standing on grass
Photo: jonpic/Getty Images Signature

Exercise

The Tibetan Spaniel is a moderately active breed that requires regular exercise to maintain their physical health and mental well-being. While they may not have the same high energy levels as some other breeds, it is still essential to provide them with daily opportunities for activity and stimulation.

Exercise Amount & Types

In general, Tibbies benefit from 20 to 30 minutes of exercise per day, which can be divided into shorter sessions if preferred. This can include daily walks, which not only help keep them physically fit but also provide mental stimulation through exposure to new sights, smells, and sounds. When walking your Tibetan Spaniel, be sure to use a secure harness and leash to ensure their safety.

In addition to walks, Tibetan Spaniels enjoy engaging in playtime with their owners or other dogs. Interactive games such as fetch, tug-of-war, or hide-and-seek can be both fun and beneficial for your Tibbie, helping to strengthen your bond while providing physical activity. They may also appreciate having access to a securely fenced yard where they can safely explore and play off-leash.

Remember that mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for this intelligent breed. Providing your Tibetan Spaniel with puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, or engaging in training sessions can help keep their mind sharp and prevent boredom.

Dog Sports

Tibetan Spaniels are intelligent and can excel in various dog sports and competitions, such as agility, rally obedience, and scent work. These activities provide an excellent outlet for their energy and mental abilities while also offering a fun and rewarding way to bond with your dog.

Exercise Precautions

It is crucial to tailor your Tibetan Spaniel’s exercise routine to their individual needs, taking their age, health, and fitness level into account. Puppies and senior dogs may require shorter, gentler exercise sessions, while more active adult Tibbies may enjoy longer walks or additional playtime.

tibetan spaniel in an agility trial
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Training

Training a Tibetan Spaniel can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please. However, it is essential to approach training with patience and understanding, as this breed is known for its independent nature, which can sometimes come across as stubbornness.

Tibbies are highly intelligent and capable of learning quickly, but they may require a bit more persistence and creativity in training compared to some other breeds.

Positive Reinforcement

They respond best to positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, or play, which help motivate them and encourage desired behaviors. Harsh training methods or punishment can be counterproductive and may damage the bond between you and your dog.

Consistency

Consistency is key when training a Tibetan Spaniel. Establish clear rules and boundaries from the beginning, and ensure that all family members are on the same page when it comes to reinforcing these expectations. This will help your Tibbie understand what is expected of them and prevent confusion caused by inconsistent signals.

Socialization

Socialization is another critical aspect of training for Tibetan Spaniels. Expose your Tibbie to various people, environments, and situations from an early age to help them develop a well-rounded and confident temperament.

This can include meeting new people, encountering other dogs and animals, and experiencing different sights, sounds, and surfaces. Puppy socialization classes can be an excellent way to introduce your dog to new experiences in a controlled and supervised setting.

Patience

Patience is vital when training a Tibetan Spaniel, as they may have moments where their independence shines through and they seem uninterested in following commands. In these cases, it can be helpful to take a break and try again later, or to switch to a different training exercise or activity to regain their interest.

tibetan spaniel standing on an empty road
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Diet & Nutrition 

What to Feed & How Much

Ensuring that your Tibetan Spaniel receives a well-balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for maintaining their overall health and well-being.

When selecting the appropriate food for your Tibbie, consider high-quality dry, wet, or raw food options that adhere to the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines ensure that the chosen food meets the necessary nutritional requirements for your dog’s specific life stage.

If you are considering a raw or home-cooked diet for your Tibetan Spaniel, consult with your veterinarian or a canine nutrition expert to ensure the diet meets all their nutritional needs and is appropriately balanced.

The amount of food you should feed your Tibetan Spaniel depends on factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and individual metabolism.

As a general guideline, adult Tibetan Spaniels typically require around 1/2 to 1 cup of high-quality dry food per day, which should be divided into two separate meals. Keep in mind that this is just a starting point, and adjustments may be needed based on your dog’s unique needs.

Puppies have different dietary requirements than adult dogs, so be sure to choose a puppy-specific formula that supports their growth and development. Typically, puppies should be fed three to four times a day, gradually transitioning to twice-daily feedings as they approach adulthood.

It is essential to monitor your Tibbie’s weight and body condition to ensure they are not underfed or overfed. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can also help determine if any adjustments need to be made to their diet.

Treats

Treats can be an excellent tool for training and bonding with your Tibetan Spaniel but should be given in moderation to avoid excessive calorie intake and weight gain. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats, or consider using small pieces of their regular kibble as a reward.

Water

Fresh water should always be readily available for your Tibbie, ensuring they stay well-hydrated throughout the day. Make sure to clean their water bowl regularly and refill it with clean water as needed.

tibetan spaniel looking up
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Health

The Tibetan Spaniel is a relatively healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. However, like any breed, they can be prone to certain health issues that potential owners should be aware of. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian and early detection of potential problems are crucial in maintaining your Tibbie’s overall health.

Here are common health issues associated with the Tibetan Spaniel:

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye condition that causes the gradual deterioration of the retina, eventually leading to blindness. Responsible breeders screen their dogs for this condition and remove affected dogs from their breeding programs. Early detection through regular eye exams can help manage the condition and prepare for any necessary lifestyle adjustments as the dog’s vision declines.

Patellar Luxation: This is a common orthopedic issue in small dog breeds, where the kneecap (patella) slips out of its normal position. It can range from mild to severe and may cause discomfort, limping, or difficulty walking. In some cases, surgical intervention may be required to correct the problem.

Allergies: Tibetan Spaniels can be prone to various allergies, including food, environmental, and contact allergies. Symptoms may include itching, redness, and skin irritation. Identifying the cause of the allergy and implementing appropriate management strategies, such as dietary changes or medication, can help alleviate symptoms and improve your dog’s quality of life.

Dental Issues: Like many small breeds, Tibetan Spaniels can be susceptible to dental problems such as gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. Regular teeth brushing, dental chews, and professional cleanings can help maintain good oral hygiene and prevent dental issues.

Heart Issues: Tibetan Spaniels can be at risk for heart conditions such as mitral valve disease and other congenital heart defects. Regular veterinary check-ups, including heart exams, can help detect any issues early and allow for appropriate treatment and management.

In addition to being aware of these common health concerns, it is essential to provide your Tibetan Spaniel with regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, appropriate exercise, and proper grooming to ensure they remain healthy and happy throughout their lifetime.

By taking a proactive approach to your Tibbie’s health, you can minimize the risk of potential issues and enjoy many years of companionship with your beloved pet.

two tibetan spaniels resting on the bed
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History

The Tibetan Spaniel has a rich and fascinating history that dates back over 2,000 years. This ancient breed originated in the Himalayan region of Tibet, where they were highly valued by Buddhist monks and served various purposes within monasteries.

Tibbies were not only kept as cherished companions but also played an essential role as watchdogs in the monastic communities. Their keen senses and alert nature made them excellent at detecting approaching strangers or animals, and they would promptly alert the monks by barking. Despite their small size, Tibetan Spaniels were fearless and highly regarded for their ability to protect their territory.

Another unique aspect of the Tibetan Spaniel’s history is their connection to Tibetan Buddhism. The breed is believed to have been associated with the lion, a sacred symbol in Buddhist culture that represents wisdom and enlightenment.

With their mane-like coat and regal bearing, Tibbies were considered to be miniature representations of the sacred lion, further adding to their esteemed status within monastic life.

In addition to their roles within the monasteries, Tibetan Spaniels were also prized as gifts among the nobility in neighboring countries such as China, India, and Nepal. It is believed that the exchange of these dogs contributed to the development of other Oriental toy breeds such as the Pekingese and the Japanese Chin.

The first Tibetan Spaniels began to make their way to the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the first recorded Tibbie arriving in England in 1895. However, it was not until after World War II that the breed started to gain more widespread recognition in Europe and North America.

The Tibetan Spaniel Club of America was established in 1971, and the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1983.

Today, the Tibetan Spaniel enjoys a devoted fanbase of pet owners who appreciate their unique blend of qualities, including their intelligence, affection, and regal bearing. The breed’s history and connection to Tibetan culture continue to captivate the imagination of dog lovers worldwide, ensuring that the Tibbie will remain a beloved and cherished breed for generations to come.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Tibetan Spaniel in the United States is the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America (TSCA). Founded in 1971, the TSCA is dedicated to promoting the well-being, responsible breeding, and ownership of Tibetan Spaniels.

The club provides valuable resources, education, and support for both Tibbie enthusiasts and pet owners. To learn more about the TSCA and access their resources, visit their webpage.

tibetan spaniel puppy in the park
Photo: DesignLabb

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Tibetan Spaniel’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Acquiring

Considering welcoming a Tibetan Spaniel into your home? Begin with arranging a comfy bed, wholesome food, entertaining toys, grooming tools for their silky coat, and identifying a reliable vet.

If you’re leaning towards buying, it’s crucial to choose a reputable breeder to ensure a healthy, socialized pup. But have you thought about rescue? Many Tibetan Spaniels in shelters are awaiting the chance to bring joy into a new home. The American Kennel Club and the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America can assist you through this fulfilling process.

Whether you adopt or buy, you’re gaining more than a pet. You’re inviting a perceptive, cheerful companion into your life. With a Tibetan Spaniel, each day is an adventure filled with companionship, love, and delightful playfulness! This little lion dog will surely add a touch of Tibetan tranquility to your life.

FAQs

Are Tibetan Spaniels good pets?

Yes, Tibetan Spaniels make excellent pets for the right households. They are affectionate, intelligent, and alert, making them great companions for families, singles, or seniors. However, it is essential to provide them with proper socialization, training, and exercise to ensure they develop into well-mannered and happy pets.

Why are Tibetan Spaniels rare?

Tibetan Spaniels are considered a rare breed due to their limited numbers and lower popularity compared to other small dog breeds. Their unique history and origin in Tibet, combined with their later introduction to the Western world, have contributed to their rarity. However, dedicated breed enthusiasts continue to promote and preserve this ancient breed.

Do Tibetan Spaniels bark a lot?

Tibetan Spaniels were bred as watchdogs in monasteries, so they have a natural inclination to bark when they sense something unfamiliar or perceive a threat. However, with proper training, socialization, and mental stimulation, excessive barking can be managed. Tibbies are generally not known to be nuisance barkers without reason.

Are Tibetan Spaniels hypoallergenic?

No, Tibetan Spaniels are not considered hypoallergenic. They have a double coat that sheds moderately, which may trigger allergies in sensitive individuals. Regular grooming, including brushing and bathing, can help minimize shedding and dander, but no breed is entirely hypoallergenic.

Are Tibetan Spaniels related to the Tibetan Terrier?

Although both breeds originated in Tibet and share similar names, the Tibetan Spaniel and the Tibetan Terrier are not closely related. They are distinct breeds with different physical characteristics, temperaments, and historical roles. The Tibetan Terrier is a larger breed, bred primarily as a companion and herding dog, while the Tibetan Spaniel is smaller and was bred as a watchdog and companion.

How much grooming do Tibetan Spaniels require?

Tibetan Spaniels have a moderate grooming requirement. Their double coat should be brushed at least once or twice a week to remove loose hair and prevent matting. During shedding seasons, more frequent brushing may be necessary. Additionally, regular nail trimming, teeth cleaning, and ear checks should be part of their grooming routine.

Can Tibetan Spaniels live in apartments?

Yes, Tibetan Spaniels can adapt well to apartment living due to their small size and moderate energy levels. However, they still require daily exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. It is essential to provide them with regular walks, playtime, and mental enrichment activities to ensure they thrive in an apartment setting.

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