Let's talk Tibetan Terriers

Tibetan Terriers, also known as Dhoki Apso, are not actually terriers at all, but they do come from Tibet, where monks or lamas developed them as watchdogs and companions. These good-natured dogs are instantly recognisable by the long flowing locks that kept them warm in the Tibetan mountains. Even if nowadays, they have mostly swapped isolated monasteries for family homes, they retain the alertness and loyalty for which they were originally prized. 

Official name: Tibetan Terrier

Other names: Dhoki Apso

Origins: Tibet

Tibetan Terrier standing looking at camera in black and white

 

 Drooling tendencies  Very low  Warm weather? High
 Shedding level  Very low  Suited to apartment living ? Very high
 Energy level*  Low  Family pet?* Very high
 Compatibility with other pets  High  Can stay alone?* Very low

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 

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Illustration of Tibetan Terrier
Male
36 - 41 cm Height
8 - 13 kg Weight
Female
36 - 41 cm Height
8 - 13 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months  
 Puppy age  2 to 12 months
 Adult age 1 to 7 years
 Mature age  7 to 10 years
 Senior age  From 10 years

Tibetan Terrier running through long dried grass

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Get to know the Tibetan Terrier

All you need to know about the breed

Lively, good-natured and alert, the inaccurately named Tibetan Terrier (Tibetan All-Rounder would be closer to the mark) has evolved from the companion of monks and watchdog of nomadic herdsmen in the isolated landscape of ancient Tibet, to become a much-loved 21st century family pet.

TTs, as they’re also sometimes known, look a little bit like their cousin, the Lhasa Apso, but they are bigger – sturdy, agile, medium-sized dogs, built to withstand a harsh landscape. In fact, despite their ancient origins, Tibetan Terriers come equipped with technical clothing any modern mountaineer would be proud of: large, hairy and flat snow-shoe-like paws for easier mountain grip and a double coat bringing together a waterproof and insulating woolly under layer with a longer, finer top coat.

Tibetan Terriers are friendly and devoted to their human families. They evolved to live and work with people, so it makes sense that they enjoy plenty of attention and don’t like being left alone for long stretches. Once trained, they get on well with other pets and children, although they should not be left unsupervised. As born-and-bred watchdogs they may be reserved with strangers.

Harking back to the breed’s ancient sentry duties in the mountains, Tibetan Terriers often like to occupy an elevated spot in their home, keeping an eye on proceedings – even if in most cases the view nowadays is a little less spectacular than the ones enjoyed by their ancestors.

Two Tibetan Terriers standing on grass

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2 facts about Tibetan Terriers

1. Snow paws on

They evolved to tramp through the snowy peaks of Tibet so it's hardly surprising that Tibetan Terriers have retained some souvenirs of their rugged origins. The thick coat, of course, but also their flat, round, snow-shoe-like paws, with hair between the pads, to provide traction on slippery terrain.

2. The sound of silence 

You might think a breed that originated in the monasteries of Tibet would be comfortable with silence, but Tibetan Terriers have definitely retained the ability, honed in their watchdog days, to make themselves heard through barking. Luckily, as well as being quite vocal, Tibetan Terriers are intelligent and quick to learn so owners shouldn’t have too much difficulty in teaching them the difference between everyday sounds and those that justify a woof or two.

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History of the breed

Tibetan Terriers’ monastic roots – they were originally bred some 2,000 years ago by Buddhist monks in the isolated, snowy peaks of Tibet – mean they were also referred to as the Holy Dog and thought to bring luck. For this reason they were never sold, but given as gifts and one such gift led to the breed becoming known beyond their isolated home. In the 1930s, a grateful man gave a Tibetan Terrier puppy to Dr Agnes Greig, who had saved his wife’s life. The British doctor acquired another and began a breeding programme – and the rest is history.

Dhoki Apso, to give them their Tibetan name, were probably given the inaccurate label of terrier because of their size, but that’s as far as the similarity goes. Tibetan Terriers were not bred to chase smaller animals: in a region sometimes known as the Roof of the World, they were companions and watch dogs in the monasteries and travelled the rugged, snowy terrain with nomadic herdsmen, herding flocks and barking to alert their human companions of potential danger.

Close-up of Tibetan Terrier looking past camera in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Tibetan Terriers

1. Head

Long flowing hair often falling over the eyes.

2. Colouring

Wooly, weatherproof coat: water-resistant under layer, fine, long top coat and “snow shoes”.

3. Coat

White, golden, cream, grey, smoke, black colours or a mix.

4. Body

Compact, strong, medium-sized and square-shaped body.

5. Tail

Thick, feathered tail carried high and curling over.

Side view of Tibetan Terrier looking at camera

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Tibetan Terrier
Side view of Tibetan Terrier running across grass

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Caring for your Tibetan Terrier

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Tibetan Terriers’ coats may look intimidatingly high-maintenance, but a good groom once a week should do the trick – and the brushing process is a great way to bond with your dog. Tibetan Terriers are not the highest-energy breed around, but they do require a few several short walks or one longer one every day. Just don’t be surprised if you find them “herding” the human members of the group. They enjoy a game with their human or playing with a toy on their own. Tibetan Terriers are intelligent and eager to please and with positive reinforcement such as praise and treats – taken out of their daily rations of course! – should be gratifyingly easy to train. However, they are independent-minded so boring, repetitive training, or worse still, harsh words, will be counterproductive.

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All about Tibetan Terriers

Lively, good-natured and loyal Tibetan Terriers make great family pets. They don’t need huge amounts of space – an apartment is fine – and their exercise needs are fairly modest. They are devoted to their human families and once trained, and under supervision, they get on well with children.

With that abundant hair, it’s hard to believe it, but Tibetan Terriers don’t shed an excessive amount. However, no dog is truly hypoallergenic – as for other breeds, it is the dogs’ dander (skin flakes) not their hair that causes problems for allergy sufferers. Tibetan Terriers do need some grooming to keep those luscious locks in good order, but don’t we all.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/