Tibetan Spaniel

Breed At A Glance


Perky, intelligent, and great with children

Life Expectancy
13-15 years

Average Height
10 inches

Average Weight
9-15 lbs

Coat Color
Gold, cream, fawn, red, white, black, or black and tan; can be solid, multi-colored or shaded

Coat Length/Texture
Medium-length soft double coat

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year round, and seasonally very heavy

Also known as Tibbie

General Temperament

The loyal and affectionate Tibetan Spaniel thrives on human companionship, forming a strong bond with their owners and family. They are quite sensitive and intuitive and will respond to their owner’s moods. This breed is aloof with strangers but never aggressive. They are happy yet protective, intelligent yet independent.

Tibetan Spaniels make excellent companions for families with well-behaved children, as well as for the elderly. They will generally get along with other dogs and household pets. This breed will usually bark persistently to announce the arrival of visitors, but otherwise won’t bark unless they have a reason.

Training can be an arduous process for the owner of a Tibetan Spaniel. With their high level of intelligence comes a strong stubborn streak: Tibbies often believe they know more than their owners. Love, consistency and praise are important training techniques with this breed. Crate training is recommended when trying to housebreak a Tibetan Spaniel.

Since they do not require extensive exercise, Tibetan Spaniels do not require a yard and can be happy living just about anywhere. If no yard is provided, they still need a daily walk to maintain good health and a happy disposition. Care should be taken during the summer months or in hot climates, as this breed is prone to overheating.

Breed History

One of several breeds native to Tibet, the Tibetan Spaniel spent much of it’s history as a companion and guard in monasteries, barking to announce the approach of visitors. It sat on top of the high monastery walls, and to this day, it’s modern counterpart still likes to sit in high places to observe it’s surroundings. It is believed that they share the same ancestry as some of the Chinese and Japanese breeds, including the Pug, Japanese Chin and the Pekinese. Those breeds were given as gifts to royal houses and monasteries, giving rise to the Tibetan Spaniel we know today. Although it goes by the name “Spaniel,” it is considered a non-sporting breed and does not share the same form or function as other Spaniels.

The Tibetan Spaniel was granted full breed recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1984.

Body Structure and Composition

The Tibetan Spaniel is a long and low dog, with a level topline that is slightly longer than the dog is tall at the shoulder. The head is somewhat small in proportion to the body, with black eye rims and pendulous medium-sized ears set high on the skull. The blunt muzzle is cushioned without being wrinkled, encasing a mouth that is very slightly undershot. The forelegs are slightly bowed, but the hind legs are straight. The plumed tail is carried curled over the back when the dog is in motion. The Tibetan Spaniel has a quick moving gait.

Medical Information

Various eye problems can be experienced by the Tibetan Spaniel, including Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Cherry Eye and “Weeping Eyes.” PRA causes a degeneration of the retina, resulting in eventual blindness. The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) provides certification on dogs that are examined annually by a veterinary opthamologist and diagnosed free of PRA. Any dog that has tested positive for PRA should not be bred. Cherry Eye is characterized by the prolapses of the third eyelid, which exposes the tear gland, but this condition can be surgically corrected. “Weeping Eyes” simply describes the stains along the sides of the nose that occur when the tear ducts overproduce fluid, which then leaks out of the inside corners of the eyes. Such overproduction can be caused by the natural design of the Tibetan Spaniel’s face, and does not cause any harm to the dog.

Tibetan Spaniels are also prone to Patellar Luxation, also known as “slipped stifle” or “trick knee.” This condition occurs when the knee-like joint above the hock slips out of place, often requiring surgery to correct. Additionally, some Tibbie lines may also suffer from Hip or Elbow Dysplasia, which causes the fit between the bone and cup provided by the socket to degrade, causing lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) provides certification of breeding stock to help prevent the spread of these diseases, among others.

Tibetan Spaniels can be very sensitive to anesthesia. Be sure to locate a veterinarian that is accustomed to the needs of this breed prior to any surgical procedures.

The Tibetan Spaniel’s coat requires regular brushing to keep it clean from tangles and mats. Use a gentle shampoo and be sure to rinse the dog thoroughly to remove all soap residue.

Anecdotal Information

This breed has been termed “Little Lion” due to it’s ability to be both tough and tender.

Tibetan Spaniels are a somewhat rare breed in the United States. According to registration statistics provided by the American Kennel Club, this breed ranked 104th out of 157 dog breeds in 2007. (Ten years earlier in 1997, the breed ranked 105th.)

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