Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan Spaniel, often referred to affectionately as the Tibbie, is a playful, buoyant, and self-assured breed. With a compact body that is slightly longer than it is tall, this small breed is alert and loves to be on the move.

Bred to stand guard as sentinels on the walls of Tibetan monasteries, these dogs are courageous and loyal, forming incredibly strong bonds with their owners. You will find that the Tibetan Spaniel is a highly intelligent, confident, and loving breed that will fit right in with the family. Read on to learn more about the Tibetan Spaniel.

Description of the Tibetan Spaniel

Despite being called a spaniel, this breed is actually more akin to Asian breeds like the Pekingese, Pugs, and Lhasa Apsos. With their bright eyes, regal plumed tail, and distinctive “lion’s mane,” the Tibetan Spaniel is both beautiful and exotic, no doubt evoking qualities of their namesake country of Tibet. But their affectionate and kind nature will make them fit in as soon as you bring them home.

This breed forms an adoring and devoted bond with its family and are naturally protective, so don’t be surprised to find your four-legged friend perched somewhere as your dutiful watchdog.

Their instinct is to guard and protect, but with their short legs they will probably need to take some breaks from their hard work throughout the day, as they can get tired! Tibetan Spaniels love to move, so don’t think their small size means they don’t want to play.

Hardier than they look, the Tibetan Spaniel will be able to keep up with backyard playtime or a good walk, but may have a harder time hiking around all day over tough terrain. Expect a playful and active friend, but know that sometimes he may think he is bigger and stronger than he actually is!

This breed can thank its existence in part to the importance of animals in Buddhist culture. The Tibetan Spaniel was bred by Buddhist monks in the Himalayas as companions and as sentinels. Their good eyesight allowed them to see far into the distance and warn for approaching visitors. And as an added bonus, provided some greatly appreciated warmth on cold Himalayan nights.

Distinguishing characteristics of the Tibetan Spaniel include its blunted muzzle, curious and kind dark eyes, “lion’s mane,” and long, flowing and silky fur. This dog’s double coat is soft, and lays close to its body. These dogs can come in any color or mixture, making for some really beautifully colored dogs.

Life Expectancy and Size

The Tibetan Spaniel is small and adorable. Standing at 10 inches tall, and weighing 9 – 15 pounds, these little pups are small balls of energy. They are tenacious and will always be ready to play. This rambunctiousness may contribute to a long and happy life as they average lifespan of this breed is 12 – 15 years.

The Tibetan Spaniel is a robust breed, but can still succumb to illness. Working with a reputable breeder is the first line of defense in screening and preparing for any potential health problems. While they are often healthy, know that any problem could occur at any time.

Protective Ability

Bred to stand watch, these dogs have an eye like a hawk and the natural instinct to guard, but given their small size won’t be able to do much damage to an actual intruder. Originally the Tibetan Spaniel worked in conjunction with its much bigger, much more intimidating, cousin the Tibetan Mastiff, needing some brawn to protect the brain. (Hey, one breed can’t have everything!) And while your Tibetan Spaniel can’t offer you much protection, you can expect a fiercely loyal, protective, and fearless dog.


The Tibbie is an extremely intelligent dog that can learn quite quickly, and loves training and bonding with its owner. Using canine sports is a great way to accomplish all of these things. By making training fun for your pup they will be eager and quick to learn.

These dogs are smart and independent thinkers. Using treats is a great way to grab and keep their attention! They love to work hard, and giving them something in return will make them just that much more excited to learn.

Be careful to avoid overfeeding, though. This breed can become overweight, so watch treat and food consumption and make sure they are getting enough daily activity.

Tibetan Spaniels also need early socialization. This breed can become nervous and shy if not introduced to other people and dogs early. Giving your pup lots of social opportunities will allow him to blossom into the self-confident, adventurous, and bubbly dog that he should be!

Energy Level

Like many dogs, the Tibetan Spaniel needs moderate exercise to stay healthy. They love to be on the move, and watching over the whole family, but are also happy lounging around the house. Having a fenced yard is important, as these dogs can really move when they want to.

The Tibetan Spaniel is an all-around, adaptable kind of breed. They are happy to go on long walks or jogs with their owners and can keep up with all but the most active outdoorsy people. But they will also love to snuggle up with you and just hang out. Just be sure to make sure they get at least a daily walk, as they need to have enough activity to stay healthy.

What Living with a Tibetan Spaniel is Like

These dogs love playing and watching over kids and are generally friendly with other pets. Tibbies are natural watchdogs and have slightly feline-like instincts in the way they perch above everything else and observe. Because of their protective nature, this breed is often aloof with strangers and will let you know when someone unfamiliar is around.

With socialization and proper introductions your Tibetan Spaniel will be sweet and friendly to anyone he gets to know. Be sure that if you have small kids you teach them not to be too rough with their new four-legged friend. The Tibbie is tough and likes to think he is bigger than he actually is, but as a small dog it is important to know they can get injured, so never be too rough with your pup.

The Tibetan Spaniel is good-natured and sharp enough to take just about anything in stride.

They can get along in active and sedentary households alike, as long as you get them outside and play games regularly. They love running around with their owners and equally love lounging in the sun or on your lap.

Care of the Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan Spaniel is an easy-going and adaptable dog. They can do well in almost any household so long as they are provided lots of interaction and love from their family. This breed does not do well if left alone.

Environmental Needs

Despite having been bred in the icy Himalayas, the Tibetan Spaniel is pretty intolerant of extreme temperatures, both cold and hot. While they do have a double coat, it provides minimal protection from the elements. Try to keep them in milder temps by limiting outdoor time in hot or cold weather. Jackets can help preserve their body heat if they are in cold climates, and providing lots of water and shade is essential if they are to be outside in hot climates.

Exercise Needs

The Tibetan Spaniel needs moderate exercise. They love to move and be on the watch. Often energetic and full of life, you can expect some enjoyable backyard playtime and a companion that can keep up with you on long walks or jogs. But don’t be surprised if your tuckered out little friend curls right up onto your lap after a long day playing.

Daily walks are usually enough to keep these dogs happy and healthy. Ideally, these can be supplemented by time playing in the yard.

Shedding and Grooming

Looking at the long, flowing coat of the Tibetan Spaniel may have you thinking you will need an arsenal of grooming tools, but they are pretty low-maintenance. Weekly brushing and regular bathing will keep their coats clean and healthy. Adding a few extra session of brushing for just the ears and rear can help keep these areas free of mats.

This breed sheds some, but for most of the year it is very manageable. Expect one big shed every year, though, and be prepared to do some extra bathing and brushing at this time.

Begin trimming this breed’s nails when they are puppies, so they can get used to this experience. Also, check the ears regularly, as with all breeds, to make sure they are not infected.

Ideal Home Environment

This breed can do well in most home environments — they love kids, and are popular with families. But combine their easy nature and loving devotion towards their owners with their manageable activity level, and the Tibetan Spaniel can thrive pretty much anywhere.

This breed makes an excellent watchdog, but is a bit lacking in the muscle department to back up their fearless nature. You will always be warned of a threat but don’t expect your protection to come from these little pups, though they are feisty enough to think they are ten times their size!

Health Concerns

The Tibetan Spaniel is a generally healthy breed. The most common problems they experience are progressive retinal atrophy (an eye disorder), cherry eye (where the third eyelid of the dog gets irritated and swells), and patellar luxation (slipping kneecaps).

Working with a responsible breeder to screen for these diseases can help prepare you for potential future problems. Another thing to check for is portosystemic shunt (where the dog’s circulatory system bypasses the liver).

Behavior Problems

This breed can have serious separation anxiety. They bond strongly with their owners, and do not do well if apart from them for too long. If left alone they may resort to destructive behaviors and barking.

Some of these dogs may become timid if they are not properly socialized, so be sure to start early.