Tibetan Spaniel

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    History & Overview

    The Tibetan Spaniel is a small, intelligent, vivacious, alert dog which has been known in Tibetan monasteries for hundreds of years where it was called Gyakhi, the watchdog and pet of monasteries. The breed was also highly valued in the homes of common folks as a keen watchdog and travel companion. Some breed experts believe that the Tibetan Spaniel is the ancestor of:

    The history of Tibet is important to the understanding of the early Tibetan Spaniel. The country’s political isolation together with the rise of Buddhism, which did not permit the killing of animals are all factors leading to the importance of dogs in the lives of the Tibetans. Tibetans have their own Lamaist form of the Buddhism, in which the symbolic lion plays an important role and represents the power of Buddha over violence and aggression since Buddha tamed the lion and trained him to “follow at his heels like a faithful dog.”

    The small monastery dogs, thought to be ancestors of the Tibetan Spaniel, were regarded as “little lions”, giving them great value and prestige. Sometimes, these monastery dogs were sent as gifts to the palaces of China and other Buddhist countries. The tremendous distances between monasteries and villages where Tibetan Spaniels were bred account for the great differences in type and color.

    These little dogs were highly prized as pets and companions, and their ability to see great distances and vigilant barking in response to the approach of strangers or predators made them excellent watchdogs. At some point in time, the Tibetan Spaniel almost disappeared in his homeland. British fanciers have made every effort to preserve the breed. Today, he usually ranks in the top ten most popular breeds in most European countries. The first known American bred litter of Tibetan Spaniel was produced from English imports in 1968.


    The Tibetan Spaniel has a unique personality, described by many as “cat-like.” The breed is known to be extremely intelligent, sweet-natured and affectionate, family-oriented and very trusting of other dogs and people.


    This is a very “natural” breed, presented in the show ring in a completely unaltered condition. Dogs with trimmed, clipped coats are severely penalized. Hair growing between the pads on the underside of the feet may be trimmed for safety and cleanliness. Dewclaws may be removed.

    At A Glance

    Other Names:


    Country of Origin:

    Tibet (Patronage: Great Britain)


    Companion dog


    FCI Classification: Group 9 – Companion & Toy Breeds; Tibetan breeds (without working trial)
    AKC Classification: Non-sporting group


    Small (10 inches at shoulders)


    All colors and mixture of colors are permissible. White markings on feet are allowed (AKC).

    Litter Size:


    Life Span:

    10 – 12 years

    Grooming Requirements:

    Minimal. They require only occasional brushing (once a week) and bathing.


    Tibbies shed their undercoat in late spring.


    Cheerful, very intelligent, loyal, independent, alert, aloof with strangers.

    Social skills:

    Very trusting of other dogs.

    Suitability for Children:

    Tibetan Spaniels love children.

    Exercise Needs:

    Content with a brisk daily walk around the block and some playtime indoors.

    Train Ability:

    Easy to train

    Health & Behavioral Issues:

    Due to natural selection, the breed is very healthy. There have been identified a few cases of:

    Video Credits: Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


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