The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-sized breed with a square profile and a powerful build. It is characterized by a medium sized head furnished with very long hair that falls forward covering the eyes and a fair amount of beard. Facial features include a black nose, widely-set large, dark brown and oval eyes, and pendant, feathered, v-shaped ears that are carried not too close to the head and set high on the side of the skull. The teeth form a complete scissor or reverse scissor bite which features slightly curved incisors. A muscular neck carries the head well above the level of the back giving a balanced profile. The Tibetan terrier also features straight and heavily furnished front legs with equally well-muscled and well-feathered back legs that carry a muscled, compact and powerful body. The large, round and densely feathered feet give the breed the much needed cushion especially during movement. It has a thick double coat consisting of an outer coat made of long fine hair that is either straight or slightly wavy with a soft, woolly undercoat. The coat comes in white, golden, cream, grey or smoke, black, parti-colour and tricolours except chocolate or liver.
The Tibetan terrier is one of the few dog breeds that have been proven by DNA analysis to come from very ancient lineage. It has a local name in Tibet of “Dhoki Apso” which loosely translates to “shaggy or bearded (Apso) outdoor dog (Dhoki).” There are no written records regarding the ancestors of this breed mainly due to its territory of origin. However, it is claimed that the breed is as old as 2000 years old and was bred in the harsh climates of the Himalayas by Buddhist monks. Although its name suggests that it is a terrier, the breed is not in any sense a member “terrier” group. The name was given to it by European travellers who visited Tibet which reminded them of terriers from their native countries when they first saw the breed. Although true terriers are working dogs, the Tibetan terrier was actually developed as a companion dog and not a worker, but, it nonetheless did occasional chores such as herding flocks. In Tibet, the breed is known as a lucky temple dog and in n the early days, the Tibetan terrier was given as a gift of gratitude. In the early 1920s, an Indian physican named Dr. A. Grieg was presented a Tibetan terrier as a good luck gift which she brought to India where it was first recognized. Being an English colony, it slowly gained ground in England as well (being recognized as a breed in 1937) and then onto the Americans during the 1950s. Today, the Tibetan terrier remains to be uncommon despite efforts by breeders to popularize the breed.
The temperament of the Tibetan terrier has been on of its most attractive aspects (besides its long coat). It is not typically an aggressive or timid breed but as a watchdog, it is fairly reserved around unfamiliar faces. The breed is very energetic and strong with fair amount of endurance and stamina. It is dedicated, strong-minded and intelligent and can sometimes have a stubborn streak. Other lines tend to develop jealousy towards other dogs in the family which makes them quite hard to live with other pets. Although typically not an excessive barker, the Tibetan terrier has a very assertive bark which is compared to that of a rising siren.
Training should be calm and level-headed as the Tibetan terrier is a very trainable breed. Firm and kind handling will have the best effect.
This breed requires extensive amount of grooming and should be brushed every other day with a metal comb to remove loose or dead hairs and prevent tangles from forming. To ease brushing, spray the coat with a mist of water.
With an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, the Tibetan terrier is a fairly long-lived breed although dogs that lived up to 17 years are not uncommon. However, the Tibetan terrier is susceptible to a variety of medical predispositions, in particular those that are eye- and joint-related including canine hip dysplasia, luxating patella, progressive retinal atrophy, lens luxation and cataracts.
A good base diet should have a blend of horse meat, barley, white rice and beet pulp.
This energetic breed is suitable for an apartment living, provided that it is given the right amount of daily physical activity that it requires. This surprisingly agile dog needs regular exercise, preferably daily long walks or an hour of play in an open space such as a romp in the park. Activities which are not only physically demanding but mentally challenging as well are best suited for this breed.
It is an extremely friendly and affectionate family pet which is very sensitive to its master and very gentle with children.