Tibetan Terrier


Tibetan dogs are descended from the most ancient and noble dog breeds ever to live among man. Developing in the most archaic of places, high in the Himalayan Mountains, the Tibetan Terrier evolved over thousands of years into its own unique and specific breed.  The Tibetan name for the dog is “Tsang Apso” which is understood to mean shaggy/bearded dog coming out of the Tsang province.  The Tibetan Terrier has also been called: The Little People, The Luck Bringer, and Dhokhi Apso (or outdoor bearded dog).  Although being of a similar size as many other small Terrier types, the Tibetan Terrier is not a true Terrier in disposition or breeding.  The Tibetan Terrier breed was never trained to “go to ground” (enter a prey animals burrow to fight and dispatch it there or hold it for its owner to dig out)  Instead, the breed was developed as a herding dog as well as a companion pet to the monks living along the steep and treacherous Himalayan terrain.   The “Terrier” in the breed’s name is thought to have been given to the dog because of its size, which more closely resembled that of the Terrier breeds than the comparable herding breeds.


Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Small 8-15 lb
Medium 15-35 lb
12 to 15 Years
Moderate Effort Required
Energy Level: 
Medium Energy
A Couple Times a Week
Professional Grooming May Be Required
Protective Ability: 
Good Watchdog
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
Space Requirements: 
Apartment Ok
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
Generally Good With Other Pets
Litter Size: 
5-8 Puppies
Tsang Apso, The Little People, Luck Bringer, Dhokhi Apso (or outdoor bearded dog)


18-30 lbs, 15-16 inches, Faults- over 17 inches or below 14 inches
18-30 lbs, 15-16 inches, Faults- over 17 inches or below 14 inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 


A truly ancient breed with a much debated ancestry the exact history and lineage of the Tibetan Terrier is unknown; however the breed is believed to have evolved over time from the North Kunlun Mountain Dog and the Inner Mongolian Dog.  If this suggested pedigree is true, it would mean that the Tibetan Terrier is the ancestor of most other dog breeds that would later come out of the Himalayas.  The genesis of the Tibetan Terrier is believed to begin in the Lost Valley of Tibet.  The region was given this name because the roads leading to the valley were destroyed by a violent 14th century earthquake.  In their isolation, the Tibetan Terrier was bred and developed first in the monasteries of the Lost Valley, and then among its outlying villages.


Due to their geographic isolation and their limited breeding and dispersal, the Tibetan Terrier breed can be connected to a very limited group of early foundation stock.  A treasured breed, the Tibetan Terrier was known as the “Holy Dog of Tibet” and as a bringer of good luck.  Because of this distinction, in its early history the Tibetan Terrier was never sold but given only as gifts to the most distinguished friends and guests.  The dog would never be casually sold, as they were considered to be a valuable member of the family.  To mistreat a Tibetan Terrier was to tempt fate and bring bad luck, and the Tibetan people took this seriously, often treating the Tibetan Terrier as well as they treated their own children.


In Tibet, all members of the family worked to maintain and protect the family and its property; this was also true of the Tibetan Terrier.  The breed would herd the village’s livestock, be a companion, and in the summers their coats would be shorn and mixed with sheep wool to create clothing worn by the families of their village.  The Tibetan Terrier was therefore a valuable and contributing member of society in these small Tibetan villages.  The breed is also known to be sure-footed, an extremely useful skill in the treacherous and rocky mountain terrain of Tibet.  So developed is their footing, that a Tibetan Terrier can run along the backs of sheep while in deep and narrow ravines, a trait unique and particular to this breed.  The Tibetan Terrier could easily herd the village sheep through the difficult and challenging landscape of the Himalayas.  Their reputation and skill as a guide was so respected that visitors to the inaccessible Lost Valley would often be given a Tibetan Terrier as a gift to accompany them as luck bringer and companion, ensuring a safe journey home through the mountainous regions of Tibet.


The first mention of the Tibetan Terrier in writing dates to 1895 when the breed was described as “neither more nor less than a rough terrier”.  From this unfortunate description, the Tibetan sheep herding and companion dog has thus been labeled a Tibetan Terrier.  Although for some years prior, brave travelers would make the difficult journey into and back home from Tibet to tell the exotic tales of the land, it would not be until the 1920’s that the Tibetan Terrier breed would really become known outside of Tibet.  A Dr. Agnes R.H. Greig would become the person credited with introducing this charming Tibetan breed to the West.


In 1922, Greig was an English surgeon working as a medical missionary with the Women’s Medical Corps of India.   They were located in Cawmpore, India, which is very near the border of Tibet.  Word of the doctor and the medical group traveled to differing parts of the Himalayan region, until a Tibetan merchant received word of their presence.  He had an ill wife and in their desperation for her cured health, the merchant brought the sick woman to Greig.  The doctor examined the woman, and upon discovering the malady to be an ovarian cyst, Greig promptly removed the cyst successfully.  The merchant and his wife remained with Greig during the recovery period.  The couple had been traveling with their Tibetan Terrier, a female, who gave birth to a litter while in the care of Grieg and her staff.  Out of gratitude for the doctors healing his wife, the Tibetan merchant offered Greig a puppy from his dog’s recent litter.  Grieg selected a female and called her “Bunti”.


Greig wanted to show Bunti at a dog show being held in Delhi, India.  Having never seen such a breed, the show judges advised that Greig find a mate for the dog from the Tibetan breed stock, and begin a breeding campaign to ascertain if a dog of this kind would breed true to type continuously.  Returning to the merchant from whom she had received Bunti, Greig was able to acquire a male Tibetan Terrier called “Rajah”.  The pair had their first litter on Christmas Day, 1924.  Greig continued breeding her line of Tibetan Terriers for three generations, at which point, she presented the puppies to the original judges, and to the Kennel Club in India.  It was decided that Greig’s line was a purebred type and the dogs were officially recognized as Tibetan Terriers at this time by the Indian Kennel Club.


While in India, her service and her interest in the breed were rewarded with more Tibetan Terrier specimens to contribute to a breeding program she continued throughout her time in that country.  She even received dogs from the Dalai Lama.  It is said that Greig was particularly tender towards the Tibetan Terrier breed because of its charming disposition and its intrepid courage.  There is a story that Greig was once nearly bitten by a rabid dog, but that one of her fearless Tibetan Terriers came to her rescue, later dying from injuries it received while fiercely defending her.


Returning to England in 1926, Greig was accompanied by Bunti, as well as “Chota Turka” (a female dog from the first litter bred by Greig), and “Ja-Haz” (a male Tibetan Terrier from Greig’s second litter).  At the famous Crufts Dog Show, Greig would display one of the first Tibetan Terriers to be seen in the dog show circuit.  The dog, called “Thoombay of Ladkok”, was believed to be one of the first specimens of the breed to be shown in the West, was originally bred in a Tibetan monastery.


In the first couple of decades of the 1900’s, Greig traveled back and forth between India and England.  Once she permanently returned to England in the 1930’s, she established the now famous Lamleh Kennel.  She continued to raise and develop her Tibetan Terrier line there.  She promoted the breed and in 1937, she convinced the Kennel Club in England to recognize the Tibetan Terrier as its own exclusive breed.  Through World War II, despite the rough conditions that Europe found itself in, Grieg was able to maintain her kennel and to promote and protect the Tibetan Terrier breed.   So well established and maintained was Greig’s Tibetan Terrier line that her dog “Mr. Binks” would become the first of the Tibetan Terrier breed to win champion status.  As the popularity of the Tibetan Terrier grew, the breed began to migrate out of England and into neighboring European countries; the first members of the breed to leave England would travel to Italy.


The breed would continue to migrate from there, eventually making its way to America in 1956, when Dr. Harry Murphy and his wife Alice of Great Falls, Virginia, came across a photo of a Tibetan Terrier in an English dog book.  Intrigued by the Tibetan Terrier breed, the Murphys contacted the Lamleh Kennel and purchased a female Tibetan Terrier called “Gremlin Cortina”, or “Girlie” for short.  Girlie would be the first Tibetan Terrier to arrive in North America.  Several months later, Mrs. Murphy would purchase a male called “Kalai of Lamleh” or “Gregory” from the Lamleh Kennel.  The Murphys mated the two dogs, and on March 31, 1957, the first litter of American Tibetan Terriers was born.  With the five puppies born of this litter, Alice Murphy would establish her Kalai Kennels.


Murphy would go on to purchase roughly ten Tibetan Terriers from the Lamleh Kennel in an effort to firmly establish an American line of Tibetan Terriers.  By the 1960’s the Tibetan Terrier had become well established along the eastern seaboard.  The dogs could be found in New York, Connecticut, and Virginia; and even as far west as California.  In 1957, Alice Murphy formed the Tibetan Terrier Club of America (TTBCA) the first breed club in the United States.  She served as president for the club from 1957 to 1974 and as a member of the board of directors until her death in 1976.  Although remaining fairly unpopular at the time, it is because of Murphy’s efforts that the breed became well established in the United States.  In 1973 the Tibetan Terrier was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and placed into the Non-Sporting Group.


Today, the Tibetan Terrier is a rather popular breed in the United States.  It is ranked 90th out of 167 breeds on the AKC’s 2010 most popular dog breeds list, up from 96th place in 2009.  Although adept at herding and a successful participant in obedience, agility, and conformation trails; the Tibetan Terriers’ true calling is as a companion dog.  The breed’s pleasing personality and devoted and affectionate nature make it the perfect addition to any family.  The Tibetan Terrier will provide unending love and devotion to its human companions.




The Tibetan Terrier is a powerful and efficient breed, these attributes being displayed in their majestic appearance.  The breed is square and compact; of medium size, the breed stands between 14 to 16 inches at the withers, with females being just a bit shorter.  The Tibetan Terrier is a charming and pleasant dog, with a lively gait but a determined expression.


The head is mid-sized and neither completely flat nor domed; it narrows faintly from the ears to the eyes, which are wide-set and large.  Moderate and dark, the eyes are set in black rims.  Profuse falls of hair hang over the eyes.  A marked stop is displayed, but not overly exaggerated.    The ears are pendant shaped and proportionate to the size of the head, covered in thick hair that is long and feathered.  They do hang, but not excessively close to the face.  The nose is black and the jaw is curved with a slight beard of hair.  Teeth are evenly spaced and should display a scissors bite, with certain variations on the scissors bite, such as a reverse scissors bite, level bite, or undershot bite also being accepted.


The neck of the Tibetan Terrier is proportionate to the compact but powerful body.  The neck slopes into well laid-back and muscular shoulders and a level topline.  The chest is deep and faintly narrow.  The forelegs are straight and sturdy.  The loin is arched and leads gracefully into a well furnished hindquarter with heavy, wide thighs.  The tail of the Tibetan Terrier is set high on the back, is of medium length, and is densely covered in long hair.  It falls beautifully over the dogs back and may curl to either side.


The feet of the Tibetan Terrier are the breed’s most unique feature.  Specific to the Tibetan Terrier alone, the breed possesses large, flat feet.  They are powerful and rounded; they give the appearance and use of a snowshoe.  The feet are thick with thick fur between the toes and pads producing excellent traction when the dog is walking in snow.


The coat of the Tibetan Terrier is copious and flowing.  Like other Tibetan breeds, the Tibetan Terrier sports a thick double-coat.  The undercoat is fine and soft, of a wooly texture.  The outer-coat is fine and long, and may be straight or wavy, but never should it display curls.  The Tibetan Terrier’s profuse coat comes in many solid colors, as well as several color combinations.  These include solid colors such as white, golden, cream, grey, smoke, and black; and color combinations like parti-colored and tricolor.  Liver and chocolate colored dogs are generally not allowed for the Tibetan Terrier breed standard.




The Tibetan Terrier, being not truly of the Terrier breed has a very different personality than one may anticipate based on its name. That being said, the temperament of the Tibetan Terrier is one of the breed’s most pleasant characteristics.  While being lively and spirited like a Terrier, the breed is also gentle and calm, which is uncharacteristic of the rowdy Terrier breeds.  They are true family companions, friendly and affectionate, patient and gentle with children, sensitive, and excessively devoted to their companions.   Although used in its early development as a herding dog, the Tibetan Terrier is more companion than watchdog, and is happiest when surrounded by the people they love.  Tibetan Terriers are devoted friends and will affectionately dote on their human companions, showering them with love and affection.


A family oriented breed, the Tibetan Terrier is a friendly and playful companion, who bonds powerfully with its people.  Companionship is extremely important to this breed and the dog will desire to be included in all the family’s activities.  They enjoy being a useful member of the family, and as such, the Tibetan Terrier will make a formidable watchdog, any suspicious activity or people will not go unnoticed by this alert breed.  Tibetan Terriers are known to be fond of barking, and their voices are deep and rising.  Being that the breed is so keen on barking, the dog will need to be trained to stop once proper announcement of suspicious activity is noted by the family.


The Tibetan Terrier is an intelligent breed.  Stanley Cohen, in his book The Intelligence of Dogs, lists the Tibetan Terrier as being in the “Fair Working/Obedience Intelligence” group, meaning the dog will learn new commands in just 40-80 repetitions, and will obey a first command 30% of the time or better.  The Tibetan Terrier breed will generally catch on quickly to new lessons.  However, there is a difficulty with the breed as far as their training goes.  The Tibetan Terrier is slow maturing, so early training can be a challenge.  The breed has a short attention span in its youth, and even once it has learned a command, it may not perform it as the dog is easily distracted and will lose interest in things often.


Training should therefore begin as early as possible for the Tibetan Terrier breed.  If allowed to develop without proper training; the dog may acquire undesirable habits that will be difficult to break later in its growth.  Keeping in mind that the attention span of the Tibetan Terrier is extremely short, training sessions should be kept short and interesting; vary the lessons that the dog is being taught in order to retain its interest.  Training should be fair, consistent and performed firmly and always with a calm demeanor.  Be gentle, patient, and understanding of the Tibetan Terriers slow development.  Always display leadership that is concise and unyielding.


If allowed to develop bad habits early on, the Tibetan Terrier may attempt to take over the household.  The breed is strong willed and can have a mind of its own.  If bad behavior is left unchecked, more serious behavioral problems can develop and the dog may become willful, stubborn, or destructive.  Most behavioral problems found in the Tibetan Terrier breed can be linked back to abuse, boredom, or lack of human contact, so always keep your dog properly cared for and exercised.  When bored, the Tibetan Terrier is known to display bad behaviors such as nuisance barking, chewing, and digging.  Even if the dog is behaving poorly, always be calm when correcting the dog’s actions.  Harsh or forceful treatment should not be used when training a Tibetan Terrier.  The breed has a sensitive personality and unfair methods of training can produce a nervous dog that is shy, or timid.  When training, reward the dog’s good performance and motivate it through the use of treats, as this has proven a successful training method with the Tibetan Terrier breed in the past.


All dog breeds require a certain amount of socialization to ensure that they properly develop into a well-adjusted adult dog, and the Tibetan Terrier is no different.  Early exposure to new people, places, things, and situations will assist the dog in understanding its place in the world and in society.  Although friendly and devote to their family, the Tibetan Terrier is wary of strangers.  Therefore proper socialization will prevent the Tibetan Terrier from displaying aggression, shyness, or timidity.  A correctly trained and well balanced Tibetan Terrier should be a happy and devoted companion, displaying a sweet and sensitive nature.  The breed has a mysterious ability of knowing just what people need, making it an excellent therapy dog and a successful companion to the elderly or infirm.


The Tibetan Terrier breed is not as athletic as the other Terrier breeds are known to be.  Because of its more calm nature, the Tibetan Terrier is an ideal pet for older persons and others with less active lifestyles, as well as apartment dwellers.  The breed may not require an excessive amount of exercise; however the breed does need to maintain a certain level of activity and stimulation in order to remain happy and healthy.  A daily walk and the occasional visit to a park should suffice, but the breed will match your activity level, and they have been known to participate in family activities vigorously.  The Tibetan Terrier loves to play with children, go for a hike, or especially to play in the snow.


If the exercise requirements are not met for the Tibetan Terrier, being an intelligent and creative breed, the dog will find ways to amuse itself.  They are renowned for their ability to problem solve and to “figure things out”.  They have been known to open their cage doors, and open doors to cabinets, and the like.  The breed does suffer from a great deal of separation anxiety.  Any exercise or activity that includes the family will help to alleviate this stress for the Tibetan Terrier.  Due to the breed’s general ability to find ways to amuse itself, it is recommended that the Tibetan Terrier always be walked on a leash and allowed to play only in a fenced yard or while being supervised.  Although not known for excelling in obedience and agility training, it is still an option for exercising the Tibetan Terrier. 


There are some things to keep in mind when considering adding a Tibetan Terrier to your household.  The Tibetan Terrier will devote itself completely to its family, and because of the intensity of this devotion, the breed may display possessiveness or jealousy.  As the dog is late to mature, extreme patience when training and housebreaking the Tibetan Terrier is of the utmost importance.    The Tibetan Terrier is generally well behaved with other animals, but can sometimes be shy with unfamiliar dogs.  A distinguishing characteristic of the Tibetan Terrier breed is a tendency to be “mouthy”.  The breed is particularly fond of barking, which can be a problem if there are neighbors living close by.  But the dog is a fast learner and can be trained to control their barking instinct.  The Tibetan Terrier will also use its mouth for many things, not just conversation; as the dog’s play will often include “play biting” and gnawing on things.


If you are looking for a long term companion who is entirely devoted to you; with a mischievous, humorous, and fun loving personality then a Tibetan Terrier might be just the right dog for you.  A strong bond with its human companions is important to the Tibetan Terrier breed, and they will consider it their job to be hopelessly devoted to you and your happiness.   They will be playful and provide endless love to their human companions far into their old age.  Patience and a sense of humor are important when raising a Tibetan Terrier, but with proper attention, the Tibetan Terrier will make a superb companion; moderate in all respects, a lively friend who is amiable with people and other animals.  Overall, the Tibetan Terrier breed makes an endearing family pet.


Grooming Requirements: 


A gorgeous dog with a luxurious coat, the Tibetan Terrier will require a considerable amount of grooming to keep its striking look.  Expect to brush the Tibetan Terrier’s coat daily or at least every two or three days.  The Tibetan Terrier goes through different life stages when it comes to its coat, and the dog will experience times of heavy shedding at certain stages in its material development.  At about 10 to 14 months old, the Tibetan Terrier has reached physical maturity, at which point the dog will lose its “puppy coat” only to have it replaced with a glorious adult version.  While the new coat grows in, the dog will require at least a daily brushing to keep the hair free of mats and tangles.  Once the hair comes in completely, you can choose to return to brushing the dog every two to three days if you prefer. 


The breed may be clipped or trimmed if it is not going to be shown, and this will alleviate some of the grooming required as well as afford some extra comfort to the dog.  When brushing and grooming a Tibetan Terrier, attention should be paid specifically to the beard, legs, and feet as these areas are extremely dense with fur.  The dog may be misted with water to assist in brushing the magnificent coat, and a dog conditioner may also be applied to the hair. 


Any hair that becomes profuse or builds up between the toes and on the feet should be clipped regularly, as well as removing any excess hair that develops in the ear canals.  The breed has a tendency to pick up dirt and debris in its long, thick coat; so the Tibetan Terrier should be bathed as often as needed to keep it clean and healthy.  The regular grooming of their coat will prevent an infestation of fleas which can occur in this breed easily due to the length of their coat which makes it easy for fleas to hide and to thrive. 


As with all dog breeds, special attention should be paid to the eyes, ears, and teeth of the breed.  Regularly check these areas to ensure they are clean and free of infection and injury.  Although the Tibetan Terrier breed does require a significant amount of work to keep it beautiful and healthy, if properly groomed, you will find that the breed is stunningly attractive and a light shedder, making it an ideal companion for allergy sufferers. 


Health Issues: 


Considered a long-lived breed, the cheerful and hardy Tibetan Terrier has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, with some members of the breed recorded as living into the ripe old age of 17.  Despite their longevity, the Tibetan Terrier is purebred and therefore can be susceptible to certain health issues.  Some of these concerns will be hereditary, and good breeders will be knowledgeable about the bloodlines and lineage of their dogs.  Potential buyers should ask questions of the breeder about their puppies’ health and what problems their stock has been screened and tested for, and with due diligence you should be able to find a healthy and well bred dog.  The TTCA recommends testing the breed for eye and hip problems.


The following are health issues that have been identified in the Tibetan Terrier breed, and your dog may or may not display any one or none of these issues, as each dog’s health is unique and specific:



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