Anyone who is lucky enough to own or work with a Tibetan Terrier cannot help but be captivated by this intelligent, friendly little dog. The name of this breed is somewhat misleading as the Tibetan Terrier is part of the Utility Group rather than a genuine Terrier. These dogs are originally from Tibet, where they are known as Tsang Apso (shaggy dog) or Dokhi Apso (outdoor dog). European visitors to Tibet nicknamed the dogs Tibetan Terriers, perhaps in reference to their feisty nature and robust disposition. Today, the breed is an extremely popular choice with dog owners as well as a highly desirable dog for showing.
Tibetan Terriers are usually between 14 to 16 inches high at the shoulder and have quite a stocky build and a characteristic “square” silhouette. They have a long, thick coat which may be wavy. The coat comprises two layers; a short, thick undercoat then longer, coarser hair over the top. This gives great warmth and care must be taken to ensure these dogs don’t overheat, particularly during the warmer months. The hair normally covers the face, but long eyelashes keep it from obstructing vision. The breed can come in a variety of colours, with gold being the rarest. A good example of the breed will have a black nose and dark eyes. Usually they live to around twelve years old and are relatively free from congenital conditions. As ever when purchasing a pedigree animal, suitable checks should be carried out on ancestry and it should also be ascertained whether testing for congenital conditions has been undertaken.
Fortunately Tibetan Terriers are adaptable dogs that are suitable for a wide range of homes. They are energetic animals, but don’t require large amounts of exercise in the way that many Working Dogs do. Their coat does require daily grooming as well as periodic cutting and thinning to keep it in good condition and prevent the skin irritation and misery which tangles can give. It is also necessary to periodically cut nails and trim away fur from between the pads and under the axilla (“armpit”) to prevent matting. Usually a weekly bath is desirable, particularly if the dog is kept indoors. If time is an issue, grooming can be undertaken professionally or the coat trimmed back. The latter course of action is often an attractive one if the animal is not to be shown.
The happy-go-lucky, cheerful nature of the Tibetan Terrier is one of its most endearing characteristics. They are friendly, loyal creatures and very intelligent. Quick to learn and extremely willing, it’s not hard to see why these animals were so highly prized in their native country. Traditionally Tibetan Terriers were considered to bring good luck and were never sold, only given as treasured gifts. It is believed they acted as guard dogs in monasteries, which maybe explains why they can be aloof (although not aggressive) with people they don’t know.
Their natural desire to please and innate cleverness make them a joy to train and means that great results can be achieved. In addition to quickly mastering basic obedience commands, Tibetan Terriers also make highly successful competitors in Agility contests, Flyball and Obedience events. They can even be trained to herd, although it’s debatable whether they could match the expertise which traditional herding breeds demonstrate. By natural inclination they make good watch dogs and can be suitably trained for this role. Excellent all-rounders, Tibetan Terriers are superb creatures which make infinitely rewarding pets, show animals and friends.