Like many other Tibetan breeds, the Tibetan Spaniel is a cheerful, loyal companion that is an absolute joy to own. Big on character despite its relatively short stature, these intelligent animals make excellent pets and adapt well to urban life. Although their strong will and independent nature can make training a challenge (Tibetan Spaniels will tend to work willingly with someone they trust and want to please, but will studiously ignore anyone else) if they want to work with you then amazing results can be achieved. Many people find that once they’ve owned a Tibetan Spaniel they are reluctant to consider any other breed as a companion.
Tibetan Spaniels aren’t actually true Spaniels; they are classified as part of the Companion and Toy Dogs Group for show purposes. Some commentators suggest that early Europeans who visited Tibet and came across these delightful animals nicknamed them Spaniels due to their resemblance to smaller, non-working Spaniel breeds. Typically around 10” in height at the shoulder, this breed has slightly bowed front legs, a short, blunt muzzle and a feathery tail which curves over the back. The double coat is of medium length and extremely thick. This breed comes in virtually all colours and may have a patterned coat or be a single hue. Aside from a congenital tendency towards blindness (progressive retinal atrophy) these tend to be relatively healthy little dogs which typically live up to 14 years.
A clue to this irresistible dog’s character perhaps lies in its ancestry. Originally the Tibetan Spaniel was bred as a companion dog for monks in the Tibetan monasteries and given as highly prized gifts to Tibetan aristocrats and nobility. They were also used as guard dogs, as their excellent eye sight and tendency to spend long periods of time sitting quietly in a good vantage point watching the world go by ensured that any strangers were quickly spotted. Contemporary Tibetan Spaniels present as friendly, loyal little dogs who are devoted to their owners, with whom they develop an excellent rapport. As would be expected from a guard dog, the breed can be reserved with strangers, but never unpleasant.
This dog is relatively easy to care for, as it requires little exercise and adapts well to living in a smaller home or apartment. It does need a large amount of human companionship, so is best suited to a home where there is someone around most of the time to provide the friendship it needs. Daily grooming is a necessity, as well as a weekly bath. Generally they are content as long as they have plenty of human contact, but their independent nature means that they may well decide to go off exploring and training them to return once off the lead can be a challenge!
As indicated previously, Tibetan Spaniels are clever animals and keen to please their owners, to whom they are usually utterly devoted. This can make training easy work if it is the owner doing the training, but present difficulties if a stranger is attempting to teach obedience. This breed is notoriously leery of strangers and may well refuse to respond to commands from someone they perceive as “non-family”. If you are lucky enough to win the affections of this irresistible breed, you will find them quick to learn and anxious to get things right. Although too small for most traditional Agility or Obedience competitions, their plucky spirit and nimbleness enables them to easily master impressive tricks and feats which can be showcased at novelty shows or other amateur competitions.