Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan Spaniel is a strong-willed, alert dog, originally bred thousands of years ago to keep monks company in the Himalayas, and to bark when anyone approached the monastery. They are not spaniels at all, but rather share ancestry with other breeds developed in China, including the Pekingese, the Pug, and the Shih Tzu.

Dubbed 'Tibbies' by those who know and adore them, Tibetan Spaniels have a catlike agility. They like climbing to high perches, such as the backs of chairs and couches, where they can survey the room. Tibbies are always enjoyable company, with a good sense of humor and a cheerful demeanor. They don't require an abundance of exercise, but they do need lots of loving attention. This is a breed that adores snuggling on the couch. With people they don't know, they can be aloof at first, but are usually welcoming of four-legged strangers. Though devoted to their people, Tibbies are also headstrong and require gentle, firm training so they don't rule the roost.

Other Names

Tibetan Spaniels are nicknamed Tibbies.

Physical Description


The Tibetan Spaniel's double coat is silky and medium in length. The fur is smooth on the face and grows longer around the neck to form a 'shawl.' The ears, tail, and the back of the front and rear legs are feathered. Their coat can be any color or mix of colors.


Average Height: 10 inches


Average Weight: 9-15 pounds

Breed Standard & History

Tibbies are small dogs who are slightly longer than they are tall. They have a sleek, strong build, and move with a quick, sprightly gait. They carry themselves proudly and their dark brown, oval eyes convey alertness and intelligence. Their muzzle is of medium length with a slightly undershot jaw. The Tibby's high-set tail curves over the back in a jaunty plume.

The breed developed in the mountains of Tibet where the dogs worked as sentries patrolling high monastery walls. From that vantage point, Tibbies kept their keen eyes peeled for unwanted visitors. When they weren't on duty, they kept the monks company and served as little, furry body warmers. Similar to other toy breeds, they were pampered and prized, and often given as gifts to honored guests. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, British missionaries brought the first Tibbies back to England, where breeding programs were established. Leo Kearns, a sexton of Trinity Lutheran Church, is responsible for popularizing the breed in the US after importing and breeding Tibetan Spaniel pairs. Tibbies were recognized as a non-sporting breed by the American Kennel Club in 1984.

AKC Breed Category

Non-Sporting Group


General Temperament

Tibbies adore their family members and love nothing more than to play and snuggle with them. Leisurely walks make them happy, too. With people they don't know, they are usually standoffish at first, but accept them as friends in time. With other dogs, they tend to be welcoming off the bat. Tibetan Spaniels have a fastidious quality—always cleaning themselves with care and claiming the best perch in the room for themselves.

Family Life

Are Tibetan Spaniels Good with Kids? Tibetan Spaniels love the children of their families, but they are better suited to households with older kids who know how to treat small dogs. Roughhousing may result in accidental injuries for Tibbies.

(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)

Are Tibetan Spaniels Good with Other Pets? Tibetan Spaniels are usually besties with the dogs and cats who live in their home.


Tibetan Spaniels are very protective of their territory, and wary of strangers who get too close to their family members.

Are Tibetan Spaniels Good Guard Dogs? Tibetan Spaniels are watchful sentries who will bark to rouse the entire house if someone approaches. They are too little, however, to serve as effective guard dogs.

Energy Levels

Tibetan Spaniels are moderately energetic. They enjoy play sessions interspersed with long cuddles on the couch.

Specific Concerns



Tibetan Spaniels were bred to live indoors. They relish their two jobs of keeping watch over their home and being joyful companions. Tibbies like to climb to high perches, so don't be surprised if they relax on the backs of chairs and sofas. They shed year round, but only moderately, so cleanup is minimal.


Tibbies enjoy heading outside for adventures in the back yard or farther afield. With their warm double coats, they are well suited to outdoor winter fun, as well.


A healthy Tibetan Spaniel requires between 30 minutes and one hour of moderate exercise each day. A few walks and a play session in the yard or living room will keep them fit.


Tibbies are playful and have the stamina for 20- to 30-minute walks and play sessions.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: Tibbies love to tag along and will happily join you on a long jog. But be mindful of your pace because of the breed's short legs.
  • Hiking Miles: Tibetan Spaniels have the energy and stamina for medium-length hikes on well-trodden trails.


Generally, this breed requires about ¾ to 1 cup of good quality dry dog food each day, given in two feedings. This will vary, however, based upon your Tibby's activity level and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Tibetan Spaniel.

Alone Time

Calm and self-assured, Tibetan Spaniels don't fuss about spending time alone in their dog crate with a favorite toy. If given the choice, however, Tibbies will always opt to be with their people. Leaving them alone for a full day is unfair to this highly sociable breed.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

12-15 years


Tibbies have a thick, medium-length double coat that sheds heavily, especially when they 'blow' their undercoat during twice-yearly seasonal shedding. Brushing every few days keeps fur around the house under control. Give special care to the furnishings around their ears and legs, which tend to become matted. A monthly bath keeps their coat healthy and fresh smelling. Wash your Tibetan Spaniel's ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush your Tibby's teeth several days a week, and trim their nails every month or so to prevent painful cracking.

Common Health Issues

This sturdy breed is generally healthy, but the following health conditions can occur in Tibetan Spaniels:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Portosystemic shunts (PSS) or “liver shunts”
  • Hernias (often corrected during spay/neuter surgery)
  • Patellar luxation, misaligned leg bones
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Cherry eye

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Tibetan Spaniel by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



Intelligent but stubborn, Tibbies can be challenging to train. Consistency and plenty of positive reinforcement will yield the best results.

Advanced Training

Dog sports, agility training, and advanced obedience training are good ways to keep Tibetan Spaniels fit and mentally challenged. With plenty of positive reinforcement, they love showing off their skills.

Sporting Dog Training

Tibbies are not sporting dogs.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Tibetan Spaniels.

Explore Other Breeds

No. Tibetan Spaniels have a double coat that sheds and, as a result, leaves pet dander in your home. Pet dander is the primary cause of pet related allergies. But because Tibetan Spaniels are small, they leave less dander and this could result in milder symptoms. Keep in mind, no dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic.

No. Tibetan Spaniels and Pekingese are distinct breeds, though they both developed in China around the same time period, and are closely related. Tibbies are often mistaken for the more common Pekingese, but Tibetan Spaniels are slightly taller, have longer muzzles, and a less poofy coat.

Tibetan Spaniels aren't drawn to the water like some breeds, though some of them may enjoy wading when it's hot outside. Never force swimming on any dog who appears reluctant, and always watch your dog closely when in or near water. Additionally, keep in mind that small dogs lose heat faster in the water than most large breeds.