Tibetan Terrier

Tibetan Terrier

The shaggy-coated Tibetan Terrier makes a loving, if vocal companion dog. In addition to serving as good luck charms in monasteries and homes in ancient Tibet, they were alert watchdogs who let the community know when people approached. Though given the name terrier by Westerners, they are not part of the terrier group of dogs. TTs are affectionate and loving pets who are devoted to their families. They can be reserved with people they don't know, but are amiable once they warm up.

The Tibetan Terrier makes an excellent choice for apartment living, as long as they get plenty of exercise and aren't left alone for too long. Be advised that TTs may resource guard, a tendency that socialization and training can help minimize. The breed can also be sensitive to harsh treatment and to their owner's moods, so a soft approach to discipline and plenty of loving attention are important. TTs are otherwise cheerful, athletic, and eager to participate in a variety of dog sports.

Other Names

Tibetan Terriers are also known as the 'Holy Dogs of Tibet,' Tsang Apso, and Dokhi Apso. Their name is sometimes shortened to TT.

Physical Description


Tibetan Terriers have a long, abundant double coat that can be wavy or straight and protects them in inclement weather. The undercoat is soft and dense, and the outer coat is fine, though not silky. When kept long, their hair falls in a natural part over their heads, neck, and back. TTs may have any coat color and combination of colors, including pure white.


Average Height: 14-17 inches


Average Weight: 18-30 pounds

Breed Standard & History

Tibetan Terriers are powerful, medium-build dogs with a cascade of long hair from the head to the tail, which curls up and over the back. They have pendant ears with long furnishings, and alert, dark brown eyes that may be covered by their fur, depending on the cut. They are muscular and athletic, and move with an effortless grace. Their large, flat feet are reminiscent of snowshoes and developed to help them traverse the snowy terrain of their homeland. TTs are beloved for their gentle, devoted, and somewhat sensitive temperaments.

The Tibetan Terrier originated in the high plateaus of the Himalayas where they were considered lucky companions for monks and common folk alike. Their place in the community was so highly valued they were often called “the little people.” Beyond bringing good luck, Tibetan terriers served as watchdogs and herding dogs.

Selling a Tibetan Terrier was considered bad luck, so for centuries they were given away only as gifts intended to bring good fortune to the recipient. The TT was introduced to the West when Dr. Agnes R. H. Grieg, an English doctor treating patients in northern India, received one from the family of a woman whose life she saved. After showing the dog in Delhi to admiring judges, she sought another dog and began a breeding program. Grieg eventually brought the dogs back to England with her, where she established a kennel. The first Tibetan Terriers to arrive in the US in the 1950s were descendants of Grieg’s line. The American Kennel Club recognized TTs in 1973.

AKC Breed Category

Non-Sporting Group


General Temperament

Tibetan Terriers are energetic and devoted companion dogs who love playing and snuggling in equal measure. Sweet-natured and somewhat sensitive, they respond best to gentle treatment. TTs have an adventurous, gregarious side and appreciate learning new activities and meeting new friends. The breed becomes distressed easily when left alone and needs constant companionship to avoid separation anxiety and the behavior problems that come with it.

Family Life

Are Tibetan Terriers Good with Kids? Tibetan Terriers are loving with children of all ages, but they are best suited to households with older kids who know how to respect the personal space of dogs and won't pull on the TT's long ears.

(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 Terriers Good with Other Pets? Tibetan Terriers enjoy the company of dogs and cats when they are accustomed to them through socialization. Be aware that even the most amiable TT is likely to guard their food and toys.


Though known to guard their toys and meals, Tibetan Terriers are not especially protective otherwise.

Are Tibetan Terriers Good Guard Dogs? Tibetan Terriers are natural watchdogs who will announce the approach of friends and strangers, and alert the house to squirrels in the yard and the arrival of the garbage truck. They are not effective guard dogs because they tend to be so easygoing with strangers.

Energy Levels

Tibetan Terriers are moderately energetic; they'll settle down for a long nap in between play sessions.

Specific Concerns:



The people-loving Tibetan Terrier should live inside with his family. Light shedders, they don't leave a lot of hair around the house. They will bring dirt and debris inside with their long coats, however, so it's wise to give them a quick brush after excursions.


Tibetan Terriers enjoy getting outside for adventures with family members. Their weatherproof coat keeps them comfortable outside even in the cold, rain, and snow. Watch your TT closely for signs of overheating during vigorous summer activity. Tibetan Terriers benefit from an enclosed backyard for daily romps and play sessions.


A healthy TT requires an hour or so of vigorous physical activity each day to remain fit. A few 20 minute walks, and some exuberant play sessions will suffice.


Tibetan Terriers have bursts of energy for activity and walks, between which they like to snuggle with their people.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: Tibetan Terriers are not known as distance runners, but they'll jog with you for a mile or so. Their coats are very warm, so don't run with them when it's hot and humid or they may overheat.
  • Hiking Miles: TTs love an adventure and navigate rough terrain well. They can join you on a five-mile hike when it's not too hot, and also make wonderful companions for cross-country skiing because of their 'snowshoe' paws.


Tibetan Terriers require approximately 1 to 1½ cups of good quality dry dog food given in two feedings.

Alone Time 

If you must leave your dog at home alone, reconsider getting a Tibetan Terrier. The breed is prone to separation anxiety, and will bark incessantly if left alone for too long. Leaving them in a comfortable dog crate with a favorite toy will buy you an hour or so to run errands, but much beyond that is unfair to this sensitive breed.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

12-15 years


If kept long, the Tibetan Terrier's coat requires daily brushing to prevent matting and weekly bathing to keep clean. Owners who don't participate in dog shows often choose the more manageable puppy cut. Wash your TT's ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush your Tibetan Terrier's coat several times a week, and trim their nails once or twice a month to prevent cracking.

Common Health Issues

Tibetan Terriers may be prone to some breed-specific health conditions, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Patellar luxation
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Lens luxation
  • Cataracts

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



Smart and eager, Tibetan Terriers pick up basic commands with ease. They are sensitive to harsh treatment; positive reinforcement and dog treats work best with this breed.

Advanced Training

TTs are athletic and intelligent, and are gung-ho participants in agility training, advanced obedience, and dog sports of all kinds.

Sporting Dog Training

Tibetan Terriers are watchdogs and companion dogs. Hunting is not their strength.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Tibetan Terriers.

Explore Other Breeds

Yes. Tibetan Terriers produce less pet dander—the main cause of pet-related allergies—than other breeds. That's because they have hair rather than fur and don't shed excessively. Regular grooming can further reduce the pet dander your TT leaves in the house. Keep in mind, no dog breed is 100 percent hypoallergenic.

The color of some Tibetan Terriers changes as they grow from puppyhood to adulthood. The dark black and sable puppy you bring home may change to a light tan and gray by the time they are fully grown.

Tibetan Terriers aren't usually interested in swimming and shouldn't be pressured to get into the water. Their long coats can weigh them down and make swimming difficult.