The frisky and curious Tibetan Spaniel was bred ages ago for sentinel work on the walls of Tibetan monasteries. Known for a flat, silky coat and ‘lion’s mane’ around the neck, the Tibbie forms a tight, worshipful bond with their humans.
With a blunt muzzle and big expressive eyes, a ‘lion’s mane’ around the neck, and a plumed tail elegantly curving over the back, they’re distinctly Tibetan. But are they spaniels? No, not in the Western sense, like Cockers or Cavaliers. Instead, Tibbies recall the ancient traditions that produced Pekes, Pugs, Lhasas, and other unmistakably Asian breeds. Tibbies stand about 10 inches at the shoulder; they move quickly and with purpose. They’re seen in coats of many colors and combinations.
A reverence for animals occupies a special place in Eastern belief and legend. In that spirit, Buddhist monks played a lead role in fostering and preserving Tibet’s native dog breeds. The monks kept Tibbies mainly as companions, but also as watchdogs who worked in tandem with their brawny cousin, the Tibetan Mastiff. Tibbies were farseeing sentinels who sat atop the monastery walls and scanned the horizon for friend or foe. And they no doubt made agreeable bed warmers on those subzero Himalayan nights.
Temperament: Self-Confident / Bright / Playful
Height: 10 inches
Weight: 9-15 pounds
Life expectancy: 12-15 years
Tibetan Spaniels are a relatively healthy breed, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy (a genetic eye disease); ‘cherry eye,’ an inflammation of tissue adjacent to the eye that often is corrected surgically; and patellar luxation. Before going to their new homes, puppies should be checked for portosystemic shunt (liver shunt), in which the blood flow around and/or through the liver is affected.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
- Patella Evaluation
Whether show or pet, the Tibetan Spaniel is a natural breed that does not require trimming except for the hair on the bottom of their feet, for cleanliness. The area behind the ears tends to mat and should be combed frequently, but otherwise the breed’s coat does not tend to mat. A regular brushing and bath will keep the coat in good condition, with attention also given to the rear fringes, which can use a regular combing. Tibetan Spaniels do shed, and can do a good shed any time of the year. A bath and conditioning can help at this time. If the Tibbie is taken to a groomer, they should be advised to not cut the hair on the belly or between the legs. Many groomers regularly do a ‘sanitary cut’ unless the owner advises them not to. Tibetan Spaniels will lick and itch badly if a sanitary cut is done. Nails should be trimmed as puppies, training the Tibbie to get used to regular nail trimming. They can be very bad about their nails unless worked with early.
A daily walk is always enjoyable to a Tibetan Spaniel. They are as happy lying around the house as they are taking a long run in the yard. A fenced yard is a must. They are a great breed for owners who would like a dog to accompany them on long walks or jogs, as they are able to keep up with their human partner.
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Tibetan Spaniels are smart and eager to please and can excel in canine activities such as agility, scent work, rally, and obedience. They have a very independent mind, however, and will decide if and when they will do what is asked of them, so an early start to training is needed, and it should be a fun and enjoyable time. Socialization in puppyhood is a must as well.
The Tibetan Spaniel should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior), and if feeding dry food, the breed tends to prefer a small-bite kibble. Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.