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Tibetan Spaniel Dog Breed

A photo of Allan Reznik with his dog.


About the Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan Spaniel (or “Tibbie”) is a small, active, and alert little dog. The outline should give a well-balanced appearance, slightly longer than tall. They are a sturdy little dog, enjoy the snow and cold, and there is nothing frail or delicate about them. Tibbies are adaptable, and will be as content in a city apartment as in a large suburban or country home. This breed thrives on human companionship, and for this reason, does not make a good kennel dog. Though they can be aloof with strangers, they are affectionate and devoted to their family and friends. Tibbies are sensitive, and responsive to your moods and feelings. They are alert little watch dogs, and will announce any unusual event or arrival, although they are not considered a yappy breed.

AKC Group

AKC Group


Dog Breed Height


10 inches

Dog Breed Weight


9 – 15 pounds

Dog Breed Lifespan


12 – 15 years


Country of Origin Tibet
Bred For Companionship, Watchdog
Known For Longevity, Moderate Appearance, Charming and Fun Nature
Popularity Low
Temperament Active, Affectionate, Alert, Playful
Activities Conformation Shows, Walking, Dog Sports (Obedience, Agility, Rally) with Owner’s Patience

History of the Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan Spaniel comes to us from the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet. The Tibbie has been known for more than 2,000 years. They were bred and owned by the Buddhist monks. Their keen hearing and eyesight made them ideal lookouts, lying on the high monastery walls and barking a warning to the monks and the burly Tibetan Mastiffs on the ground anytime they saw something suspicious. Legend has it that Tibbies were trained to turn the prayer wheels in the monasteries. While this anecdote is questioned today, Tibbies did serve as companions and bed warmers. The Tibetan Spaniels were never sold. They left the monasteries of Tibet only as treasured gifts to esteemed friends.

The misnomer “spaniel” came to be part of their name from the French word “epagneul” which, in the Middle Ages, referred to a companion dog and comforter, much loved by the ladies of the European and Oriental courts. The breed first arrived in England in 1898, but few were bred until after World War II. Importation to the United States began in 1966, and the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America was formed in 1971. The American Kennel Club recognized the Tibetan Spaniel in 1984, and Tibbies joined the Non-Sporting Group.

General Appearance

Height & Weight

Height is about 10 inches. Weight of 9 to 15 pounds is the ideal.

Proportion & Substance

Body slightly longer from the point of shoulder to root of tail than the height at the withers. Faults: long-bodied, low to the ground, leggy or square. The Breed Standard asks for “moderate bone,” neither coarse and lumbering nor fine-boned and dainty.

Coat, Texture, Color & Markings

Texture: Double coat, silky in texture, smooth on face and front of legs, of moderate length on body but lying rather flat. Ears and back of forelegs nicely feathered, tail and buttocks well furnished with longer hair. Neck covered with a mane or “shawl” of longer hair which is more pronounced on males than females. Feathering on toes often extends beyond the feet. Should not be over-coated and females tend to carry less coat and mane than males.

Tibetan Spaniel Colors

Standard Color
Black ee
Black & Tan ee
Cream ee
Gold ee
Red ee
Sable ee
Silver Sable ee
White ee

Tibetan Spaniel Markings

Standard Marking
Parti-Color ee
White Markings ee

A Note About Color: All colors and mixtures of colors are allowed. Colors and patterns most frequently seen are shades of gold, fawn, red, and cream, with or without sabling (black overlay or hairs tipped with black); black and tan; tricolor; all black, all white. Chocolate (brown), with or without tan markings, do occur, but because this dilute color comes with liver nose and eye rims, and the Breed Standard requires black pigment, chocolate is discouraged.

Black masks are common. Black and tan (and tricolor) dogs have tan markings (points) over the eyes, on the cheeks, chest, feet, and under the tail. Sabling (black tips to the hairs) are common in the gold and fawn shades.


  • Skull: Slightly domed, moderate width and length.
  • Eyes and Expression: Dark brown in color, oval in shape, bright and expressive, of medium size and set fairly wide apart but forward looking, giving an apelike expression.
  • Ears: Medium size, pendant, well feathered in the adult, and set fairly high.
  • Muzzle: Of medium length, blunt with cushioning, free from wrinkle. The chin should show some depth and width.
  • Nose: Black preferred. Faults: liver or putty-colored pigmentation.
  • Bite: Slightly undershot is preferred. A level bite is permissible, providing there is sufficient width and depth of chin to preserve the blunt appearance of the muzzle. Teeth should not show when the mouth is closed.
  • Tail: Set high, richly plumed, and carried in a gay curl over the back when moving.

Close-up head photo of a Tibetan Spaniel.

Tibetan Spaniel – What to Consider?

The Tibetan Spaniel is a charming little breed, long lived, and often called the “best-kept secret in the dog world.” Because they are moderate in all respects, and without the exaggerations that have affected many other breeds, there has never been a period of explosive popularity for the breed, which has been a benefit. Prospective owners need to remember that Tibbies are stubborn, may obey commands under protest, and must never be exercised off leash in an unfenced area.

Home Life

Interaction With Family

The level of affection a breed typically shows towards family members and familiar individuals will vary. While some breeds may only show genuine warmth towards their owner, remaining standoffish with strangers, other breeds will treat everyone they meet as if they are their closest friend.
Independent Affectionate

Good With Other Dogs

The innate friendliness of a dog towards other dogs can depend on its breed. Although supervision is always recommended during introductions, certain breeds tend to be inherently more or less sociable with other dogs, whether in a home setting or in public spaces.
Not Recommended Reliable With Other Dogs

Good With Young Children

The degree to which a breed will typically be patient with young children, and its overall suitability as a family member, will vary. It is important to always supervise interactions between dogs and the kids in the house, as well as with children who are not accustomed to being around dogs.
Not Recommended Dependable With Children


Amount Of Shedding

The amount of hair that a dog sheds will typically depend on its breed. Heavy-shedding breeds require more frequent brushing, have a higher chance of activating specific allergies, and often necessitate more frequent use of the vacuum cleaner and lint rollers.
Low High

Frequency Of Grooming

The regularity with which a breed needs bathing, brushing, trimming, or other forms of coat care is an all-important consideration. When evaluating the grooming effort required, consider your available time, patience, and budget. It is important to note that all breeds need routine ear, teeth, and nail care.
Monthly Daily

Amount Of Drooling

The tendency of a breed to drool significantly varies from breed to breed. For those who prefer cleanliness or are particular about keeping things tidy, breeds that are likely to leave trails of drool on your arm or large slobbery marks on your clothing and furniture might not be the best fit.
Low High

Coat Type


Coat Length




Trainability Level

The ease with which a dog can be trained and its eagerness to learn new skills can depend on the breed. Some breeds are naturally inclined to please their owners and will readily accept training, while others tend to follow their own desires, often showing independence in how, when, and where they choose to do things.
Stubborn Eager

Barking Level

The frequency of vocalization, including barking and howling, will vary from breed to breed. Some may bark at each person who passes by and every bird in the sky, while others will typically bark only for a good reason. Additionally, a few breeds that do not typically bark will still be vocal, using different sounds to communicate.
Quiet Vocal

Energy Level

The level of physical exercise and mental engagement required will depend on the breed. High-energy breeds are always on the go. They are enthusiastic about their next activity and tend to be busy most of the time, running, jumping, and playing throughout the day. In contrast, low-energy breeds are akin to couch potatoes, content to just lounge around and take naps throughout the day.
Couch Potato Busybody

Need For Mental Stimulation

The extent of mental stimulation needed to keep a dog content and healthy will vary by breed. Dogs bred for specific purposes may need tasks involving decision-making, problem-solving, and concentration. Without sufficient mental exercise, these dogs can resort to creating their own activities to engage their minds, resulting in unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging, and escaping.
Minimal Engagement Intensive Interaction

Tibetan Spaniel Health

Tibbies are a rugged little breed, as one would expect coming from the Himalayan Mountains, with relatively few health concerns. Slipping patellas (knee caps) can afflict many smaller breeds, including the Tibetan Spaniel. Eye exams are also recommended.

Lifespan: Tibetan Spaniels will often live into their middle to late teens. They age well and maintain a joyful attitude
from puppies to senior citizens.

Potential Health Risks

While a very healthy breed, OFA recommends that Tibbies receive an ACVO Eye Exam, and a Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) DNA test. Patellar Luxation or slipping/popping kneecaps can affect Tibbies, as well as many other smaller breeds. Tibbies were originally bred to perch on the tops of monasteries and survey the activities below, and today they still love to climb up on window sills, chairs, and furniture. Because they are longer than they are tall, keep an eye on their jumping to prevent a fall or back injury.

Tibetan Spaniel Personality

Tibbies are very intelligent with excellent problem-solving skills. However, they have an independent streak which makes training them a challenge. Pleasing you is not a high priority for them, so you’ll have to find ways to convince them that obeying commands was their idea. They adore their families but can be rather aloof with strangers. This will vary from dog to dog; some are more outgoing than others. Observe your puppy’s parents and also ask how the breeder socialized the litter before they were ready to go to their new homes.

Tibetan Spaniel Feeding & Nutrition

Tibbies typically have good appetites and few issues when it comes to eating. Choose a good-quality food, and follow your veterinarian’s and breeder’s advice on how much to feed. Tibbie faces are hard to resist, so guard against offering too many between-meal snacks and letting your Tibbie pack on the pounds.

Tibetan Spaniel Training

Tibbies are very clean, so crating your puppy when you cannot supervise him, and taking him out regularly, will facilitate house-training. Early and ongoing socialization is important to expose your Tibbie to adults, kind children, and other dogs and cats. Puppy Kindergarten classes are widely available and a fun way to teach your Tibbie basic commands in an environment of distractions. Tibbies should never be let off leash outdoors in an unfenced area. They are too stubborn and too curious about the world around them to take that risk.

Tibetan Spaniel Exercise

This is a very adaptable breed, as happy in a high-rise studio apartment as in a big suburban or country home. They are just as adaptable in their exercise needs. A Tibetan Spaniel will do fine with a 30-minute walk and playing with toys in the house, but will also enjoy a few hours of hiking with a more outdoorsy owner. Tibet can get bitterly cold, and Tibbies will happily frolic in the snow.

Exercise Expectations

Energy Level Moderate
Exercise Requirements 1 Hour/Day (Minimum), Daily Walks, Vigorous Running, Regular Exercise, Mental Stimulation

Tibetan Spaniel Grooming

While a coated breed, the Tibetan Spaniel is easily groomed. Tibbies are double-coated, with a soft undercoat and a silky outer coat. Weekly brushing will keep your Tibbie well maintained, but lift the coat up with your left hand to be sure you are brushing in layers to the skin. Use a comb to carefully check for tangles and mats behind the ears, in the armpits, under the tail and in the longer breeches or pantaloons behind the rear legs. Spayed and neutered Tibbies will develop a thicker, woollier coat, but pet owners can keep them well maintained with regular, thorough brushing, although you may choose to take your Tibbie to a professional groomer. Trimming and scissoring are not needed, beyond keeping the foot hair between their pads cut short.

Grooming Expectations

Coat Type Double, Medium length
Grooming Requirements Weekly brushing. Gently comb out mats and tangles behind the ears, elbows, feet, and hindquarters. Regular ear cleaning, tooth brushing, and nail trimming.

Living with a Tibetan Spaniel

The Tibetan Spaniel is an adaptable, sturdy little dog that will be as content in a city apartment as in a large suburban or country home. Tibbies thrive on human companionship, and for this reason they do not make a good kennel dog. They can be aloof with strangers but are affectionate and devoted to their family and friends. Tibbies are sensitive, and responsive to the moods and feelings of their people. They are alert little watch dogs that will announce any unusual event or arrival. They’re not, however, considered a yappy breed.

Tibetan Spaniel Puppies

Think of your puppy as an infant. Tibbie babies need a routine, with regular meals, naps, playtime, and potty breaks. Although children will be attracted to their cuddly size and sweet faces, Tibbies need a home that is safe, and to be protected from teasing and rough handling. A cozy crate with a blanket and toys, will ensure secure off-leash confinement. Get your puppy accustomed to weekly grooming, nail trimming, and ear and eye cleaning. It’s important to keep up the good habits and routines that your puppy’s breeder has probably begun.

Tibetan Spaniel Activities & Dog Sports

Tibetan Spaniels are great fun to show in Conformation, if that is an interest of yours. Most all-breed kennel clubs offer inexpensive handling classes, where both you and your Tibbie will learn the ropes and make friends with other show-minded owner-exhibitors.

Agility and Rally are fast-paced performance events that your Tibbie might enjoy. Think of them as obstacle courses, complete with tunnels, weave poles, and teeter totters.

If you prefer something less formal, organize regular on-leash walks and hikes with dog-owning friends to keep everyone fit. Once you’re home, your Tibbie will happily keep you company on the couch while you read or watch TV.

Group Classification & Standards

The Tibetan Spaniel is recognized by the world’s leading registries and kennel organizations, which categorize the breed into a specific Group based on its unique characteristics. This breed is recognized worldwide under the following Group designations:

International Organizations

Organization Group Designation
AKC (American Kennel Club) Non-Sporting
UKC (United Kennel Club) Companion Dog
CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) Non-Sporting
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) Toys
RKC (The Royal Kennel Club) Utility
FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) Group 9, Companion and Toy Dogs; Section 5: Tibetan Breeds

The ideal Tibetan Spaniel is described by a Breed Standard that is approved by each of the world’s leading registries and kennel organizations. The Breed Standards for this breed may be found in the following links:

Breed Standards

Organization Breed Standard
American Kennel Club AKC Tibetan Spaniel Breed Standard
United Kennel Club UKC Tibetan Spaniel Breed Standard
Canadian Kennel Club CKC Tibetan Spaniel Breed Standard
Australian National Kennel Council ANKC Tibetan Spaniel Breed Standard
The Royal Kennel Club RKC Tibetan Spaniel Breed Standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale FCI Tibetan Spaniel Breed Standard

Tibetan Spaniel Clubs

Tibetan Spaniel Club of America,

The TSCA holds an annual national specialty (a dog show just for Tibbies) in different parts of the country. The club publishes an informative quarterly newsletter, has an active presence on Facebook, and offers an online chat group to members.

Canada: It appears there is not an active parent club at this time—per Google search and a search of the CKC website.

UK Tibetan Spaniel Association,

Tibetan Spaniel Rescue Groups

Tibetan Spaniel Club of America Rescue & Health Trust; [email protected]

Tibetan Spaniel Facts

The Buddhist monks claimed the Tibetan Spaniel was 1/3 dog, 1/3 cat, and 1/3 monkey. Given the Tibetan Spaniel’s stubborn streak, mischief, sense of humor, and habit of washing other dogs’ faces, this description is entirely accurate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to exercise my Tibetan Spaniel outside off-leash?

Definitely not. This breed is too stubborn, independent, and easily distracted. Keep your Tibbie safe with on-leash exercise or off-leash in a fenced yard.

Will I need to take my Tibetan Spaniel to a professional groomer?

No. Although some owners take their dog to a groomer, the Tibbie is an easy-care breed, and most owners can keep their dogs well maintained with weekly grooming, and regular nail, eye and ear care. Longer, woollier coats on spayed/neutered dogs may be more challenging.

Are Tibetan Spaniels hypoallergenic?

No dog breed is 100 percent hypoallergenic. Tibbies do shed. If you have allergies, visit a Tibbie owner at home and see how you react to the coat.

Do Tibetan Spaniels bark a lot?

Tibbies were bred as watch dogs, and will bark if there is something they feel you need to know about, or if they hear an unusual noise. They will also sometimes vocalize when playing. However, they are not considered yappy.

How much exercise does a Tibetan Spaniel need?

As much or as little as you provide. Avoid over-exercising a puppy under 12 months. Once fully grown, they are fine with a 30-minute walk or a five-mile hike. Tibbies are highly adaptable.

A photo of Allan Reznik with his dog.


Although Allan Reznik has worn many hats in the dog show world over the past 50 years, he is probably best known as an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. He was the Editor-in-Chief of Dogs in Canada, Dog World, Dog Fancy and Dogs in Review magazines. All four publications received national honors from the Dog Writers Association of America while under his stewardship. Reznik appears regularly on national TV and radio to discuss the dog show sport as well as all aspects of responsible animal ownership. He has bred and shown champion Afghan Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Tibetan Spaniels. He is currently an approved AKC judge of all three breeds, as well as a provisional/permit judge of 11 additional breeds.

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