Tibetan Spaniel Dog – Characteristics & Traits

The Hunt for Tibbie Type
Tibetan Spaniel Dog Breed - Non-Sporting Group


Recently, the membership of the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America, Inc addressed concerns, on our club forum, about the breed’s lack of overall breed type, head proportions, and temperament. How timely for the breed to receive a request to address these issues among the pages of SHOWSIGHT Magazine!


To clarify these issues with the breed, we must remember as breeders, judges, and exhibitors that we are influenced by many factors. How one interprets the standard is influenced by our interaction with mentors, our vision for the breed as we read and digest the written word, and yes, personal preference.

Our breed has changed over the years because of influences across the country and by bringing innew bloodlines from around the world. This is not all bad. However, our expectations and personal preferences sometimes change, and we can lose sight of the written standard.

Dog sitting on a chair


Sizes and Proportions

Regardless of where we start on this quest for breed type and overall quality, we must pay close attention to the written standard. The official standard of the Tibetan Spaniels says, “Head: Small in proportion to body and carried proudly, giving an impression of quality. Masculine in dogs but free from coarseness.

This is a moderate dog of about 10 inches, which is 9-15 pounds, and the further you get away from that 10-inch dog, the bigger and coarser they can get. Bigger does not necessarily mean better in our world of “super-size everything.

Tibetan Spaniel dog standing on grass


Head, Eyes, Ears, and the Muzzle of the Tibetan Spaniel

Moderate” is mentioned in the standard repeatedly. Tibbies are to be a sturdy breed, not diminutive toy-like dogs in any way. The skull on this 10-inch dog is only slightly domed, with the broadest point at eye level. The skull is slightly narrower at the back of the head. It must not be broad and flat or narrow and high-domed. The skull is not exaggerated in any way on this breed.

Tibetan Spaniel head photo

The oval, dark brown eye is most attractive and “almost” triangular. It is expressive, giving an ape-like expression. This is coupled with medium-sized pendant ears, well-feathered in the adult, and set fairly high which may have a slight “lift” off the skull but should not “fly.” Low-set, heavy ears are not typical. Added to this head is a muzzle of medium length (about 1½ inches), blunt and well-cushioned, free from wrinkle, and the chin should show some width and depth. The bluntness of the muzzle is present if the mouth is correctly, slightly undershot, with width and depth of chin when the mouth is closed. It is also permissible to have a level bite, providing there is width and depth of chin.

Head photo of a small dog


Tibetan Spaniel’s Movement in the Show Ring

When evaluating this breed (and we all evaluate, be it at home or in the ring) your first impression as you watch your dog in the yard or as they enter the ring in which you are officiating is where you first see breed type. As the dog moves, ask yourself if the gait is quick-moving, straight, free, and positive.

Movement should not be flying around the ring. Their natural gait is best seen on a loose lead. Is the head and neck carried proudly? Does the head appear small for the body? Is the topline level and does the coat fit the body? Although it is a double-coated breed, the coat is silky in texture, lying rather flat. It is not a standoff coat that obscures the outline. Do you see a rectangle of daylight under the dog? All of these things contribute to type. You cannot have type without all of the components that make up the essence of the breed.

Tibetan Spaniel in a show ring


Table Examination

Once you examine the Tibbie on the table, you will see the finer points of head quality. The desired body you can feel with your hands, under the coat, being sure to move that tail and feel for the level topline. Don’t be fooled. All things are not created equal, and sometimes, hands can help your eye find what you are looking for. I fear in our hurried-up world these days that the table exam is a quick “one, two, three touches and done.” Does this do a breed justice in the long run?

When assessing the Tibbie body on the table, one must remember that the standard states, “Body slightly longer from the point of shoulder to root of tail than the height at withers.” Body proportions are difficult, at best, to maintain. This is a challenge for our breeders and, sometimes, even harder for judges to find in their rings. As with everything else on this moderate breed, low and long or tall and rangy ruins breed type.

Tibetan spaniel dog being examined on a table

Finding the complete package of ideal proportion, headpiece, and temperament is a continuing challenge. Breeding dogs is so much more than playing with puppies. Tibbies are no different than other breeds. They need to be socialized to gain new life experiences as they mature. They are not to be shy nor aggressive, but they can be snobs and not look a judge in the eye on the table or on the ground while in the ring. Tibbies are cat-like in nature, love their people, and are independent. That is aloof.


The Correct Tibbie Type

As preservation breeders, we are responsible for the future of our breed. It is not the judge’s fault that the breed takes a direction we are not happy with in the show ring. After all, who brings those specimens into the ring? It is the breeder’s job to breed the best they can and showcase their breeding stock. Judges look for consistency of type when they judge. Many times, they may see consistent type, but the question is: “Is that type correct and of quality?” At times, the best dog leaves the ring without being awarded because the depth of quality is lacking, and that beautiful specimen looks like the odd man out. This does the breed a disservice.

Tibetan Spaniel side photo


Final Thoughts

Perhaps we need to breed better dogs that adhere to our written standard. To accomplish this together, breeders need to converse with others at shows, be inviting to newcomers, and ask to goover each other’s dogs. We can all learn from each other. Dog breeding takes years of evaluations, and yes, sometimes poor decisions. Using that knowledge moves a breed forward.


The greatest thing a parent club does is protect the standard of their beloved breed. In this, I mean that you do not change the standard to fit the dogs we see today. We are to adhere to that written word set down by those who came before us to preserve the breed we adore. Read your standard repeatedly and develop your mind’s eye as to what makes a quality Tibetan Spaniel.

Tibetan spaniel puppy



Are you looking for a Tibetan Spaniel puppy?

The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.

Want to help rescue and re-home a Tibetan Spaniel dog?

Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.

Tibetan Spaniel Dog Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

Read and learn more about the bright Tibetan Spaniel dog breed with articles and information in our Tibetan Spaniel Dog Breed Magazine.


Tibetan Spaniel Breed Magazine - Showsight


  • Linda C. Foiles was introduced to Tibetan Spaniels when her family moved from California to Virginia in the mid-to-late 1970s. She was fortunate to meet Phyllis Kohler who had imported a red and white parti color male from the UK with Mallory Driskill. At the time, Linda bred and showed Shelties, and Phyllis did as well. The Tibetan Spaniel was not yet AKC recognized, so Linda’s journey with the breed was “grass roots,” so to speak. It has been a great experience with this breed. Linda has bred and shown many Champions under the Flolin prefix and she is proud of everyone and their accomplishments over the generations. When she decided to begin judging, Linda did not take the decision lightly. She is approved for five breeds; Shelties, Collies, Great Pyrenees (her mother raised them in California), Australian Shepherds, and Tibetan Spaniels. Linda had hoped to add additional breeds, but her professional life and family did not allow that to happen. She obtained her undergraduate degree while raising a young family and showing dogs, then obtained her master’s as a Reading Specialist and taught for 37 years in both private and public schools. Linda also obtained an endorsement in Leadership. Linda has had the wonderful pleasure of many friendships all over the globe because of Tibbies. She has judged Tibbies in Australia and Scotland, plus judged numerous Regional Specialties and the National three times. It is such an honor to be selected once by your peers, but three times was a real surprise! Linda has stepped away from breeding Tibbies, letting others whom she has mentored take the reins due to health issues at home and her body saying, “Downsize!” She will always adore this breed, but for the past twelve years she has been successfully breeding and showing Papillons. Linda has never had puppies all the time, so her challenge is being reached. (Although she says that we can always improve and reach higher. This is Linda’s goal in all she does.) She has worn many “hats” for the TSCA over the years and has been the Judges Education Chair for many years, now with Co-Chair Mallory Driskill. Linda has been the TSCA Delegate for some time, but her husband’s health has made it necessary to step down as Delegate.

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