Fondly called the “Tibbie,” the Tibetan Spaniel is not a true spaniel and is more connected to other Asian blunt-nosed canine breeds such as the pug and the Pekingese. But while its face is flat, this dog’s character is never dull. He boasts an endearing personality, cheerful, self-assured, and agile, always wanting to be on the move. Highly alert and intelligent, he also serves as an excellent watchdog. Plus, trusting and affectionate, expect him to be cuddly and form tight bonds with his humans.
Origins of the Tibetan Spaniel
As the breed’s name suggests, the Tibetan Spaniel traces its roots from the “roof of the world,” the Tibetan plateau in China, and is believed to have existed for over 2,000 years.
As Buddhist monks have a high reverence for all beings, including animals, they were instrumental in preserving many native dog breeds from the region. One of which was the Tibbies, who were kept in monasteries and served not only as their companions but also as excellent alarm dogs. These dogs would perch on high windows and walls, keeping an eye on the horizon and barking to alert the monks of any suspicious people or potential danger. After their duties, they act as cuddly bed warmers, ideal for the harsh, cold Himalayan nights.
British missionaries who came to Tibet were enticed by the breed and brought these dogs when they returned to England. However, like with all other dog breeds, the Tibetan Spaniel’s breeding programs were halted by World War II. With that, it was only in the 1960s when the first breeding pair of Tibbies was imported to the United States by a sexton from New Haven, Connecticut.
Since then, the breed started to rise in popularity, and the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America was established in 1971. However, it took a few years before the breed received full recognition from the American Kennel Club, becoming its 129th breed in 1983 and including the Tibbies under the Non-Sporting group.
Characteristics of the Tibetan Spaniel
Height: 10 inches
Weight: 9-15 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
The Tibetan Spaniel is a small breed, with a relatively small head, though still proportioned to its slightly longer than taller physique. His wide-set, almond-shaped, dark brown eyes give him an expressive appearance. His mouth is somewhat undershot, while the front legs are slightly bowed. Nevertheless, he is a quick mover, with a straight and free gait, making his plumed, high-set tail even more conspicuous whenever he is in action.
The Tibbie has a thick, double-coated silky fur of medium length that can come in all colors and patterns. Feathering grows on his ears and the back of his front and rear legs. The fur is smooth on the face, and a mane of long hair or shawl, surrounds his neck, accentuating his adorable look.
Loving and trustful, the Tibetan Spaniel relishes human companionship and needs a lot of social interaction to flourish. He likes to stick closely with his family and gets very affectionate with them, always up for snuggles or simply hanging out. Boasting a cheerful demeanor, he would also enjoy games and outings with his family.
While he is warm with the people close to him, the Tibbie may be reserved or aloof towards strangers. Staying true to his heritage as a watchdog, he will bark to alert his family of something unusual or suspicious, though not excessively.
As with children, other dogs, cats, and other pets, expect the Tibetan Spaniel to live harmoniously with them if socialized early. Highly adaptable, he is also amenable to adjust to different types of homes and will do well both in an apartment or a large house.
However, brimmed with smarts, curiosity, and self-assurance, he can be stubborn and ignore a few commands. Yet, expect his attachment to his people to prevail at most times, making him sensitive enough to respond to his owner’s moods and feelings.
Caring for the Tibetan Spaniel
The Tibetan Spaniel’s lovely soft, silky coat needs to be brushing a couple of times a week to keep it in its tip-top condition. It is also best to pay more attention to his feathering, where tangles may form. The coat doesn’t require trimming, but always check the hair at the bottom of his feet as it can quickly sweep dirt. Bathing is rarely necessary, though it is undoubtedly handy during his shedding season.
Start to regularly trim his nails at a young age for him to get used to the activity. Then, check the ear weekly and wipe it clean from any debris. To complete his grooming routine, brush his teeth using vet-approved toothpaste occasionally to avoid gum disease and boost his dental health.
As an energetic breed, the Tibetan Spaniel needs at least an hour of exercise each day to keep him fit. A daily walk or jog alongside some play session is usually enough to keep him physically satisfied. If you want to train him, don’t fret as he is a brilliant dog that can excel in activities, such as rally, obedience, agility, and scent work. Just make sure to keep training as enjoyable as possible, and the Tibbie will be eager to please.
In terms of feeding, the Tibetan Spaniel has a small mouth, so it is vital to choose high-quality dog food specialized for small breeds. Consult your veterinarian for the correct food recommendation and proportion fit for the dog’s needs, age, size, and energy level.
As a breed that thrived in the Tibetan Plateau for hundreds of years, the Tibbie is relatively hardy with only minor health issues. A common concern affecting the breed is progressive retinal atrophy and cherry eye, or having a prolapsed gland usually corrected surgically. Make sure to adopt puppies from a reputable breeder that practices responsible breeding, so you can get a healthy Tibbie pup that can be your longtime, adorable canine companion.