Tibetan Spaniel

"The Lama's Lion Dog"

Photo of Tibetan Spaniel


This is an ancient breed, and despite its name, it is not a spaniel. Nevertheless, the breed did originate in Tibet. These wonderful little dogs were developed by the Buddhist monks of isolated monasteries on the mountain tops of remote Tibet, nestled away and hidden from the greater world. Although they were magnificent companions, they also served as important watchdogs, sitting on walls and other high perches where they could observe anything or anyone that was out of the ordinary. Referred to by the monks as “little lions,” lions having been tamed by the Buddha himself, the dogs came to Tibet with the advent of Buddhism in Tibet in the seventeenth century. The breed is thought to share common ancestry with various Asian breeds, including the Japanese Chin and the Pekingese. It was in the late nineteenth century that the breed was exported to England. The first indication of this breed in America was from a litter in 1965 out of two dogs imported from a Tibetan Monastery. In 1971 the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America was formed and the breed joined the AKC Non-Sporting Group in 1984.


These are independent dogs and their behavior has been compared to that of cats. Nevertheless, they are cheerful, active, good-natured dogs. Although they are reserved with strangers, they are OK with other animals. With a stubborn streak that colors their behavior, they can be assertive when the issue is important, but they are also sensitive creatures who cannot bear to be scolded or, worse yet, hollered at. They are very affectionate with their own family.


These are small dogs, almost Toys but not quite. They have long hair on the chest, stomach, legs, and tail and a double coat that is silky but lies flat for the most part. Their tails are richly plumed, curled, and carried over the back when moving. They are seen in all colors including fawn, golden, cream, red, white, black, black-and-tan, patched, and shaded. Their ears hang down, their noses are black, and their eyes are dark brown. They measure approximately 10 inches and weigh between 9 and 15 pounds.


They require firm but gentle training, despite their tendency to be strong-willed and assertive.

Grooming & Care

They shed. Daily combing and brushing are necessary, as is the case with all double-coated dogs. They will tolerate daily grooming if the owner starts this routine during puppyhood. No trimming is required.

Health Concerns

The breed cannot tolerate extreme hot weather because of their short muzzles. When Tibetan Spaniels try to take in sufficient air, they usually snort - and that is your cue to get them to a cool place. Subject to respiratory difficulties and heat stroke, they are also prone to Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), which leads to blindness.

Famous Tibetan Spaniel

Owned by Buddhist monks and Lamas, Tibbies once only left monasteries as treasured gifts.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 3
Schedule 5
Home 44
Children 48
Experience 11
Quick Facts
Grooming 110
Exercise 61
Challenges Can get overly protective if not socialized.
Height 9 to 10 inches
Weight 9 to 15 pounds
Life 12 to 15 years
Home Alone 82
With Kids 114
With Strangers 113
Availability 95

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.