For a truly charming pet, it’s hard to go past the Tibetan Spaniel. These small dogs have their origins in the Himalayas of Tibet, and their existence stretches back some two thousand years. Tibetan Spaniels are thought to have been bred by Tibetan Buddhist monks, who used them as guard dogs. And despite their small stature and unassuming appearance, it is in this capacity that Tibetan Spaniels are commonly used today.

Tibetans – soft and sweet

Tibetan Spaniels are a small dog breed, and typically grow to around the same size as a Shih Tzu or similar breed, with a maximum height of around 25 centimetres. Tibetan Spaniels are known for having a relatively long body in comparison to their height. They’re known for their long and silky double coats, which can be any of a range of hues ranging from black through to red and fawn through to cream. Tibetan Spaniels have long, hanging ears that are plumed and feathery, and also have a “mane” around their neck area. Two distinctive features of the Tibetan Spaniel are its long, curling tail, which boasts a delicate plume of fur, and the breed’s unusual feet, which are feathered.

A long history

With thousands of years of history to their names, the Tibetan Spaniel has quite a pedigree. Tibetan Spaniels were most famously bred and kept by Buddhist monks, but were also popular as village dogs. The appearance of the breed varied depending on the region in which they were bred, village dogs were typically larger than monastery dogs. Tibetan Spaniels made their way into the west some hundred or so years ago, with records of the breed in the UK from as early as 1890. The breed first appeared in the USA in the 1960s, and were first found in Australia in 1974. It has since been recognised formally as a breed in its own right.

Cheery and playful

Like many toy varieties, Tibetan Spaniels are cheery and vibrant in nature. The breed enjoys a lifetime of ‘teenagerdom’, and generally remains boisterous and friendly throughout its lifespan, which can be up to 15 years. However, while they are a bright and witty breed, they are lower maintenance than other small breeds, and are popular as family pets. Tibetan Spaniels are usually friendly and playful with children, and are unlikely to assume an ‘alpha’ position within the family. While they will defend the home against strangers, they are not known as a yappy breed.

A great home companion

Not only are Tibetan Spaniels small and relatively low maintenance, but they don’t require large amounts of space to move around. Neither do they need frequent exercise. This makes them a great choice for those living in a townhouse, a flat, or a property with a small backyard. Their genial temperament and minimal exercise needs means that they are also a good choice for families and for elderly owners.

What to consider before buying a Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniels are typically a hardy breed, with few health issues documented. However, because of their short faces and nasal cavities, they can be prone to snuffling and snorting, and may suffer from respiratory issues. This short nasal cavity also makes it harder for the breed to cool themselves down in hot weather, and owners must ensure that their Tibetan Spaniel is comfortable during warmer months. Allergies can be an issue, too, and may affect both the nasal passages and the eyes.

Tibetan Spaniels, although a highly intelligent breed, can also be a challenge to train. Those with little time to train a pet or who are after an obedient pet for their home may find this an issue.