What is a Tibetan Terrier?

  • By: Mick Whitefield
  • Time to read: 5 min.

The Tibetan Terrier is a dog with a long history recorded in Lamaist Monasteries 2000 years ago, originally bred to herd flocks and guard monasteries in the Himalayan Mountains. Today it makes a wonderful devoted family dog for growing children and can be an affectionate companion for people needing comfort. Despite the long hair these dogs are Hypoallergenic making them suitable for allergy sufferers. They are lively, enthusiastic, intelligent and playful dogs but are not generally boisterous.

Quick Facts about the Tibetan Terrier

Lifespan of a Tibetan Terrier

12 to 14 Years

A Tibetan Terriers Height at the Withers

14 to 16 inches or 36 to 41cm.

Weight of a Tibetan Terrier

18 to 30lbs or 8 to 14 kgs.
In general the males tend to have the heavier frame.

Average Price of a Tibetan Terrier

In the USA prices range from $1800 to $2500 dependant upon breeding history and pedigree.
In the UK these dogs are about £750 to £1600.

Breeding Group of Tibetan Terriers

(despite its name this dog is NOT a Terrier)
Its Genus is entirely different to Terriers hence the breeding group of Utility, it is however very closely related genus wise to the Lhasa Apso.

Are Tibetan Terriers Hypoallergenic?


This breed is double coated and surprisingly this dog does not leave hair everywhere but does require very regular brushing or the hair will mat and knot heavily. The Topcoat is profuse in its length and the undercoat is woolly.

What does the Tibetan Terrier look like?

Unless cut back heavily these dogs are covered in long hair from head to tail and toes.

Tibetan Terrier 1
Tibetan Terrier

The nose is usually black sat on a medium length nose to a high forehead with the head being square. The ears flop downward and are heavily feathered, a broad neck holds the head leading to a short straight back with a tail that lifts and normally lopes to one side.

Tibetan Terrier Side View
Tibetan Terrier brushed well

The legs are strong and muscly with wide square feet coming from a strong square chest and reasonably broad hips.

The best description could be to say that this dog looks like a very large Lhasa Apso to which it is actually closely related.

Tibetan Terrier Aloof
Tibetan looking aloof
Lhasa Apso 3No
3 Lhasa Apso much smaller than the Tibetan Terrier yet they look similar in photos

Characteristics of a Tibetan Terrier

These dogs are affectionate and loyal and are fun to play with. Although they are good dogs to train some do have a stubborn tendency to disobey if they are not happy. These dogs need to be made to feel part of a family as opposed to being left alone.

They are not always good with strangers which is why they can be good for children if they are bought up with them in the same household as they consider themselves to be protectors of their family and household.

This protective streak can give some of them a tendency to be vocal and bark at any distraction not within their sight, however this does make for a good guard or watchdog.

This dog is often larger than you might think and because it is reasonably well built they sometimes need an affirmative owner. They are not boisterous but can easily knock children over when excited as some of them don’t seem to realise their own strength.

History of the Tibetan Terrier

An enormously long history, these dogs are recorded as being bred in Lamaist monasteries going back 2000 years. The dogs were used as companions and helping out with chores on the farms, but they were mostly known as “Luck Bringer” and were not sold but given as gifts by way of showing gratitude for something done to help the local communities.

They were important to the communities because they were considered to be the original “Holy Dog of Tibet” . Highly prized by Lamaist monks and families alike the dogs were treated as valued members of the family. Anyone mistreating a Tibetan Terrier would be frowned upon and possibly even ostracized from a community if these dogs were badly treated.

An English doctor (a Dr Greig) working as a physician in India was in one of the Tibetan provinces when she saved the life of a merchants wife. The merchant, ever grateful “gave as a gift” to the doctor a Tibetan Terrier.

The doctor enchanted by the dog and exhibited her at one of India’s dog shows held in Delhi. The judges who had never seen a similar looking dog, suggested that she obtained a mate for her dog (called Bunty) and start a breeding programme as a way of establishing her dogs true breed type.

The Doctor obtained a second Tibetan Terrier which she named Rajah and began breeding from her two dogs. Christmas day 1924 they produced their first litter of Tibetan Terrier puppies and successfully a second litter was born the following year in July.

The doctor returned to the UK in 1926 bringing her Tibetan Terriers with her including a female from her first litter called Chota Tuka and a male called Ja-Haz from the second litter.

She then continued her breeding programme with her first dog Bunty and in 1927, the first litter of Tibetan Terriers was born in the UK. Doctor Greig then took a male puppy from the litter called Mr. Binks and travelled back to India where he was awarded the first TT World Champion after having won four Challenge Certificates at a Dog Show.

England in the 1930s, Doctor Greig was instrumental in establishing the Lamleh strain of the breed both in the UK and in the USA. The breed was recognised by The Kennel Club in 1937.

The doctor continued breeding her dogs and exhibited a Tibetan Terrier at a Crufts Dog Show in England. The dog had been bred in a Tibetan monastery and was a white Tibetan Terrier called Thoombay of Ladkok.

He was to the first of the breed to be awarded the title of Tibetan Terrier English Champion he was then, ten years old.

Doctor Greig continued her breeding programme with the Tibetan Terriers and was probably the strongest force behind getting the breed recognised by the Kennel Club. What she was a keen to advocate was that the Tibetan Terrier was seen more as a “working dog” rather than a “show dog” thus it ended up in the Utility Class.

In 1956 a Tibetan Terrier Club was founded when an enthusiast of the breed called Constance Downey established the Luneville Kennel, promoting the breed during the fifties and sixties. However, it was not until the 1970’s that the Tibetan Terrier gained its UK popularity which was after the death of Doctor Greig passing away in 1972. A year later (1973) the breed was registered with the AKC.

The Tibetan Terrier really made its mark on the UK and the rest of the world when a dog called Araki Fabulous Willy won Crufts Best in Show in 2007.

Tibetan Terrier Araki Fabulous Willy
Araki Fabulous Willy Crufts Winner 2007

Health Concerns of the Tibetan Terrier

These dogs are generally quite robust and have few concerns until later age, which is expected of most dogs.

Later age concerns can be Hip Dysplasia and PRA

Occasional problems from breeding can be PLL

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