Tibetan Terriers are more than 2,000 years old, originating in Tibet as companions for the monks in the monasteries in the region that eventually became known as the Lost Valley. The Lost Valley in Tibet became “lost” when an earthquake in the 14th century destroyed the only path into the region. The monks called the dogs Holy Dogs.
The Tibetan Terrier breed was also owned by villagers in that region, who considered the dogs lucky and called them Luck Bringers. The dogs were never sold, although a dog could be given away as a token of friendship or goodwill. Owners who mistreated one of these dogs or allowed a dog to mate with a dog of another breed were in danger of losing their luck and could even be scorned or shunned by the other villagers. Although called a terrier, this breed is not one. Because the names Holy Dog and Luck Bringer were deemed not suitable breed names once the dogs were introduced to people outside of Tibet, a new name was needed, and these dogs are the same size as many of the well-known terrier breeds. Tibetan Terriers do not have a terrier temperament, nor are they vermin hunters.
Tibetan Terrier dogs stand between 14 and 17 inches tall and usually weigh 18 to 30 pounds. The head is of medium size, with large, dark brown eyes and pendant ears. The body is slightly longer than tall at the shoulder, and the tail curls over the back. The undercoat is soft and wooly, while the outer coat is fine, profuse, and may be wavy or straight. The coat is long but does not reach the ground. It may be any color. This coat needs to be brushed and combed at least every other day, as it will tangle and mat. Although show dogs are not to be shaved or trimmed, many pet owners do have the coat trimmed. Tibetan Terrier owners who enjoy the long coat may have only the feet, face, genitals, and under the tail areas trimmed slightly for cleanliness. Potential Tibetan Terrier owners should discuss the breed’s coat care needs with a Tibetan Terrier breeder.
Since Tibetan Terriers were bred to be companion dogs, they are very adaptable. In a home where people are busy and active, the dog will be, too. In a more sedentary home, the dog tends to be calmer. However, these dogs should have at least one walk per day and a good play session to help keep them fit and to prevent obesity. Many Tibetan Terrier dogs have done very well in agility and therapy dog work. Training this breed is not difficult; Tibetan Terriers are bright and enjoy learning as long as the training is fair and fun. Socialization should begin early, as these dogs are standoffish with strangers. Although walks are great opportunities for socialization, a kindergarten puppy class is a wise idea, too. Training should continue into adulthood so that dog and owner can do something together.
The Tibetan Terrier needs an owner who enjoys grooming the dog, because even if the coat is trimmed, it still needs regular care. These dogs are excellent family dogs and are great with children as long as the kids are not too rough. Tibetan Terriers are usually good with other dogs, cats, and small animals. Health concerns include hip dysplasia and several different eye problems.