Tibetan Terrier

AKC Non-Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Originally bred by Tibetan monks, the Tibetan Terrier is an ancient contributor to many other Tibetan breeds. The breed was considered to be lucky and dogs were often given as gifts, but never sold. Dr. A.R.H. Grieg was responsible for the breed’s introduction to the West. She was given several dogs, the first by a grateful patient, and then by the Dalai Lama himself. She later established a Tibetan Terrier kennel in England. The “terrier” part of the breed name is a misnomer, as the dog is in no part a terrier. It was given the name simply because it was of terrier size. In the United States, the Tibetan Terrier is primarily a pet and companion.


The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-sized, squarely proportioned dog that looks more like a sheepdog than like a terrier. Height at the withers of more than 17 in. or less than 14 in. is considered a fault. The double coat protects the entire dog, even falling in front of the dark, widely spaced eyes. The fine outer coat can be straight or wavy. The undercoat is soft and woolly. The coat should be long, but should not touch the ground. Any color (or combination of colors), including white, is acceptable in this breed. The Tibetan Terrier does not shed seasonally, but will drop some hair if kept in full coat. The tail is heavily furnished and carried over and on the back. The heavily feathered ears hang pendant, falling not too close to the head. The nose is black. The lower jaw is slightly bearded. The desirable mouth is a tight scissors bite or a tight reversed scissors bite (the inner surface of the lower teeth touches the outer surface of the upper teeth). The topline is level. This breed’s unique large flat feet, well- furnished with hair, produce a snowshoe effect that provides traction and flotation in snow. The Tibetan Terrier has great agility and endurance.

Key Facts

  • Height:  14 to 16 in.
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  20 to 24 lbs.
  • Availability:  May take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Watchdog, agility, and obedience


Tibetan Terrier bloodlines in the United States vary in terms of height, coat, and personality. Check with the breeder about any particular litter’s genealogy. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip dysplasia clearance and current CERF or OFA eye clearance. The long coat needs a lot of attention, so many owners who are not showing their dogs clip them, especially in summer. Bathe every seven to 14 days. Can be very flea sensitive. Brush every two to three days with a pin brush or slicker. Never brush a dry coat; always mist with conditioner and water to ease brushing. Novice owners should be ready for the responsibility of grooming a coated breed! Because he is such a light shedder, the Tibetan Terrier is one of the better breeds for allergy sufferers. The Tibetan Terrier is a particularly good watchdog.


Sweet, gentle, and loving. Lively and fun. Can be willful. Devoted to the family, but wary of strangers. Some are good guard dogs.


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability:  Slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  Low
  • Other Pets:  Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness:  Friendly with other dogs
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Extensive grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Long coat
  • Shedding:  Very light
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  A small yard is sufficient
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Moderately long-lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Tibetan Terrier Breed Standard


Tibetan Terrier Breed Club


Search for a Breeder


Rescue Organizations


Books about the Tibetan Terrier


Tibetan Terrier Gifts