Tibetan Spaniels

The Tibetan Spaniel, known as the Tibbie to his friends, has been described as part terrier, part monkey and part cat. The Tibbie isn’t really a spaniel, but he is from Tibet where he was an alarm dog at Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries, or monasteries. The little dog, tipping the scales at 9 to 15 pounds, retains his watchdog tendencies to this day. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Tibetan Spaniel.

Is the Tibetan Spaniel the Right Dog for You?

True to his heritage, the Tibbie has a bold, independent spirit. He enjoys life, especially when he has a family who loves him. His family is first in his heart, and he gets along well with other dogs and cats in the home, but he is reserved with strangers. Because of his small size, he is best suited to a home with older children who will know to handle him with care.

The Tibbie is incredibly smart and headstrong. He is determined to have his own way, so never assume that he will always obey commands that you know he knows. He cannot be walked off leash because there’s no guarantee that he will come when called and pretty much a 100 percent guarantee that he will take off and do something you don’t want him to do, like pick a fight with a bigger dog or eat poop that he found on the ground.

The Tibetan Spaniel can be as active as you want him to be, within reason. With his short legs and flat face, he’s not exactly a jogging companion. He’s sturdy and won’t object to a walk in the park, but he will be equally satisfied with indoor play, such as chasing a toy. If he enjoys them, though, don’t hesitate to involve him in dog sports such as agility, rally and obedience. The Tibbie likes to show off, and these activities are good opportunities for him to have an appreciative audience. He can also be a super therapy dog. Train him with patience and consistency, using positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards.

Brush the Tibbie’s medium-length double coat a couple of times a week to remove dead hair and comb the plumed tail and feathering between the toes to prevent or remove mats or tangles. He sheds twice a year, and during that time you’ll need to brush him more often to keep the hair under control. Of course, you’ll need to trim his nails as needed, brush his teeth at least weekly, and check his ears weekly and clean them if needed to prevent ear infections.

It goes without saying that the people-loving Tibbie needs to live in the house and never outdoors. Accept that he’ll be sharing your furniture. He is in charge, after all.

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Tibetan Spaniel Puppy

  1. Start by finding a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Tibetan Spaniel Club of America, and who has agreed to abide by the TSCA's Code of Ethics, which specifically prohibits selling puppies through retail outlets such as pet stores.
  2. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Tibetan Spaniel aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Tibetan Spaniels can live as long as 15 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
  3. Puppy or adult, take your Tibetan Spaniel to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.
  4. Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
  5. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to Tibetan Spaniels

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Tibetan Spaniels have a couple of health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include eye problems and patellar (knee) luxation. Many toy breeds and small dogs, the Tibbie included, have a condition known as luxating patellas, in which one or both knees are unstable and occasionally slip out of place. Depending on the level of severity (1 being mild and 4 being severe), luxating patellas can be a minor issue that cause the dog little problem or pain or serious enough to require surgical correction.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have an OFA knee clearance and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy. The Tibetan Spaniel Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Tibbie to achieve CHIC certification, he must have both of the above health clearances. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Entropion High $300-$1,500
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Tibetan Spaniels

Pet insurance for Tibetan Spaniels costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Tibetan Spaniels are a great deal more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Tibetan Spaniels are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Tibetan Spaniel is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.