Tibetan Terriers

The Tibetan Terrier (who is not really a terrier) is called the Luck Bringer in his homeland of Tibet. He traveled the high, cold plateaus with nomadic herdsmen and guarded their tents. For fear of tempting fate by selling “luck,” the dogs were never sold but instead given in return for favors or as special gifts. The medium-size dogs were raised by Tibetan Buddhist lamas, or monks, and also bore the nickname Holy Dog.

The Tibetan Terrier stands out for his profuse and protective double coat, a fall of hair over the eyes, a well-feathered tail and large, round, flat feet designed for surefootedness in snowy terrain. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Tibetan Terrier.

Is the Tibetan Terrier the Right Dog for You?

The mild-mannered and friendly Tibetan Terrier, known as the TT to his friends, has a people-loving attitude. His moderate size of 20 to 24 pounds makes him a good travel companion, and his moderate activity level and sturdy athleticism make him suitable as a walking, hiking or jogging buddy. He’s capable of performing well in dog sports such as agility, rally and obedience. Train him with patience and consistency, using positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards.

Brush the Tibetan Terrier’s long double coat a couple of times a week to remove dead hair and 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 Tibetan Terrier needs to live in the house and never outdoors. A Tibetan Terrier relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship is an unhappy Tibetan Terrier indeed.

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Tibetan Terrier Puppy

  1. Start by finding a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Tibetan Terrier Club of America, and who has agreed to abide by the TTCA's guidelines for responsible breeders.
  2. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Tibetan Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Tibetan Terriers 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 Terrier 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.
  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 Terriers

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 Terriers have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from: hip dysplasia, patellar (knee) luxation, autoimmune thyroiditis, eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy and lens luxation, congenital deafness and canine neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis.

The Tibetan Terrier 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 Tibetan Terrier to achieve CHIC certification, he must have a hip clearance from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or PennHIP, an OFA hearing evaluation based on the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test, and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy, renewed annually. Optional clearances are OFA knee, elbow and thyroid evaluations. 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
Hip Dysplasia
Medium $1,500-$6,000
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Tibetan Terriers

Pet insurance for Tibetan Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is becauseTibetan Terriers are 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 breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Tibetan Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Tibetan Terrier 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.