Tibetan Terrier

Other names: Tsang Apso, Dhoki Apso

Tibetan Terrier

Despite his name, the Tibetan Terrier is not a terrier! He was originally used as a herding dog and watchdog before eventually falling into the companion dog category we are mostly familiar with today.  Considered sacred in Tibet, he is much more lively than his Tibetan cousins hailing from the same group. Cheerful, docile and very smart, this little dog is perfectly suited for family life, which he takes great pleasure in and is very devoted to.

Key facts about the Tibetan Terrier

Life expectancy :





Temperament :

Affectionate Playful

Size :

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Origins and history

His origins can be traced back to Tibet, where he gets his name from. The breed has since further developed in the United Kingdom. It is throughout the course of the 20th century that Dr. Agnes Greig imported the first specimens in Europe. The FCI officially recognised the breed in 1957.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs


Section 5 : Tibetan breeds

Physical characteristics of the Tibetan Terrier

  • Tibetan Terrier
    Tibetan Terrier

    Adult size

    Female : Between 14 and 16 in

    Male : Between 14 and 16 in


    Female : Between 18 and 29 lb

    Male : Between 18 and 29 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    The Tibetan Terrier is slightly smaller than what would traditionally be considered a medium-sized dog, and has an abundant coat. His head is not massive but is certainly robust, with a short muzzle and a strongly built lower jaw. The eyes are big and round. The ears are ‘v-shaped’ and pendant, with a fringe. The frame is stocky and compact. The limbs are straight and muscular. The tail, of medium size, is cheerfully carried in a curl over the back.

    Good to know

    In Tibet, he was considered a sacred dog, and was indeed dubbed the ‘Sacred Dog of Tibet’.


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      This dog vows undying love to his master and demonstrates his affection in many ways on a daily basis. Very cheerful and chirpy, he infects his surroundings with his ‘joie de vivre’.

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      Particularly agile, this dog is very playful and enjoys spending time and having fun with members of his social group, especially children.

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      The Dhoki Apso, as you may also call him, can be calm if all his needs have been met and his owners are at home. Otherwise, it is a rather animated and active dog who often seeks a lot of attention.

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      This little companion dog is particularly intelligent, he doesn’t follow orders blindly and needs to fully grasp what is at stake before carrying anything out. In this sense, he is a lively dog that needs coherent training. Without the latter, being as sharp as he is, he will quickly gain the upper hand.

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      In direct contradiction to his name, this dog is not a terrier and does not actually possess a predatory instinct to the extent that his fellow ‘Terriers’ do. He could, similarly to certain dogs, be prone to chase after small prey, but will rarely go beyond that.

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      Even if he rarely demonstrates any aggressivity, the Tibetan Terrier is relatively withdrawn and wary towards strangers. However, once he starts trusting the prospective guests, he welcomes them with open arms.

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      The Tibetan Terrier does not deviate from the norm that applies to most companion dogs: he is very dependant on his master.

      Behaviour of the Tibetan Terrier

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        Tolerates solitude

        Very close to his master, this Tibetan dog cannot stand being alone. He tolerates his owners’ absences very poorly and can quickly become miserable (and destructive) if they are prolonged and recurrent.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        Even though he is quite calm by nature and possesses very little of the trademark Terrier characteristics, the Tibetan Terrier remains quite stubborn and demanding when it comes to commands, which he absolutely must perceive as coherent. 

        In short, he must feel like he understands the use of an order before deciding to cooperate. In this sense, a strict yet gentle handling is necessary, and must be initiated ahead of time to prevent the Tibetan Terrier pup from developing any bad habits. 

        Of course, the only viable way of working with him is through positive reinforcement, rather than submission and coercion.

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        Being the good watchdog that he is, this dog does bark, but within moderation. He rarely goes over the top, especially if he has been trained and taught constraint.

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        Tendency to run away

        Very attached to his social group, this dog rarely strays from his home. And even if he were to follow an intriguing trail, he will always return to his family’s side.

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        Not at all comfortable with the notion of solitude, and despite his size, this companion dog can prove to be a real whirlwind around the house whenever he wants to kill time or make his frustrations be known.

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        Greedy / Gluttony

        Without being overly voracious, the Tibetan Terrier does indeed appreciate food and reward snacks in particular, which he may receive as encouragement during training sessions.

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        Guard dog

        Back in the day, this dog was mainly used for his watchdog capacities, not least because his sacred status in Tibet also inspired fear. This has hardened the little, robust dog, who still today is an excellent watchdog, even if he is mainly considered a companion dog.

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        First dog

        Also called the Tsang Apso, this dog can be a very good first companion. However, for the cohabitation to run smoothly, this Tibetan does need an owner capable of authority, who will be able to overcome the dog’s somewhat stubborn side, without ever resorting to violence. 

        The Tibetan Terrier is much more than a simple lap dog that lounges around on the couch all day- that is why you must scrupulously study all of the breed’s traits before making a choice.

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          Tibetan Terrier in a flat

          This little dog is all in all quite primitive, he enjoys walks in nature and is well adapted to harsh climates due to his origins. He prefers to live in the country, in a house with a garden. 

          Having said this, he can also adapt very well to city life, and it is usually in this environment that he can be encountered. 

          Living in a flat is not a problem for this dog but be careful not to leave him locked up alone for too long, or you may run the risk of finding some damage upon your return- instigated by boredom, frustration or anxiety.

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          Need for exercise / Sporty

          This dog is athletic, enduring and active, but within moderation. He can be satisfied by two or three walks a day without them necessarily having to be very physically stimulating. 

          It is sooner intellectually challenging activities that this dog craves in order to express his full potential.

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          Travelling / easy to transport

          Unlike many dogs belonging to group 9 (companion dogs), this one does not easily slip into a transport bag, given his size. His good nature and cheerfulness does, however, tend to make him a welcome guest everywhere.


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            Tibetan Terrier and cats

            He can live with a cat but it is preferable to have had him grow up with one.

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            Tibetan Terrier and dogs

            Very sociable and never one to fight, encounters with his fellow canines usually run smoothly if the Tibetan Terrier has been properly socialised as a pup.

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            Tibetan Terrier and children

            The Tibetan Terrier is jovial, docile, lively, very resourceful and gentle- in short, a great match for children. 

            Do be careful, however, not to have the children treat him like a doll that needs its long smooth hair brushed and tugged at!

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            Tibetan Terrier and the elderly

            He is also a very good companion to the elderly because his need for exercise can be satisfied by relatively undemanding outings to the local, neighbourhood park. Having said this, sedentary life is not compatible with this dog!



            The price of an Tibetan Terrier varies depending on its origins, age, and variety. You have to count an average of £880  for dogs subscribed to the Kennel Club. 

            With regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog of this size, you have to estimate an average of £ 18 per month.


            His long and abundant coat requires very regular, fastidious maintenance, so as to prevent knots from forming, and to preserve its beauty and protective properties. 

            His pendant ears also need to be checked and cleaned on a regular basis.


            In contrast to many of his fellow canines, the Tibetan Terrier is generally only subject to one moulting season a year, during which brushes will need to be daily. Other than that, shedding is quite moderate.

            Nutrition of the Tibetan Terrier

            Rather primitive, this dog prefers traditional nutrition based on meat, vegetables and carbohydrates. The meals must be modified according to the dog’s daily activities, and the latter may vary a lot from individual to individual.

            Not everyone is in the position to prepare homemade food though, in which case high-quality kibble sold commercially will come to the rescue of the busiest dog owners. 

            One meal a day is enough for a dog of this size, preferably in the evening to encourage better digestion.

            Health of the Tibetan Terrier

            Life expectancy

            Life expectancy is 13 years on average.

            Strong / robust

            Extremely robust, the Tibetan Terrier tolerates difficult weather without a problem.

            Withstand heat

            This dog is not fearful of heat, but he does need to be prevented from performing too intensely on hot days, and to be taken out for walks early in the morning and late at night.

            Withstand cold

            His double coat contains a wooly undercoat which protects him from the cold, and from bad weather in general.

            Tendency to put on weight

            Very energetic, this little dog rarely gains excess weight. His intended weight must be maintained through a balanced diet. Physical exercise should not be overlooked simply because this dog is part of the companion and non-sporting group!

            Common illnesses

            • Vascularisation of the retina
            • Hip dysplasia 
            • Ear infections
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