The Tibetan Terrier is a dog with many uses, able to , , and also be a suitable companion dog. Their utility in Tibet meant that the first examples of the breed available in the west were generally given as gifts, as the Tibetan Terrier, along with other Tibetan breeds, were too valuable to the people who owned them to casually sell. As such, the early history of the breed is linked to only a handful of dogs.
The Tibetan name for the breed, Tsang Apso, roughly translates to "shaggy or bearded dog, from the province of Tsang". Some old travelers' accounts give the name "Dokhi Apso," or "outdoor" Apso, indicating a working dog which lives outdoors. Other "Apso" dogs from Tibet include the smaller and more familiar Lhasa Apso and the very Do Khyi Apso
Recent DNA analysis has concluded that the Tibetan Terrier is descended from the most ancient dog breeds.
The appearance of the Tibetan Terrier is that of a powerful, medium sized dog of square proportions, with a shaggy coat. Overall, there should be a feel of balance. Fully grown, he or she should look like a miniaturized Old English Sheepdog.
The head is moderate, with a strong muzzle of medium length, and a skull neither rounded nor flat. The eyes are large, dark, and set fairly far apart. The V-shaped drop ears are well feathered, and should be set high on the sides of the skull. The nose is always black, regardless of coat colour.
The body is well muscled and compact. The length of the back should be equal to the height at the withers, giving the breed its typical square look. Height for either sex is 14-16 in and weight is 18-30 lb , with 20-24 lb preferred, but all weights acceptable if in proportion to the size.
The tail is set high, well feathered, and carried in a curl over the back.
One of the more unusual features of the Tibetan Terrier is the broad, flat feet with hair between the toes. They are ideal for climbing mountains and act as natural snow shoes.
Tibetans have hair, not fur; as a result, their coat grows continuously and pet animals will require occasional trimming. They do not shed but rather slough hair at a rate similar to that of most humans. The exception is at approximately nine months when puppies slough their entire coat in advance of acquiring their adult coat. The double coat is profuse, with a warm undercoat and a topcoat which has the texture of human hair. It should not be silky or curled, but wavy is acceptable. Long and thick, it is shown natural, but should not be so long as to touch the floor, as is typical in breeds such as the Lhasa Apso or . A fall of hair covers the face and eyes, but long eyelashes generally prevent hair from getting in the Tibetan Terrier's eyes, and the breed has very good eyesight.
All colors are permissible, barring liver and chocolate, and none are preferred. Tibetan Terriers are available in any combination of solid, particolor, tricolor, brindle or piebald, as long as the nose leather is black and the eyes and eye rims are dark.
The temperament has been one of the most attractive aspects of the breed since it was first established in the 1920's. They are amiable and affectionate family dogs, sensitive to their owners and gentle with older children. As is fitting a dog formerly used as a watch dog, they tend to be reserved around strangers, but should never be aggressive nor shy with them.
Suitable for apartment living, the Tibetan is still an energetic and surprisingly strong dog, and needs regular exercise. Their energy level and intelligence is well suited for dog sports such as . They are steadfast, determined, and clever, which can lead to them being stubborn. Some dogs of this breed can often be jealous, which can make it hard to live with another pet.
Though not yappy, the Tibetan Terrier has an assertive bark, likened to a rising siren.
The Tibetan Terrier enjoys the long life span often associated with small dog breeds, and generally lives from 17-20 years.
Though an athletic breed that has been bred for a natural look, the Tibetan Terrier is still susceptible to a variety of health problems, especially those related to the eyes and joints. These can include:
*Progressive retinal atrophy
Because of that, Tibetan Terrier clubs recommend purchasing from breeders who participate in eye and hip testing, such as the Canine Eye Registration Foundation and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals .