Tibetan Spaniel

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Tibetan Spaniel
Average Cost to keep/care for a Tibetan Spaniel

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #160 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Tibetan Spaniel breed is also commonly known by the names Tibbie, Little Lion Dog, Simkhyi.
12 - 15 years
Pedigree Breed ?
Yes - KC Recognised in the Utility Group
Males 36 - 41 cm
Females cm at the withers
Males 8 - 14 kg
Females 8 - 14 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£690 for KC Registered
£400 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


Tibetan Spaniels are charming dogs that are affectionately known as Tibbies. They hail from the high mountain regions of the Himalayas and since they were first introduced to the UK, they have become a popular choice as companion dogs and family pets thanks to their sweet personalities and their adorable looks. Today, Tibetan Spaniels are just as popular not only here in the UK, but in many other countries of the world and as always, they are a huge hit at dog shows throughout the world too.


Tibetan Spaniels are thought to be one of the most ancient breeds to come out of Tibet where they were revered by monks who lived in monasteries in the high, remote mountain regions of the Himalayas. They were highly prized as guard dogs thanks to their love of sitting up high so they could watch over everything that was happening far below them. However, these little dogs were also prized by the monks for being wonderful companion dogs and they would use them to keep warm during the harsh, winter months. It was the monks of Tibet who named them "Little Lion Dogs" because of their charming manes.

Tibetan Spaniels were among the first of the Tibetan breeds to have been introduced to the UK. The first record of a dog was in 1895 and it was at this time that a number of people took an interest in these little dogs and started breeding them. However, with the advent of World War I, breed numbers fell dangerously low, but luckily a female Tibbie was offered as a gift to Lady Wakefield during a visit to India. She eventually mated her to another Tibetan Spaniel that had been acquired directly from the monks of Tibet. These dogs were to become the foundation stock of all Tibetan Spaniels found in the UK today.

Their numbers and their popular grew over the following years and in 1959, the Tibetan Spaniel was recognised by The Kennel Club as a unique breed in its own right and awarded Challenge Certificate status at Championship Shows which included Crufts.


Height at the withers: Males 36 - 41 cm, Females cm

Average weight: Males 8 - 14 kg, Females 8 - 14 kg

Tibetan Spaniels are small, compact dogs that always have an alert look about them. They are slightly longer in the body than they are tall which adds to their charming looks. Male dogs tend to have slightly heavier coats than their female counterparts, but both have a wonderful mane of hair that covers their shoulders hence their nickname of "Little Lion Dog". Their heads are nicely proportioned in relation the rest of their bodies with dogs having a marked stop. Their muzzles are strong with dogs having a very well developed lower jaw and a nice black nose.

Their heads are well covered in long hair that falls forward without interfering with their vision. They have a small amount of longer hair on their lower jaws which forms a slight beard which adds to a Tibetan Spaniel’s charming looks. Their eyes are round and large being a dark brown in colour and set quite widely apart on a dog's face. Ears are nicely feathered and they drop down being set quite high and V-shaped. The Tibetan Spaniel can either have a scissor or reverse scissor bite.

Their necks are muscular, strong and moderately long which allows a dog to carry their heads proudly. Their forequarters are nicely furnished with dogs having well laid back shoulders and their front legs are straight and strong. They have compact, powerful and well-muscled bodies with their ribs being well laid back. Their topline is level and loins quite short with dogs having a level croup.

Their hindquarters are also nicely furnished with dogs having powerful, well-muscled back legs. Feet are large for such small dogs and they are round in shape being heavily feathered with hair growing between a dog's toes and their paw pads. They have moderately long tails that are set quite high and which dogs carry gaily curled over their backs. Their tails are nicely feathered and often have a slight kink at the tip which is allowable under their breed standard.

When it comes to their coat, the Tibetan Spaniel boasts having a nice double coat that consists of a profuse, fine top coat and a much woollier and finer undercoat. Their coat can either be wavy or straight. The accepted breed colours are as follows:

  • Black
  • Black and tan
  • Black and white
  • Black white and tan
  • Black with white chest
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate and white
  • Cream
  • Cream and white
  • Dark sable
  • Gold
  • Gold and white
  • Gold sable
  • Gold sable and white
  • Red sable
  • Sable
  • Sable and white
  • Tricolour
  • White
  • White and black
  • White and gold
  • White and gold sable
  • White and sable


The Tibetan Spaniel is known to be the perfect family pet and companion. They are cheerful, friendly, playful and highly sociable little dogs that thrive in a home environment. They can be real clowns when the mood takes them which is one of the charming traits that makes these little spaniels so endearing. They form strong bonds with their families, but can be a little wary and aloof around people they don't know. However, a Tibetan Spaniel would rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards a stranger, preferring to keep their distance until they get to know someone.

They are intelligent and they love to please which means Tibetan Spaniels are easy to train. In the right hands they pick up new things very quickly, but this includes both the good and the bad. They can be a little stubborn at times which is why they need to be handled firmly yet gently. It would be a mistake to pamper a charming Tibetan Spaniel too much because it could end up with them developing "Small Dog Syndrome" which can make them harder to manage and live with.

Puppies need to be well socialised from a young enough age for them to grow up to be more outgoing, confident, well-balanced adult dogs. Their training also has to start as early as possible and they need to be taught their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household or they may start to show a more dominant side to their nature. Tibetan Spaniels like other dogs, like to know who they can look to for direction and guidance and they are never happier than when they know what an owner expects of them.

Intelligence / Trainability

Tibetan Spaniels are intelligent and they are quick to learn new things. However, they are known to have a bit of a stubborn streak and if pampered a little too much they can become quite wilful. Early socialisation is a must and it has to include introducing a puppy to lots of new situations, people, noises, other animals and dogs once they've been fully vaccinated so they grow up to be well-rounded, obedient dogs.

Their training has to start early and it has to be consistent and always fair so that dogs know what is being asked of them. They are quite sensitive by nature and do not respond well to any sort of harsh correction or heavy handed training methods. However, they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement bearing in mind that it's better to offer fewer high value rewards than lots of lower value ones. The reason being that Tibetan Spaniels are prone to putting on too much weight far too easily.

Children and Other Pets

Tibetan Spaniels are social little dogs by nature and they thrive in a home environment forming strong bonds with their families. They are a good choice for families where the children are slightly older and who therefore know how to behave around small dogs. Any interaction between younger children and more especially toddlers, should always be supervised by an adult to make sure things stay nice and calm.

If a Tibetan Spaniel has grown up with a family cat in the home, they usually get on well together. However, they would not think twice about chasing off any other cat they come across. Care should also be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets, just in case.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Tibetan Spaniel Health

The average life expectancy of a Tibetan Spaniel is between 12 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

Tibetan Spaniels are known to be healthy little dogs that don't seem to suffer from the many hereditary health issues that affect other breeds. However, the conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:

Caring for a Tibetan Spaniel

As with any other breed, Tibbies need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


The Tibetan Spaniel's coat is medium to long and it can either be wavy or straight, but they always have a nice amount of silky, fine feathering which if allowed can grow quite long. Ideally, their coats need to be brushed every day, paying particular attention to any feathering to prevent any matts and knots from forming. As such they are high maintenance on the grooming front.

These little spaniels shed a tremendous amount of hair throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to keep on top of things. Many owners take their dogs to a professional groomer which makes it easier to keep a dog's coat in good condition in between visits to a grooming parlour.

It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.


Tibetan Spaniels are not high energy dogs, but they do love being out and about as often as they can. They are intelligent and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need to be given between 20 to 40 minutes exercise every day with as much “off the lead time” as possible included in their daily routine.

A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble bearing in mind that Tibetan Spaniels are known to be extremely good escape artists.

With this said, Tibbie puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.


If you get a Tibbie puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.

Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Tibetan Spaniel

If you are looking to buy a Tibetan Spaniel, you would need to pay anything from £700 to  over £900 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Tibetan Spaniel in northern England would be £18.22 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Tibbie and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £800 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Tibetan Spaniel would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.

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