Breed of the Week: Tibetan Spaniel

This week we’re taking a look at the Tibetan Spaniel.  Like the Tibetan Mastiff and Tibetan Terrier, the Tibetan Spaniel hails from the mountainous region of Tibet where they were originally kept by Buddhist monks, also known as lamas, as companion and alarm dogs.  They would also gift the little dogs to foreign dignitaries, which is how they ended up in both China, where they crossbred with the Pekingese, and Japan, where they crossbred with the Japanese Chin.

Although they are known as a spaniel, they are, in actual fact, not a true spaniel.  True spaniels are quite different and were bred to be gun dogs.  Tibetan Spaniels may have been given the name spaniel simply because of their resemblance to the bred down lap-dog spaniels such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Friendly and loving with their family, Tibetan Spaniels may be aloof toward strangers due to the watchdog characteristics bred into them thousands of years ago.  They should, however, never be aggressive.  Just like a larger watchdog, Tibetan Spaniels will set up an alarm bark when they see or hear something out of place or when a stranger is approaching their home.  For this reason, they may not be suitable for apartments where sound is an issue.  However, if sound isn’t an issue the Tibetan Spaniel is suited to any home, whether studio apartment, townhouse, suburban house, or ranch house.

The Tibetan Spaniel is known as one of the most cat-like of the dog breeds.  Why?  Because they love to be as high up as they can possibly be to see what’s going on outside!  This includes on the backs of couches, on tables, on dressers, on window sills (if they’re wide enough), and any other high place they can reach.  They are also rather independent thinkers and, though easy to train, may choose when and when not to obey.  For this reason, a fenced in yard is a must!  One never knows if their Tibetan Spaniels are just going to up and walk away one day simply because they feel like it.  They should also be kept on a leash during walks.  Some of that independent nature may have them wandering away and choosing not to come back when their owner calls.

Nonetheless, the Tibetan Spaniel is a social, emotional, and empathetic breed with a need to be with their human and their family as much as possible.  They do not like being left on their own for long periods and may develop separation anxiety as a result.  The best place for a Tibetan Spaniel is with their human, although they fare better when left alone if they have a companion animal (or two) around.  As they tend to get along well with both dogs and cats, either will do as a companion.

Their coat, though a double coat and long on their tail, the backs of their legs, and on their ruff, only requires minimal brushing once a week and baths only as needed.  Their exercise requirements are also minimal.  Although they can and sometimes do participate in dog sport like agility, Tibetan Spaniels are quite happy with one or two walks a day or some playtime in the yard.

These are great dogs for first-time owners, but even so, before purchasing or adopting a Tibetan Spaniel, do your research!  They are easy to groom and easy to exercise and even easy keepers, but they don’t always like to obey and will need firm and consistent training from an early age.  Just like any other dog, they will also need early socialization and exposure to different sights, sounds, and smells to prevent fear or anxiety associated behaviors.

Chinese guardian lion

Fun Fact:  Tibetan Spaniels came to be regarded as “little lions” due to their resemblance to the Chinese guardian lions that gave the little dogs great value and prestige.

Do you or have you owned a Tibetan Spaniel?  Please tell us about him/her in the comments below!  I’d love to hear about your experiences with the breed.

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