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6 Unique Tibetan Dog Breeds [With Photos]

Although Tibetan dog breeds aren’t particularly well known around the world, some people will have heard of the Tibetan Mastiff.

However, there are several other breeds – well known or not – that come from Tibet.

Here is a list of the other Tibetan dog breeds, including some information about each.

1. Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso walking on the lawn

The Lhasa Apso is another small Chinese dog breed, and is easily recognizable due to its distinctive appearance and popularity in the West.

It was originally bred as a guard dog in Buddhist temples, and so is naturally alert and wary of strangers.

Check Out: Chinese Red Dog– Good Guard Dog from China.

However, its behavior can be easily modified with training, and it can be a very sociable breed.

Typically, the breed stands around 11” tall, and the females are slightly smaller than the males.

They weigh between 14 and 18lbs, again with the females being slightly lighter.

Lhasa Apsos are known for their long, straight coat that’s very dense, and can be seen as slightly wavy in some dogs.

They are usually black, white, or gold, often with various markings and color variations within one coat.

Their temperament is usually calm but alert, and due to their historical use, they are naturally wary of strangers.

They are very loyal to their owners, and eager to please, but can also be very stubborn. While they’re not considered a very intelligent breed, they are receptive to obedience training if done properly.

They can be quite energetic and enjoy going for walks, although these should be monitored closely as the breed can be at risk of overheating in warmer climates.

They should be socialized with other dogs from an early age to avoid aggressive tendencies, although this can easily be done as part of their obedience training.

They can make good family pets, but owners should be mindful of leaving children alone with them.

If nothing else, their size means they can be more prone to injury if treated roughly.

One of the best features of the breed is that they have a surprisingly long lifespan.

Some Lhasa Apsos have been known to live well into their 20s, but standard life expectancy is between 12 and 14 years.

Many health issues associated with the breed are actually symptoms of old age, making them a good choice for a range of owners.

You’ll find Dog Breeds From Neighbouring Asian Countries in the links below:

What Are The Cons Of The Lhasa Apso Breed?

Surprisingly, there are actually very few cons to the Lhasa Apso breed.

Unlike many other purebred dogs, they have very few health complications, and when they do, they’re usually things like sight deterioration and obesity, which are common issues of old age.

The biggest “con” of the breed is that they need regular grooming due to their coat being so long and dense.

They essentially need brushing everyday, which isn’t a massive problem, but does require time and careful maintenance in order for them to look nice.

If their coat isn’t brushed regularly then it’ll become very matted, which might lead to skin issues.

Another con worth considering is that their ears need to be cleaned regularly.

Owing to their shape, their ears can build up wax very easily, and if this isn’t removed on a regular basis then they can develop ear infections.

Again, this should be done once a week, and while it doesn’t require much time or effort, a conscientious owner should always remember to do it.

The final con is that Lhasa Apsos aren’t great to have around small children.

This is less to do with the dog’s temperament as it is to do with their fragility.

Little children have a tendency to be quite rough with dogs, and while some other breeds can withstand this treatment, Lhasa Apsos can be injured quite easily.

However, they are fine to have around older children, as the dogs are very friendly by nature.

Are Lhasa Apsos Easy To Train?

 While Lhasa Apsos are fiercely independent by nature, and as a result can be quite stubborn, they aren’t too hard to train if you have patience and the right technique.

They require plenty of positive reinforcement to begin with, but will become easier to train as they become used to the actual training itself.

That said, Lhasa Apsos are considered one of the less intelligent breeds.

This might sound a bit cruel, but it’s worth bearing in mind when it comes to training.

You shouldn’t have too much problem teaching them basic obedience commands, which every dog should learn, but don’t expect to be entering them in obedience and agility competitions.

Their original purpose was never related to them learning commands, so it’s quite hard to do so.

Do Lhasa Apsos Shed A Lot?

Unlike breeds with a double coat, Lhasa Apsos actually shed surprisingly little.

A dog’s ability to shed is related to the composition of its coat, not its length.

Double coats require shedding because they adapt to seasonal changes, and so need to be thicker in winter, and shorter in summer.

Lhasa Apsos however keep the same coat all year round, and this results in significantly less shedding.

However, it’s worth noting that they do still shed.

All breeds shed, apart from ones that are known as hypoallergenic.

You’ll probably find that most of the hair a Lhasa Apso sheds will come out during grooming, meaning you can capture most of it before it ends up on the floor or furniture.

How Should You Groom A Lhasa Apso?

 As mentioned, a Lhasa Apso should be groomed regularly, and should be brushed once a day.

The more often their coat is brushed, the easier it’ll be to manage.

You have to make sure you brush all the way down to the skin; otherwise you’ll miss most of the tangles in their fur.

Along with regular brushing, you should aim to bathe your Lhasa Apso at least every other week.

This will help you to manage matted fur and tangles much easier, which left unchecked, can lead to painful skin infections.

You should also trim their nails weekly and brush their teeth regularly to avoid any dental issues.

2. Shih Tzu

Shih tzu dog breed running on the lawn

The Shih Tzu is probably one of the most recognizable dogs to come out of China.

Although the breed was developed in China, it originated in Tibet thousands of years ago.

They are popular among owners for their long coat and majestic appearance, and are regularly shown in competitions.

Shih Tzus have been kept in the Western world for hundreds of years and are recognized by all major kennel clubs.

The name Shih Tzu comes from the Chinese word “lion”, as it’s believed that the dogs look like the ancient Chinese lion guardians.

In English, it was also known as the Chrysanthemum Dog, but this name died out as the more “traditional” name became popular.

It’s also sometimes referred to as a Tibetan Lion Dog, but this name is somewhat controversial because there is debate about whether it originated in China or Tibet.

Shih Tzus are reasonably small dogs with short muzzles and large eyes.

Unlike many other smaller dogs, they don’t have any face wrinkles, which is an easy way to tell them apart from other breeds.

They typically have an underbite, which is actually a breed requirement for many kennel clubs. They have drop ears that are very furry, and are typically around 10.5 inches tall.

They usually weigh between 10 and 16lbs, although this might vary depending on kennel standards.

A Shih Tzu is easily identified by the texture and length of its coat, which is usually short and curly.

They can come in a wide range of colors, but white and gray is the most common combination. Their tails are very furry, and should curl over the back.

However, Shih Tzus are also known to have long and silky coats, which is the more traditional makeup.

If a Shih Tzu has a long coat, it requires regular grooming to keep it in good condition.

It also grows very fast, and can reach the floor in no time.

For this reason, the grooming can become very expensive because they’ll need to be taken every few weeks.

The long, silky coat is the type preferred in shows, and it’s not allowed to be trimmed too much, and is left as natural as possible.

It’s very easy to identify which type of coat a Shih Tzu puppy has, because even though it’s not very long when they’re young, the difference is mainly in the texture.

Shorter coats are usually wavy or curly, which is quite obvious, whereas long-haired Shih Tzus will have incredibly straight coats.

Bear in mind that long-haired coats require much more maintenance, so think about this if you’re looking to get hold of a puppy.

The Shih Tzu temperament is one of the best features about the breed.

Obviously it’ll be different between dogs, but as standard the breed is known for being very affectionate and loyal.

They can be very outgoing too, and are often the leader in a group of dogs.

They are very alert, and are known to be very active, which does mean that they also need regular exercise.

Many of these characteristics are leftovers from their profession as watchdogs.

However, as friendly as Shih Tzus are, they do need to be socialized with other dogs from a young age.

If this isn’t done, they can become quite aggressive round other dogs.

If you look to adopt an older Shih Tzu and already have pets, you might want to look into its history around other animals.

If you get a Shih Tzu puppy however, you should work with them to make them friendly around other dogs.

The Shih Tzu temperament also makes them good family pets.

They’re fine to have around children, but again should be introduced to them from a young age, otherwise they might become aggressive.

Shih Tzus are easy to train, but can also be very independent, so you might find training to be more difficult if you adopt an older dog.

Shih tzu dog infographic

Shih Tzu Health

One thing that potential Shih Tzu owners should be aware of is the health complications that are often associated with the breed.

Health problems are unfortunately all too common among purebred dogs, mainly due to human interference in genetics, and a desire for the breed to look a certain way.

The most common health problems are listed below:

Breathing Issues

Shih Tzus are considered brachycephalic dogs, which means they have squished noses and shortened breathing tracts.

This is also true of breeds such as pugs, and English and French bulldogs.

This issue leads to Shih Tzu having difficulty in hotter weather because they’re unable to cool themselves in the traditional way.

Modern advances mean that there is now surgery available to fix this issue, but it’s very expensive and actually doesn’t make too much difference.

Shih Tzu owners should be conscious of when they walk their dog, and how much exercise they give it.

Intervertebral Disk Problems

This issue leads to back problems, mobility issues, pain, and a lack of coordination.

It’s very common among toy breeds, and is untreatable, but can be managed with medication.

It typically affects older dogs, but can occur at any time.

The medication needed to manage this issue can become very expensive, and could also result in surgery later in life.

Other Problems

Shih Tzus are also known to suffer from hip dysplasia and epilepsy, although these are less common issues.

A good breeder will have all relevant health checks done on their puppies and will be able to supply you with this information.

However, if you’re looking to adopt an older dog, it’s worth taking them for a checkup before committing to the adoption so that you can decide whether this is something  you’re willing to manage.

Shih Tzu Facts & Figures:

Did You Know?

As the breed has been around for a long time, plenty is known about them, so here are some Shih Tzu facts.

  • The breed almost died out. In the early 20th century, the breed was almost wiped out when Empress Tzy Hsi died. She was the supervisor of the worldwide breeding program of several breeds, including the Shih Tzu, and after her death the program fell apart.
  • After the breed was nearly wiped out, it was actually saved by only 7 males and 7 females, from which all modern Shih Tzus are descended.
  • Shih Tzus were first brought to England from China, and from there were taken to the USA by soldiers after World War 2.
  • Shih Tzus do very well in agility competitions, although they’re more commonly thought of as show dogs. However, they’re actually quite active, and can do very well in agility rounds.
  • The breed is over 1,000 years old, but this is only the first record of the Shih Tzu. There’s every chance that they’re actually much older, and considering its origin is debated, this could be very likely.
  • Shih Tzus were considered holy dogs because they look like lions, which is a holy animal in Buddhism. They have also been a popular breed with Dalai Lamas in the past.
  • Shih Tzus are considered to be an “ancient breed.” This means that they’re more closely related to wolves than many other breeds, even though it might not look like it. This fact is actually true of a number of Asian breeds, which underwent significantly less variation than Western breeds.
  • They were a very popular breed among Chinese royalty, and often kept as lapdogs.

Related Questions

How can you tell if a puppy is a Shih Tzu or a Lhasa Apso?

Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos are very similar breeds and descend from the same ancestors, but there are some differences you can use to identify them.

The biggest indicator is the nose of the puppy, which will have a swirl of hair around it if it’s a Shih Tzu, and this will be missing on a Lhasa Apso.

Another good difference is that Shih Tzus are usually smaller than Lhasa Apsos, but beware of using this as your main indicator.

A Shih Tzu also has a rounder head, whereas a Lhasa Apso has a straighter muzzle.

Both have squashed faces, but the difference is in the shape.

This is less obvious in puppies, but you should be able to tell the difference by the length and shape of the muzzle.

Also, Lhasa Apsos will always have straight hair, but a Shih Tzu will sometimes have wavy hair. While this isn’t the best thing to use as an indicator of difference, it can be the deciding factor if you’re unsure.

Are Shih Tzus cuddly dogs?

The short answer to this question is yes, when they want to be.

The breed can be known as independent, but they definitely love a cuddle with their owner.

They’re a very affectionate breed, but the challenge can be winning their affection.

Providing you treat the dog well, it’ll be more than willing to have a nice cuddle with you.

Considering they were bred to be companion dogs, it’s in their nature to be happy, friendly, and cuddly with their owners.

3. Tibetan Kyi Apso

The Tibetan kyi apso is also known as the Tibetan collie (even though it isn’t one).

This type of misnaming is quite common with Eastern dog breeds, as it was simply a case of identifying them when Westerners explored Asia several hundred years ago.

Most of the names have stuck, but many breeds are better known by their traditional Tibetan names.

The kyi apso was traditionally used as a livestock guardian dog, and has a long coat, hence why it was identified as a collie.

In some places in Tibet, the coat is saved as used to make carpets, although this isn’t a particularly common practice.

The breed is recognized by their coat, their curled tail, and their beard.

Tibetan Mastiffs and kyi apsos fulfilled very similar roles, but the kyi apso is thinner and more athletic than the Mastiff.

It’s also much smaller, traditionally standing between 24 and 28 inches tall.

The standard weight for a kyi apso is around 100lbs, which is considerably lighter than the Mastiff’s 194lbs.

The kyi apso is considered a very hardy dog, and retains all the characteristics needed to survive a Himalayan winter, such as a long coat and the ability to breathe at high altitude.

When it comes to temperament, the kyi apso is considered quite calm and relaxed, but can be very defensive of its territory if it feels there’s a threat.

However, the breed is also known to be very playful when it wants to be.

It also retains its livestock guarding traits, and so is known to bark, so bear this in mind if you were thinking of getting one.

The kyi apso is very rare in the West, so you might have some difficulty finding a breeder, but if you do, be prepared to pay a lot of money.

Explore More Asian Dogs Below:

4. Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff standing

The Tibetan Mastiff is a large Chinese dog breed that originates in the nomadic cultures of China, Tibet, and Nepal.

Their main purpose was to protect livestock from predators, such as tigers and leopards. However, the breed has taken off in recent years, and has become very popular around the world.

Although the breed is known as a mastiff, it isn’t one, and this was just the name given by Western explorers when they first encountered the breed.

Typically, the breed stands up to 33” tall, and is favored by owners because of its size.

They make excellent guard dogs, as it’s in their nature, and just their sheer size makes them a formidable pet to keep.

The breed is known for its long, shaggy coat, which helped it survive the cold winters in mountainous regions.

They weigh between 121 and 198 lbs, but some of the biggest ever recorded weighed more than 250 lbs!

They obviously have to eat plenty of food due to their size, and this is something that regularly puts people off keeping them as pets.

When it comes to their nature, Tibetan Mastiffs are usually protective of their territory, and are very wary of strangers.

Ones bred by Western breeders are typically more laid back, simply because they’ve had their protective tendencies bred out in order to make them more desirable as domestic pets.

However, they usually retain some of their protective nature, and this makes them excellent guard dogs.

Due to their size, they obviously need to live in a house with plenty of space.

They’re usually happy kept in a large yard, but obviously aren’t suitable for small spaces, such as apartments.

They require regular walking, but aren’t particularly active. However, a short walk for such a massive dog is still going to be much longer than a typical walk for a small dog.

[ Does it have any similarities with the  Iranian Mastiff? ]

Tibetan Mastiff Infographic

Tibetan Mastiff Infographic

Why does a Tibetan Mastiff cost so much?

The main reason why Tibetan Mastiffs cost so much is that they’re very rare.

Although they’re known around the world, this is often because they’ve been reported about in news stories, rather than them being known as a neighbor’s dog.

This means that if you’re looking to get one for yourself then you might have to do a bit of searching.

Another reason why they’re so expensive is simply the maintenance costs associated with such a large breed.

They obviously need plenty of food, and many owners and breeders have to go out of their way to accommodate their massive size.

This is then reflected in the cost of a puppy, as the breeder has to make their money somehow.

Also, in some countries, particularly China, Tibetan Mastiffs are seen as a status symbol.

Much like other breeds with such a description, such as pugs, this is then reflected in the price of the puppies.

After all, if the breed is favored by the rich, then a breeder can get away with charging much more money for it.

Are Tibetan Mastiffs good family dogs?

For the most part, if you’ve got enough space and patience to deal with the breed, then they make good family pets.

They might be massive, but they can be good with children, and can obviously withstand slightly rougher treatment than smaller breeds.

However, due to their territorial nature, they should be socialized with animals and children from a very early age, otherwise they can become aggressive when agitated.

That said, they are very clever, and so take to training very well.

On that note, if you do decide to keep one indoors, they are housebroken very quickly, and are actually quite clean dogs.

If they are allowed indoors, they’ll usually just find somewhere to sleep between meals, and will happily tolerate noise associated with a busy family household.

Is a Tibetan Mastiff dangerous?

While they were originally bred to protect livestock, their protective traits have mostly been removed by Western breeders.

However, this doesn’t mean that they’re not still protective of their families or territory; it just means that they’re significantly less aggressive when doing so.

They’re not known to be big barkers, although this will change if they perceive a threat to the household.

That said, a large breed such as the Tibetan Mastiff should always be approached with caution.

Dogs are incredibly strong animals regardless of their size, and a Tibetan Mastiff will regularly outweigh a human.

It won’t take long for a dog to realize its size and power, and if confronted, it can use these to its advantage.

This shouldn’t be taken as a caution, or as proof that Tibetan Mastiffs are a dangerous breed.

If they’re raised properly, they will have very few aggressive traits, but should always be treated with respect and some degree of caution.

More than anything, they’re just huge dogs, and could easily overpower a person, even if they consider themselves to be strong.

How much does a Tibetan Mastiff cost?

 As mentioned, the Tibetan Mastiff is an incredibly expensive breed, which is mostly due to its rarity.

Prices will vary massively between breeders and your area, so make sure you do plenty of research before committing to a breeder simply because they’re local to your area.

A “good” price for a Tibetan Mastiff in the USA can be around $3,000, but you can pay much more for a purebred or “designer” dog.

Several years ago, a Chinese breeder actually sold a Tibetan Mastiff for $1.95 million!

This is probably the most paid for a dog in recorded history, and just goes to show the rarity of the breed and its popularity among the rich.

However, it’s unlikely you’d find them for this much in the West, or that you’d be willing to pay that kind of money for a dog.

5. Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniel dog sitting on grass

The Tibetan Spaniel is another example of a misnamed dog, as the breed doesn’t share any characteristics with the traditional hunting spaniel, but might have been named such because it looked similar to a lapdog breed, such as the Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

The breed can trace its heritage back over 2,500 years, and were used as watchdogs in Tibetan monasteries because of their excellent eyesight.

The breed looks quite similar to a number of other breeds, and is identified by its small head, blunt muzzle, and oval eyes.

Unlike other similar looking dogs, it doesn’t have any facial wrinkles, which is an easy way to tell it apart from other breeds.

Tibetan spaniels have long, fluffy coats and a feathered tail that curls back over its body.

They can be found in a wide range of colors, but the most common are red, black, white, or black and tan.

The standard size for a Tibetan spaniel is 10 inches tall, and weighing between 9 and 15lbs, although this is based on the breed standard.

It’s not uncommon to find larger dogs, but if you’re looking to enter competitions, this is the size range you need to aim for.

The breed specifications are quite strict, and this dog isn’t particularly common on the competition scene.

Tibetan spaniels are very clever dogs, and can be very independent.

They have a very cat-like personality, and enjoy climbing on objects.

They are very sociable animals, but need to be integrated with other dogs from a young age otherwise they can become quite aggressive.

They are known to bark when they believe they’re guarding, but this is a hangover from their original purpose as guard dogs.

6. Tibetan TerrierTibetan Terrier sitting on the lawn

Yet another breed that was misidentified by European explorers, this breed is also known by its traditional name of Tsang Apso.

While they bear similarities to terriers, they’re not in any way genetically related.

Tibetan terriers can trace their lineage back thousands of years, and fulfilled a range of uses, including companions, guard dogs, herding dogs, and retrievers.

Tibetan terriers are medium-sized dogs, and usually stand between 14 and 16 inches tall, and can weigh anywhere between 18 and 30 lbs.

Unlike many other “purebred” breeds, there is a great deal of variation in size.

Tibetan terriers have a medium muzzle with feathered ears.

Their bodies are quite compact with a high-set, curly tail.

They have a double coat, but shed their hair more like humans than other dogs.

It can grow quite long, and does need regular trimming and grooming to keep it looking nice.

They come in a wide range of colors, many of which are combinations, and all are accepted by breed standards (except chocolate).

Tibetan terriers coats can grow long enough to reach the ground, and they’re designed to withstand very cold temperatures.

For this reason, it’s not ideal to own one if you live in a warmer climate.

Tibetan terriers were bred as companions, and so by their nature they’re very friendly and very good family pets.

They can be very sensitive to their owner’s emotions, and make very good companion dogs. They’re not very aggressive dogs, and can be introduced to people and other dogs.

Tibetan terriers are also very clever, and pick up training very quickly.

This makes them a regular sight at agility competitions, where they have been known to excel.

Here are the rest of Asian Dog Breeds


Tibetan dog breeds might not be some of the best known, but they can be some of the nicest looking dogs.

Aside from the obvious breeds, some of them are incredibly rare in the Western world.

However, if you are looking to adopt any of them, regardless of their rarity, it’s always worth doing as much research as possible on your chosen breed.

You should always make sure that the breed’s needs fit in with your lifestyle, and that you’ll be able to offer the dog everything it needs.

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About the author: Pablo Pascua created dogbreedsfaq.com because of his interest in all the different breeds, and his desire to learn more. His inspiration comes from the many dogs he has owned throughout his life.