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.

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.

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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. Shi Tzu

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.

4. Tibetan Mastiff

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.


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.

Chalene Johnston About The Author: Chalene Johnston graduated with honors from University with a BA in psychology. She is a proud stay-at-home mom to her 2-year-old French Bulldog puppy, Stella! When she is not looking for adventure travel destinations, she loves to write! She writes for a wide variety of topics – with animals being one of her favorites.