Brought into existence by Buddhist monks, the breed spent its early days in the Tibetan monasteries, standing on the flat rooftops, awaiting the approach of strangers and intruders. Bred to resemble a miniature lion - symbolic of Buddha - the Tibetan Spaniel is a distinctive and unique breed, highly valued throughout its existence. Originating in Tibet at a date unknown, common conjecture places its development over 2,000 years ago, with depictions of the breed in Eastern art dating back to 1100 BC. Prized by Buddhist monks and never sold, the Tibetan Spaniel was often gifted to visiting aristocrats or distinguished guests, thereby increasing its prevalence throughout Asia. Introduced to England with the return of medical missionaries, the Tibetan Spaniel grew in popularity, only to be officially recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1984.
The breed is easily recognisable in structure and appearance, boasting a rectangular frame, short legs, a small, blunt face and muzzle, moderate-length ears, and a high-plumed tail carried over the back. The Tibetan Spaniel is often mistaken for the Pekingese although there are distinct differences between the two breeds. The coat is typically dense and soft, commonly observed in solid or parti-colours of gold, cream, fawn, white, red, and black, with or without tan markings. The Tibetan Spaniel is a skilled climber, with many likening its personality to that of a cat, so observation is always necessary when off the leash. Some suggest that the Tibetan Spaniel is adverse to wet weather, and will refuse leaving the house in the rain.
Despite being an intelligent and fun-loving breed, the Tibetan Spaniel is not a suitable breed choice for everyone. Notoriously strong-willed and difficult to train, requiring firm leadership, early socialisation and consistent training in obedience and manners from puppyhood, the Tibetan Spaniel demands patience and attention from all it comes into contact with. Once trained, the breed has the potential to be an affectionate, docile and charming companion, engaging well with children and remaining vigilant to change and threat around the home. On average, a healthy Tibetan Spaniel will weigh 4-7 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 12-15 years. It is not uncommon for the breed to outlive this expectancy.
Generally healthy and long-lived, the Tibetan Spaniel is susceptible to few breed-specific health conditions. These include optical disorders, with entropion, retinal dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy being most prevalent, as well as epilepsy, congenital deafness, orthopedic problems and respiratory difficulty being well documented in the breed.
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