Despite its name, the breed is not classified as a Terrier under Kennel Club standards, but is considered the original herding dog, hailing from the monasteries of Tibetan monks over 2,000 years ago. Falling within the 'utility' breed group, the Tibetan Terrier shares its classification with the non-sporting Poodle, Bulldog, Dalmatian and Akita. Primarily bred as a guardian of livestock and property, the Tibetan Terrier assisted in many working fulfillments, and was highly valued by breeders and enthusiasts alike. Due to the geographical isolation of Tibet, the breed has remained relatively pure, with cross-breeding being restricted. Believed to be a divine bringer of good fortune, the Tibetan Terrier was never sold, only venturing outside its homeland because it was gifted to visiting nobles and distinguished guests. The Tibetan Terrier was originally registered as the Lhasa Terrier, and was recognised officially by the American Kennel Club in 1973.
A dog of medium build, the Tibetan Terrier bears a striking resemblance to the Old English Sheepdog in everything but size. It is also likened to the Lhasa Apso, Shih Tzu and Tibetan Spaniel - likely descendents of the breed. Otherwise, the Tibetan Terrier boasts a compact frame, with short legs, a heavily feathered tail that arches over the back, dark, wide-spaced eyes, and a level topline. The double coat is of a rustic appearance, permissible in all colours and patterning, and serves to insulate the dog in cold climates. Typically, the coat can be either wavy or straight and has a long growth cycle, meaning regular grooming is necessary. Further characteristic to the breed is its broad feet, which aid the dog's balance over difficult terrain.
Despite being stubborn, strong-willed and disobedient at times, the Tibetan Terrier has the potential to be an affectionate and mannered companion, responding well to consistent training from puppyhood. When left to its own devices, the Tibetan Terrier can wreak havoc in the home, displaying destructive behaviours due to loneliness and boredom. For this reason, regular exercise, mental stimulation and human companionship is imperative, ensuring your dog is contented, relaxed and healthy. Vigilant to change and threat, the Tibetan Terrier makes and excellent watch dog, engages well with children and adapts well to new situations and people. On average, a healthy Tibetan Terrier will weigh 8-14 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 12-15 years.
Generally healthy and long-lived, the Tibetan Terrier is prone to few breed-specific conditions. Those it can suffer from include optical disorders, with lens luxation and progressive retinal atrophy being most prevalent in the breed, congenital deafness and various orthopedic complaints. Heart murmurs are also well documented in the Tibetan Terrier.