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Spaniel Tibetano Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Tibetan Spaniel Club of America

Native Country

Other Names
Tibetan Spaniel, Simkhyi, Tibbie

Life Expectancy
Approximately 13-16 Years

Litter Size
Average 2-4 Puppies

Breed Group
AKC Non-Sporting

General Description

The Tibetan Spaniel has a domed head that is small, in comparison to the body. It has a short blunt muzzle free of wrinkles. Teeth meet in an undershot or level bite. The nose is black. The eyes are medium but in keeping with the face and are set wide apart, these are oval in shape. The Tibetan Spaniel does not have extra skin around the eyes; this helps to tell the breed apart from the Pekingese. The ears hang down either side of the head to cheek level and are feathered with a v shape. The neck is covered in a mane of hair, which is more noticeable in the male of the breed. The Tibetan Spaniel's front legs are a little bowed and the feet are "hare-like". This dog has a great feathered tail that is set high and is carried over their back. The coat is a silky double coat lying flat and is short and smooth on the face and leg fronts; it is medium in length on the body; it has feathering on the ears, toes and tail.

Breed Standard

Head: Small. Slightly domed skull. Slight stop. Short muzzle. Chin fairly high and wide. Complete dentition is preferable.
Ears: Set on fairly high, medium-sized, pendulous, standing slightly away from skull, well-feathered.
Eyes: Medium-sized, oval, fairly widely spaced. Dark brown. Eyelids edged in black.
Body: Fairly long. Neck fairly short, strong, well set-on, covered with a mane (or "shawl") of longer hair, especially in the male. Well-sprung ribs. Straight back. Strong hindquarters.
Tail: Set on high, carried curled gaily over the back in action. Well-furnished with hair.
Hair: Medium in length, silky, smooth on the foreface and fronts of the legs. Feathering on the ears and backs of the legs. Fine, dense undercoat.
Coat: All colors and combinations of colors are allowed.
Size: Dog: approx. 27 cm.Bitch: approx. 24 cm.
Weight: 4 to 7 kg.


The origins of this very ancient breed are unclear. Dogs were traded between Tibet and China so long ago that the Shih Tzu and the Pekingese may have contributed to the Tibetan Spaniel's development. Alternately, the Tibetan Spaniel crossed with the Pug may have produced the Pekingese. The Tibetan Spaniel has always been a favorite of Tibetan monks, who kept the breed in their monasteries and used him to turn praying wheels. Tibetan Spaniels were brought to Europe by missionaries in the fifteenth century.

Tibetan Spaniel prized as a pet and companion, but it was also a useful member of Tibetan monastic life. The little dogs would sit on the monastery walls, keeping watch over the countryside. Their keen eyesight and ability to see great distances made them excellent watchdogs. They would alarm bark to alert the monks and the Tibetan Mastiffs below. They also slept with the monks at night to provide warmth.

Village-bred Tibetan Spaniels varied greatly in size and type, and the smaller puppies were usually given as gifts to the monasteries. In turn, these smaller dogs used in the monastery breeding programs were probably combined with the more elegant Tibetan Spaniel-type dogs brought from China. Those bred closer to the Chinese borders were characterized by shorter snouts.

While the first specimens were brought to Great Britain in 1905, the breed was not developed there until after World War II.


Lively, energetic, fast, and agile, the Tibetan Spaniel is good-natured, affectionate, and gentle. He is calm, intelligent, fairly quiet, and unaggressive, but his mistrust of strangers makes him a good watchdog. He needs gentle training.

He is well-suited to apartment life, as long as he is walked daily. He needs regular brushing.


Watchdog, Pet.


The Tibetan Spaniel is a generally healthy dog.

Progressive retinal atrophy is a genetic disease that can occur in the breed. The disease is an inherited form of blindness in dogs that has in two forms: generalized PRA and central PRA. Generalized PRA is primarily a photoreceptor disease and is the form found in Tibetan Spaniels. The clinical signs have been observed between 1½ and 4 years, but as late at seven years. The disease is painless and affected dogs become completely blind. Currently there is no treatment, but affected dogs generally adapt well to their progressive blindness.

The earliest clinical sign of progressive retinal atrophy is "night blindness." The dog cannot see well in a dimly lit room or at dusk. The dog will show a reluctance to move from a lighted area into darker surroundings. The night blindness develops progressively into complete blindness. The British institution Animal Health Trust (AHT) devoted intensive research for PRA in Tibetan Spaniels, isolating the responsible gene. The mutation was identified by Louise Downs, as part of her PhD studies. A DNA test based on this mutation became available July 8, 2013.

A portosystemic shunt is an abnormal vessel that allows blood to bypass the liver, one of the body's filters, so that it is not cleansed. This rare condition in Tibetan Spaniels is often referred to as a "liver shunt".

Most shunts cause recognizable symptoms by the time a dog is a young adult but are occasionally diagnosed only later in life. Since the severity of the condition can vary widely depending on how much blood flow is diverted past the liver it is possible for a lot of variation in clinical signs and time of onset. Often, this condition is recognized after a puppy fails to grow, allowing early diagnosis. Signs of portosystemic shunts include poor weight gain, sensitivity to sedatives (especially diazepam), depression, pushing the head against a solid object, seizures, weakness, salivation, vomiting, poor appetite, increased drinking and urinating, balance problems and frequent urinary tract disease or early onset of bladder stones. A dramatic increase of these signs after eating is a strong supportive sign of a portosystemic shunt.

Like many breeds of dog, Tibetan Spaniels are susceptible to allergies. They can also experience cherry eye, a prolapsed third eyelid. Additionally, the shape of a Tibetan Spaniel's face makes it prone to a common cosmetic condition called weeping eye.

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