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Tibetan Terrier, the Ancient Dog from Tibet

WHALENNN_0573The Tibetan Terrier is a medium-size breed of dog originated in Tibet. Despite its name, it is not a member of the terrier group. The breed acquired its name from European travelers who first encountered the breed due to its resemblance to terriers. The Tibetan name for the breed, Tsang Apso, roughly translates to “shaggy or bearded (apso) dog, from the province of Tsang”. Some old travelers’ accounts give the name Dokhi Apso or “outdoor” Apso, indicating a working dog which lives outdoors.

Bred and raised in monasteries by lamas over 2000 years ago, Tibetan Terriers were kept as good luck charms, mascots, watchdogs, and companions. In addition to herding sheep, they were also used to retrieve articles that fell below mountain sides.

Known as the “Holy Dogs of Tibet”, they were never sold but only given as gifts by monks to promote good fortune. As such, the early history of the breed is linked to only a handful of foundation dogs. Recent DNA analysis has concluded that the Tibetan Terrier is descended from the most ancient dog breeds.

Appearance:

The Tibetan Terrier is a powerful, medium sized dog of square proportions, with a shaggy coat. They vary widely in height and weight, ranging from 14-16 in (35–41 cm) and is 18-30 lb (8–14 kg), with 20-24 lb (9.5–11 kg) preferred for either sex. All weights are acceptable if in proportion to the size. Fully grown, the Tibetan Terrier resembles a miniaturized Old English Sheepdog. The head is moderate, with a strong muzzle of medium length, and a skull neither rounded nor flat. The eyes are large, dark, and set fairly far apart. The V-shaped drop ears are well feathered, and should be set high on the sides of the skull. Although the preferred colour for the nose is black, in showdogs, they are also sometimes brown. The body is well muscled and compact. The length of the back should be equal to the height at the withers, giving the breed its typical square look. The tail is set high, well feathered, and carried in a curl over the back. One of the more unusual features of the Tibetan Terrier is the broad, flat feet with hair between the toes. They are ideal for climbing mountains and act as natural snow shoes.

The hair of Tibetans has a long growth cycle. As a result, their coat grows quite long and pet animals will require occasional trimming.

All colors are permissible, barring liver and chocolate, and none are preferred. Gold is the rarest. Tibetan Terriers are available in any combination of solid, parti-color, tricolor, brindle or piebald, as long as the nose leather is black and the eyes and eye rims are dark.

Temperament:

The temperament has been one of the most attractive aspects of the breed since it was first established. They are amiable and affectionate family dogs, sensitive to their owners and gentle with older children if properly introduced. As is fitting for a dog formerly used as a watch dog, they tend to be reserved around strangers, but should never be aggressive nor shy with them. Though not prone to excessive barking, the Tibetan Terrier has an assertive bark.

Suitable for apartment living, the Tibetan is still an energetic and surprisingly strong dog, and needs regular exercise. The energy level of the Tibetan is moderate to high and its general nature is happy, active, lively, intelligent and agile. As a result, they are well suited for dog sports such as agility. They are steadfast, determined, and clever, which can lead to them being stubborn. Tibetan Terriers are usually charming and loyal. Some dogs of this breed can often be jealous, which can make it hard to live with another pet.

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