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Alice van Kempen, Animal Photography
Ron Willbie, Animal Photography
He’s not a terrier, but the mild-mannered “TT” is a loving family dog who was bred to traipse around snowy mountains with nomadic herdsmen. He stands out for his profuse and protective double coat, a fall of hair over the eyes, a well-feathered tail and large, round, flat feet designed for sure-footedness in snowy terrain.
The Tibetan Terrier was nicknamed Luck Bringer and Holy Dog in his homeland of Tibet.
The Tibetan Terrier (who is not really a Terrier) is called the Luck Bringer in his homeland of Tibet. He traveled the high, cold plateaus with nomadic herdsmen and guarded their tents. For fear of tempting fate by selling “luck,” the dogs were never sold but instead given in return for favors or as special gifts. The medium-size dogs were raised by Tibetan Buddhist lamas, or monks, and also bore the nickname Holy Dog.
The mild-mannered and friendly Tibetan Terrier, known as the TT to his friends, has a people-loving attitude. His moderate size of 20 to 24 pounds makes him a good travel companion, and his moderate activity level and sturdy athleticism make him suitable as a walking, hiking, or jogging buddy. He’s capable of performing well in dog sports such as agility, rally and obedience. Train him with patience and consistency, using positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards.
Brush the Tibetan Terrier’s long double coat a couple of times a week to remove dead hair and prevent or remove mats or tangles. He sheds twice a year, and during that time you’ll need to brush him more often to keep the hair under control. Of course, you’ll need to trim his nails as needed, brush his teeth at least weekly, and check his ears weekly and clean them if needed.
It goes without saying that the Tibetan Terrier needs to live in the house and never outdoors. A Tibetan Terrier relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship is an unhappy Tibetan Terrier indeed.
The Tibetan Terrier might well be called the original high plains drifter. He was raised in monasteries by Tibetan lamas, or monks, and traveled the high plateaus of his mountainous country, guarding the tents and herding the flocks of nomadic people. Known as Holy Dogs because of their origins in the lamaseries, the shaggy dogs were never sold, only given as gifts in return for favors or as a mark of esteem.
One of the lucky people to receive a Tibetan Terrier as a gift was a British doctor practicing in India. Her name was Agnes R. H. Greig, and she was given a female puppy by the grateful family of a patient. Greig named the puppy Bunti, acquired a male, and bred a litter. The dogs did not have a breed name as such, so the British decided to call them Tibetan Terriers, despite the fact that they bore no relationship to Terriers at all.
The Kennel Club of India wrote a breed standard for the dogs in 1930. The Kennel Club in England began registering the dogs seven years later. Greig returned to England and established the Lamleh line of Tibetan Terriers. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1973. The TT ranks 90th among the breeds registered by the AKC, the same position it held a decade ago.
Tibetan Terriers have a nice, middle-of-the-road temperament that can make them excellent companions to all types of people and families. They aren’t too active or too laidback. They don’t bark excessively, but they are alert and make great watchdogs, as befits their heritage. Puppies are exuberant, but adult TTs are best described as sensible and charming. The breed’s downfall can be its inquisitiveness. Keep the TT in a securely fenced yard, and put away things that he shouldn’t get into.
The Tibetan Terrier is highly intelligent and can be mischievous, so watch out for his sense of humor. With people he doesn’t know, he may be reserved, another remnant of his background as a watchdog. The TT is good at reading emotions and will adapt his mood to suit yours. If you need cheering up, the TT will do his best to oblige, and if you are in a great mood, he’s happy right along with you.
This is an agile, athletic dog who can do well in many different activities and dog sports. Look for him in the agility, obedience, or rally rings. He’s a super hiking companion and a wonderful therapy dog. To the TT’s way of thinking, if his person is doing something, he wants to be involved too. If nothing else, be sure he gets daily walks and playtime, plus plenty of time interacting with you, whether that’s supervising meal preparation or watching television together.
When training a TT, be patient and use positive reinforcement techniques: praise, play, treats, or other rewards. He can be an independent thinker and will use his intelligence to train you if you aren’t careful.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 or 10 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a TT, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Health problems that have been seen in Tibetan Terriers include hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy and lens luxation, congenital deafness, and canine neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (a rare disease in which deposits of fatty pigments in the brain and eyes cause illness).
The Tibetan Terrier Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Tibetan Terrier to achieve CHIC certification, he must have a hip clearance from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP), an OFA hearing evaluation based on the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test, and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy, renewed annually. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs “vet checked” is not a substitute for genetic health testing. If a breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been vet checked, or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Tibetan Terrier at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of diet and exericsie to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Tibetan Terrier’s heavy double coat must be brushed once or twice a week to keep it in good shape. Tools you’ll need are a high-quality pin brush, a slicker brush for removing small mats, and a stainless steel Greyhound comb. Thoroughly brush small sections at a time. Brushing is important because it removes loose hair that would otherwise form mats.
As you brush, spray the coat with a mixture of water and a small amount of coat conditioner to reduce static electricity — you don’t want to shock him — and prevent the hair from breaking. Start at the front feet and work your way up and then back, ending with the tail. Be sure to brush in the same direction the coat grows.
Look for mats or tangles in the area where the leg joins the body and behind the ears. Both are common places for them to form. Comb them out before they get bad, or just trim the hair in the legpits to reduce the chance that they will form (don’t do this if you plan to show your TT).
You can bathe your Tibetan Terrier every seven to 10 days if you want. Brushing and bathing him frequently not only keeps his coat clean, it helps it to look nice and grow well.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Keep the hanging ears clean and dry. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is most interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. And remember that breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical.
Look for more information about the Tibetan Terrier and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Tibetan Terrier Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the TTCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to take back a dog at any time in its life if the owner can’t keep it.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a TT puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult TT might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult TT may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a TT in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the TT’s available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a TT. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Tibetan Terriers love all Tibetan Terriers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Tibetan Terrier Club of America can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other TT rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a TT home for a trial to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Tibetan Terrier, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Tibetan Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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