287 — Tibetan Spaniels: From Monastery Walls to the Back of the Sofa

Love the breeds

Tibetan Spaniels: From Monastery Walls to the Back of the Sofa

Ch. Avalon Riker of Ebonstern, circa 2002.

Host Laura Reeves caught up with three longtime breeders of Tibetan Spaniels, Kay Dickeson, Mallory Driskill and Carol Tyte, at the 2019 National Specialty in Albany, Ore.

Tibbies, as their owners call them, are a small, low-maintenance, long-lived, affectionate but independent breed. The breed’s history takes shape from the mists of time. These were the alert watch dog that ran the along the thick walls of the monasteries in Tibet, alerting their much larger brethren, Tibetan Mastiffs, to any approaching danger.

Weighing in at 9 to 15 pounds, Tibbies require no trimming for the show ring, are easy to maintain with simple brushing and frequently live to 16 years of age.

The ancient breed is a big dog in a little dog body, Tyte noted. Their instincts still guide them to “be up high and watch things” Dickeson said.

“They will get on the back of the sofa to look out the window,” Driskill noted, adding that “off the furniture” isn’t really a concept Tibbies honor.

Tibetan Spaniels may be any color or mixture of colors.

The first Tibetan Spaniels were imported to the U.S. from England in early 1970s. The breed was introduced to England in the early 1900s, Driskill said. Marlin Perkins, host of the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom television show, imported Tibetan spaniels. Tyte, who owns descendants of these dogs, noted that in the second and third generation pedigrees of those imports, the dogs names were listed as “unknown.”

Believed to predate Pekingese and Lhasa Apso, our panelists recommend Tibbies as a welcoming and engaging breed for owner handlers.

Moderation in all things is the goal for the Tibetan Spaniel in the show ring. Driskill noted the breed is not extreme in any area – coat, head or bone. The characteristic hare foot is important for the “wash and wear” dogs.

Aloof with strangers but not aggressive, Tibbies are generally not good off-leash and have a mind of their own, the panelists agreed.

“You can do obedience,” Driskill said, “but be prepared to cry.”

Tyte observed that the dogs have long and accurate memories.

“They’re like small children,” Tyte said. “You can’t let them get away with anything even once.”


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  1. Donna Sand on 05/13/2019 at 7:21 PM

    Thanks for the informative podcast! I have a puppy Tibbie from Kay and have her in agility class — she is very clever, very agile and very independent! My first Tibbie Cricket lived until she was 17.5 years old

  2. Charlotte R. VanHagen on 06/07/2019 at 10:35 AM

    These ladies definitely know their Tibbies. I was privileged to be given a Tibbie by Kaye Dickinson that had been beaten for 3.5 years by a man that lived in Arizona to just shy of his 4TH birthday. Now, this was my 76th dog I had rescued so I wasn’t new to rescuing. However, I was new to this breed; in fact, I had never heard of the breed! Prior to receiving Kaye’s , I had received a Llhaso Also/Tibetan Spaniel x that had taught me to walk again after suffering a neuralmuscular injury that kept me confined to a wheelchaIr for 20 years. I wasn’t sure which part of the former dog had alerted my senses but I wanted one or the other part of him. I called Kay & asked if she had a dog that for some reason or another she couldn’t sell or would let me make small payments & she said she had one if I wanted to take a chance. I was willing & I received an almost 4 year old that had been beat since he had been small. It took about 6 months to get Kodi tamed down enough that I could get close enough to approach him. After that, what these ladies spoke about is all so true &/I have had great joy teaching about the breed! Kodi is the diamond in the rough! Everywhere I go people want to know what kind he is because he is so cute & everyone loves him! Yes, he barks if someone Knocks in the door but I have put a sign on the door asking people not to knock or dog will bark! What happens is on them! Kodi has become quite the crowd pleaser, a therapy animal & my absolute favorite rescue animal. Hank you Kaye Dickinson for giving me the best dog I have ever kniwn iny 66 years of life! God bless you as much as yo u have blessed Mike & I! 😍😘🤗 Go Tibbies! 😍🤗😘 My heart now belongs forever to Tibetan Spaniels!

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