Buddhist monks originally used the Tibetan Spaniel as a watch dog in the Himalayan monasteries. It would perch high up on the stone walls where it would have a good view of approaching strangers. Upon new arrivals, it would bark to signal the guard dogs to be alert. There has even been some speculation that the dog was trained to turn the Tibetan prayer wheels. The dog is sometimes called the "little lion dog" and this may come from a story that suggests the Buddha was accompanied by a lion that followed him everywhere like a dog. The dogs were so revered by people that they were often given to nobility in Tibet and China.
The dog is sometimes referred to as a "Tibbie" by Tibetan Spaniel aficionados. The breed is known for its stubbornness and unique sensitivity. It is a dog that doesn't do well with obedience training but will eagerly be compliant with the right owner that touches its heart. In return, this dog seems to be capable of reading its owner's moods and will offer comfort when an owner is sick or upset. It's moods can range from playful to obstinate and everything in between. It has a wonderfully expressive face that can easily convey the mood of the dog.
The dog is still rare in the United States where it can be difficult to procure and can cost up to $1000 or more. You can locate a breeder through different lists, but you most likely will have to wait to get a pup. Some Tibetan Spaniels end up in shelters because their owners didn't understand the dog's temperament and environmental needs.
The dog can use its paws in quite a dexterous fashion, opening cupboards, digging under gates, and unfastening low-hanging locks. This dog can be a very quick escape artist, but it is happiest at home and will return pretty quickly. The dog also still prefers to sit on high perches reminiscent of the monastery walls. It is not unusual to find them lounging on a low-hanging windowsill or the back of a high chair.
The dog does well in apartment settings as long as it has constant companionship. It suffers from separation anxiety when it is left alone for long periods of time and will regress in housetraining behavior and destructively chew furniture to make a point when it feels it has been abandoned. While a quiet dog, for the most part, if left alone it will also display annoyance barking. It does better in cooler climates, although it is not an outside dog. It can get heatstroke quite easily in hot climates and should be protected from too much heat exposure.