Dogs In The Tibetan Monastery, Fun Facts

Tibetan Dog

I have always loved dogs, and I have had over five Tibetan spaniels; we used to breed Tibetan Spaniels in China. Many people may not realize this, but Tibetan dogs have a long history of living in the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with the Tibetan Monks.

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For thousands of years, Tibetan dogs have been an essential part of the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Different Tibetan Dogs would be watchdogs, while others were mainly companions for the Buddhist monks. At one time, the Tibetan dogs were such an essential part of the Tibetan Monastery life that the dogs were not bought or sold but were given mainly as gifts to worthy individuals or kept as part of the Tibetan Monastery.

Tibetan Spaniels – Lived in the Tibetan Monasteries

Tibetan Spaniels, also known as Tibbies, lived in the Tibetan Monasteries with the Tibetan Buddhist Monks. The small breed of Tibetan dog was known as “Simkhyi,” which means house dog, room dog, or even bedroom dog.

The Tibetan Spaniels were considered one of Tibet’s essential monastery Tibetan dogs. They were kept as the Lama’s dog or given to live with one of Tibet’s aristocratic classes. The fact that these small Tibetan dogs lived in the monastery with the monks shows the great importance that these dogs played in the life of the Tibetan Monasteries.

Stories are told of these small Tibetan Spaniel dogs sitting next to the Tibetan Lamas on the laps. As the Tibetan Lamas would often sit for a long time and mediate, these small Tibetan Spaniel dogs are known to be excellent lap dogs who love to be near their owners.

The Tibetan Spaniel dogs could usually roam freely around the Tibetan Monasteries, but they are incredibly loyal dogs they typically choose to be near their owners. The Tibetan Spaniels would sit for hours beside the monks to take part in the prayer, rituals, and mantras of their masters.

Often the Tibetan Spaniel will also join their masters on what is known as the Koras – the clockwise walks around the sacred monument. The Tibetan Spaniels usually join their masters on their Koras as they happily walk beside them.

Because of how involved the Tibetan Spaniel has been in the lives of the Tibetan Lamas, many consider the Tibetan Spaniels to be a Lama dog or a Lama lap dog.

Tibetan Spaniels and other Tibetan dogs exhibit some very human life behavior. If you cry or see a baby crying, they may run over to them and try to console them. They will be very loyal to their family to the point of not allowing an intruder to come in that they think can harm the family or their home.

In Tibet and the Monasteries, the Tibetan Spaniels are known to be warm their owners’ beds, so many of the Tibetan Spaniels were treated as family members and allowed to sleep on or near the bed.

In Tibet, many consider the Tibetan Spaniel to be like a “little lion.” The Tibetan Spaniel has a lion-like look to its face.

A Tibetan Spaniel with a white spot on the forehead
A Tibetan Spaniel with a white spot on the forehead

In Tibet, many monks prefer Tibetan Spaniels that are black or tan, but they love to have a dog with a white chest, and they believe the white on the chest stands for a pure heart. They also like dogs with white feet, and a white spot on the forehead called a Buddha mark.

Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Terrier Dogs And the Monestaries

The Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Terrier Dogs are also essential dogs in the life of the traditional Tibetan Monastery. In Tibet, these dogs are known as “Do Khyi,” which means “chained dog.”

The “Do Khyi” are found in Tibet with everyday people and the nomads. Both breeds are known as being excellent watchdogs.

Many Tibetan Monasteries in Tibet will keep the Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Terriers as watchdogs at the front of the monastery, mainly with a chain. As the Venerable Gondar Rinpoche said to Sandra Klein, a critical Tibetan dog in Switzerland, he said:

“In remote smaller monasteries, dogs play an important role. I have my own monastery, the Gonsar monastery, which is located far away in the mountains of Lhasa. The Do Khyis are kept there for protection from thieves and other attacks. They are attached on both sides of the entrance. It is very impressive to pass near these big animals barking with their thunderous voices, jumping up and down, and being held back only by the chains.”

Venerable Gonsar Rinpoche

In the Tibetan Monasteries, nuns depend upon the Do Khyi’s or the larger Tibetan dogs as the Tibetan Terriers and Lhasa Apso for their protection. These dogs help to ensure that the nuns are kept out of danger or alerted to when any hazards may come.

Dogs In The Tibetan Monastery Podcast

Listen To Our Podcast Tibetan Dogs below or by clicking here.

The Tibetans prefer that their guard dogs be black or tan; they feel these colors make the dog more fierce-looking when any intruders try to come. If the dog has any spots above its eyes, it can help to make the dog look awake even when they are asleep.

The Tibetans believe if the dog has a spot above the eyes, it gives them four eyes, which helps them see demons and protect the house from demons or other intruders.

Tibetan Dogs and Tsampa

A bowl of Tsampa

In Tibet, one of the staples is known as Tsampa, which is ground-up roasted barley flour. Tsampa can also be mixed with butter, or “pag.”

At the Tibetan Monasteries, the dogs are fed the Tsampa. Tibetan Spaniels love the “pag” provided to them by hand, or the Tsampa, and butter. If you have a Tibetan Spaniel, you may find, as I did, that they love butter.

Some of the larger dogs, such as the Tibetan Terriers and Lhasa Apso, would also eat the Tsampa, but many times the Tsampa would be cooked in a broth of bones, and even a bone would be added for them to chew on.

The Threat Of Snow Leopards and Tibetan Dogs

In Tibet, the Snow Leopards are a massive threat to Tibetan dogs, especially the Tibetan Spaniel. Often, the Snow Leopards may jump on the roof of the house during the nighttime; in Tibet, the homes usually have a flat roof that can act as a terrace.

If the Tibetan Spaniel hears the Snow Leopard is coming, as they want to protect their family, they will often jump onto the terrace to try to drive the Snow Leopard away.

Tibetan Terrier

If the Snow Leopard comes across a Tibetan Terrier, there is a chance that the Terrier may be able to win that fight against the Snow Leopard. If the Tibetan Terrier wins the fight against the snow leopard, the Snow Leopards will never dare to return to that house again.

This shows how much the Tibetan dogs want to protect their families; they will even fight the Snow Leopards to ensure those they love are protected and safe. Tibetan Dogs are usually considered loyal, trustworthy guard dogs who are wary of all kinds of strangers that come into their homes.

If you are looking for a dog that will protect you and your household, then a Tibetan dog is perfect. I have had many Tibetan Spaniels, and I can tell you that they do not just bark to bark, but when they bark, it is because they have heard something or want to alert me to something going on around me.

Tibetan dogs are wonderful companions and family dogs. If you are looking for a larger dog to help guard your house and your family, the Tibetan Terrier may be the right dog for you. The Tibetan Terriers have kept their masters safe for centuries.

 Tibetan Spaniel
Tibetan Spaniel

If you want a dog that can sit on your lap, sleep on your bed, and be a loyal playmate and companion, then the Tibetan Spaniel may be the dog for you. They are small yet loyal guard dogs that will be there for you to sit on your lap while at the same time watching out for any intruders.

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By clicking here, you can discover What Dogs Come From Tibet? All About Tibetan Dog Breeds.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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Dogs In The Tibetan Monastery,  Fun Facts