LIVING WITH THE TIBETAN TERRIER by ANDREA REIMAN
I f one seeks to understand the rug- ged, versatile, charismatic Tibetan Terrier, it is helpful to know about the place from which they evolved, for the country that is Tibet is embodied in the personality, demeanor, and phy- sique of the TT. Having lived thousands of years in a geography of extremes is no incidental matter when considering how such a landscape might have impacted the TT temperament. Would not an environ- ment with wide altitude variations, harsh temperatures, and precipitation extremes have favored a dog with an adaptable, nuanced personality? Historically used as caravan dogs, as guards for livestock and monasteries, and as traveling companions, TTs are well- suited for the multi-tasking demands of contemporary life. A ff ectionately called “little people” in Tibet, they are a discern- ing, clever dog, deeply bonded to their family, but often possessing an array of contradictory behaviors. Are they very active? Well yes, and no. Do they like people? Again, yes and no. Are they easy to train? Most definitely yes, but not likely in the way you imagine. Are they sensitive? Well yes, but they also are quite tenacious. Are they hardy? Yes! Th ey are an extremely robust dog, but a pine needle caught between the back legs on a walk can be a “man down” event. Th ey are drama prone, but also stoic. Th ey absolutely love snow but abhor rain. Th ey will push the boundaries with their ornery, mischievous antics, but sincerely want to do the right thing. Are you get- ting the feel of life with a TT yet? Read on to determine if this might be a suitable companion for you and your family. Are they very active? Indeed, they enjoy vigorous walks or jogs, can hike tirelessly in challenging terrain, and engage in ath- letic, acrobatic style chase games with fel- low housemates. But they are also content to lounge around the house or o ffi ce with their people, entertain themselves quietly with a toy, or happily take a place on the chair or sofa beside their person. Th ey
generally adapt to the energy level of their household, satisfied to do whatever it is their people are doing. Do they like people? Most definitely! Th ey may be one of the most people-orient- ed dog breeds, bonding deeply to their fam- ily, and specifically to their person. Con- versely, they are generally not a breed with an innate drive to make friends of strangers. In this regard, they are classic introverts, preferring a meaningful conversation with one person at a gathering rather than small talk with dozens of persons. Th ey are often sparing and cautious of strangers, and many are not even mildly tempted to take food from an unknown person. Are they easy to train? If you have proven yourself worthy of their trust and established a relationship of cooperation, you will find few breeds as quick-witted as the TT. But in the final analysis, and exe- cuted with classical TT humor, you will at some point realize that it was they that have been training you. Among the most versatile of breeds, the Tibetan Terrier can be found competing in conformation, rally, obedience and tracking events. Th e first TT obtained its Barn Hunt Title in 2014. TTs, who love to run and chase, are perfect candidates for the AKC Coursing Test. Countless TTs have earned their Canine Good Citizen title and excel in therapy work at hospitals and schools. Tibetan terriers (who are not terriers by definition) are sensitive, intuitive beings. Th ey learn quickly and find repetition to be soul crushing. If you have aspirations of training a performance TT, it will be ben- eficial to develop a taste for the unexpected, possess a healthy dose of humility, and have a good sense of humor. Th e best training sur- renders any aspect of imposing your will and requires an attitude free of narrowly defined outcomes. Come show day (conformation, rally, obedience, agility) rest assured your TT knows what it knows, and what is expected. Any doubt on your part conveyed by exces- sive drills and nervous blather is likely to backfire. Th ey will always be there to remind you (and wonder why they have to repeat
it!) that trust is essential, few things are to be taken so seriously, and the best memories created are those that bring laughter. Th e soft side of the TT is counterbal- anced by a curious mix of tenacity, mischie- vousness, and an independent mind capable of creative, often amusing, problem solving. Th ere is a TT that ascends the long hard- wood staircase leading up to the bedrooms backwards—rear legs first! Th e owners, unsure how this behavior developed as it began when they were gone, suspect it was a response to the slippery surface of newly refinished stairs. Another TT took a trea- sured wedding bracelet outside and buried it in the snow while her owner was on a business trip. Fortunately when spring thaw came, it was rediscovered out in the yard, along with several other pieces of jewelry the TT had safely buried. In describing life with TTs, a metaphor might be useful. Consider classic themes in books or movies where the authority fig- ures (often parents) are uncomprehending of their unorthodox, freethinking coun- terparts (their o ff spring). A TT could be easily cast as the actor (we’ll assume this is an animated movie) that plays the aspiring musician son of a banker father who instead wants him to go to law school. Th e inevita- ble drama plays out, and if it is a happy end- ing, the TT/son becomes a successful rock star, reconciled with the now proud father who finds a new place managing his son’s vast monetary assets—or some such twist. Th is is a way of explaining that the TT is not the breed for everyone. Th ey really lack a typical modern canine personality in many ways, have many primal canine behaviors intact, and possess more than a few feline characteristics. Th is may be why many creative people make an excel- lent match for a TT companion, as they inherently sympathize with an out-of-the- box soul. But just like the banker father in the above scenario, many others will have their staid world cracked open should they make the choice to live with a TT. Cheers and peace to all who share their lives with this remarkable breed from Tibet!
S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , O CTOBER 2014 • 253
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