Originally bred in the isolated monasteries and villages in Tibet, Tibetan Spaniels have been around for many hundreds of years. The breed is sometimes called the “Prayer Dog.” According to legend, the Buddhist monks of Tibet considered the Tibetan Spaniel a sacred animal and trained them to turn prayer wheels by means of a small treadmill. In reality, Tibbies, as they are popularly called, were used as watchdogs in the monasteries. Their job was to warn the larger guard dogs, the Tibetan Mastiffs, of any approaching intruders. To keep warm in the harsh climate of Tibet, the monks would also use them as bed warmers and tuck them inside their sleeves. They also accompanied their owners as travelling companions on pilgrimages.

The Tibetan Spaniel found its way to the United Kingdom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when they came home with Britons returning from service on the Indian subcontinent. However, numbers remained small until the closing decades of the last century. The first Tibbies imported into Australia arrived in 1974 from the UK, and the first Tibetan Spaniel Club was founded here in Victoria in 1995.