Though little, the Lhasa Apso has a mighty personality and a dramatic, lion-like coat. This is a fiercely independent breed developed in Tibet to act as a sentinel for nobles and monks. Watchful and with a keen sense of hearing, Lhasas will bark to alert the household to the arrival of friends or foes. Lhasa Apsos are highly protective of their people and make a loving and loyal family dog. The Lhasa is not, however, an easy-care dog. This breed likes to be in charge, which makes firm, consistent training early in life important so it's easy to live with your Lhasa. Caring for the Lhasa's dense, long coat takes time, to sustain its beauty and keep it free from knots. When well trained, Lhasa Apsos make playful and affectionate companions.
In Tibet, the Lhasa Apso is known as Abso Seng Kye, which means 'Bearded Lion Dog.' Sometimes the breed is called Lhasas for short.
Lhasa Apsos have a dense, heavy coat that hangs straight down when left long. The fur is hard, rather than woolly or silky. Any coat color is acceptable, and the Lhasa may or may not have dark tips on the long fur of the ears and beard. The coat is abundant on the head and falls over the eyes when groomed for show. All coat colors are acceptable.
Average Height: 9-11 inches
Average Weight: 12-18 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The Lhasa Apso is a chipper, loving dog where members of his family are concerned. With strangers, however, he is guarded. He is not particularly athletic, but has strong legs and haunches. The Lhasa's hanging ears are well feathered, as are his feet; the feathered tail corkscrews up over the back.
The Lhasa Apso is one of the oldest breeds in the world. Since as far back as 800 BC, Lhasas likely protected the monasteries and villages of Tibet. The Lhasa's name is derived from the holy city of Lhasa. It is believed Tibetan Mastiffs patrolled the outside of monasteries, while Lhasas kept a sharp ear out for any intruders who managed to make it inside. If a Lhasa heard someone, their sharp bark ensured the entire monastery knew in an instant.
Lhasa Apsos were venerated members of the community and it was even believed the souls of Buddhist monks were reincarnated into the breed. For centuries, Lhasas lived only outside Tibet, when they were given to foreigners by the Dalai Lama as symbols of good luck. In 1933, the first two Lhasa Apsos arrived in the US as a gift for American naturalist C. Suydam Cutting from the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. Cutting began breeding Lhasas, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized them in 1935. They were originally classified in the terrier group, but were moved to the non-sporting group in 1959.
AKC Breed Category
The brave Lhasa Apso carries himself with the confidence of a much bigger dog. This breed is loyal and loving with members of their pack, and will tell all others to 'back off' with a bark that could carry across the Himalayas. While devoted to their families, Lhasas don't quite fit the lap-dog mold because they are highly independent and stubborn.
Are Lhasa Apsos Good with Kids? Lhasa Apsos are gentle and accepting of kids they were raised with. Though they are a tough and sturdy toy breed, Lhasas do not take kindly to roughhousing and will make their displeasure known.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Lhasa Apsos Good with Other Pets? Lhasas can live peaceably with other dogs and cats, especially when they have been raised alongside them. They may be aggressive with strange dogs, unless they are well socialized from an early age.
Lhasa Apsos are an alert and highly protective dog.
Are Lhasa Apsos Good Guard Dogs? Lhasa Apsos will protect your home as proudly as they protected Tibetan monasteries centuries ago. They will bark incessantly to sound the alarm, but their protectiveness stops there because they are too small to back up their bark with action.
Lhasa Apsos don't overflow with energy, but they are lively and playful.
- The Lhasa Apso will bark when people approach or pass by the house.
- His long coat requires attentive care.
- He is slow to mature.
- He is thoroughly independent-minded.
- He will ignore training that is inconsistent.
- He's usually standoffish with strangers.
Lhasa Apsos should live indoors with their families and, thankfully, they make pleasurable company. They can have their own ideas about the house rules, but will be easy canine companions with patient, continued training. Lhasas are very light shedders, so they leave minimal fur in your home.
The Lhasa Apso has a single layer coat that doesn't provide enough warmth for them to stay outside for long when it's cold, so consider a warm dog jacket for winter walks. They do enjoy being outdoors for walks, playtime in the backyard, and even visits to the dog park. When out in the yard, your Lhasa will bark at passersby—it's in his DNA.
Lhasa Apsos require a half hour of exercise each day, whether it's from walks or play sessions in the house or yard.
Lhasa Apsos are lively and will zoom around the backyard, but they run out of steam eventually. In between short bursts of playing, they'll take a rest.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Small breeds don't make the best running partners, and the little Lhasa is no exception. Your Lhasa may run with you around the block, but that's about it.
- Hiking Miles: Lhasas can hike with you on the easy trail for a half mile. If your Lhasa's coat is kept long, cleaning his coat when you return will take some time.
Generally, this breed requires about ¾ cup to one cup of good quality dry dog food each day, over the course of two feedings. This will vary, however, based upon your Lhasa's activity level and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Lhasa.
While Lhasa Apsos will stick by your side while you're at home, they are independent enough to spend some time solo. They can manage a half day alone, but a full day is pushing it. Rotate dog toys and puzzle games to keep your Lhasa happily occupied while you are out.
Health and Grooming
The Lhasa Apso's luxurious coat takes time to maintain. Daily brushing helps keep the long coat free from mats, while a bath every two weeks keeps it clean and healthy. Many Lhasa owners opt for a shorter puppy cut to make grooming easier. Clean your Lhasa's ears with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush his teeth several times a week, and trim his nails every month or so to prevent cracking.
Common Health Issues
Lhasa Apsos may present some breed-specific health conditions, including:
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Patellar luxation, or dislocated kneecap
- Familial inherited renal dysplasia, a hereditary kidney disorder
- Cherry eye, a swollen gland in the corner of the eye
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Lhasa Apso by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Lhasa Apsos are stubborn and respond best to short, fun training sessions. They are smart and will learn quickly, but will refuse to pay attention to repetitive lessons. A gentle, consistent approach that emphasizes positive rewards is your best bet.
Some Lhasa Apsos enjoy showing off during agility and rally training, while others would rather play than participate in formal events. You'll have better luck if you keep training playful and short.
Sporting Dog Training
The Lhasa Apso is not a natural hunting dog.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about Lhasa Apsos.
Yes. Though they have a lot of fur, Lhasa Apsos are a single-coat breed and don't shed very much. Pet dander, which is the cause of most pet-related allergies, is easily managed with this breed.
Like all toy breeds, Lhasa Apsos can develop 'small dog syndrome'—outsized aggression as a response to everything in the world being bigger than them. This usually develops only when they lack early socialization and training. With patient training, Lhasas will still be wary of strangers, but they won't be aggressive.
Lhasa Apsos can learn to swim, but most of them don't like to hit the water. This toy breed has a single coat that won't protect him from the cold water and, if kept long, could weigh him down. It's best to keep your Lhasa Apso to the shallows. If your Lhasa likes to swim, watch him closely and keep his time in the water brief.