Get to know the lhasa apso — a friendly, intelligent, confident and comical dog breed.
1. Key Characteristics
- AKC Group: Non-Sporting
- Height: 10–11 inches
- Weight: 13–15 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 15+ years
The lhasa apso is a small and hardy breed originating in the mountains of Tibet. This breed stands at only around 11 inches tall. Females are usually a bit smaller than their male counterparts.
The dogs have average-sized eyes that are oval or almond in shape and dark brown in color. Ears are pendant-shaped and heavily feathered.
The feet are rounded and cat-like, and the legs are straight and have quite a bit of hair. The lhasa apso has a well-feathered tail that is carried in a screw or has a kink at the end. This breed’s double coat is dense, straight and long and often touches the floor. The coat comes in many colors from gold, cream, honey dark-grizzle, slate, smoke, multi-colors of brown, white and black.
2. Where They Came From
According to the Lhasa Apso Breed Club of America, the breed dates back as far as the year 500 in Tibet and is thought to be the ancestor of the Pekingese. The lhasa apso is similar to the lhasa terrier, differing only slightly in size and coloring.
For many years, the lhasa apso was bred only by men of wealth and holy men.
In her book Lhasa Apso, Juliette Cunliffe explains: “They were certainly kept in monasteries primarily to give a warning bark to the monks if ever intruders or uninvited guests managed to get past the enormous Tibetan mastiffs tethered outside…. The dogs historically were never sold but only given as gifts, for lhasa apsos were believed to carry the souls of monks who erred in their previous lives.”
Eventually, lhasa apsos were gifted to men outside Tibet, appearing in Britain in the 1920s. In 1930, C. Suydam Cutting brought the lhasa apso into the United States as a gift from the 13th Dalai Lama. Five years later, the lhasa apso was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), although it was originally assigned to the Terrier Group before being reassigned to Non-Sporting.
3. How Friendly Are They?
Lhasa apsos were bred to be a guardian despite its small stature. They have keen hearing and make excellent watchdogs. The breed is friendly, intelligent, confident and comical. Be firm and confident when training or handling your lhasa apso to prevent small dog syndrome.
You should socialize and exercise your dog regularly. Lack of physical and mental stimulation and underexposure to socialization can cause behaviors such as wariness, intolerance of strangers or children, loud barking, nervousness and anxiety.
With proper handling, lhasa apsos make excellent pets, thanks to their affectionate nature and fun-loving personalities.
4. Is This the Right Dog for You?
LOW: A lhasa apso will do well in a small house or an apartment. Playtime and long walks will go a long way toward helping the dog burn off energy.
HIGH: This breed traditionally has a long and dense coat that brushes the floor as it walks. It will need brushing once a day to prevent matting.
Lhasa apsos’ eyes tend to water and will need regular tending to. Check the ears, legs, tail and feet regularly for debris that can get stuck in their fur. Some people groom their lhasa apsos into a puppy cut, which shortens the coat considerably.
LOW: The lhasa apso is a relatively healthy breed, although a few conditions are more likely to manifest with this breed over others:
- Hip dysplasia
- Cherry eye
- KCS (keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or “dry eye”)
- Luxating patellae
- Kidney problems
Pigmentary keratitis is also a concern for this breed because of the way its fur hangs into its eyes, which can cause a type of irritation to the cornea. Keeping your lhasa apso’s hair clipped is one way to avoid this issue, or you can use barrettes to hold the fur out of the eyes.
In this video, Honey gets a “teddy bear” cut:
5. Where to Adopt One
When you start your hunt for the perfect lhasa apso, check rescue organizations first. If you go through a breeder, be familiar with puppy mill warning signs. Ask for health histories on the dogs and to view the living conditions of the animals.
- The AKC’s Lhasa Apso Page
- The Lhasa Apso Club of America
- The Club — Lhasa Apso Canada
- The North of England Lhasa Apso Club