Country of Origin: Tibet
  • Activity Level: moderate
  • Grooming Level: high
  • Trainability: moderate
  • Adaptability: high
  • Kid/Pet Friendly: often
  • Average Size: Small
  • Average Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Prey Drive: high
  • Watchdog: very alert
  • Registered?: aca, akc
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Lhasa Apso Breed Profile

Overview

Temperament

Adaptability

Health

Owner Experience

Grooming

Activity Level

Size

Life Span

Did You Know?

The Lhasa Apso is a small dog breed that originated in the Himalayan Mountains a thousand years ago. They were the luxuriously-coated interior sentinels and guardians of palaces and Buddhist monasteries. The dog breed got its name from Tibetan folklore.

According to Tibetan folklore, a mythical Snow Lion is the protector of the country. The Lhasa Apso, also known as a “bearded lion dog” is considered the earthly representation of this mythical protector. Lhasa is also the name of Tibet’s sacred city. That paired with Apso, which means “long-haired dog”, gives the Lhasa Apso its name.

They also have been associated with the Dalai Lama for centuries. A naturalist who traveled the world named Suydam Cutting is credited with establishing the Lhasa Apso in the United States from dogs bred and gifted by the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. The American Kennel Club recognized the Lhasa Apso in 1935 as a member of the Terrier Group. They were reassigned to the Non-Sporting Group in 1959. They tend to be most commonly found living as beloved family companions and can also be found working as therapy dogs.

The Lhasa Apso is a small dog with a big personality. They are intelligent and confident with a comical disposition. They get along well with children and other pets and love their families. They tend to be open, affectionate, loving, and playful with their families and more reserved with strangers.

Due to their protective instinct, they can be initially wary and suspicious of strangers, particularly those that come onto their property uninvited. Proper socialization and training early on can help your Lhasa remain confident while being more open to those outside their family and also helps them grow into a well-rounded, and often well-behaved, dog.

This is a highly adaptable dog breed. The Lhasa Apso does well in apartments as well as larger homes. They do well in just about any climate, but can be sensitive to extreme heat or cold. Because they are in-tune with their owners and thrive on time spent with their families, they do not do well with long periods of time alone.

This dog breed is hardy and relatively healthy. As with all dog breeds, there are some potential health conditions that can affect the breed. For the Lhasa Apso, these include drye eye, hip dysplasia, cherry eye, and progressive retinal atrophy. There is also a hereditary kidney dysfunction that can be passed along.

There is not a current reliable genetic test for this, so it’s important to ask the breeder about the history of the parents. Reputable breeders will remove dogs affected with this condition from their stock to avoid passing it along. As a small dog breed, the Lhasa Apso is also particularly prone to dental diseases like gum disease and tooth decay, so implementing good dental care for dogs is important.

Lhasa Apsos are highly intelligent and highly trainable, but they can also have a stubborn streak and can take on the character of a willful toddler. They are eager to please when it suits them and need training sessions to be kept interesting. Repetitive drills, harsh tones, or too much strictness can cause them to become bored and may also cause them to become even more stubborn.

Inconsistent training and improper training tends to result in undesired behaviors with this breed, so it’s important for first-time dog owners to enroll in puppy training classes. This dog breed is also known to try and push boundaries. They will try to use their cuteness to their advantage if they think they can get away with it, so it’s important for you to remain consistent in training and to avoid giving into their adorable face.

The Lhasa Apso is a low-shedder but has a high maintenance coat whether you keep it long or keep it short in a “puppy cut”. A coat in a short clip requires brushing a few times a week and a bath or two between grooming visits. A long hair clip requires bathing every two weeks with brushing in between. You’ll also need to make sure your Lhasa Apso is completely dry and to brush their coat after a bath as their damp fur will tend to mat even if it’s clean. They’ll also require professional grooming every 4-6 weeks.

In addition to coat care, you will also need to care for your Lhasa Apso’s nails, ears, and teeth. Professional grooming can help handle some of this, but you’ll still need to take care of it between grooming sessions. Monthly nail trimming is usually sufficient to keep nails from getting too long and causing discomfort. Weekly ear checks with careful cleanings as needed can help make sure your dog’s ears are free of debris, clean, and dry, which can help prevent ear infections. As a small dog that is prone to dental disease, you will want to brush your dog’s teeth or use an enzyme toothpaste every day to help prevent the harmful tartar and plaque buildup that causes gum disease and tooth decay.

The Lhasa Apso requires a moderate amount of activity. Although they do enjoy cuddles with their favorite human, they are not couch potatoes. They will enjoy their daily walks plus some extra activity to provide exercise and mental stimulation. This dog may be small, but they are hardy and are a good fit for several types of canine sports. They’ve been known to perform well in agility trials and have even shown up in scenting, retrieving, and herding events!

A fully-grown Lhasa Apso usually stands 9-11 inches tall and weighs 12-18 pounds.

A Lhasa Apso generally lives 12-15 years.

Lhasa Apso and Tibetan Mastiffs usually worked together to guard Tibetan dwellings. Mastiffs usually served outside while Lhasas served inside.