Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso an ancient dog breed. Genealogical tables show them to be in existence as far back as 800 B.C. Having been bred for centuries as a special indoor watchdog for Tibetan monasteries, the Lhasa Apso has never lost this characteristic of keen watchfulness. Lhasa Apso is one of the best watchdogs.

Lhasa Apso with Buddhist Monk
Lhasa Apso with Buddhist Monk


Young monk with Lhasa Apso
Young monk with Lhasa Apso in Lhasa, Tibet

Why is the Lhasa Apso breed special? Why do so many dog lovers choose the Lhasa as a watchdog? Let us explore this amazing breed in-depth. Let us also try to find out if the Lhasa Apso is the best breed suitable for you.

This page includes insights and knowledge derived from years of experience with owning, training, breeding, living with, and judging the Lhasa Apso breed in the show ring. The Lhasa Apso is truly an underrated special breed of dog which needs greater recognition around the world amongst dog lovers.

Lhasa is the capital of Tibet.

Beyond India’s northern boundary, where Mt. Everest stands like a guardian sentinel, is the land of Tibet. A country of huge mountains, deep valleys, windswept plateaus, warm summers, and cold winters, it is the home of the Lhasa Apso. The Lhasa Apso was bred as a watchdog with a keen sense of hearing. Lhasa Apsos and Tibetan Mastiffs work together in monasteries. Lhasa Apso stays in the interior with the monks, and the Tibetan Mastiff guards the outdoors.

Lhasa Apso with Dalai Lama
Lhasa Apso with Dalai Lama

Lhasa Apso Frequently asked questions FAQs

Let us seek some answers related to the Lhasa Apso dog breed. Are they hypoallergenic (non-shedding), or do they shed a lot? Do they bark a lot? Are they good watchdogs or guard dogs? Are they good family dogs? Good with children? And many more questions that may concern a potential Lhasa Apso owner.

Lhasa Apso in the show ring
Lhasa Apsos in the show ring

Is the Lhasa Apso a hypoallergenic breed?

Yes and No. Lhasa Apsos have a lot of hair. However, they shed less and have very less dog dander. Therefore, they may be suitable for people suffering from dog dander allergies. The Lhasa’s long hair requires constant care if you want to keep it long and flowing. If left unattended, the hair will mat up in clumps that cannot be untangled. You can cut your Lhasa Apsos hair short into a puppy cut or leave it matted. Also, the Lhasa prefers to be given a haircut by its owner. They may bark at or even bite a stranger who tries to give the Lhasa a haircut.

Special attention needs to be given while cutting hair under the tail around the Lhasa Apso’s shithole. Shit might stick to the hair around this area. It will stink if not cleaned immediately.

Lhasa Apso in a puppy cut
Lhasa Apso in a puppy cut

Do Lhasa Apsos shed a lot?

No. The Lhasa Apso does not shed a lot. It has a strong thick coat with less dander. The coat will have a lot of mats all around if not combed in the proper direction.  

Do Lhasa Apsos bark a lot?

The Lhasa Apso is an alert watchdog. The Lhasa Apso will bark every time it hears something suspicious. The Lhasa will know many people and will bark only when strangers approach. Also, due to lots of hair all over the eyes, the Lhasa may not see who is approaching until the person gets closer. Their bark sounds like a much larger dog.

Lhasa Apso Head
Lhasa Apso groomed for a dog show

Does the Lhasa Apso bite? Is it aggressive?

Yes. The Lhasa Apso is aggressive and will bite strangers if they look suspicious, make sudden moves, approach something the Lhasa is guarding. Also, the Lhasa is smart, quick & alert. The Lhasa may bite quickly without any warning or providing time for the victim to react. The victim may undermine the Lhasa Apso due to its small size and toy dog looks. However, this is not a toy dog and will bite strangers.

Lhasa Apso dog breed picture
Lhasa Apso

Is Lhasa Apso a really good watchdog?

The Lhasa will hear sounds from miles away. It will know when something is approaching much before you would imagine. The Lhasa will alert you consistently. You can depend on the Lhasa Apso to alert you each time. If you have a Lhasa in the house, you do not need a doorbell. If you have a Lhasa as a companion, it will follow you everywhere, step by step. It will go out of the way to watch out for your safety. Owning a Lhasa Apso is an unforgettable experience.

Can Lhasa Apsos be guard dogs?

Yes. However, you rather not depend on its capabilities as a guard dog due to its size. The Lhasa Apso is an excellent watchdog. It will bite strangers. However, it is not intimidating to look at. If you like the Lhasa Apso but need a guard dog, consider having the Tibetan Mastiff and a Lhasa Apso together. They make the best watchdog and guard dog team.

Cute Lhasa Apso
Lhasa Apso

Can Lhasa Apso live in the snow?

Yes. But do not leave them outdoors in the snow.

Is the Lhasa Apso a good family dog?

Yes. The Lhasa Apso makes a good family dog. It will be good with all family members but close to one person in the family who it will follow everywhere. It will also live peacefully with children as well as other pets in the family. Overall, the Lhasa Apso is an excellent choice as a family dog.

Are Lhasa Apsos good apartment dogs?

Yes. Lhasa Apsos are one of the best apartment dogs.

Is the Lhasa a one-person dog?

Yes. The Lhasa will be very close to his master. It will follow you around and prefer sitting very close to your feet when you sit down. The Lhasa will make you feel special. However, it is good with all his friends and family. Also, it is not fond of strangers and will take its time to make new friendships.

Is the Lhasa Apso good with children?

Yes. The Lhasa is good with children in general. It will be well behaved and gentle with all babies. It will be a bit aloof around kids who are rough but won’t bite them. The Lhasa will protect kids and watch over them. If some adult stranger approaches the kids, the Lhasa will bite the stranger.

Is Lhasa a smart trainable dog?

The Lhasa Apso is a little monk that does not need a degree in philosophy. The Lhasa Apso is a smart dog with lots of common sense. It can be trained. However, it is a bit tough (and maybe unnecessary) to train a Lhasa as it can be stubborn. The Lhasa is a wise breed. It will know what is going on and will behave accordingly without being trained much.

Can the Lhasa Apso swim?

No. The Lhasa apso does not swim. It will start shivering when its coat gets drenched.

How much does Lhasa Apsos cost? How much is a Lhasa Apso puppy?

Lhasa Apsos are inexpensive to own and maintain. They are very healthy and need very few visits to the vet. A Lhasa Apso puppy may cost between $500 to $1000 from a reasonable breeder. Puppies born to show winning parents may cost a bit higher for obvious reasons. 

What is the difference between Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu?

Lhasa Apso is larger, heavier, healthier, stronger, and more aggressive than the Shih Tzu. Shih Tzu is a toy dog with a friendlier, shy, mild temperament.

How long do Lhasa Apsos Live?

The Lhasa Apso lives a long and healthy life of 17 to 18 years. 

Ok, so let’s assume you have chosen the Lhasa Apso as the best dog breed suitable for yourself. You have decided to find yourself a Lhasa Apso puppy as your next family member. How will you choose the best pup? Let us look at some standard characteristics of the Lhasa Apso dog breed, which will help you select the right puppy

Choosing a good Lhasa Apso puppy

The definition of the best puppy depends on your requirements. Your expectations from an adult dog can be broadly categorized as follows: Confirmation for show or breeding; obedience; therapy dog; smart dog; companion; homely pet.

If you want your Lhasa Apso puppy to grow up to be a champion in the show ring, you should look for confirmation of the dog breed standard. We have put together a general guideline for selecting an all-around good Lhasa puppy for you. Our guideline includes breed standards and gives importance to temperament, appearance, physical details, gait, health issues, grooming needs, and maintenance.

Although it is tempting to look for all these qualities in one puppy you plan to buy; it is rarely possible to find all qualities in a single pup. Look for the following characteristics while choosing a Lhasa Apso puppy.

Lhasa Apso’s General Appearance

The Lhasa Apso is a medium-small, exotic, very hardy breed with a well-developed body, strong loins, good quarters, and thighs. The long, straight, hard, dense coat enhances the breed’s beauty and completely covers the dog.

Lhasa Apso’s Temperament

Playful and assertive, extremely alert, detests strangers.

Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso’s Size

The ideal size for dogs is between 10-11 inches (25.4-27.9 cm), with up to 11- 1/2 inches (29.2 cm) permissible. Bitches should be slightly smaller. Lhasa Apsos over 11-1/2 inches (29.2 cm) are to be disqualified. Body length from the shoulder point to the buttocks’ point should be slightly longer than the withers’ height. A well-balanced type is to be preferred.

Lhasa Apso’s Coat and Colour:

The adult coat is heavy, straight, hard, not woolly or silky, of good length, and dense. The coat should be parted from the nose to the root of the tail.

The head should have heavy furnishings with a good fall over the eyes. Good whiskers and beard. In Obedience, the hair may be tied back from the eyes.

Ears should be heavily furnished.

Legs should be well furnished.

The tail should be well furnished

The feet should be surrounded by hair. The pads have hair between them, which may be trimmed.

Forequarters, hindquarters, and neck are heavily furnished.

All colors and mixtures of colors are considered equal in the show ring.

Lhasa Apso’s Head

Skull should be narrow, falling away from behind the eyebrow ridges to a marked degree. Cranium almost flat, not domed or apple-shaped. Viewed from the front, the top of the cranium is narrower than the width at the eyes’ level. The foreface is straight.

Lhasa Apso’s Muzzle

The length from the tip of the nose to the inside corner of the eye to be roughly 1-1/2 inches or the length from the tip of the nose to the inside corner of the eye to be roughly one-third of the total length from the tip of the nose to the back of the skull. A square muzzle is objectionable.

Lhasa Apso’s Nose

Black. The nose’s tip is level with or very slightly below the lower eye rim when viewed from the front.

Lhasa Apso’s Mouth

Bite – reverse scissors (upper incisors just touching the inner face of the lower incisors). Full dentition. Incisors (6) to be in a straight line. Acceptable bite – level (the front incisors of the upper and lower jaw meeting edge to edge). Undesirable bite – overshot. Excessively undershot (more than 1/8 inches / .32 cm). The teeth must not show when the mouth is closed. Lips black.

Lhasa Apso’s Eyes

Dark brown. Not large and full or small or sunken. The iris should be of reasonable size, with no white showing at the base or top of the eye. The eyes are frontally placed in an oval-shaped black rim.

Lhasa Apso’s Ears

Pendant. The ears should be well set back on the skull at eye level (not level with the skull’s topline). The leather should hang close to the head, and an adult dog’s ears should reach the lower jaw level.

Lhasa Apso’s Neck

Set well on to the shoulders. Long enough to carry the head well, creating an impression of elegance. Slightly arched.

Lhasa Apso’s Forequarters

Shoulders strong, muscular, well laid back. The upper arm should not be “Terrier straight,” allowing for the chest’s desired width and depth. Lower Arm: the forelegs should not be bowed. From the front, when the dog is standing, the legs should be straight parallel, elbows well under the body. The forelimbs support a good share of the body weight when the dog is standing or moving slowly. The pasterns should be straight and firm when viewed from the front. A slight deviation from the perpendicular when viewed from the side. Feet: short, round, and compact with good pads turning neither in nor out. Ideally, the nails are black. In particolored or light-colored coats, light nails and pads are permitted. Dewclaws are permissible.

Lhasa Apso’s Body

Topline level. Chest well ribbed up, i.e., the ribs should extend well back along the body. The slightly curved ribs should not extend below the elbows. Loin: too long a loin adds excess length to the back and results in a loss of strength to the body’s forepart. If the loin is too short, there will be a loss of flexibility. The loin should be firmly muscled. Croup: the angle formed by the pelvis and the backbone should not be more than 30 degrees from the horizontal. This angulation gives power for the forward propulsion. Abdomen: tucked up to a shallower depth at the loin.

Lhasa Apso’s Hindquarters

Strongly muscled and in balance with the forequarters. When viewed from the rear at a stance, Hocks should be strong, straight, and parallel, turning neither in nor out. When viewed from the side, they should be perpendicular to the ground and not stretched out beyond the dog’s rump. Stifle bend: the stifle is moderately bent. Feet: same as in forequarters.

Lhasa Apso’s Tail

Set high. Carried forward close to the back with the tip draped on either side of the body. The tail should not rise vertically. A kink, in the end, is permissible. A low carriage of the tail is a serious fault.

Lhasa Apso’s Gait

An easy moving, the free-flowing trot is the normal pace of the Lhasa Apso. This trot shows the character of his movement at its best and is what should be aimed for. The pads should be seen as the dog moves away, indicating a strong hind drive balanced by the forelegs’ good reach. Moving too quickly in the ring throws the dog off gait and should be avoided.

Disqualifications observed in the Lhasa Apso dog breed: Lhasa Apsos over 11-1/2 inches (29.2 cm) are disqualified.

Lhasa Apso Videos

In this video, check out some Lhasa Apsos in the show ring.

Lhasa Apso grooming video. In this video, you learn 2 techniques on how to do just that. Sasha the Lhasa Apso is groomed short with a top knot with some influence from Asian Style. By using the Utsumi carbon comb and Yento blending scissors Kitty Dekeersgieter gives Sasha a natural and beautiful coat.

The video below is not about the Lhasa Apso but about its hometown Lhasa in Tibet. Rare short documentary film: The 14th Dalai Lama during his final Geshe ( Doctor of divinity ) Examinations in Lhasa, Tibet which took place from the summer of 1958 to February 1959. Produced by The Office of Tibet, New York

We hope you enjoyed reading about the Lhasa Apso dog breed. You may consider sharing your views in the comments section below. Inputs and priceless experiences from dog owners, Lhasa breeders, and dog lovers, in general, help us better understand dogs. Thank you for your interest.

2 thoughts on “Lhasa Apso”

  1. Lhasha apso will follow you around all day and all night long. It is a one person dog. One person dog means.. it will love adore follow one person.. this is his master.. all other people are accepted but the master is first priority for lhasa.

    Also, this breed has good common sense.. if you talk to your lhasa.. you may feel it understands you! Even without training it just understands..

    The long hair is quite hard to maintain.. expect a haircut every 3 months and a bath every 15 days or so..but the coat sheds less. It is not too soft like a toy breed but it feels good to touch.

    The lhasa will serve as a good watch dog. Not just good but an excellent watch dog! It will hear someone approaching long before any human can.

  2. Bobby came to our family after my mother’s very dear friend passed away. As my mother’s friend was in her 80s my mum made a promise that if anything happened to her friend, that she would look after Bobby. When Bobby was just a puppy my mum’s friend took ill suddenly and died soon after. This was of course traumatic for everyone involved and caring for a puppy is something that the rest of the family couldn’t take on. At the start of Bobby’s life all he knew was living in a large pen in a house and his experience of the outside world was a lawn in a small back garden.

    The promise between two friends was honoured and after all the inoculations and pet passport were in place, he was ready to move from England and begin his new life in the foothills of the Pyrenees in the South of France.

    When he first arrived, he was ill-equipped to deal with things around him. He had never really experienced a normal life. Strange noises, smells, sights and sounds all were alarming to him at first. For example, he got very upset when he saw people lying down, as this probably reminded him of his original owner ill in bed.
    We first took Bobby for a walk around the local lake, a large area surrounded by mountains. He just lay down and tried to get as flat on the ground as he could – he had never seen wide open spaces before and didn’t know what to do! Luckily for Bobby our family two other wonderful dogs were there to lend a hand. Bertie – another Lhasa Apso, a well-balanced, nothing-phases-him canine superhero and Hector the Tibetan Terrier, a dog with savoir-faire.
    We’ve always felt that if it wasn’t for our other dogs, Bobby would have had a much harder time adjusting. They taught him how behave and they led by example how to act when on a walk, at a market and approaching other people on the street for instance.
    When Bobbly saw water for the first time, he was bewildered and anxious, but as soon as he saw Bertie and Hector splashing around he approached the river and promptly plonked his paws in the water to feel this strange substance. A few weeks later another water baby was born and now in summer he enjoys nothing more than taking flying leaps into the local lake and wading in the rivers.
    Bobby was a rambunctious little puppy. He has always loved to play and has very stubborn streak. Perhaps this is due to his Tibetan origins. Lhasa Apsos were traditionally bred to live with the monks in monasteries around Lhasa, Tibet. They were alert dogs – used to sound the alarm in the interior of houses and monasteries unlike the large Tibetan Mastiffs that guarded outside. They were known in Tibet as “Abso Seng Kye” which means “the Bark Lion Sentinel Dog”, so you could say they were a kind of spiritual burglar alarm.
    They are a very old breed and also one of the breeds in the world who are most closely related to wolves according to recent research. This is perhaps most noticeable in Bobby when he howls every day at 12pm and 7pm when the local church bells ring.

    Bobby is now 3 years old and enjoys his life with our family with love, walks and swims. He sleeps on the bed and goes to the local dog training club (which is still a work in progress). Our dogs are little celebrities in the small village where they live. Bobby is often greeted with Bonjour Pollux! That’s the French name of Dougal from the “Magic Roundabout” who was a Lhasa Apso.

    He can be very cheeky but is also a sensitive soul with insecurities left by his traumatic start – so he needs lots of cuddles and attention, all of which are happily provided for him! He helped my mother heal from the loss of her close friend. His life changed and so did ours when he moved to France and he has given our family, love, loyalty, fun and ear-splitting barks. He (along with the rest of our canine family) is testament to the healing power of dogs.

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