Breed Group: Non-Sporting
In spite of its regal appearance, the Lhasa Apso (LAH-sa AHP-so) is a tough little character, not a docile lap-dog. It is said that when a Lhasa Apso looks into the mirror, it sees a lion. Kept by Buddhist monks to announce monastery visitors, this barking sentinel takes its watchdog duties very seriously. His deep, loud bark makes him sound much larger than he is. Keenly observant, he distrusts anything new or different. Reserved with strangers, a Lhasa will bite if he thinks it is warranted. But once you are accepted as a friend, you are apt to be greeted with a toy dropped in your lap. Assertive and stubborn, they are probably the most independent and strongest willed of all the small breeds. They are more active inside than out but do not need an inordinate amount of exercise. Short walks and a play session are sufficient. Adventuresome, he is a lively companion that, given proper exercise, will settle calmly by his owner and take the role of a mannerly house dog provided he and his owner have developed mutual respect. They get along with older, well-behaved children but they will not meekly accept the harshness or teasing many young children dispense. Depending on the individual, a Lhasa may be accepting of other animals or bossy and jealous. He can be playful but also carries himself with dignity. He may sometimes play the clown, but never a fool.
The Lhasa Apso is a small dog whose average size is between 10 and 11 inches tall and weighs between 13 and 18 pounds. Their coat is abundant, long, coarse, and straight with a part along the spine. The coat comes in many colors including white, brown, honey and slate. His heavily feathered tail is carried curled over his back. The beautiful coat requires daily combing or brushing as it mats easily. Check their feet regularly for mats and debris. Alternately, house pets can be shaved. Provided their grooming needs are met, Lhasas shed very little. They are most comfortable in cool temperatures.
The Lhasa Apso needs at least modest socialization to make sure their distrust of new things does not become excessive wariness. They are intelligent, but because they are manipulative and dominant, they have to be encouraged rather than forced to do anything. But they can not be over indulged or they will think they rule the roost. Discourage excessive barking if it occurs. Lhasa Apsos are often difficult to housetrain, at least in part because they are so low to the ground and there is so much coat that they have completed the deed before you know what they are doing. A combination of crate training, tethering, consistency, praise/rewards, constant vigilance, and patience is required. Although noisy, they do well in apartments but are not recommended for first-time owners.
The Lhasa Apso is a hardy, healthy dog. The most frequently seen issues include Patellar Luxation which affects 11% of all dogs. About half that many suffer from Hip Dysplasia. The eye problems of Entropion, Distichiasis, Dry Eye, and PRA, are seen, with the last being of greatest concern. Finally, Urolithiasis, Von Willebrand’s Disease, and juvenile kidney failure are also seen. Keep their coat free of parasites and mats or skin problems may develop. These dogs have a long life expectancy averaging 15 years with many living 18 years or longer.
The Lhasa Apso is ranked 39th in AKC popularity with about 4,000 registered anuually.
The Lhasa Apso takes its name from the sacred capital city of Lhasa in Tibet. For thousands of years, they were owned only by Tibetan nobility and Buddhist monks. Used as watchdogs in temples and monasteries, they barked vigorously to alert the approach of strangers. Considered sacred, it was thought that the Lhasa Apso’s body is the receptacle for its master’s soul when the master dies so owning a Lhasa Apso is thought to be good luck for his owner. They first came to Britain in the 1920’s when the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s ruler, presented them to foreign diplomats. Upon arriving, they were called Lhassa Terriers, although they are unrelated to the terriers. Introduced to America in the 1930’s, they were admitted to the AKC’s Terrier Group in 1935. In 1959 they were appropriately reassigned to the Non-Sporting Group.
Lhasa Apso owners of note include Burt Bacharach, Richard Burton, Phyllis Diller, Eva Gabor, Elizabeth Taylor, and Bob Hope. The National (US) Breed Club is the American Lhasa Apso Club. In the UK, the breed is also known as the Tibetan Apso.