The lionhearted Lhasa Apso is a protective, loyal family companion.
- Dog Breed Group
- Companion Dogs
- 9 inches to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
- 12 to 15 pounds
- Life Span
- 12 to 15 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
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The Lhasa Apso dog breed is originally from Tibet, where he was a highly regarded watchdog in the palaces and monasteries of his mountainous homeland. Today's Lhasa is no longer a palace guard but primarily a family companion who loyally protects his family from danger. Though small in stature, the Lhasa is a sturdy and independent dog.
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The Lhasa Apso thinks he's a large dog, a very large dog. Bred for hundreds of years to be a royal watchdog, the modern Lhasa approaches life the way his forebears did: he is a loyal guardian of home and family.
The Lhasa's protective nature can surprise those unfamiliar with him, given his small size and long, flowing coat. He certainly doesn't appear fierce.
But when it comes to protecting his own, the Lhasa is fierce, though never unusually aggressive. He's naturally suspicious of strangers — an excellent trait for a palace guard — and he takes his job as protector seriously.
The lionhearted Lhasa's devotion also means he enjoys sharing life with his family. He's intelligent, independent (a watchdog must think on his own), and mischievous.
If you are considering a Lhasa — and many find his looks irresistible — you must consider this breed's protective nature. Early socialization and training are absolutely critical to a Lhasa's success as a family member, so that he can properly direct his natural tendency toward wariness. The time invested in training him, however, is well worth your effort in terms of the loyalty, joy, and companionship that this long-lived, hardy little dog provides.
The Lhasa likes doing his own thing, which means his goal in life is not necessarily to please you. In this he differs from such breeds as the biddable Labrador Retriever. While the Lhasa can be trained successfully, he is not always the most obedient dog in the class.
But those who know and love the Lhasa praise his smarts and unique ability to reason. He can even tend toward manipulation, so consistency is key in training the Lhasa pup (just as it is with raising children). If you don't take charge, your Lhasa will certainly try.
Few pups are cuter than the Lhasa puppy, with his sparking eyes and fluffy coat. These little ones are curious and full of energy, and they love to play. The Lhasa matures slowly and remains puppyish until he's three years old. New owners need to keep this in mind when training Lhasa puppies, or they can become frustrated with the Lhasa's refusal to take lessons too seriously. Housetraining can be difficult; crate training is recommended.
Now, about that Lhasa coat — it's splendid: long, thick, and beautiful. It's also a chore to keep in good condition. Daily brushing and combing are necessary to keep it free of tangles. Frequent bathing is necessary, too, to keep the Lhasa smelling sweet. Some owners opt to trim the coat short, or trim the hair around the face. If you are considering a Lhasa, know that you'll be doing a lot of grooming, or that you'll be on a first-name basis with a professional groomer.
What about children and the Lhasa? Be aware that the breed is known for being impatient with the normal clumsiness associated with children; he'll nip. He tends to bond with adults more than with youngsters, but this isn't a hard-and-fast rule. Older children, or young children who are exceptionally gentle with dogs, can live happily with the Lhasa. If you are seeking a 100 percent "kid dog," the Lhasa is probably not a good choice.
The average Lhasa lives a long time: 12 to 15 years is not uncommon, and some live 17 to 20 years.
- The Lhasa is highly independent; his aim is to please himself, not you.
- The Lhasa is a leader, and he'll be your leader if you allow him to.
- The Lhasa is a naturally protective watchdog. There's no changing this, though you can teach him good canine manners. Early, positive socialization is essential to help him become a friendly, sociable pet.
- The Lhasa matures slowly. Don't expect too much too soon.
- The beautiful Lhasa coat needs a lot of grooming. Expect to do a lot of work, or to pay a professonial groomer.
- Dental care is essential. Brush the Lhasa's teeth regularly, and have your veterinarian check his teeth and gums periodically.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Lhasa comes from Tibet, and he takes his name from the holy city of Lhasa. For thousands of years, the Lhasa was bred exclusively by nobility and monks in monasteries to act an inside guard and protector. He's known in his homeland as Abso Seng Kye, which translates as "Bark Lion Sentinel Dog." The Lhasa's thick coat is protective; his native climate is one of intense cold and extreme heat.
Recorded history of the breed goes back to 800 B.C. A Lhasa was considered good luck, but it was nearly impossible to buy one: he was a watchdog in temples and monasteries and was therefore considered sacred. It was thought that when an owner died, the human soul entered the body of his Lhasa Apso. Lhasas were not allowed to leave the country except when given as gifts by the Dalai Lama.
From the beginning of the Manchu Dynasty in 1583 until as recently as 1908, the Dalai Lama sent Lhasas as sacred gifts to the Emperor of China and members of the Imperial family. The Lhasas were always given in pairs and were thought to bring with them good luck and prosperity.
The first Lhasas to enter the United States directly were given as gifts by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1933 to C. Suydam Cutting, a noted world traveler and naturalist. Cutting owned Hamilton Farm in Gladstone, New Jersey, and the two gift dogs became the foundation stock for his kennel.
The American Kennel Club accepted the Lhasa Apso as a breed in 1935.
Males stand 10 to 11 inches high and weigh 13 to 15 pounds; females are slightly smaller.
The Lhasa Apso personality is a special and interesting mix. He's a happy, mischievous, and playful dog; he's also regal, independent, and fierce. He takes the job of guarding his home and family seriously; he also takes a long time to grow up, and even then he remains somewhat puppyish until old age.
The Lhasa may be small, but he isn't a bit fragile. He's sturdy and strong, and he's naturally wary of strangers. He will make friends, but not until he knows that an individual poses no threat. He's an excellent watchdog.
The independent Lhasa likes to be "top dog." Training and socialization, beginning with puppy classes, are essential. They'll teach him good canine manners and prevent him from thinking he can rule the roost. Lhasa owners must be strong, kind leaders.
The Lhasa is not extremely active and is content living indoors. Unlike many other breeds, he doesn't need vigorous exercise to reduce nervous energy. However, he does enjoy and benefit from short walks and play sessions.
The Lhasa likes to stay close to his family, following them room to room to join in the activities or sit on a lap. However, because of his independent nature, he's fine when left alone at home for reasonable amounts of time. The Lhasa doesn't usually suffer from separation anxiety.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Lhasas are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Lhasas will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Lhasas, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Cherry Eye: This malady occurs when the gland known as the third eyelid swells. It looks like a red mass — a cherry — at the inner corner of the dog's eye. The treatment for cherry eye is usually surgery.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as slipped stifles, this is a common problem in small dogs. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
- Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs, and the Lhasa Apso is no exception. There are three main types of allergies: food allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog's diet; contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals; and inhalant allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.
- Sebaceous Adenitis (SA): This is a serious problem in dogs. This genetic skin condition is difficult to diagnose and often is mistaken for hypothyroidism, allergies, or other conditions. When a dog has SA, the sebaceous glands in the skin become inflamed for unknown reasons, and they're eventually destroyed. Affected dogs typically have dry, scaly skin with hair loss on top of the head, neck, and back. Severely affected dogs can have thickened skin, an unpleasant odor, and secondary skin infections. Although the problem is primarily cosmetic, it can be uncomfortable for the dog. Your vet will perform a biopsy of the skin if SA is suspected. Treatment options vary.
- Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca: Commonly known as dry eye, this is an inflammation of the eye that occurs when the tear production is deficient. The symptoms, a gooey yellow discharge, can be mistaken for conjunctivitis. Treatment includes medication, artificial tears, and sometimes surgery.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, affected dogs become night-blind; they lose sight during the day as the disease progresses. Many affected dogs adapt well to their limited or lost vision, as long as their surroundings remain the same.
- Familial Inherited Renal Dysplasia: This is a developmental or genetic defect of the kidneys, which are noticeably small and irregular in shape. The disease varies in severity: severely affected puppies are excessively thirsty and small for their age, and they often suffer renal failure. Mildly affected dogs may show no symptoms.
The Lhasa is a great choice for people with limited space. He's well suited for apartment or condo living, though he does enjoy playing outside in a fenced yard.
The Lhasa is content with several short walks each day. He is not high-energy dog, and he doesn't tend to bounce off the walls when cooped up on a rainy day. He's happy sitting in your lap, wandering around the house, playing with his toys, and alerting you to passersby.
Housetraining the Lhasa can be challenging, so it's wise to crate train. Also, remember that this dog will likely take a long time to mature mentally. He may reach full size at one year of age, but his behavior will still be quite puppyish. Be especially patient during training — keep it positive and consistent, and be willing to go the long haul.
Recommended daily amount: 3/4 to 1 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Lhasa in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Lhasa, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat, Color and Grooming
The Lhasa coat is gorgeous. Normally it is long, straight, and dense. It comes in many colors, including honey, black, white, slate, or parti-color.
Keeping the Lhasa coat gorgeous, however, is time-consuming and difficult. Regular, even daily, brushing and combing are necessary, as is frequent bathing (every two to four weeks). Many owners elect to hire a professional groomer, because although a hardworking owner can learn to manage the Lhasa's coat, it's certainly not a job for beginners.
In fact, it's not uncommon for owners to have their Lhasa's coat clipped short to cut down on grooming chores. The beautiful flowing coat is gone, but what's left is a lot easier to care for.
Brush your Lhasa's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Lhasa to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children and other pets
Children are probably not at the top of the Lhasa's list of favorite things. He tends to be intolerant of the normal antics of children, and he'll nip. The Lhasa is best suited to a home with older children who understand how to properly handle him. He's not advised for a family with young or rowdy kids.
If he's properly socialized and trained, the Lhasa gets along with other dogs. He does like to be top dog, so he's often the leader, even around other dogs who are much larger. He isn't afraid to join in activities normally associated with large dogs, such as hiking or cross-country skiing. The Lhasa thinks he's a large dog.
The Lhasa can get along with other pets as well, given proper introductions and training.
Lhasa Apsos are often obtained without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Lhasa Apsos in need of adoption and/or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club, and they can point you toward a Lhasa Apso rescue organization.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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