Lhasa Apso

A Beautiful Small Dog with a Stunning Long-Haired Coat

Lhasa Apso

A Beautiful Small Dog with a Stunning Long-Haired Coat, Dignified Manners and the Courage of a Lion

This little bundle of fur, while small in stature, is big on personality! While beautiful to look at, the Lhasa Apso is a mysterious, dignified dog with an independent nature instinctively suspicious of strangers and can be aggressive if not properly trained. A breed that is a good choice for families with older children, the Lhasa Apso is an excellent guard dog. The combination of deep, almost haunting, dark eyes, long stylized coat, short stature and unusual charisma defines this breed as a unique pet.


Originating in Tibet, the Lhasa Apso is also sometimes referred to as the Tibetan Apso – "apso" meaning “bearded,” or having “long, goat-like hair.” Lhasa is the capital of Tibet. To this day, the breed is still treasured there, owned primarily by those who are privileged. Considered not only loyal companions but wonderful guardians, the Lhasa Apso was a breed owned by members of the royalty and holy men, used frequently as watchdogs in the monasteries and temples. In that era, the breed was never bought or sold but given as a gift to those deserving of a great honor.

Recognized as one of the oldest breeds in the world, the Lhasa Apso originated over 4,000 years ago. Along with the Chow Chow, Alaskan Malamute, Shih Tzu, Pekingese, and Siberian Husky, the breed is one of those most closely related to the ancestral wolf. Serving an important role as watch dogs guarding Buddhist monasteries as well as the homes and palaces of Tibet’s aristocracy, the Lhasa Apso used its keen hearing and sharp bark to warn about the presence of intruders who may have made their way past the dogs that guarded entrances, commonly the Tibetan Mastiff.

Brought to England in the early 1900s by military men, the first pair of Lhasa Apsos entered the United States in 1933 as a gift world traveler C. Suydam Cutting had received from the 13th Dalai Lama in Tibet. Although the AKC (American Kennel Club) officially accepted the breed into their Terrier Group in 1935, today, the Lhasa Apso is classified in the U.S. as a member of the non-sporting dog group.


Often misconstrued as fragile, the Lhasa Apso is actually a very resilient and sturdy dog with alert hearing and a keen eye. This breed has a double coat, which consists of a moderate, soft undercoat, and a top coat that is straight, coarse, long, and heavy.

As adults, the Lhasa Apso typically weighs about 12 to 18 pounds, with females slightly less. Most are approximately 11 inches at the withers, and have beautiful dark brown eyes. While most in the breed have a black nose, those with liver-colored coats often have a brown nose. The most common colors found in Lhasa Apsos are white, black, and gold, some with various shadings throughout the coat. Some may also have dark tips on their beards and ears.


While the Lhasa Apso is a cute, cuddly little "teddy bear" of a dog, legend has it that when it looks in a mirror, it sees a lion. This is because in all honesty, this breed is one of the toughest and hardiest of all dogs. At the same time, many Lhasa Apsos are also ironically comical, playful, and entertaining. The breed is characterized by dignified comportment and polished manners, a calm dog who is the ideal house pet.

However, early socialization is necessary to ensure that your pet won't bite or become overly aggressive. Because of their instinctive distrust of things unfamiliar and their ancestral history as watchdogs, they may be inclined to bite when suspicious, although this isn't common. In addition, if you have other pets in your home, be aware that the Lhasa can show signs of jealousy or antagonism. Yet, those who desire a small, polite dog who is big on swagger and huge on confidence will find the Lhasa Apso the ideal companion.

Proper Environment

Needing only light exercise, this small dog is the perfect apartment pet. While totally content in a confined space, this dog will benefit from regular walks for both mental and physical stimulation.


Although the Lhasa Apso has few health problems, ear infections and skin inflammations can occur. Ears should be kept free of unnecessary hair, and should be dried thoroughly after bathing. Eyes may tear or become runny if also irritated by hair. Another condition, sebaceous adenitis, can lead to hot spots, or localized skin infections with symptoms that include hair loss, flaking and itching of the skin. Genetic kidney problems may also occur in the Lhasa Apso, although this is uncommon.


Regular brushing will keep your pet free of loose hair, matting, and tangling. While bathing isn't needed often, an occasional bath is desirable. Keeping your pet's ears, feet and eyes clean and free of excess hair will help to prevent infections. It is recommended that you have your pet's hair clipped by a professional groomer to keep it manageable while maintaining its glamorous characteristics and essence of the breed’s style.

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