Dog Breed Review

Lhasa Apso




From the spiritual confinements of Tibet comes a majestical looking, non-sporting breed, Lhasa Apso. Lhasa Apso is one of the oldest breeds with recognition.

The Lhasan may appear as a cute lapdog but their role for thousands of years represents a different story. A story of alerting and guarding nobles and monks from outside threats or invasion.

Yet, the breed has come a long way since their monastery days in Tibet and now enjoys life as a companion around the world. 

But is this the right breed for you and your family?

Here is what you need to know about the Lhasa Apso.


Warm and cuddly, with that gorgeous flowing coat, it is hard to believe that such a small dog could be put in charge of guarding and protecting their people. But that’s exactly what the ruling elite and Buddhists did for thousands of years.

According to the United Kennel Club, the Lhasa Apso has been around since 800 B.C. As a sentinel dog for the Buddhists in the Himalayan Mountains, and more specifically, Lhasa, the job for this breed was rigid. Indeed, the Tibetan monks would face invasion after invasion from different countries and the people had a need for a dog that could at least alert them beforehand. In Lhasa, the sacred city of Tibet, the locals call the breed, “the bearded lion dog.” The word “Apso” actually means “longhaired dog.”

Moreover, as a testament to the breed’s Tibetan history, at first, this breed could only be in the possession of nobles or monks. The people of Tibet even thought the Lhasa to be some sort of good fortune bringer. 

Outside of Tibet, the breed began appearing in the United Kingdom at the turn of the 20th century. However, according to the breed’s club in the U.K; it is likely that the breed began appearing the Britain around the mid 19th century, although there are no documents to confirm that.

That said, the breed would receive their own description in Britain in 1901. Hitherto that year, some would confuse the Apso with Tibetan Terrier. Something had to be done and British fanciers made it their mission to establish separate statuses. 

In 1934, the Tibetan Breeds Association forms to help create distinction between each Tibetan breed; Terrier, Apso, Mastiff and Spaniel. In 1935, however, there were only ten Lhasa Apso registrations. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, the thirteenth Dalai  Lama gave a pair of Lhasans to a couple of fanciers in New Jersey. For the beginning of the 20th century, the breed’s name wasn’t Lhasa Apso but instead, Lhasa Terrier. Eventually that would change just as New Jersey fanciers began promoting and developing the breed with success. 

In The United Kingdom, officials for the breed decidedly broke away from the Tibetan Breed Association. This was done to form the Lhasa Apso Club. The club would serve to help re-establish the breed in the United Kingdom. Currently, that decision would serve to be correct as the breed enjoys growing popularity.

Moreover, in the United States, the Lhasa Apso is the 71st most popular breed, according to the AKC. Although they still have guarding and protective traits, the breed’s primary purpose is of the show ring and companion. Two roles the breed has done mightily well at.


Some may think of the Lhasa Apso as a lap dog but they would be rudely wrong. As a small breed, a male should stand between 10 to 11 inches. The American Kennel Club calls for females to be slightly smaller.

Both male and females can weigh between 12 to 18 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

Infectious and playful describe this breed perfectly as puppies. And they may stay that way for a few years as well. That’s right, it does take the Lhasa Apso longer to mature into adult status. Once they do, however, they become more protective and calm. But they will be playful still. That trait may never go away for this breed.

The Lhasa Apso views itself as a Mick Jagger. They are divas, and can be stubborn during training. Some owners maintain that if it pleases them to please you, they will please you. However, they do learn rather quickly, with regards to house training. 

This is a breed that prefers older children over smaller children. Smaller children require more of a tolerant dog especially with their kiddo tactics. This isn’t a breed that wants to put up with the abuses or nuances of toddlers and small children. Lhasa Apso will do fine with dogs and other pets they grow up with.

They may want to jump up on your lap, just as they will follow you from room to room. you can leave them alone without worry of a broken home upon return. However, this is a breed that wants and prefers close contact with the family. 

Lhasa Apso tends to be active but not overly hyper. They want to go out for a few walks but you won’t have to be a marathon runner. Agility and dog show competitions is something this dog loves to excel at. They love and welcome challenges.

All in all, this is a breed that novice owners can enjoy just as someone with experience can. You won’t need a huge yard to house a Lhasa Apso. Families with older children, who know how to treat a dog do better with this breed. They are instinctive and protective. 


Looking at the breed’s health report, it appears that the Lhasa Apso is generally healthy. That said, when you buy a Lhasa from a breeder, it is always best to purchase from someone with credibility. Check around, visit their site and read reviews. The last thing you want is a dog from a puppy mill. These dogs tend to have health complications as puppy mill breeders tend to engage in unethical practices. The breeder should provide you with the correct health clearances necessary. Additionally, you’ll want to schedule routine visits with the veterinarian to maintain your dog’s health. If you do all of those things, as well as preventative care, there’s no reason to believe your Lhasa Apso can’t live between 12 to 15 years. There have been reports of this breed living into their 20’s.

Most of the issues facing this breed are problems with their eyes. While some are minor, there are some that are serious and could affect their job or performance.

Cherry Eye, which is a disorder of the third eyelid, can be found with this breed. It is typically found in dogs under the age of two years old. However, that’s not set in stone, so it is important to watch out for inflammation or protrusion around that third eyelid. Surgery, antibiotics and steroidal treatment are a few necessary options veterinarians take to treat a dog suffer from this disorder. Pugs and American Cocker Spaniels suffer from this as well.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, which is essentially dry eyes, that results into irritation and fatique of the eye, is sometimes seen in this breed. Fluid discharge is a sign that your dog may suffer from this condition. This is due to a lack of tear production and may result in cornea scarring and blurry vision, thus hindering the dog’s vision.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is also a problem within the Lhasa Apso. This is a slow and gradual deterioration of the retina, that can lead to complete blindness.  Testing is available and most reputable breeders can avoid breeding dogs with this disorder.

Renal Dysplasia is quite serious. This is a genetic defect of the kidney that can lead to kidney failure or death. Renal Dysplasia is a kidney tissue abnormality or development. The signs typically include: depression, lethargy, weight loss, etc. Proper and professional care is necessary in order for the breed to cope with this serious defect. 

Sebaceous Adenitis, which is common for dogs with double or long coats, is a rare and relatively new skin disease found in the Sebaceous gland due to inflammation leading to the destruction of that gland. This is found in breeds like the Chow Chow, Akita, Weimaraner and the Lhasa Apso.

When the knee caps slips out of place causing irritation and other orthopedic issues, your dog likely has Patella Luxation, which is common. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals performs serious research into these orthopedic diseases, and a study found this breed to be 44th on their list. Moreover, the Lhasa Apso has a 3.5 dysplastic rate for Patella Luxation out of 227 evaluations, which ranks them along with the Affenpinscher and Bichon Frise.

You may also need to be wary of allergies, as this breed has been prone to suffer from.


Aside from the grooming, this is an easy breed to care for. First, you will need to socialize your puppy Lhasa Apso early on. That is, if you want your dog to be friendly and outgoing. Training is depending on how far you want to take your dog. Again, as puppies, this is a breed that is very energetic.

Regular exposure to the outside is necessary for this breed. However, you don’t need to be a hiker, or some athlete. Walks between 15-20 minutes of at least two to three days a week should suffice their activity needs.

This is a breed better off in temperate conditions and can do well in apartment or condo living spaces. They only bark whenever necessary but may be a bit protective, so you’ll want to watch out for that.

Supervision around smaller children and other animals is necessary. They may exude a side of prey drive due to their instinctive nature.

In summary, you should keep close contact with the Lhasa Apso. They do require a close relationship and moderate exercise. Early training and socialization is beneficial for this breed. If you do all of that, you will receive a very protective and faithful dog in return.


You may want to consult a veterinarian or expert as far as diet concerns. However, owners seem content on providing a regiment of high quality dry kibble with appropriate amounts of protein value in their feeding schedules. Beef, fish, whole chicken and lamb should do the trick for this breed. Incorporating omega fatty acids and veggies will also go along way in promoting their coat and joint health. A good rule of thumb, with regards to protein intake, is anything 14 percent and up.

Calorie intake is important as well. For a dog between 12 to 18 pounds, you should be dishing out between 450 to 610 calories. Obviously, how much your dog eats depends on their activity, age, and metabolism. Also, spaying and neutering also play into consideration. In general, this breed should getting 3/4 cups to 1 cup of top quality dry food per day. You can break that up into multiple meals per day to help reduce obesity and a deadly condition, Bloat.

As always, you should provide your Lhasa Apso with fresh drinking water, the most important nutrient.


Although the Lhasa Apso doesn’t shed a ton, you will be busy brushing this breed for at least two to three times per week. You may need to call on a professional groomer to handle other areas of this breed’s coat as well.

This is a breed with a dense, straight, hard and heavy coat. The outercoat is heavy, lengthy, hard and dense, while the undercoat is of medium length and not wooly or silky.

According to the standard, the breed has the following coat color options: black, black and tan, creamy golden, grizzle, red, red gold.

There are no acceptable markings, however, you may find some with black mask or tips, sable and brindle.

Fun Lhasa Apso Facts

  • In 1984, the first Lhasa Apso to win a “Best in Show” at Crufts went by the name of Saxonspring Hackensack. Another Lhasan would follow suit in 2012.
  • According to a 2004 Purebred study, the Apso is a close relative to the wolf.
  • A story by WPVI-TV in Philadelphia claims that the Lhasa Apso is the 68th most intelligent dog, which puts them as fair workers.
  • Singer and actress, Keke Palmer, owns a Lhasa by the name of Rust.
  • The United Kennel Club gave the breed recognition in 1975

Closing Words

The Lhasa Apso is quickly surging in popularity. It’s a good thing that the breed has come down from the Himalayan Mountains. While they may appear to a cute and cuddly lapdog, their temperament can explode if a threat approaches their family.

Along with their protective and instinctive traits, this fun, bright and playful breed continues to show why they are such a good fortune carrier.

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