Lhasa Apso – An intelligent, confident breed with a playful side

The Lhasa Apso is a unique-looking breed with long, thick fur, a small stature, and an air of regality. This breed might be little, but it certainly is fierce.

Originating from Tibet, the Lhasa Apso, often shortened to simply the Lhasa, called various monasteries and palaces in the country home. It might be shocking to consider this from such a little dog, but the Lhasa’s primary function during this time was as a guard dog. This is a job they took seriously and performed well.

The Lhasa Apso is a bit of a mythical figure in Tibet. The name comes from the Tibetan city Lhasa combined with “Apso,” which means “longhaired dog.” The legendary Snow Lion is known as the country’s protector, and the Lhasa Apso, sometimes called “Bearded Lion Dog,” is said to be its agent on earth.


  • Originates from Tibet, where they served as guard dogs in monasteries and palaces
  • Originally called the Abso Seng Kye which translates to “Bark Lion Sentinel Dog”
  • Recognized by the AKC in 1935
  • Lhasa Apso puppies mature at a much slower rate than most other breeds


You’ll find records of the Lhasa Apso dating all the back to around 800 B.C. This little dog was bred to work as a guard dog in the monasteries and palaces located in the Himalayan Mountains. Because the climate of the area was so extreme, the monks and nobility of the area required a breed that would be able to withstand both extreme cold and heat. They bred the Lhasa Apso to have a thick coat that would serve as effective insulation for all types of weather.

Lhasa Apsos were considered to be good luck, and the breed was greatly revered. There was a large amount of mysticism associated with the breed. Many people believe that when the owner of a Lhasa Apso passed away, their soul would move into their dog.

The dogs were so revered, in fact, that they were not allowed to leave the country of Tibet unless they were given as gifts by the Dalai Lama. From China’s Manchu Dynasty to around the year 1908, Dalai Lamas sent pairs of Lhasas to the Chinese Emperor as sacred gifts.

The first pair of Lhasa Apsos arrived in the United States in 1933. They were brought by naturalist C. Suydam Cutting, who received them as a gift from the Dalai Lama.

Appearance and Vital Stats

General Appearance

Lhasa Apso General Appearance

The Lhasa Apso has a unique, definitive look about him. Despite his small stature, he is a very sturdy dog with a rectangular shape.

Dog Breed Group

The Lhasa Apso is part of the Non-Sporting Group. This group tends to be a catch-all for breeds that are no easily classified. Because of this, you’ll find large variations amongst the breeds in the Non-Sporting Group.


This is a small breed, standing only 10 to 11 inches tall for male Lhasas, and females standing slightly smaller. You can expect your Lhasa Apso to weigh around 12 to 18 pounds.

Life Span

As a smaller breed, the Lhasa Apso lives a relatively long life. Your healthy and well-cared-for Lhasa Apso can be expected to live around 12 to 15 years old.

Coat and Colors

The Lhasa Apso’s coat is one of its most defining features. The breed’s thick double coat served as insulation to protect it from both the cold and heat of the Himalayas.

You’ll find your Lhasa Apso’s coat to be quite heavy and dense. The fur will fall straight down from a part down the center of his back. The fur shouldn’t be silky or woolly and will be long enough to drape onto the ground.

The Lhasa Apso’s coat comes in a wide array of colors. No color or color combination is considered unacceptable by the AKC’s breed standard.

Lhasa Apso Coat and Colors

The Lhasa Apso does not shed often. You may find a few hairs falling from his coat, but you’ll never have to worry about sweeping up huge mats of fur off your floor.


The Lhasa Apso’s tail is curled and sits high up on the dog’s rear. The tail will lie across the side of the dog’s back, and you might find a slight kink in it. The fur on the dog’s tail will be long and well-feathered.


You’ll find that the Lhasa Apso’s ears are pendant-shaped and lie close to the dog’s cheeks. The fur on the ears will be heavily feathered, similar to the dog’s tail.


There’s no breed quite like the Lhasa Apso. His history as a dog that lived in monasteries and palaces has left him with a regal nature, and his work as a guard dog offers him an independent and fierce element of his personality.

The Lhasa Apso is highly intelligent, and he won’t have a hard time understanding what you’re trying to teach him. Whether or not he’ll decide to listen to you is another story. That independent streak tends to be pretty strong.

This is a dog that takes his work as a guard dog seriously. He’ll be generally quite wary around strangers. At the same time, the Lhasa will simply adore his family members. Don’t be surprised if adopting one of these dogs results in your suddenly having a second, much smaller shadow following you around.

Despite the Lhasa Apso’s history as a guard dog and his serious commitment to the task, the Lhasa Apso is a playful breed. There’s a mischievous side to their nature and tend to retain puppy-like behavior even late in life.

Apartment Living

The Lhasa Apso makes a fantastic apartment dog. They are extremely low-energy, and won’t need a large yard to run around in to burn off energy.

If you’re thinking about bringing a Lhasa Apso into your apartment, then his watchdog history is something to consider. You’ll need to train your Lhasa Apso diligently to prevent him from barking at your neighbors.

Lhasa Apso Apartment Living

Children and Other Pets

If you have young children and you’re looking to adopt a dog, then the Lhasa Apso may not be the breed for you. Despite their own puppyish natures, Lhasas won’t necessarily love tolerating young kids and may nip them to get them to stop fooling around.

He can, however, do well around older kids. Make sure to teach your children the right ways to approach a dog, and to never pull on the Lhasa’s fur or body parts.

If you socialize your Lhasa Apso properly, then he’ll likely be able to get along well with other dogs. Just be aware that this is not a submissive breed, as the Lhasa prefers to be the leader of the pack rather than a follower.



As a small breed, the Lhasa Apso won’t require a large amount of food. Give your dog about ¾ of a cup to 1 cup of high-quality dry dog food every day.

Lhasa Apsos can become obese, so it’s important to monitor his daily caloric intake. To help prevent your dog from becoming overweight, split his food into two meals to keep him feeling satiated.


One of the most desirable traits of the Lhasa Apso is the breed’s beautiful, long, thick coat. This beautiful coat, however, can come at a price. Literally.

The Lhasa Apso requires a lot of grooming. It’s important to brush your dog’s fur daily to prevent tangles and matting in his long, thick coat.

Many owners choose to use a professional groomer since the process can be fairly involved and complex. It’s possible to learn how to groom the coat yourself, but this is not something you’ll want to try as a beginner.

To make the task easier, some owners elect to have their Lhasa’s fur trimmed short. This helps prevent dirt, grime, and tangles from building up in your dog’s coat.


One of the major benefits of the Lhasa Apso for particularly busy owners is the fact that their exercise needs are fairly low.

This dog won’t need rigorous daily exercise and will be more than happy to spend the majority of the day inside. To help prevent your dog from becoming obese and to keep him healthy, however, you should make sure to give your dog some daily exercise.

A short, brisk walk paired with a little bit of playtime during the day should be enough to satisfy his exercise needs.


You can trust that your Lhasa Apso is a relatively healthy breed. However, all breeds can be prone to certain conditions, and the Lhasa Apso is no exception.

Eye Issues

Lhasa Apsos can be prone to several eye conditions. Cherry eye occurs when a gland in the dog’s eye called the third eyelid swells, giving it a cherry-like appearance. This can be uncomfortable and affect the dog’s vision. The treatment for this is usually corrective surgery.

Lhasa Apsos can also be prone to a condition called progressive retinal atrophy, which is when the dog’s retina begins to degenerate, leading to eventual blindness. There is no way to treat PRA, but many dogs can live long, happy lives despite the loss of vision.

Sebaceous Adenitis

This is a genetic condition common in the Lhasa Apso. It can frequently be mistaken for allergies and hypothyroidism. If your dog is suffering from sebaceous adenitis, then you’ll find that your dog has scaly, dry skin matched with hair loss on the dog’s neck, back, and head.

This is a serious condition. Your vet will perform a biopsy to determine whether or not the issue is sebaceous adenitis. Treatment options will vary depending on the severity.

Patellar Luxation

This condition is common in small breeds, like the Lhasa Apso. It occurs when the knee joint slides in and out of place, which can cause discomfort and pain. It can lead to lameness later in life.

Depending on the severity of the condition, your vet may recommend corrective surgery for your dog.

Similar Breeds

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are similar in looks to the Lhasa Apso. They stand around the same size, and you can expect them to weigh about the same too. This is likely because the Shih Tzu is probably the result of breeding the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese breeds together thousands of years ago.

There are many similarities in terms of the two dogs’ names as well. Just like the Lhasa Apso is associated with the mythical Snow Lion, the Shih Tzu’s name translates to “Lion Dog.”

The Shih Tzu has a long history. They called the palaces of Chinese emperors home for a significant portion of their history. And, also like the Lhasa, Shih Tzus tend to retain an air of regalness because of this part of their history.

You can expect your Shih Tzu to be a friendly and playful companion that gets along fantastically with children.



The Havanese is the only breed native to Cuba. They are similar in size to the Lhasa Apso and share the same sort of rectangular shape.

The Havanese breed dates back several hundred years, but the most important moment of its history occurred during Cuba’s Communist takeover. As many Cuban citizens fled the country to escape the violence, they brought their Havenese dogs to America with them. It was during this time that the little breed found its footing.

If you are thinking about adopting a Havanese, expect a spunky, smart little dog with a love of making new friends.

Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniel

Like the Lhasa Apso, the Tibetan Spaniel is one of Tibet’s native breeds. Also similar is their history. The Tibetan Spaniel lived primarily in monasteries in the country. They were mostly appreciated for the ability to serve as loyal and loving companions, but they also served a job as watchdogs.

Similar in weight and height to the Lhasa Apso, the Tibetan Spaniel is perfect for anyone looking for a dog of the Lhasa’s size but with an easier to manage coat.

The Tibetan Spaniel, like many small dogs, has a big personality. This confident little breed forms an incredibly tight bond with his humans.