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Lhasa Apso Dog Breed information: Facts, Traits, Pictures & More

The Lhasa Apso is a popular small dog breed that offers plenty of benefits for potential dog owners. In this breed guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about this curious canine. You'll learn about their exercise needs, temperament, grooming needs, puppy costs, and more!

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: July 13, 2021 | 15 min read

Lhasa Apso Dog

The Lhasa Apso is a tiny pup with lavishly long locks. Despite his small frame, he is jam-packed with canine character. And this is why there are so many ardent Apso fans across the globe. It’s hard to believe why this pup isn’t more popular than he is!

So, whether you’re about to welcome one of these lovely pups into your life, or you’re curious as to what all the Apso fuss is about, you’ve landed in the right place!

This breed guide will provide you with a full Lhasa Apso education. We’ll start with his history and how that determines his personality. And then, we’ll focus on things such as his intense grooming needs, how much exercise he requires, how to train him to be an obedient dog, and much more. Still interested in finding out all there is to know about this pup? Let’s get started!

Breed Overview
    • weight iconWeight12-18 Pounds
    • height iconHeight9-11 Inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-15 Years
    • color iconColorsBlack, Tan, Cream, Golden, Grizzle, Red, Gold & White
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

History

Three Long-Haired Dogs
Lhasa Apsos have been around for centuries, with origins dating as far back as 800 B.C. in Tibet.

This is an ancient breed that dates back to 800 B.C. He is named after Tibet’s sacred city, Lhasa. Their name also translates to ‘long haired dog.’ His first role was a sentinel dog inside the palaces and Buddhist monasteries. Mastiffs were used as the first line of defense outside, and Lhasas were the inside canine alarm system. Back in his homeland, he is known as Abso Seng Kye, which translates to ‘Bark Lion Sentinel Dog.’

Lhasa Apsos are still viewed as sacred creatures today, treasured by royals and ordinary people alike. It was also believed that when a monk passed away, his soul would enter his dog to live on. This holy hound was a closely guarded national treasure. They were forbidden to leave the country unless gifted by the Dalai Lama.

A pair of Lhasa Apsos were gifted to America in 1933 to a renowned traveler, Suydam Cutting. And almost all American Lhasas today originate from this foundation pair. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1935, and the American Lhasa Apso Club was established in 1959.

Today, he is still a rare dog, and he usually finds himself between the 70th and 80th most popular dog breed. Famous Lhasa owners include Ellen Degeneres, Elizabeth Taylor, and Gwen Stefani. The remake of the Lady and The Tramp in 2019 selected a Lhasa Apso to play Peg, who was originally a Pekingnese.

Temperament

White and Black Dog Next to Pink Flowers
Even though they are small, these pups are incredibly protective and make great guard dogs.

The Lhasa Apso is and always has been a protective dog. So, if you are looking for a guard dog that comes in a small package, look no further than this breed. He’ll stand his ground and bark loudly at visitors to warn you of their presence and them to watch their step on his territory. If you aren’t a fan of loud, barky dogs, this is not the breed for you. It can cause problems with noise-sensitive neighbors or those living under strict noise-level conditions.

His protectiveness tells us a lot about his loyalty to his family, and he would do anything for them. He looks like a lion and has the heart of one too. He is affectionate and cuddly with his family, and he has become accustomed to the life of luxury. With strangers, he is aloof, and it’ll take a lot of time and someone special for him to warm up to an outsider.

He is a Velcro pup who will follow you everywhere, simply because he loves company when it’s available. However, unlike most Velcro dogs, he doesn’t mind being left alone on his own for a few hours. The Lhasa is an independent and regal dog for sure. He doesn’t usually suffer from separation anxiety, making him an easy-going pup in this sense.

He is a comical canine, and he loves to strut his funny stuff. Showing off to his family is one of his favorite pastimes, and he is always up for a game of fetch or tug-of-war. He takes a long time to grow up, acting like a playful pup until his senior years.

He is a cheeky chap, too, who is always trying to push his luck and see what he can get away with. Many describe his personality as that of a terrier, which is fitting, seeing as he used to be known as the Lhasa Apso Terrier.

Size & Appearance

Long-Haired Dog Standing on a Rock
The breed’s small frame stands no taller than 11 inches.

This breed is classified as a small-sized dog. They typically weigh between 12 and 18 pounds. Males measure between 10 to 11 inches tall, from paw to wither, and females measure ever so slightly shorter. Females should look feminine, and males should appear more powerful. Overall he has a small, sturdy, well-balanced rectangular body with a level topline and a pluming tail carried well over his back.

His eyes are small and button-like, always dark in color, and are hidden under all that hair of his. The Lhasa’s nose is framed by a cheeky smile. His feet are well furnished, full of hair, and are often neatened up to avoid grinch-like paws. This breed looks similar to many other short, long Asian dogs, and he is often confused for a Shih Tzu.

If you want to enter your Lhasa Apso into breed conformation shows, he’ll need to conform to the breed standard. Whether it fits the standard or not, a Lhasa’s appearance bears no effect on his personality.

Coat & Colors

Three Long-Haired Dogs in Grass
The long and luxurious hair of the Lhasa Apso makes this breed unique.

The Lhasa Apso is best known for its luscious locks. He is a heavy, double-coated pooch that has long, straight, hard hair. These pups should not feel silky or woolen, despite looking silky soft. His hair will fall to the floor, which acts like a mop from dirt and dust. The hair around his eyes will also grow long, which is why many owners tie their hair up to improve his vision.

They sport a whole range of beautiful doggy colors. The standard colors are black, black and tan, cream, golden, grizzle, red, red gold & white. But many also come in blue, charcoal, gray, liver, and silver. They also enjoy a range of patterns and markings, such as brindle, sable, white patches, and particolored. And the most common being a darker facial mask and darker ear tips.

Exercise Requirements

Small Cream Dog Running Outdoors
Spending around 30 minutes exercising your Lhasa is ideal for its health.

This breed is a relatively energetic dog considering his size, and he needs at least 30 minutes of fun exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be particularly intense exercise, but it does need to be exciting for him. Otherwise, this regal pooch will turn his nose up when you say walkies! To keep things interesting, try mixing up your exercise routine by visiting new places and playing in the park.

Although he loves to laze around in his master’s lap, he isn’t a typical lap dog. He needs stimulation throughout the day to keep his mind occupied and his paws busy. Otherwise, he’ll become quite the naughty pup! Be sure to invest in toys you can use to interact with him and for him to play with on his own.

A great way to burn off excess energy is to take him down to the local doggy park. But bear in mind that he will try to assert himself as the leader. And more often than not, large dogs will fall in line! It’s also a great way to socialize him so he doesn’t become too overprotective of his home and family.

Living Conditions

Small Cream Dog on a Sofa
These pups can live just about anywhere because of its small stature.

The Lhasa Apso is small enough to live in any size home. From small city apartments to large, sprawling country estates, he’ll adapt with ease. But wherever you live, you must ensure that your home and yard are secure. This little lion dog will wander off in the hope of finding a person or another creature to tell off. He’ll also chase up-to-no-gooders away and get lost in the meantime.

He is a friendly dog with other pups and could happily live with other canines. He’s not afraid of large dogs and can handle his own in play fights. With the right socialization, he could also happily coexist with other animals. He also adores children, and although he is tolerant of young, excitable kids, he does have a limit. It’s important to teach kids how to properly interact with dogs and always supervise them together.

His idea of the perfect family is one who is home for much of the day, but as we said, he’s quite happy spending a few hours alone. His family needs to be relatively active, but thankfully not too much. Overall, he is an adaptable pooch who is relatively easy-going as long as his basic needs are met.

Training

Small Black Dog Next to Yellow Flowers
These dogs are stubborn nature can make it a difficult breed to train.

These dogs might be small, but he has the personality of a lion. Meaning that he is relatively stubborn and likes to think he is the boss. He is described as a complex canine. On the one hand, he is loving and playful. But he also has a stubborn and tantrum-throwing side that can make training difficult. The Lhasa is best saved for an experienced dog owner who knows how to get the best out of him.

Many Lhasa Apsos suffer from something described by canine behaviorists as small dog syndrome. Essentially, this occurs when little ‘harmless’ dogs are given free rein to act as they please. And it causes countless problems. And combining this with the their guarding tendencies, you need to establish house rules and a routine from day one. Otherwise, he’ll rule the roost.

Positive reinforcement training is the best way to train this breed. There needs to be something in it for this dog to be trained. And he’s likely to sulk if you’re too harsh with him. Spend time discovering what your pup likes, and use this in your training regime to motivate him. All dogs are different, so it’s important to find out what works with your pooch.

Socialization is a must for all dogs, but particularly for overprotective dogs like this little Lhasa. The optimum window for effective doggy socialization is 3 to 12 weeks. A reputable breeder will start the process, but it’ll be down to you to continue it when you take him home.

Mix him with as many unfamiliar humans and new dogs as you can. Expose him to things that he’ll encounter in his new life, such as loud sidewalks, elevator rides, and his grooming regime. It’ll increase his confidence and instill politeness into him.

Another important training aspect that you’ll want to take on board is the ‘quiet’ command. It will make your life a whole lot easier with its roaring ways and save you a lot of headaches too. The Lhasa will never not be protective, but he needs to learn that one or two barks are plenty. Otherwise, he’ll get you into trouble with your neighbors.

Health

Senior Dog in the Sunlight
Just like many small dogs, these pups have a long lifespan, often up to 15 years.

There are many things that responsible dog owners should do to maximize the healthiness of their pup. Feeding your pooch the best-quality nutrition that you can afford is a simple way to keep him healthy. Alongside keeping him fit with regular exercise and keeping up to date with veterinary health checks. Working with a responsible breeder who can provide you with relevant health certificates is also important to maximizing puppy health.

The Lhasa Apso is a relatively healthy breed, which is reflected in his long expected life span of 12 to 15 years. Smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger dogs like the Mastiff, which is a big appeal of his. But like all dog breeds, they are prone to their fair share of health conditions. You must research the following common concerns to prepare you should the worst happen.

Familial Inherited Renal Dysplasia

This is one of the most common conditions found in the breed. This occurs when the pup is born with abnormally shaped or overly small kidneys. This disease varies in severity. Some pups experience complete renal failure, and some will go on to live normally without any symptoms. The most common symptoms are excessive thirst and a bloated abdomen.

Eye Conditions

Like many dog breeds, these dogs suffer from a few eye conditions. The most common concerns are progressive retinal atrophy, keratitis, and cherry eye. It’s important to observe the appearance of his eyes and his vision. Responsible breeders should supply health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

Patella Luxation

This is a health concern that mainly affects smaller breeds, including this breed. The patella is the scientific name for the kneecap. Essentially, the kneecap doesn’t sit correctly, and it floats in and out of the correct position. It is a painful condition that can reduce mobility. Symptoms include kicking out with the affected leg and an unsmooth gait.

Sebaceous Adenitis

This is a serious skin condition that can lead to various other skin infections and conditions. This occurs when the sebaceous glands in the skin become blocked and inflamed. It causes scaling, hair loss, and an unpleasant odor. Treatment varies depending on the severity of the problem.

Nutrition

Long-Haired Dog Looking Up With Tongue Out
It is best to feed your Lhasa Apso a kibble specially formulated for small breeds.

Thanks to his small size, the Lhasa Apso doesn’t bring with him a huge monthly food bill. The average pup will consume around 1.5 cups of food every day.

All dogs are different and lead different lifestyles, meaning that some will eat less and some will eat slightly more than this. It’s important to follow the package instructions based on the size and lifestyle of your pup. It will also involve a little bit of trial and error, but it’s important to not overfeed him.

Being a small pup, you’ll want to find a kibble that is specifically designed for small breed dogs. Not only are the kibble pieces smaller for his diddy mouth, but it also contains optimized nutrition for smaller breeds. It’s also important to feed him age-appropriate food, especially during puppyhood when he needs extra protein and omega fats.

The role of high-quality dog food is more important than most dog owners think. It can minimize health risks and maximize wellness. If your dog suffers from an inherited renal condition, your vet may suggest a specialized renal diet. So be sure to speak to them.

Grooming

Long-Haired Dog Being Brushed
These dogs require a meticulous grooming regimen due to its long hair-like fur.

Their grooming schedule can be very high maintenance or relatively simple, and it all depends on what haircut you opt for. If you decide to stick to the traditional long coat, or you want to show him in the conformation ring, he is an extremely high-maintenance dogs. He’ll need daily grooming to remove all the dirt and debris that gets caught up in his locks.

If you haven’t got the time or energy for this level of grooming, you can opt for the ‘puppy coat.’ Essentially, it’s where all the hair is trimmed short, and it follows the line of the body. If you opt for this coat, he’ll only need brushing once to twice a week to ensure that matting doesn’t occur. But he’ll pick up much less dirt, and he’ll be less odorous, too. Many owners take their dogs to the groomers regularly to keep them looking their best.

They traditionally sport a longer, more natural coat will also need bathing, shampooing, and conditioning once every two weeks. Compared to those with a puppy cut that only needs bathing once every six weeks or so. Always choose a shampoo that is designed for dogs that looks after their sensitive skin. If your pup suffers from sebaceous adenitis, he’ll likely need a specific ailment or medicated shampoo.

Smaller dogs have cramped mouths, which means that they need their teeth brushing more often. So, it’s important to brush his teeth at least three times a week with doggy-specific toothpaste to keep periodontal diseases at bay.

His nails will need trimming once every two weeks or so. Otherwise, they’ll become too long and painful. So, be sure to keep an eye on his hairy claws.

Most potential owners think Lhasa Apsos are hypoallergenic, but this is definitely not true. Their dander tends to get caught up in their long hair, but they are moderate shedders throughout the year. If you are looking for a small, hypoallergenic dog, both the Maltese and the Maltipoo are hypoallergenic and similarly sized.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Cute Puppy Face
This breed is more affordable as a puppy and typically starts at around $1,000 and up.

As we have already mentioned, the Lhasa Apso is a relatively rare canine in America. Meaning that it is likely that you’ll need to travel further to find a reputable breeder. But this all depends on where you live! Reputable breeders are likely to have waiting lists. But don’t worry, this is a good sign that they take care of their litters rather than just pump as many pups out as possible.

A responsible breeder will expect to meet you in person, and they’ll have plenty of questions to ask you about why you have chosen this breed. They’ll be very knowledgeable and approachable and will insist on you meeting their pups with their mom. They will also supply relevant health certificates. A great place to start your search for a puppy is with the AKC’s Lhasa Apso breeders page.

The average price of a purebred puppy starts from $1,000, but it can reach up to the thousands depending on the breeder you choose. If you find a Lhasa puppy being sold for any less than this, you should see it as a warning sign.

Puppy mills and irresponsible breeders lure customers in with low prices, but in return, they do not care for the health of their puppies. Meaning that you’ll end up with a poorly, unsocialized pup who will cost much more in the long run. Please, avoid them!

There are also more costs involved with being a dog owner than the initial puppy price. Although this breed is not the most expensive, you need to be financially able to care for him and his needs no matter what happens. Consider things such as beds, crates, collars, harnesses, toys, and everything else that a dog needs. Plus veterinary care, grooming, and insurance costs.

Rescues & Shelters

Two Small Puppies in a Basket
There are breed-specific rescues that rehome dogs of all ages

Buying a brand new, shiny puppy from a breeder is not the best option for everyone. Thankfully, this is not the only option! There are many dogs out there waiting for their forever homes in rescue shelters across America. However, please bear in mind that this breed is a rare dog anyway, meaning he’ll also be rare in rescue shelters.

You are two main options for those seeking to adopt an Apso. The first option is to head out to your local rescue shelter and speak to the staff. They will talk you through the adoption process and hopefully point you in the direction of a rescue center.

The second option is getting in touch with breed-specific rescues. A great place to start your adoption journey is with the Lhasa Happy Homes rescue organization or the Lhasa Apso Rescue Facebook page.

As Family Pets

  • The Lhasa Apso is a small-sized pup who will happily live in any size home.
  • He might be small, but he makes a fantastic guard dog.
  • This little pup will let everyone know who’s boss with his little lion roars.
  • His protective nature makes him suspicious and aloof with strangers.
  • With his family, he is very loving and affectionate.
  • Lhasa’s only need 30 minutes of exercise every day.
  • He will spend most of his day by your side.
  • Thankfully, this pup is also independent.
  • This means he doesn’t mind being left home alone for a few hours.
  • This is an active canine, that’s always ready for a game of tug-of-war or fetch.
  • They can live with other animals as long as they are well socialized.
  • He adores children but does have a limit for overly excitable kiddos.
  • This means it’s important to teach your children how to behave appropriately with dogs.
  • He can be a stubborn and complex small dog.
  • This means he’s best suited with an experienced owner who can handle dominant dogs.

Final Thoughts

The Lhasa Apso is a rare breed in America. And after reading our guide, you’re probably wondering why! The only thing that we can think of is that he is a tricky dog to train, thanks to his overprotective nature. But if you have the experience to deal with this complex canine, you are certainly in for a treat.

He is funny, loving, easy-going, and adaptable to his new surroundings. There is never a dull moment with this pup around, and he is also happy to be left alone for a few hours. Making him different from most other small, needy dogs. Many breed fans swear by the fact that this little lion dog is one of the best canine companions around. So, if you’re sure that this pup is the right dog for you, what are you waiting for?

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