Lhasa Apso

Written by: Jamie
Updated: December 1, 2020

In today’s guide, we are going to look at the Lhasa Apso, an ancient Tibetan breed. Find out how deep this canine’s history really goes!  

Lhasa Apso standing on grass

Lhasa Apso Characteristics:
9-11 inches
Lhasa Apso Weight: 6-7 kilos
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club

Positives and Negatives

Here’s some key Lhasa Apso information at a glance.


  • Suitable for apartment living
  • Excellent watch and guard dog
  • Minimal shedding
  • Robust, playful, and deeply affectionate


  • Stubborn, not ideal for first-time owners
  • High grooming maintenance
  • Likes to bark
  • Prone to separation anxiety


The Lhasa Apso is thought to bring good fortune. They hold a deep history in Tibet and the religion of Buddhism and are still greatly treasured to this day. This little pooch was often found indoors with their owners, keeping watch and protecting them if necessary. The much larger Tibetan Mastiff would then guard and protect the outside perimeter.

This pet is suitable for apartment living and doesn’t require excessive exercise. Their single-layered coat hardly sheds so there won’t be large amounts of fur covering your home. Lhasa Apsos are cheerful, friendly, and loving dogs that make excellent companions. However, due to their stubborn and dominant side, they’re not ideal for first-time owners.

Portrait of three purebred Lhasa Apso on green grass

The breed was raised indoors accompanying their owners at all hours of the day. So it’s no wonder why these dogs are prone to separation anxiety when being left alone for long periods of time. Ideally, somebody from the household should be around for most hours of the day.

If an owner decides to keep the Lhasa Apso’s long coat, grooming maintenance will be required daily. Their signature coat is what gave them the name ‘Lion Dog’. The fur parts in two sections hanging down on both sides of the body. Their coat doesn’t let off a feisty look in the slightest but do be wary, these canines do have another side.

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Lhasa Apso dogs are an ancient breed dating back to at least 800 A.D. They originate from Tibet and were raised by monks. The Tibetan Terrier and herding Tibetan breeds created this exquisite looking pooch. Used as a guard and watchdog, these cute pooches would often work alongside the much larger Tibetan Mastiff.

Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the 7th century. This boosted the Lhasa Apso’s popularity.A Lhasa Apso’s fully grown coat closely resembles a Lion, an important animal amongst Buddhists. It’s why these dogs were treasured by the monks. Lhasa Apsos also believed to be linked to the guardian of the country, a mythical Snow Lion.

The lion is also a symbol of the Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Buddhists in Tibet believe the souls of Priests are reincarnated as Lhasa Apsos before they are reborn into humans. When a Dalai Lama dies, they are also thought to go through this process. These monastery dogs hold deep history and meaning within the religion.

Lhasa Apsos were mostly given away as gifts by the Dalai Lamas as opposed to being sold. Some of these canines were gifted to the Emperor of China. A move that saw the development of the Pekingese and Shih Tzu. The 13th Dalai Lama gifted two Lhasa Apsos to Charles Cutting in the 1930s. They were the first of their breed to enter the US.

Related: Discover more about Cavapoos next.


Lhasa Apso Temperament:

Although the Lhasa Apso breed was popularly used as a companion and lap dog, they were originally bred as a guard dog. These small, robust canines will protect their family until the very end! They also make great watchdogs, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious.

Indoors, this breed is lively and bursting with personality. You’ll never have a dull day with the Lhasa Apso by your side! A great word to describe this pooch is spirited! They just love being the centre of attention. With the right training and socialization, you’ll receive a loving, friendly, sociable pet with a secretive stubborn side!

Is the Lhasa Apso Good With Strangers?

No, this breed is aloof and wary of strangers. Bred as a guard dog this pooch will hold a natural suspicion towards those they don’t know. They’ll always be on the alert, keeping an eye on their territory.

Lhasa Apso dog sitting on sofa

Is the Lhasa Apso Good With Children?

Lhasa Aposos are better suited to older kids. This breed doesn’t have the patience to handle smaller children’s behaviour. It is better to bring a Lhasa Apso puppy into the home around children instead of an older dog. These canines are robust and can handle play, but it is still important to be gentle.

Is the Lhasa Apso Ok With Other Dogs?

The Lhasa Apso likes the position of the top dog. This can cause problems when interacting with other canines. It is important the breed is socialized well with other dogs to enable a more sociable temperament. If this pet is going to live with other dogs or possibly a cat, they should be introduced during the puppy stage.


Ideally, the Lhasa Apso dog should receive up to an hour’s worth of exercise each day. The time can be split amongst multiple walks throughout the day. Lhasa Apso puppies may want to stay outdoors for a little longer.

This pet is suitable for apartment living but must receive their daily exercise needs. A bored Lhasa Apso will excessively bark and chew, destroying anything they wish. You can tell if this breed wants to exercise as they’ll probably start running around the home in a bid to tire themselves out!

Lhasa Apso dog standing on grass

The Lhasa Apso is intelligent and will need mental stimulation every so often. Despite their little size, these pooches perform well in agility. Their tiny noses are also excellent at picking up a scent. Retrieving and herding is another skill owned by the Lhasa Apso so games like fetch and frisbee will be highly enjoyable.

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These are some common breed-related health issues related to the Lhasa Apso:

  • Luxating Patellas- The knee cap moves out of position temporarily before falling back into place. Symptoms include lameness.
  • Glaucoma- A lack of fluid drainage from the eye causes pressure within the eye. Symptoms include redness, pain, and a loss of vision.
  • Cataracts- An abnormal cloudiness in the eye. If large this will cause vision to be blurry, eventually leading to blindness.
  • Atopy- A lifelong skin disease causing itchiness, redness, and possibly hair loss.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca- Also known as dry eye, this health issue is caused by the decrease in tear production. The dryness will eventually damage the surface of the eye (cornea).
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease- This condition is degenerative and age-related. The disc underneath the spinal cord slips causing symptoms such as pain, loss of limb function, and paralysis.
  • Hydrocephalus- Cerebrospinal fluid doesn’t drain correctly causing increased pressure on the brain. It is an uncommon condition.

Intelligence & Training

Lhasa-Apso dogs are deeply intelligent and have a number of skills including their scent, retrieving, therapy, and herding skills. This breed is traditionally used as a companion dog and is always near its owner. They’re sensitive and will only progress with training through positive reinforcement.

This breed may be small but can easily run rings around an inexperienced owner. Strong leadership will need to be shown against the stubborn and headstrong Apso dog. Respect training should be focused on first, with obedience to follow after. Set your house rules and be consistent. Never allow your pet to break them.

As pack animals, dogs will follow the lead of the Alpha. Start training as soon as your Lhasa Apso puppy comes home. A younger dog is much easier to train but as the weeks go past, they become more independent. Socialization should also begin immediately to prevent fear or anxiety which could form into aggression.

A Lhasa Apso puppy will lose their attention quickly. Make sure training sessions are around 10 minutes long. They must be unique as this breed doesn’t take kindly to repetition! Once you feel comfortable, start taking them outside to practice. Remember, this breed is stubborn so patience will be needed.

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The Lhasa Apso doesn’t have an undercoat. For this reason, their fur sheds minimally, almost as if a human would. Naturally, this breed will have long hair flowing to the ground. It will need brushing daily to prevent tangles and debris. A short coated Lhasa Apso will also need frequent brushing as fur can still become matted.

Wash this pooch every 6-8 weeks with a short coat and every 2 weeks with a long coat. Make sure their fur has been brushed prior to bathing as knots are more difficult to remove when wet. Thorough rinsing is essential as shampoo remnants can irritate the skin. Once they’re out of the bath dry them with a towel and then blow-dry the coat in layers.

Lhasa Apso portrait

Trim around the face and paws with some scissors to remove any overgrown fur. The area around the anus may need trimming more frequently for hygiene reasons. These canines grooming needs can be demanding. Owners can benefit from professional help a handful of times a year.

Check and clean the ears weekly from any wax or debris. Pluck any excess strands that are blocking the airflow to the ear canal. Nails will require trimming every 3-4 weeks. Don’t forget to brush their teeth! Try to do this at least three times a week, although vets do recommend this is done daily.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jamie! I've always been around dogs and now writing about them is an absolute joy.
Read more about my story here.
Reach me at Jamie@woofbarkgrowl.co.uk or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

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