Lhasa Apso: Breed Information, Characteristics, and Facts

Lhasa Apso: Breed Information, Characteristics, and Facts

Though you may not be familiar with the name of this breed, it’s clear that the Lhasa Apso has a recognizable appearance. Dog owners of this specific breed often keep their fur extremely long during dog shows and as a personal choice. Many compare the breed to a walking mop because of how its long fur sweeps over its eyes and covers most of its face. When their fur is kept long, they also appear to have no feet. This dog breed requires a lot more grooming than other dog breeds and isn’t suggested for novice dog owners. To learn more about the Lhasa Apso and their needs, read on!

Breed Overview

Dog Breed Group:Height:Weight:Life Expectancy:Personality:
Non-sporting group10 to 11 inches12 to 18 pounds12 to 15 yearsLoyal, protective, friendly

History of the Lhasa Apso

Where the Lhasa Apso Originated

As the Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet, let’s talk about how they are seen in their home country. In Tibetan folklore, these “Bearded Lion Dogs” are thought to be the representatives of the Snow Lion. The Snow Lion is said to be the protector of the entire country of Tibet, and the Lhasa dogs are the Lion’s earthly representatives to watch over the land.

Tibet’s sacred city, Apso, is the Tibetan word for “longhaired dog”.

The Bark Lion Sentinel Dog

Once used as sentinel dogs at palaces and Buddhist monasteries, the native name for this breed, “Abso Seng Kye”, roughly translates into “Bark Lion Sentinel Dog”. They performed their role in the Himalayan Mountains so that they could alert their owners to visitors, and they were said to be a sacred breed. For many years, this friendly and loyal canine breed has been associated with the Dalai Lama.

Lhasa Apsos in the West

The 13th Dalai Lama gave two of this breed of dog as gifts to a traveler and his wife in the 1930s, which helped to establish the breed in the United States when they took them home. They are an ancient breed with a rich and spiritual history, who now exist across the world.

Though they aren’t used much like a guard dog in Western culture, these smart and confident dogs with their long coat and small stature are still very popular. You’re more likely to see them on the dog show circuit now, as they became an American Kennel Club recognized breed in 1935 and are welcome to compete in the non-sporting group or Terrier group of dog shows. They’ve also become popular with a number of celebrities in the past couple of decades.

Lhasa apso dog show champion portrait in Slovakia

Breed Highlights

  • An affectionate breed who is good with young children and other dogs.
  • Minimal shedding but lots of grooming is required to keep their dense coat looking fresh.
  • Very protective, suitable as a guard dog for a family or commercial property.
  • Rich and long history.
  • Considered an ancient breed.
  • Not too high-energy.
  • AKC recognized breed.

Breed Appearance

Though the appearance of the Lhasa dog can vary, the breed standard set by the American Kennel Club is as follows:

The general appearance of the Lhasa Apso dog breed should reflect their Tibetan heritage as an indoor sentinel. They are small dogs, but sturdy, and should be well-balanced and rectangular in shape.

No part of the Lhasa should be exaggerated, though they should feature a dense coat with a double layer that is parted in the middle from head to tail. They should also have well-featured feet and legs to help protect the small dog against any extreme temperatures.

How Big do Lhasa Apso Get?

Their official size varies, but AKC prefers the Lhasa Apso size to register between 10 and 11 inches from the floor to their shoulder. Female Lhasa Apsos may be slightly smaller than males.


The Lhasa is a double-coated dog with a heavy and straight coat of fur that should be of a good length. For the purposes of shows, it is preferred to see a Lhasa Apso with feathered fur at their feet, covering the entirety of their legs.

Although the coat of this dog breed may appear to be silky, it should actually be hard and dense. Woolly or silky coats will likely lose marks during competitions where the dog’s long hair is examined by show officials.

Coat Colors and Patterns

All coat colors are equally acceptable for the Lhasa Apso breed, which is unusual for an official breed standard requirement from the AKC.

These are a few of the color combinations that you may see on Lhasa Apso puppies:

  • Black
  • Black and Tan
  • Cream
  • Golden
  • Grizzle
  • Red
  • Red Gold
  • White

Coat markings may consist of:

  • White markings
  • Black tips
  • Brindle
  • Sable
  • Black mask with tips
  • Parti-color

It’s unlikely that you’ll come across a blue, charcoal, or gray-coated Lhasa Apso.

Fun Lhasa Apso Facts

  • Their Western name comes from the Tibetan capital city.
  • In Tibetan Buddhism, they are part of the process of reincarnation and are considered sacred.
  • The only reason they exist in the United States is that the Dalai Lama gave them as gifts. A traveler named Charles Suydam Cutting visited Tibet in the 1930s with his wife, and they returned to the United States with two Lhasa Apsos, given to them from the 13th Dalai Lama.
  • The breed is a cross between the Tibetan terrier and other Tibetan herding dogs.
  • They’re often used in dog sports like conformation, where a canine is held to its breed’s own standard.
  • Although many small dogs are lap dogs, the Lhasa Apso is no couch potato. They love to exercise!
  • Many well-known celebrities own or have owned Lhasa Apsos, including Gwen Stefani, Ellen DeGeneres, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jane Lynch.
  • Centuries ago, Dalai Lamas would gift Lhasa Apso dogs to the emperors of China. They were thought to be a lucky breed of domestic canine.
  • Although they have a life span of 12 to 15 years, the oldest Lhasa Apso lived to be 29.
  • The Lhasa Apso’s coat grows continuously and will require regular trims and maintenance.

Lhasa Apso Personality

If you have other pets at home, you don’t need to worry. As long as you spend some time socializing and training Lhasa Apsos, they’ll fit right into any existing home dynamics. The Lhasa Apso temperament is very mild – they’re friendly towards children, other animals, and are even fairly open to meeting strangers.

This dog breed isn’t overly excitable or playful, but we would say they’re just the right amount of both. They have a particularly independent nature and will happily exercise themselves outside of going on any short walks their owners take them out on during the day.

Lhasa Apso puppies and adults will require some mental stimulation, just like any other dogs you own. Just because they aren’t the most playful doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy playing with you. In fact, playtime is as much a part of the development of a puppy as consistent training is.

In short, a Lhasa Apso dog is a fearless guard dog who is intelligent, yet friendly and energetic. They will be a steadfast and loyal companion for any owner who treats them well and ensure that they remain a healthy dog.

cute lhasa apso is running on a field with dandelions

Lhasa Apso Care

The actual care of dog breeds like the Lhasa Apso isn’t much different from the care of other dogs. What the owner of this dog needs to consider is that they are a small dog with different nutritionary needs and a big personality. They were bred to primarily be a watch dog, despite their role in dog sports today. Your pup has innate instincts that they will use to alert you when they believe there is danger or your attention is needed. You can harness these instincts by having your dog professionally trained, but we’ll go into that more later.

Your Lhasa Apso dog will do well as the only pet of your household or living with other dogs. As long as you take the time to socialize them with other pets that you have at home, there should be no cause for concern when bringing a Lhasa Apso puppy into a home with existing dogs.

Lhasa Apsos can get possessive, which means that you must remember to spend time with them and give them their own belongings. They may become aggressive if they think their belongings or their owner/family is being threatened.

For the best care, be sure to visit your chosen veterinarian regularly. Take your Lhasa Apso dog breed to all of their check-ups, especially the ones that are scheduled when they are young puppies. Lhasa Apsos are prone to a few different health problems, which you will not know how to treat at home without any prior knowledge or experience.


A dog’s training always starts with socialization. Socialization enables a dog to understand social cues and how to, well, act like other dogs of its breed. Their training begins as a young puppy, where they will play with their littermates and be taught by their mother.

Once a puppy is passed over to a human, it’s up to their new owner to continue training their dog.

Though there is plenty of information online about how to teach a dog commands and tricks, there’s nothing that beats hands-on experience with a qualified professional. If you’re new to being a dog owner, we highly recommend looking at local dog schools and contacting them with an inquiry. In dog schools, your pup will learn how to respond to you and you will learn how your dog communicates. You may even have a local dog or kennel club that can give you advice.


Lhasa Apsos require half a cup of high-quality kibble twice a day to maintain their weight and be healthy. The type of dog food you buy is an important decision. Not all dog food is created equal, and it’s more likely that the cheaper brands that are stocked in your local supermarket or pet store are created using plenty of filler ingredients.

Some research into wholesome dog food brands with good ethics and high-quality ingredients will do your pup a world of good. Remember: The higher an ingredient is on the list, the more of it there is in the food. You want a meat product to be the first item on that list.

Check our our selection of high quality Lhasa Apsos dog food here.


Because this dog breed is long-haired, they need to be groomed regularly. When they’re younger, most owners will give them a puppy cut to make them easier to care for until they’re less energetic and have more training.

An owner who keeps their Lhasa Apsos coat long will need to commit to daily brushing. You should never brush a Lhasa when they have dry fur; always brush them when their fur has been treated with a spray dog conditioner, at the very least. They have a full coat of extremely dense and hard fur and you could hurt them by trying to brush out knots and tangles from dry fur.

If you decide to keep their coat short, your canine will only need to be brushed every couple of days. Both types of fur length should be bathed every two to three weeks, which is significantly more often than other breeds.

Be sure to have your dog’s nails trimmed at least once a month and regularly brush their teeth to aid in the prevention of tartar buildup. Additionally, check your dog’s ears for wax build-up and treat it if necessary. Following all of this advice will lead to optimal pet care.


In the 15 years that this Tibetan Terrier cross lives, it may end up with a few different health issues that dog owners won’t foresee until their pup starts having symptoms or shows signs of illness. If your pup shows any of the symptoms that we’ve listed here, take them to a vet for veterinary advice as soon as possible.

  • Cherry Eye

Though this condition is difficult to describe without a visual, it is very easy to notice once your canine has it. Cherry Eye occurs when the Lhasa Apso is under one year old and it appears as a bulbous red swelling in the corner of your dog’s eye. What is happening is that the small ligament that holds your pup’s third eyelid in place stretches or breaks, causing the swelling of the third eyelid. There’s no cemented information about why this occurs in dogs, but it almost always requires surgery to be fixed. It’s possible for this condition to affect both of your dog’s eyes.

  • Hip Dysplasia

An unfortunately common condition in many various breeds, hip dysplasia is a joint condition where the dog’s hip is deformed while they are still growing. It affects the hip ball joint and can cause an uneven gait, swelling, and pain. With proper management, dogs with this condition can still live full and happy lives. It’s often recommended to use joint supplements to help keep the affected pup’s ligaments and joints more flexible.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Another eye condition, Progressive Retinal Atrophy occurs when the retina of a dog’s eye deteriorates. It may be the partial or complete wasting of their retina, which leads to blindness in the affected dog. Symptoms include loss of night vision, cloudy eyes, or eyes that take on a gray tone with a slight sheen.

  • Sebaceous Adenitis

A genetic skin condition where the sebaceous glands become inflamed. It causes hair loss that is symmetrically repeated on both sides of the dog’s body, itching, and possibly bacterial infection in the dog’s hair follicles. It is not a life-threatening condition and treatment often includes daily supplements that contain essential fatty acids or omega-3s.


As with any other breed, walk your Lhasa every day. They don’t need long walks because they’re small dogs, but the daily exercise combined with playtime will help you have a healthy dog. As part of the Terrier group, you may find that your pup has a particular fondness for playing fetch.

If you’re struggling for ways to exercise your pup, remember that you can get a lot of exercise in by letting them run around your fenced yard and using quality dog toys to add mental stimulation to their play.

Adopt Don’t Shop (Rescue Groups)

Now that you know all about this superstar dog from Tibet, let’s talk about adopting rather than buying your first Lhasa. There are many organizations around the world that take in abandoned, surrendered, or stray dogs, and Lhasa Apsos are just one breed among the many that these organizations care for.

When they’re up for adoption, the Lhasa Apso will typically have short hair and may not be recognizable as the fabulous long-haired version that you’re used to seeing in the media and during dog shows. When short-haired, they look a bit more like a Shih Tzu, which can cause confusion.

As dogs get older, they are less likely to be adopted and many spend a long time in shelters waiting for their forever home. Adoption fees are significantly less than paying a breeder for a puppy from the same breed, and you’ll be giving a dog another chance at finding a happy home to live the rest of their days out in.

More dog breeds like the Lhasa are the Shih Tzu, the Maltese, and the Bichon Frise. Any of these dogs could be good alternatives.

Portrait of lhasa apso dog at sea.


Buying a Lhasa Apso puppy from a reputable breeder will cost anywhere from $500 to $1,200 USD. Adult dogs cost less because they are seen as less desirable when compared to young puppies.

However, a purebred Lhasa Apso can fetch a hefty price up to $5,000 USD, so you really need to be careful about who you’re buying from before you pay that much for your new pup.

Where to Find Lhasa Apso Puppies

You aren’t likely to come across any Lhasa Apsos in your local pet store, but there will be plenty of breeders out there offering these dogs. When it comes to buying from breeders, be careful not to fall for any scams. Check for reviews, never pay deposits or any money online, and definitely don’t give the breeder anything until you’ve met the pup in person.

Be sure to take a friend with you to see any puppies you’re interested in purchasing from a breeder and always ask for veterinary records. Additionally, ask to see the parents of the puppies during your visit. Doing all of this can help you avoid buying from a puppy mill and contributing to backyard breeding.

American Kennel Club

By far, the safest place to buy a pup of a particular breed is on the AKC marketplace. The American Kennel Club doesn’t allow just anyone to become a registered breeder on their website, they have to pass various checks and provide a lot of information before they’re considered to become part of the marketplace.

On the AKC marketplace, you can search for puppies of any breed that may be local to you. The fastest way to find Lhasa puppies is to navigate to the Lhasa Apso information page and then click the red button to search for puppies on the marketplace. This will send you to a new page that shows all of the registered Lhasa Apso puppy litters on the AKC site.

Each listing tells you what puppies are available, how old they are, the name of the registered breeder, and their location. You can further refine your search using your preferred gender of pup, location, and the distance you’re willing to travel. Each individual listing contains more information from the breeder, including how to contact them.


This breed is full of affectionate and loyal dogs that will happily cuddle with you when they aren't exercising or having fun. They aren't a couch potato dog, but they get very protective of their owners and will love spending time with you.

Lhasas are excellent family dogs. With their instincts as guard dogs and their protective nature, this breed is going to be one that will jump to the defense of you or young children whenever they feel like you're being threatened. Of course, they'll need some training to be fully effective watchers for your family, but you can at least rest safe with the knowledge that they'll bark to warn you of any strange happenings. They're also very friendly and great with kids.

They aren't, but we can understand why you might think so! When the Lhasa is trimmed into the shape of a short-haired dog, they can share many characteristics with other dog breeds like the Shih Tzu. Shih Tzus are a little lighter than Lhasa Apsos, and they also have bigger eyes and a more domed skull shape. It is difficult to tell these two dogs apart at first glance.

Lhasa Apso dogs are only aggressive when they feel that they need to be. For example, this could occur if they felt like their belongings were being threatened or if they felt like they needed to protect their human(s). Lhasas can be extremely possessive of what they consider to be theirs, even when it's their dog owner or the children in their family. It's possible they may get into fights with other dogs if those dogs have their toys or use their food bowl.

Leave a reply

Please enter your name here
Please enter your comment!