Lhasa Apso: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

side profile of a Lhasa apso walking on grass

f8grapher / Getty Images

The Lhasa apso is a small non-sporting dog breed from Tibet that has a long, silky coat, which is touted for being low-shedding. Some owners trim the coat short in what’s called a “puppy cut” for easier maintenance. The Lhasa apso’s eyes are typically dark and oval, and its tail curls over its back. Overall, these dogs have a well-balanced build. They are hardy little dogs that tend to be smart and confident but also comical. Their history dates back centuries as a guard dog.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Non-sporting

HEIGHT: 10 to 11 inches (male), slightly smaller (female)

WEIGHT: 12 to 18 pounds

COAT: Long, silky

COAT COLOR: Black, black and tan, cream, golden, grizzle, red, red gold, or white with/without white markings, black tips, brindle, sable, black mask with tips, or parti-color

LIFE SPAN: 12 to 15 years

TEMPERAMENT: Alert, affectionate, intelligent 

HYPOALLERGENIC: Yes

ORIGIN: Tibet

Characteristics of the Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa apso typically has an affectionate personality with its family but can be standoffish with strangers. It also has a vigilant watchdog aspect of its temperament and is a moderate barker.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa apso originated in Tibet around a thousand years ago and evolved for the harsh climate of the Himalayas. Named for the city of Lhasa, the small canines served as indoor watchdogs in temples and palaces. With their highly developed hearing, they would alert monks and others whether anyone got past the outdoor guard dogs—often Tibetan mastiffs and other large breeds. 

Lhasa apsos long have had a connection with the Dalai Lama. And in fact, the Dalai Lama gave a pair of Lhasas to naturalist and world traveler Suydam Cutting in the early 1900s. These dogs helped to establish the breed in the United States. 

The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1935 as part of the terrier group. But it was later moved to the non-sporting group in 1959.

Monk with a Lhasa apso in 1976
Ernst Haas / Getty Images

Lhasa Apso Care

Lhasa apsos require a moderate amount of exercise every day, and consistent training and socialization are a must for a well-adjusted dog. Their grooming needs can be fairly high, depending on the length at which you keep their coat.

Exercise

Plan on around an hour of daily exercise for a Lhasa apso via walks, romping around in a secure area, playtime, dog sports, and other activities. These dogs often will entertain themselves with toys to burn off some mental and physical energy, but they like being active with their humans as well. Puzzle toys are an especially good option to provide them with a mental challenge.

Grooming

The Lhasa apso’s coat will grow continuously and thus needs regular trims. For easier upkeep, some owners opt for a puppy cut in which the hair is clipped fairly close to the body. But it’s also common to see Lhasa apsos with a long coat parted down the middle that extends almost to the ground. The short coat should be brushed at least weekly. And the long coat must be brushed daily to prevent tangles and mats. 

Plan to bathe your Lhasa apso roughly every other week, especially if you keep the coat long. Dog-safe conditioner or finishing spray can help to remove tangles. Be sure to brush out and dry the coat well after a bath.

Check your dog’s ears at least weekly for wax buildup, debris, and irritation. And look at its nails at least monthly to see whether they’re due for a trim. In addition, aim to brush its teeth every day.

Training

Lhasa apsos are an intelligent breed. But they are only moderately easy to train due to their sometimes stubborn and strong-willed nature. They prefer interesting and varied, rather than repetitive, training sessions. And positive reinforcement methods, as opposed to harsh corrections, are a must. Aim to start training from an early age to prevent bad habits from forming. And always be consistent with your commands. 

Likewise, start socialization from a young age to help quell the breed’s vigilant nature and wariness of strangers. Expose your dog to different people, other dogs, and various locations to boost its comfort level and adaptability. 

Lhasa apso puppy
RuthBlack​ / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Lhasa apsos are generally a healthy breed, but they are prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Lhasa apsos as pets illustration

The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Your dog should always have access to fresh water. And it should eat a high-quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. A diet that has a sufficient amount of protein and fat is important to maintain the breed’s thick skin and hair. It’s typical to feed two measured meals per day to ensure you’re not overfeeding. But you should always discuss both the type of diet and the quantity with your vet to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s individual needs.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa apso is a fairly popular dog breed, so it's worth checking animal shelters and breed-specific rescue groups for a dog in need of a home. If you're looking for a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $600 to $1,500 on average, though this can vary widely.

For further information to help you find a Lhasa apso, check out:

Lhasa Apso Overview

Pros
  • Intelligent

  • Low shedder

  • Affectionate

Cons
  • Requires lots of grooming

  • Can be strong-willed

  • Can be wary of strangers

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any breed, if you think the Lhasa apso is the right dog for you, be sure to do plenty of research before bringing one home. Talk to Lhasa apso owners, reputable breeders, rescue groups, and veterinarians to learn more.

If you're interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Are Lhasa apsos good family dogs?

    The Lhasa apso can do well in a household with older, respectful children. The breed overall has a moderate tolerance for kids but doesn't tend to put up with mishandling.

  • Are Lhasa apsos aggressive?

    With proper training and socialization, Lhasa apsos do not tend to be aggressive. But they will still likely be watchful for perceived threats and bark when they feel it’s necessary.

  • Are Lhasa apsos good apartment dogs?

    Lhasa apsos can be excellent apartment dogs. They don't need much space to exercise and play thanks to their small size. And they don't tend to bark excessively.

Article Sources
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  1. Lhasa Apso. American Kennel Club.

  2. Lhasa Apso. American Kennel Club.

  3. Lhasa Apso Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.