The Lhasa apso is a small non-sporting dog which, on account of his sensitivity, solid constitution and good nature, is a very pleasant companion animal that will appeal to many types of owners. His cheerful and playful personality makes him a great friend to children, and his calm character renders him a suitable companion to the elderly as well.
Key facts about the Lhasa Apso
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Origins and history
The breed has evolved within buddhist monasteries and villages located around the sacred town of Lhasa. The Lhasa is very old and only spread to Europe quite recently (the 20’s in the case of England), but has enjoyed instant popularity. It is the result of a cross between the Tibetan Terrier and the Tibetan Spaniel. The Chinese considered it to be a ‘lucky charm’ dog and he was even nicknamed the ‘talisman dog’ when he first arrived in Europe. The first Lhasa Apso Club in England was established in 1933. The breed was then associated to the Terrier category, but the American Kennel Club removed it from the working dog group and cemented its classification as a companion dog in 1955.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs
Section 5 : Tibetan breeds
Physical characteristics of the Lhasa Apso
Female : Between 7 and 11 in
Male : Between 8 and 12 in
Female : Between 9 and 13 lb
Male : Between 11 and 15 lb
The coat can be golden, honey, sand, dark grey, slate grey, black brindle, white or brown. The Lhasa Apso can also be parti-coloured (several distinct colours at once).
Type of coat
The coat is long.
The Lhasa Apso’s coat is double: an abundant topcoat that is straight, relatively coarse, neither wooly nor silky, and quite lengthy; and a thick undercoat that renders him generally resilient.
The eyes are dark.
The Lhasa Apso is a little dog with an oblong frame, low and stocky, but agile nevertheless. The head is quite imposing, with a luscious cascade of hair over the eyes, a voluminous beard and a moustache. The skull, quite narrow, delicately tapers in behind the eyes. The eyes are medium-sized, neither bulgy nor beady. The pendant ears sport a heavy fringe. The body’s length is greater than the shoulder height. The tail sports a long fringe as well, and is curled over the back. He often has a knot (bone thickening) at the bottom of his limbs. The limbs are short, straight, profusely covered in hair, and stocky.
Good to know
In Tibet, many of the Lhasa Apsos live at high altitudes, often in very harsh weather conditions, which is where he gets his robustness from. This resilience has had a significant impact on his evolution since his coat has adapted according to the harsh climate in which he has evolved: his coat has insulates him in the winter, and his pretty fringe protects his eyes (from the wind and dust among other things).
Very attached to his social group, this little companion dog is a very good partner in the day-to-day, and takes it to heart to protect and please his family in the most endearing of ways.
The Lhasa Apso is a cheerful little dog, very lively and playful and extremely keen on spending time with children.
His truthfully cheerful demeanour aside, he is actually quite a tranquil creature, and thereby also compatible with the elderly.
Lively and docile in his own way, this dog can demonstrate a variety of capacities during training sessions, and his intelligence is particularly apparent in how remarkably he adapts to various environments and lifestyles.
There was a time when this dog was considered to be a terrier. Yet, among other factors, the Lhasa has become part of the non-sporting and companion dog category on account of how weak his predatory instinct is.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Lhasa Apso is a rather reserved, near wary dog towards strangers, which makes him a good ‘alarm dog’. He is, however, ready to make friends as soon as he perceives the newcomers’ good intentions. His skill does indeed lie in being able to distinguish a guest from an undesired intruder.
His legacy as a primitive working dog does predispose him to taking initiative. This dog is in fact very intuitive and does not always wait for his owner’s approval before acting. In this sense, he is one of the rare non-sporting and companion breeds that is not completely dependant on his master.
Behaviour of the Lhasa Apso
This little apartment dog can by all means tolerate his owners’ absences during the day, but only if he has been habituated towards them, and if he is walked both before and after ever prolonged bout of solitude.
Easy to train / obedience
Sensitive, intelligent yet at times somewhat of a scatterbrain, this little Tibetan dog needs structure. Some rules of life must be implemented as soon as the Lhasa Apso integrates the home, to prevent him from developing any bad habits.
One does tend to be somewhat lenient towards little dogs on account of their size. But these dogs need just as much firm and coherent discipline as their bigger peers!
All aspects of training must be initiated quite early on with this dog, and if the sessions are short but regular, the basics of discipline will quickly be absorbed. Consistency and coherence are key in obtaining optimal results from this dog.
The Tibetans used to nickname the Lhasa Apso ‘Apso Seng Kye’, which means ‘Bark Lion Sentinel Dog’, on account of his insistent barking, which is completely at odds with his size.
This dog’s barking is very characteristic, and he will not hesitate to make himself be heard in order to warn his family against impending danger.
Tendency to run away
More of a watchdog (inasmuch as is possible for him) than a hunter, it is very rare that the Lhasa Apso venture out on his own. If he does happen to take off, it is because he isn’t being sufficiently walked by his owner and feels the need to explore beyond the confines of his home environment.
Being able to tolerate solitude well, this little dog is not in the least destructive, since he can easily handle his master’s absence. He may be capable of some damage when still a pup, but even this remains rather anecdotal.
Greedy / Gluttony
This companion dog will never refuse the pleasure of a snack aimed at rewarding him for good behaviour. This moderate gluttony is useful during training sessions, as a means of giving additional incentive to this occasionally stubborn dog.
The Lhasa Apso is a companion dog capable of standing guard in the form of a ‘sounding alarm’, by virtue of barking whenever an intruder is imminent.
He has been used in this way in his native Tibet for centuries, always ready to alert the ‘armed guard’- his mighty cousin, the Tibetan Mastiff.
This little Tibetan dog is by all means suitable for a first adoption: he adapts remarkably well to many lifestyles and family constellations, can be docile if his rearing is coherent, and does not usually demonstrate any behavioural issues as long as all his needs are being met.
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Lhasa Apso in a flat
Perfectly suited to living in a flat, the Lhasa Apso is just as comfortable living in the city as he is in the country, and can easily adapt to many ways of life.
Being as robust as he is, he can reside both outside and inside, bearing in mind that- despite his relative independence- he does require frequent human contact.
A house with a garden will appeal to him just as much as a flat in the city, but be mindful that, whatever his living situation, he needs several walks a day to ensure that all of his needs are being met.
Need for exercise / Sporty
He is not particularly athletic, and does not require intense physical exercise to be at peace, but this little companion dog could surprise you with the extent of his endurance and resilience.
Even if he is not necessarily cut out for all physical activities, he does remain an active dog that likes to be put to work and enjoys showing off his full potential to anyone he crosses paths with.
Daily walks will be enough to maintain his physical and psychological equilibrium, but, mentally stimulating activities might appeal to him too, such as: musical freestyle, strategy games, ‘treasure’ (snack) hunts, etc.
Travelling / easy to transport
Owing to his compact size, this little, yet solidly-built dog can follow his owners everywhere without a problem.
However, travel will only be seamless if the Lhasa Apso has been properly socialised when still a pup, and under condition that certain disciplinary basics have been integrated in due time (walking on a leash without pulling, static positions, heeling etc).
Lhasa Apso and cats
This dog generally gets along well with other pets, cats included. Sharing the same home will nonetheless be more serene if both will have grown up together.
Lhasa Apso and dogs
The Lhasa Apso can be friendly with fellow dogs but in order to ensure this, he will have to be properly socialised in due time, meaning before he turns three months old, to instill and develop within him the notion of a ‘canine code of conduct’.
Despite his small size, this dog fears nothing, and can tend to want to impose his will- it is therefore important to put him in contact with compatible dog types, so as to make sure that the encounters are always a positive experience.
Lhasa Apso and children
He is a very good companion to children, which he loves playing with. Having said this, there are limits to his patience- especially if the children can’t help but treat him like a doll and play around with his long hair.
For cohabitation to run as smoothly as possible, the children will have to be taught to leave the dog be when he’s resting in his basket, not to be rough with him (even if it’s ‘just to play’) and, above all else, to recognise some of his warning signals (growling, yawning, licking his nose, bristling of the hair, showing his teeth, etc.).
Lhasa Apso and the elderly
This dog’s joviality is couple with a certain calmness, which renders cohabitation with the elderly by all means possible. Having said this, owners must nonetheless by fit enough to walk him at least twice a day, otherwise it might be necessary to resort to professional dog-walking services.
The price of a Lhasa Apso varies depending on its origins, age, and sex. You have to count an average of £600 for dogs registered at the Kennel Club.
With regards to the monthly budget required to meet this dog’s needs- including quality nutrition and basic care (deworming, vaccines, grooming, etc.)- you have to estimate an average of £30 per month.
This little companion dog’s abundant coat does require diligent, daily care and regular baths (usually once a month).
His hair needs to be detangled every week, and brushed every day to preserve the coat’s beauty and protective properties.
His folded ears also require attention- more specifically, they need to be checked and cleaned regularly.
Hair loss is moderate but more pronounced during both yearly moulting seasons (autumn and spring), when maintenance will have to be even more scrupulous in order to remove all residual dead hairs.
Nutrition of the Lhasa Apso
The Lhasa Apso is not a picky dog and can be satisfied with dry food consisting of high quality kibble.
A quality nutrition will, among others, keep his hair healthy and shiny. This is why it is important to opt for premium quality dry food.
A meal a day will suffice, and should preferably be served in the evenings, to encourage a better digestion.
Health of the Lhasa Apso
Life expectancy is 16 years on average.
Strong / robust
He is very robust and capable of braving the coldest weather, thanks to his abundant coat. In addition to this, he usually enjoys a very long life.
Of a solid constitution, he is robust and can by all means handle periods of intense heat, but must have endless supplies of fresh water and a resting spot in the shade at his disposition.
His abundant coat insulates and allows him to tolerate bad weather and the cold, but he nevertheless prefers all of the comforts of indoor living during wintertime.
Tendency to put on weight
Snacks and leftovers in between meals must be limited in order to protect this little pooch from any health issues- he is indeed robust, but remains sensitive too.
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Congenital hydrocephalus