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
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.