Lhasa Apso

Breed At A Glance


Lively and devoted, loves to bark

Life Expectancy
15+ years

Average Height
10-11 inches

Average Weight
13-15 lbs

Coat Color
Gold, cream, honey, smoke, dark-grizzle, slate and a multi-color assortment of brown, white & black

Coat Length/Texture
Long, straight and hard outer coat, with a shorter and softer undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

Also known as Lhassa Terrier, Lhasa

General Temperament

The Lhasa Apso has long been revered for its protective nature and devotion to its master. In its native Tibet, it functioned as a watchdog in monasteries, an instinct that the breed maintains to this day. They are highly intelligent and possess a keen sense of hearing and sonorous bark that is much richer than one would expect from such a diminutive dog. Lhasa’s are spirited and lively, but also dignified and proud, sometimes bordering on arrogant.

Lhasa’s do not tolerate roughhousing or teasing, and are prone to fear biting and snipping if provoked or surprised. They generally function best with older, well-behaved children. They prefer to be the sole pet in the household and thrive on attention from their human family. The typical Lhasa Apso becomes quite attached to its primary owner.

The relationship between a Lhasa and its owner can be quite symbiotic, given that proper training is instilled early and maintained throughout the dog’s life. This breed is astute and willing to please, but can also have a mind of its own, and will dominate the household if allowed. They respond best to motivational training and an owner who can establish their role as the “alpha dog” for the whole of the dog’s life.

The Lhasa Apso is the perfect dog for apartment life, as they are very active indoors and require little outdoor activity. They may benefit from having their profuse coats trimmed short in hotter climates. This breed is generally a good traveler.

Breed History

The sacred city of Lhasa, Tibet, is the home and namesake of the Lhasa Apso. For two thousand years, this dog was bred only by nobles and monks in sacred temples and monasteries. With its keen ability to distinguish friends from strangers, the Lhasa Apso served as a the indoor counterpoint to the outdoor guardian, typically a Mastiff. They were considered holy creatures, virtually impossible to buy, although the Dalai Lama would occasionally present specimens as gifts to foreign diplomats. Recent DNA analysis has shown the Lhasa Apso to be one of the 14 ancient dog breeds.

The Lhasa Apso was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1935.

Body Structure and Composition

The tiny Lhasa Apso is longer than it is tall, and may appear more stout than it actually is due to its long and profuse coat which covers its entire body, including the head and face. The muzzle is relatively short, comprising approximately one third of the total headpiece. The pendant ears, although moderately sized, often appear quite long due to heavy feathering (in pet or puppy trims, the actual size is more apparent.) The plumed tail is carried over the back in a corkscrew.

Medical Information

The Lhasa Apso is a very healthy and hardy breed with relatively few inherited diseases. Kidney disease has been found to be one of the most prevalent problems in this breed, and can lead to renal failure. Although the symptoms of kidney disease or failure are very apparent (excessive water intake, dilute urine, depression, vomiting, weight loss, and general failure to thrive), some affected individuals do not show any symptoms whatsoever until it is too late. Additionally, individuals can be carriers without actually developing kidney disease, so it can be difficult to selectively breed this condition out of Lhasa Apso lines.

Kerrativitis Sicca (also known as “dry eye”) can be a problem for the Lhasa Apso, as can Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA causes a degeneration of the cells of the retina and leads to blindness, often beginning with a loss of night vision. The Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) provides certification for puppies that have tested negative for eye diseases, and breeders concerned for the healthy proliferation of the Lhasa Apso should be able to provide this information to potential owners.

There is some incidence of Hip Dysplasia and Patellar Luxation in the Lhasa Apso, although these conditions occur less in this breed than in others, since the Lhasa’s tiny body does not put much pressure on the joints. Hip Dysplasia occurs when the head of the thigh bone no longer fits into the cup provided by the hip socket, resulting in lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Patellar Luxation, also known as “slipped stifle” or “trick knee” is a condition in which the kneelike joint above the hock slips out of place, often requiring surgery to correct. Responsible breeders will have their breeding stock certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) prior to producing a litter to help prevent the spread of these diseases.

Maintaining the Lhasa’s coat is of utmost importance in order to minimize skin conditions and parasites. If the dog is kept in “show clip,” it must be brushed daily to keep the coat clean and free of matting. The pet or puppy clip is easier to maintain.

Anecdotal Information

The first pair of Lhasa Apso’s to arrive in the United States were a gift from Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, to C. Suydam Cutting in the early 1930s.

The Lhasa Apso has recently gained favor as a companion pet for young celebrities, largely due to its beauty and portability.

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