Lhasa Apso Breed Guide

If you’d like to find out more about the Lhasa Apso breed, or are trying to determine if a Lhasa might make the right companion for you, this handy guide, by Smudge herself, might help.

After a grooming pamper session, a nice walk and a tasty lunch (Scrumbles of course!), Smudge sat down with us to answer some questions about her breed...

lhasa apso

What is the history of Lhasa Apsos?

The Lhasa Apso is a positively magical dog! The tale of our mystical origins begins way back in 800 BC in the sacred city of Lhasa, Tibet, known locally as “the place of the gods.” Lhasa boasts holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites nestled in some of the highest mountain peaks in the world, over 3.6km above sea level.

My ancestors were entrusted with the great honour of guarding the monasteries and palaces from within as well as providing loyal companionship to Tibetan Buddhists. Their alertness, intelligence and ability to recognise unusual sounds and respond with an assertive bark earned them their place besides nobility and the divine residents of the sacred buildings. It was believed that the souls of monks who didn’t make it to spiritual nirvana would pass into a Lhasa Apso.

It used to be you could only gain a Lhasa Apso if you were gifted one by the Dalai Lama, but we now make common companion animals – the 27th most popular breed of 2018 in the UK… Surely that should be 1st?!

The noble, hardy Lhasa Apso may be far removed from the mountain wolves we descend from. However, our Tibetan name of Abso Seng Kye, which translates to “bark lion sentinel dog,” reflects the legend that a Lhasa Apso looking in the mirror sees a lion.

How much do Lhasa Apso's cost?

Lhasa Apso's can cost anywhere between £200 to £1500 for a healthy kitty from a safe home. 

Don't forget to check out rehoming charities for floof's in need of a loving home!

How big is a Lhasa Apso?

The original Lhasa Apsos had to be able to survive the tough conditions of the mountainous Himalayan region: short hot summers, long freezing winters, terrain of high peaks and low troughs, dust, wind, and high altitude. You can see evidence of this in our features, from the hair that covers our eyes if left ungroomed, to protect from flying particles, and our straight front legs which are great for climbing. We are usually around 25cm tall at the shoulder and weigh between 5 and 9kg. As Lhasa’s go, I’m rather petite at just 5.2kg.

How long do Lhasa Apso dogs live?

We are tough pooches and tend to live long lives, with a typical lifespan of 15 to 18 years and many of us reach our early 20s. The oldest Lhasa Apso on record lived for an amazing 29 years!

How often do Lhasa Apsos need to be groomed?

The longer the hair, the more grooming is required. For my long haired lhasa brothers and sisters, daily brushing is recommended. Us Lhasa Apsos are double coated and our thick, long hair will grow straight down to the floor on each side from a parting along the middle of our backs.

Many owners choose the charming teddy bear cut (like mine) for their Lhasa Apso which is lower maintenance although I still get a brush twice a week, particularly on my long fluffy tail. A neglected coat will quickly matt, so we really need a pawrent who can give the time to care for our coats properly, and it’s a great way to bond with us. I take weekly baths, too, driven by my penchant for fox poo. We can be many colours including white, black, tan, grey or different combinations and can have dark markings on our face and ears - we’re full of surprises as our hair tends to change as we mature.

Do Lhasa Apsos shed?

Generally, Lhasa’s shed very little and are popular for not moulting. Our hair sheds more like human hair rather than some other dog breeds. We shed over time rather than all at once and our long, heavy hairs are less likely to fly around that could cause sneezing fits for sensitive humans.

Are Lhasa Apsos hypoallergenic dogs?

Although no perfectly hypoallergenic dog exists, we are a good choice for someone with allergies. Little to no shedding, and almost zero drool means that people who normally wheeze, sneeze, and tear up around dogs are less likely to be affected by a Lhasa Apso. I am a bit of a licker though and will happily shower you with kisses, all day, every day but that’s just me. 

Are Lhasa Apsos noisy?

We have a distinctive bark but there are ways to prevent us using it too often. If we get tummy rubs or toys when we bark, that encourages us, and if we are shouted at when we bark we just think you are barking back and carry on!

If we don’t get enough exercise we bark to de-stress and if we are bored or lonely barking can become a habit which we do to entertain ourselves. You can actually train us to bark on a command like “speak” or “talk” and to stop barking by saying “quiet” or “stop.”

Barking is part of what makes us dogs, but excessive yapping suggests a problem so please speak to your vet. Personally, I’m not much of a barker, until I see a pesky squirrel in the garden, or the damn postie shows up making a racquet – but that deserves a bark or too right!?

Barking is part of what makes us dogs, but excessive yapping suggests a problem so please speak to your vet. Personally, I’m not much of a barker, until I see a pesky squirrel in the garden, or the damn postie shows up making a racquet – but that deserves a bark or too right!?

Are Lhasa Apsos smart?

Absolutely! Us little lions are known for our intelligence and curiosity. We have a great sense of humour and are envied among the other breeds for our ability to learn many words (along with all our other great traits, obviously.) My favourite word is “food” and “walkies”.

What health problems do Lhasa Apso's have?

Lhasa Apsos are as hardy as we are hairy, but unfortunately are prone to hip dysplasia, which can be prevented by keeping us at a healthy weight and feeding the right portion size of a healthy and complete dog food. We don’t tend to gain weight easily, especially with daily exercise.

Sadly, we are susceptible to eye problems and hereditary progressive retinal atrophy, which causes retinal deterioration and could result in vision loss in our twilight years; however, we tend to handle this with ease and adapt well to the changes.

Lhasa Apsos can also develop cherry eye, where the tear duct moves to the surface of the eye, and dry eye, where not enough tears are produced. This doesn’t sound very nice to me and there are treatable conditions so please make sure to schedule eye tests for us – your vet can tell you more about how to take care of our eyes.

Lhasa Apsos are also predisposed to sebaceous adenitis, which is when the immune system attacks the sebaceous glands causing silvery dandruff, skin lesions, and a musty “wet dog” smell. The condition requires lifelong treatment managed with antibiotics and medicated shampoos, minerals and ointments and feeding us dog food rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin A.

Speaking of eyes, we’re known for having rather large beautiful eyes which can produce tears excessively leading to tear stains. There is no way to get rid of tear stains contrary to claims out there but there are things that can help. I get fed a highly digestible natural dog food with probiotics, use stainless steel bowls and filtered water as well as having my eyes cleaned every morning.

How much exercise do Lhasa Apso's need?

We’re known for being perfect lap dogs who don’t need a lot of exercise and are suitable for the home or flat life, but we do still need daily walks and I’m a big fan of the outdoors. I like a big hike and most days run around in the woods or park for at least an hour. It’s also great fun for us to run around off our leads in a fenced-in back garden and we love playing frisbee or fetch.

Are Lhasa Apso's stubborn?

lhasa apso stubborn

I’m not answering that!


Later, after a treat and lots of cuddles…

Ask again, as we discussed.

Ok, are Lhasa Apso's independent?

Yes, we are! When you consider our origin, it makes sense that we have a lot of pride but we’re also very funny, loyal and obedient to a strong leader. We have a bit of a reputation as being tough to train with selective hearing but actually we just keep our playful puppy demeanour for the first few years of our lives. Lhasa Apsos really need lots of socialisation early on, so we don’t become suspicious towards strangers – that’s our old guard dog instincts showing themselves in a negative way.

Obviously, we don't think you have any, but what are the cons of Lhasa Apso's?

I’m glad you asked this – I want to clear up some misunderstandings! It’s hard to believe but we Lhasa Apsos have a reputation for being aggressive, stubborn, defensive, and unkind to strangers and small children. Doesn’t sound at all like me, does it? Some have even tarnished us with the brush of having small dog syndrome – how rude!

In truth good socialisation early on will help make a calm, friendly companion and personally I get on well with people, dogs and even cats of all sizes. Now that I’m an older lady (8 years old), I prefer calmer pets and people. Due to my diminutive size, I do have to watch out for boisterous puppies who have been known to step on me in the past, so I prefer those kinds of encounters to be in a controlled, open environment.

Our keen sense of hearing is our very own super power but can make us sensitive to sounds. Personally, I’m not a fan of thunder or fireworks so do take a little extra care are consideration where this is concerned. Take a look at our guide to keeping me and my furry friends happy during fireworks season

We have tiny teeth so dental care is a must. Daily brushing will help keep our teeth in tip top condition so that we’re happy and healthy. Introduce us to tooth brushes early on so that we get used to it. I personally don’t enjoy this part of grooming but my pawrents say it’s a non-negotiable. 

Are Lhasa Apso's easy to train?

Our independent nature can make us a little tricky to train, but with patience and the right motivation we can be well trained. Motivational training involves using praise, toys and the occasional treat to train us. Although, we typically only like praise when there is a good relationship between the trainer and the pup which can take a while to develop, so if you can be the one to train your dog this will be a great building block for a beautiful relationship.

Us Lhasa Apsos have a noble background and we won’t accept being treated aggressively or unkindly, so telling us off if we’ve grown tired of training won’t work at all and we may leave a little present for you to teach you to be kinder. Training should be steady, ongoing, and positive. Crate training is recommended for Lhasa Apsos and we really enjoy consistent rules and having our own safe little den to retire to. We also love learning your human language! Understanding what you mean when you say words like “sit” and “fetch” feels great so please take the time to teach us.

Do Lhasa Apso's like children?

Young children should always be accompanied when interacting with any dog. Our long ears and tails may be tempting to tug but are very sensitive. What a child might think is a playful pet may hurt us – I’ve been brought up around children so love getting kisses and gentle strokes and am patient when fussed over but I will give you a warning growl if you hurt me and look for a quiet spot. Generally, it’s important to give us some space and watch our body language as we’ll make it clear it if we are unhappy.

Who would make a perfect pet pawrent for a Lhasa Apso?

Lhasa Apsos love having fun and playing with our human housemates. We’re adaptable doggies and suit living with most people. We’re low maintenance as dogs but do require a little more training that others as puppies so prefer a patient owner. Mostly we just want to be respected and treated like the regal breed we are. And don’t forget about elderly daring dogs – we still make charismatic companions but just a little less mischievous.

Thanks, Smudge! With such an enchanting background, it's not surprising Lhasa Apsos have put so many pet pawrents under their spell. 

Do you have a question for Smudge about Lhasa Apsos? Ask us in the comments and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for more pet info straight from the dog’s mouth!

You might be interested in reading about other dog breeds:

  1. Dachshund Breed Guide
  2. Norfolk Terrier Breed Guide
  3. Irish Setter Breed Guide


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