Lhasa Apso: Dog Breed Temperament, Personality, & FAQ Guide

Lhasa Apso: Dog Breed Temperament, Personality, & FAQ Guide
Shop our solutions →

The Lhasa Apso is a charming small dog hailing from Tibetan monasteries. This ancient breed is a wonderful pet that fits into nearly every lifestyle. Whether lounging around as a comforting lapdog or showing off its impressive coat at the show ring, Lhasa Apsos are ideal companions.


This dog guide has all of the information you need to know about the Lhasa Apso, which is truly a delightful breed! After you've learned about these beautiful fluff balls, you may want to make this pooch your next pet. We've also got you covered with links to breeding organizations and rescue groups, so let's get to know the Lhasa Apso!



Lhasa Apso Dog Breed Characteristics

The Lhasa Apso's most notable feature is its long coat of dense, straight hair. The coat parts in the middle of the dog's body from head to tail. This breed also has a rectangular build and a tail that sits high over its back.


The American Kennel Club's breed standard for the Lhasa Apso also calls for dark brown eyes and a black nose, though some have brown noses. The average life span of these non-sporting dogs is 14-15 years.


All dog breeds are placed into groups based on size, appearance, and skillset. This is sensible for the show ring and sporting events, where it would be unfair to pit the athletic ability of a Border Collie against the stout legs of a Lhasa Apso.


Lhasas belong to the non-sporting group. Non-sporting dogs are a hard category to define because they are breeds that do not easily fit into any other classification.


Lhasa Apso Dog Breed Size

The Lhasa Apso is a small dog, making it the perfect couch companion. Males generally weigh 15-18 pounds and stands 10-11 inches tall. Females grow to between 12 and 15 pounds, also standing 10-11 inches in height.


Lhasa Apso Dog Breed Personality

Lhasas originated as watchdogs in Tibetan monasteries, and their sentinel behavior can still be seen today. These dogs may act like they're too good for strangers, but they are fiercely loyal and loving towards their families. In fact, many claim that their Lhasa Apsos actually have a sense of humor when not on guard!


These little comedians were bred to defend their homes and ward off intruders. This explains why they may give someone they don't know the cold shoulder. Their former responsibilities have also caused Lhasa Apsos to be independent and eager to please.



lhaso looking upwards



Lhasa Apso Dog Exercise

Lhasas have a high energy level, but they're also incredibly independent. Your Lhasa Apso won't wait around for a walk if you're taking too long; they'll simply run around to burn off excess energy. Lhasa Apsos will also entertain themselves in a fenced area and tend to lead (rather than follow) on a walk.


While your Lhasa Apso is capable of exercising themselves, they should not be solely responsible for their physical needs. This small dog should get 30 minutes of light exercise every day. Take your Lhasa on a walk or find a nearby dog park to let your pet socialize.


Lhasas are members of the "non-sporting" group, though this title is a bit misleading because they can excel at sports! Instead, the non-sporting group refers to dogs that were specifically bred for activities like hunting, but now they are mainly bred for show. Although, Lhasas do well in agility and scent tasks.


Agility is a canine sport in which dogs run an obstacle course, aiming for the fastest time. In these events, the animal's handler is in control. In scent work competitions, dogs must sniff out cotton balls soaked in essential oils without their owner's aid. The independent Lhasa Apso is well-suited to taking charge of these events!


Lhasa Apso Dog Breed Training

Whether they're headed to the show, competing in sports, or merely spending their days snuggling on the couch, Lhasas benefit from training. Practicing commands teaches your pet discipline. Structured exercise regimens are excellent for maintaining your dog's health.


The Lhasa Apso does not always need socialization training, but it could benefit dogs that are standoffish towards strangers. If you need to train your Lhasa'a mingling skills, take them to a dog park. Since they are a smaller breed be sure to keep them safely on a leash until they are comfortable in the park.


You can combine command lessons with mental and physical stimulation by training your Lhasa Apso to run an agility course. Even if they aren't canine athletes, agility teaches dogs strategy, memorization, and stamina.


Not everyone has the space for an obstacle course, but all dogs benefit from command training. Even simple commands remind pets that you are in control, not them. This also refines their behavior and makes tasks like walks and bath time much easier.


A few basic commands that the Lhasa Apso can easily learn include sit, stay, heel, come, and no. All it takes is time, dedication, patience, and positive reinforcement through praise and by rewarding them with their favorite dog treats!



Lhasa Apso Dog Breed History

The Lhasa Apso, originally known as the Abso Seng Kye, was bred in Tibet. Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayans used this breed as a watchdog. This chilly environment is partially what gave Lhasas their signature thick coat.


In Tibetan folklore, Lhasas are the manifestations of the mythical Snow Lion, which protects the country. This is what got the dog its original title, the Abso Seng Kye, which translates to "Bark Lion Sentinel Dog."


The first Lhasas to enter the United States were provided by the Dalai Lama. Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, gave C. Suydam Cutting a pair of Lhasas. C. Suydam Cutting was an author and world traveler, and he was singlehandedly responsible for establishing the Lhasa Apso breed in America.


There is another form of this breed known as the Gompa Lhasa Apso. These dogs originated in the Tibetan Drepung monastery. These Lhasas were bred with each other and formed their own set of traits. Their dwindling numbers are looked after by the Gompa Lhasa Apso Preservation Program.


The American Kennel Club (AKC), the largest of its kind globally, oversees the wellbeing of 196 dog breeds. This organization recognized the Lhasas Apso (from Tebet) in 1935. It was the 97th breed accepted by the AKC and originally placed in the Terrier Group.



dog laying on back on floor



Lhasa Apso Dog Breed Health Problems

The Lhasa Apso is generally a healthy dog, but this non-sporting breed is susceptible to some diseases. The most common health problems for Lhasas concern their joints and eyes.


The best prevention method for many potential conditions is to purchase your pet from a responsible breeder who tests their stock for common issues.


Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, also known as dry eye syndrome, causes the dog's tear ducts to malfunction. An affected Lhasa Apso will not produce enough tears to lubricate their eyes.


Another version of this syndrome can be difficult to diagnose at home because the dog produces an average amount of tears. However, they are poor-quality tears that do not lubricate the eye. Dry eyes can be caused by a viral infection, hypothyroidism, or certain medications.


Sebaceous Adenitis

Sebaceous adenitis is the inflammation of the gland that produces oil for your Apso's hair. Normally, your dog's skin and hair should have a healthy amount of oil–it should not be overly "wet" or "dry." These oils are secreted by the sebaceous glands of the hair follicle.


When the sebaceous glands become inflamed, it is difficult for the dog's skin to grow new hair. The signs of this hereditary skin disease are crusty, irritated skin, and patches of hair loss. Unfortunately, the cause of sebaceous adenitis is unknown.


Patellar Luxation

A luxating patella literally means "slipping kneecaps." Normally, a dog's patella rests in a groove on the dog's femur. This condition causes the patella to slip out of this groove. Symptoms include limping, kicking the foot out to one side, or reduced mobility.


Treatment depends on the severity of each dog's case. Some pets can tolerate the lowest grade of luxation.


It might even be possible for you to manually realign the dog's kneecaps, though consultation with a veterinarian is strongly advised. Higher grades of luxation often require surgery that deepens the groove in which the patella rests.


Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a condition that deteriorates a dog's eyesight. PRA targets the photoreceptor cells inside of the retina, wearing them down until complete blindness sets in. There are two forms of PRA: inherited (also referred to as retinal dysplasia) and late-onset PRA.


Inherited PRA causes dogs to be born with abnormally developed photoreceptor cells. A puppy with this condition is often diagnosed by the time it is 2-3 months old.


Dogs with late-onset PRA are born with normal retinas, but their photoreceptor cells deteriorate over time, and they are often not diagnosed until 3-9 years old.


Fear of dark rooms, not recognizing family members until they smell them, and general clumsiness are all symptoms of either form of PRA. There is no treatment, but dogs with PRA are rarely bred. Responsible breeders test their stock for the inherited gene that causes PRA.


Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an inherited disease that may lead to arthritis. It causes the dog's hip joints to misalign and grind against one another. This is similar to patellar luxation, with the key difference being that hip dysplasia affects the dog's hips while patellar lunation targets the knees.


Though this condition usually occurs in larger breeds, the condition frequently affects Lhasa Apsos. Early detection is critical so that the disease does not progress and cause arthritis. This disease's signs are stiffness of the hind legs, decreased activity, and a "bunny-hopping" walk.


Overfeeding can aggravate hip dysplasia. Lhasa Apsos are small dogs, and their joints cannot support a heavy body. Overweight dogs often develop joint conditions sooner than other pets, so be sure you consult a veterinarian and plan a nutritional diet for your Lhasa Apso.



This digestive issue causes the animal's pancreas to become inflamed. In a healthy pancreas, enzymes are released and activated in the small intestine to aid digestion. Pancreatitis causes the enzymes to activate early, damaging the pancreas and potentially causing it to digest itself.


The signs of pancreatitis can look like more common canine health issues, so it's critical to keep a watchful eye. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain, fever, lethargy, and dehydration.



How to Care for a Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

The Lhasa Apso does not have many demanding needs like some other dogs. However, all breeds need exercise suitable for their energy level, a good grooming routine, and a healthy diet. For these dogs, proper joint and eye care is also a must.


Read this: Full Spectrum CBD oil for dogs



Nutrition and Feeding for a Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

A healthy dog should eat 2.5% of its weight every day, split into two meals. The exact amount of food your Lhasa needs may vary based on any underlying health conditions and their activity level. The largest dietary concern for this small breed is overfeeding.


Since the average weight of a Lhasa is 15 pounds, it should get 6 ounces of high-quality dry dog food each day. On the other hand, a puppy should get 6% of its body weight in dog food. A typical Lhasa puppy weighs 8 pounds, so it would need about 7½ ounces of food designed for young dogs.


According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Lhasa Apso requires a high level of protein and fat. Keep an eye out for dog food with a fat percentage above 14%. As for their source of protein, it's up to the tastebuds and tolerance of your Lhasa.


The best way to care for your Lhasa Apso's long coat is with regular grooming, but some ingredients can give their hair that extra shine. Egg, chia seed, almond, and coconut are all ingredients that will provide your dog with the vitamins and minerals necessary for a brilliant coat.


Many breeds do just fine with their dog bowls set right on the ground, but there is no universal bowl height. Dogs should not have to stretch their necks into any uncomfortable positions to eat. Luckily, there's an easy way to get the right bowl height.


To find the perfect level you'll want to measure your Lhasa Apso from its paws to the top of its shoulders as it stands. Subtract 5 inches to find the perfect bowl height. Since the Lhasa Apso typically stands 11 inches tall, a good bowl should be 6 inches off the ground.



Coat Color And Grooming

The Lhasa may be small, but their double coat accounts for a good portion of its weight. The Lhasa Apso's double coat consists of an insulating bottom layer and a top layer of guard hairs. This Himalayan breed needed these guard hairs for weather protection.


These pups can come in white, black and tan, grizzle, black, and various shades of brown (even a color close to red!).


How to Groom

Proper hair care for this breed requires a high level of grooming. As you clean your Lhasa, check its body for bumps or signs of inflammation. If you find anything out of the ordinary, consult a veterinarian.


Many breeds can be groomed as needed, but the Lhasa Apso's long coat hair can attract bacteria. Bathe them every 2-3 weeks to keep them healthy and happy. Show dogs should either be groomed weekly or the night before each event.


You might still be building trust with your Lhasa Apso when you first groom them. The best way to connect with your dog is to begin with light brushing, providing them with treats as you go. Any pulled hair can cause the Lhasa to distrust you.


Their height and weight allow the Lhasa to be bathed in a small sink. The hair should remain parted down the middle of its body. Use shampoo first, and then conditioner, applying a detangling spray to avoid matting.


Since this breed is susceptible to certain eye conditions, washing their face is critical. Get a canine shampoo that is pH-neutral and scentless for the areas around their eyes, ears, and nose. Grooming around their eyes may not prevent dry eye syndrome, but it will remove any accumulated bacteria.


Blow-dry your Lhasa instead of rubbing or patting them down. Rubbing your dog with a towel will mat their dense coat. Patting them down will not dry the water towards the bottom layer of their topcoat, and trapped water can lead to a skin infection or hot spots.



lhaso walking outside



Children And Other Pets

The Lhasa Apso generally does well with families. They do not have a high prey drive and will not chase small animals or children like some Terrier breeds. The main concern with this cautious breed is building trust.


Lhasas rarely get aggressive, but you'll still want to keep them on a leash the first time they meet any other pets or children in your household. This is less for the protection of the family members and more for your Lhasa Apso. Bigger breeds with a high prey drive could try to chase your new pooch.


Due to their light weight, this breed should be supervised around children who have not learned how to properly handle small dogs. One of the best places for dogs to meet new individuals is in a neutral area. This practice is especially recommended when two dogs meet each other for the first time.


Canines can show aggression towards people or animals they feel are intruding in their territory. Try to find a dog park when introducing dogs. This is a good, neutral territory that neither dog will feel they have to protect.



Rescue Groups

Nowadays, you don't have to become a Buddhist monk to get your very first Lhasa Apso. Fortunately, resources like the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Petfinder can connect you with dogs for sale.


Petfinder is an online marketplace where pet lovers can ensure animals always have a home. Their filters allow you to search by size, gender, coat length, and even if they're good with other pets. You can also get in touch with the seller to determine the dog's level of activity or special needs.


The official breed organization for this dog is the American Lhasa Apso Club. They have published an excellent Rescue Handbook for prospective Lhasa Apso owners.


A rescue group will often operate locally and pull Lhasas scheduled to be put down from nearby shelters. The AKC has over 450 Rescue Network groups across the United States. Anyone is welcome to search their database to find a rescue nearby.



Breed Organizations

Once you've got your Lhasa Apso, register them with a kennel club. These organizations have made it their mission to preserve the breed, connect owners, and promote Lhasa health. The largest kennel club in the world is the American Kennel Club (AKC).


The AKC has some of the best resources for dog care, but they can't do it all on their own. Parent Clubs are breed-specific organizations that help the AKC lighten some of its load. The official Parent Club of the AKC is the American Lhasa Apso Club (ALAC).


Established in 1959, the ALAC was one of the first of its kind in the U.S. It is a non-profit organization that works with regional Lhasa Apso clubs. Check out their member clubs to see if there's a breed organization near you!



More About This Dog Breed

The Lhasa Apso is one of the longest-lived breeds in modern times. Many dogs that originated for such specific purposes as the Lhasa Apso have either morphed into new dogs or gone extinct. However, the lovable "Bark Lion Sentinal Dog" remained true to its form and is here to stay.


Check out organizations like the American Kennel Club for more information and to meet some Lhasas. Don't forget to register your pooch with the American Lhasa Apso Club if you do find that special dog. For pet care advice and the tastiest vegan dog treats, Holistapet has you covered!

Reading next

Boxer Dog Breed Temperament & Personality [Full Guide]
Dogo Argentino: Breed Information, Pictures, and More!

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Looking for something in particular?

Stay connected & get updates on the latest pet news