Complete Guide To The Lhasa Apso: Health, Grooming, Feeding and More

The Lhasa Apso is a lively little dog with a lush coat and an ancient mystique. Loving and loyal, their intelligence and self-assuredness belie their cheerful, fun-loving nature. Among canine nobility, they’re larger than life.

How Big Do Lhasa Apsos Get?

Weighing in at just 12 – 18 pounds, the Lhasa Apso is dainty but confident with billowy floor-length hair. The muzzle is short but not flat and compact yet not square — its face is soft and endearing. Bright, almond-shaped eyes, pendant ears and a feathery curved tail carried over its back give the Lhasa Apso an eager, elfish expression.

What Can Lhasa Apsos Look Like?

Their long, double coats come in a remarkable array of colors including:

• Black
• Black and tan
• Cream
• Gold
• Grizzle
• White
• Red
• Red Gold

Black highlights are common, and all colors are judged equally for show. The Lhasa Apso is often mistaken for similar long-haired breeds, including the smaller Shih Tzu and the curly-haired Havanese.

What Is The Personality Of A Lhasa Apso?

Lhasa Apsos are surprisingly energetic. They need plenty of exercise, yet they’re as happy to run laps in the living room as the park — tack down the rugs. With enough attention, they’ll be content in either high-rises or country homesteads, making them a good fit for most families, including apartment dwellers.

Lhasa Apsos are sociable but protective. Bred as sentinels, they’re ever-watchful. Early socialization and training are musts to tame nuisance barking and wariness toward strangers. Intelligent but occasionally stubborn and not always polite, the reward for teaching them good manners is an affectionate and devoted companion.

What Are The Grooming Needs Of A Lhasa Apso?

Maintenance is more than a buzzword with a Lhasa Apso — it’s a way of life. Whether their coat is full-length or puppy cut, it needs above-average care. Regular professional grooming is a good choice.

Shedding is minimal despite their long locks, but frequent brushing is essential for preventing tangles. Double coats, once heavily matted, can rarely be salvaged without clipping. Every other day grooming with a medium-bristled brush removes loose hair — a twice-weekly go over with a rake or metal comb thins the undercoats and removes knots before they become mats.

Love the personality but not the grooming? Have your groomer do a shorter cut to keep the hair more manageable. At the very least the face should be kept relatively short to keep the hair out of the eyes.

The tear stains that this breed frequently get are more due to the lack of drainage from the eyes down into the nose via the nasolacrimal ducts. The excessive tear overflow can’t be stopped but it should be cleaned where it collects on the hair and skin near the eyes. I actually like using a flea comb to clean this area of the face. It does a great job of picking out the discharge.

How Much Exercise Does A Lhasa Apso Need?

As a small dog, the Lhasa Apso doesn’t need long walks or the dog park. Some Lhasas would love that, but the majority would be fine with a solid 20-30 minute vigorous walk (this should be exercise, not entertainment) and a couple play sessions indoors.

While the Lhasa does make for a great couch buddy, they won’t be happy without regular exercise. Don’t underestimate your little one as well – Lhasas can be fantastic ball fetchers, compete in agility, and even enjoy swimming.

Because of the thick neck and relatively small body size, I recommend a harness instead of a collar for this breed.

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For A Lhasa Apso?

Most small kibble dry dog foods will be suitable for a Lhasa Apso. These little dogs have a pretty small mouth so large kibble will be a lot more difficult to chew.

Grain-free diets are a myth. Please do not feed your dog a grain-free diet unless there are specific food allergies that would benefit from a grain-free diet. Always consult your veterinarian before you decide to make any major diet changes.

Some good brands that I recommend include:

I usually tend to go with the bigger dog food companies because of the amount of time and money they have to research and test their products. They also have a stronger history of safe foods (very rarely will they have recalls) over the newer, more boutique-style dog foods.

It is important always to give your dog high-quality dog food. Monitor the number of treats and “people food” you give your dog to keep him healthy and fit. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the best and easiest way to extend the life of your Lhasa Apso. 

How Long Does A Lhasa Apso Live?

12-15 years based on information from the AKC

What Health Problems Can Lhasa Apsos Have?

Like many smaller breeds that look similar to it, the Lhasa Apso have certain health issues that prospective and current owners need to know about including:

  • Dental Disease
  • Obesity
  • Luxating Patellas
  • Corneal Diseases
  • Dry Eye

Where Can I Find Out More About The Lhasa Apso?

American Lhasa Apso Club

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find A Lhasa Apso?

Breeder Listings from the American Lhasa Apso Club

AKC Puppy Marketplace

Interesting Facts About Lhasa Apsos

The Lhasa Apso has a strong following in the United States, so chances are, you’re familiar with the breed.

But did you know?

Lhasa Apsos Predate Genghis Khan

The Lhasa Apso is an ancient dog — one of several breeds that were present more than a thousand years ago in the same form as we see them today. Their exact timeline isn’t clear, but DNA testing suggests they’re among the oldest breeds, sharing honors with Chow Chows, Pekingese and Mastiffs.

• They Were Bred to Be Guard Dogs

Lhasa Apsos are the cute half of a robust tag team that once guarded Tibetan monasteries. Much larger Mastiffs stood guard outside while Lhasa Apsos used their powerful barks to warn monks if intruders breached the perimeter. Their original name, Abso Seng Kye, means “bark lion sentinel dog.”

Are They the Dalai Lama Reincarnated?

Many Buddhists believe that Lhasa Apsos are the reincarnation of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. It’s said that upon his death, his soul passes from his body to a Lhasa Apso. When the dog dies, the cycle repeats.

• They’re Surprisingly Hardy

Despite their high-maintenance hairstyles, Lhasa Apsos are more than pretty faces. These rugged dogs were bred in brutally cold, snow-covered mountains. Were it not for their diminutive size, they’d be hardy enough to rival Alaskan Malamutes as sled dogs — don’t underestimate their toughness.

• Lhasa Apsos Were Once Gifted, Not Sold

Revered as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, selling Lhasa Apsos was once considered bad form. Instead, they were gifted, not sold and considered a sign of good fortune. American naturalist and explorer, Charles Suydam Cutting, was gifted Lhasa Apsos by the Dalai Lama on a trip to Tibet and was responsible for establishing the breed in the United States in the 1930s.

• They’re Hard-lucked in the Show Ring

Despite their popularity, not a single Lhasa Apso has ever won Westminster’s coveted Best in Show title. Several, however, have won at the United Kingdom’s Crufts dog show, founded in 1891 and still the largest canine competition in the world.

They’re Slow to Mature

Lhasa Apsos take longer to mature than some puppies and are best homed after they’re at least ten weeks old. And while other breeds are fully developed socially by 12–16 months, Lhasa Apsos can take two years or more to reach emotional adulthood.

• Friends to the Famous

It’s only natural that celebrities want dogs as handsome as they are, and the Lhasa Apso certainly fits the bill. As if the Dalai Lama wasn’t enough, distinguished celebrity owners past and present include, actress Elizabeth Taylor, pop star Gwen Stefani, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres, author Kurt Vonnegut and Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain.

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