Lhasa Apso Dog Breed Information, Health and Characteristics

The Lhasa Apso portrays an Asian picture of a dog breed that lived in the Tibetan monasteries situated in the high Himalayas.  Sources have confirmed the breed’s existence since 800BC. The breed originated in Tibet and was bred in the same place to work as guard dogs at the Buddhist Monasteries. It is also counted among the three breeds that originated in Tibet. 

Such an old origin makes the breed one of the oldest dogs in the world. However, they failed to earn a reputation until one day they were introduced to C. Suydam Cutting after he arrived in the United States of America by the Dalai Lama the 13th. Buddhist people consider this breed to be sacred and a symbol of good luck. Some even believed that the holy spirits of the monks were reincarnated into the bodies of the Lhasa Apso.

To learn more about such breed facts, you will need to read the article till the end.

How to distinguish Lhasa Apso Dog Breed?

The name ‘Lhasa Apso’ has a historical beginning. The first name came from Potala, near the sacred city of Lhasa. But, the origin of the second name is cloudy. Some say that the name is a mispronunciation of the name ‘rapso’ meaning ‘goat-like’. Others however feel that name is taken from the term “Abso Seng kye” meaning ‘Barking Lion Sentinel Dog’.

Let’s take a look at the various features of the breed.

HeightThe height of a Lhasa Apso dog breed is 10-12 inches.
WeightThe weight of a Lhasa Apso dog breed is 12-18 pounds. 
Coat TypeLhasa Apso has shiny flowing full coats. These are long, but not long enough to touch the ground. Also, the coat’s density lies between the coarse type and the silky to touch type.
SheddingThe beautiful fur of the breed shed very little almost throughout the year which makes it appear as if the coat is free of shedding. However, owners might need to take good care of the dog’s fur. 
Coat ColourThe Lhasa Apso dog breed has 8 standard colours. These are:Solid BlackGolden (Pale gold to wheaten)Grizzle (Bluish-grey or iron grey colour created from a combination of black and white hairs)Red Gold (Dark apricot to light red)Solid WhiteBlack Cream (light cream to darker shades of cream)Red Besides these, the breed also has 5 alternate colours that are listed under the AKC. It includes:GreySilverLiverCharcoalBlue
Coat PatternThe coat patterns of a Lhasa Apso dog breed include:Brindle– Pattern consisting of darker hair forming bands. Found mostly on cream, gold and red coats.Sable– Pattern having black-tipped hair. Also found on the red, gold and cream coats.Parti-colour– Includes two or more colours that are mostly in equal proportions.
Eye colourThe Lhasa Apso has dark-brown coloured eyes that are almond-shaped. 
Life ExpectancyThe average lifespan of a Lhasa Apso is 12-15 years.
PriceUSA: $500-$1000
United Kingdom: £900-£ 1,500
India: ₹16,000-₹23,000
Bite Force100-200 PSI
SpeedThese dogs run at a speed of 7-10 miles per hour. 

General characteristics of the Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

The distinctive coat of this breed is enough to identify a Lhasa Apso. This canine belongs to the Non-Sporting group. However, they have a protective instinct and are good as watchdogs. The breed is hardy but has an aristocratic build up. An interesting fact about the breed’s coat is that it is parted, starting from the middle of the head to the tail. 

Identifying a Lhasa Apso Dog Breed
  1. Build up: The Lhasa Apso has a well-balanced and sturdy body. It is proportionately coated with dense fur. The length between the shoulders and the buttocks is more, compared to the height of the withers. Also, the ribs are extended to the back to provide balance.
  2. Head: The breed has a narrow skull and is of a shape that falls between doomed, apple-shaped and flattened at the top. The skull lies behind the eyes to a marked degree. 
  3. Face: The deep set of hairs falling on the eyes of the breed enhances the thoughtful and intelligent expression of the breed. The pigmentation near the eye rims and lips are dark. 
  4. Muzzle: The muzzle of the breed is straight and has a fair length. The distance between the tip of the nose and the eyes is one–third of the total distance between the tip of the nose and the back of the skull. Also, the colour of the nose is black.
  5. Eyes: The eyes of a Lhasa Apso are dark-brown to medium-brown in colour. Also, these eyes are almond-shaped. 
  6. Ears: The Lhasa Apso dog breed has ears that are slightly above its eyes. These ears are pendant-shaped and are carried close to the cheeks and are also heavily feathered. 
  7. Tail: Lhasa Apso has a tail that is curved over the backbone in the shape of a screw. Sometimes you will also find a knit at the end of the tail. It is thick and dense and is nicely coated with fur.
  8. Forequarters: The front legs of the breed are straight and properly laid back. They are even furnished nicely with hair. Their feet are cat-like and are padded well. 
  9. Hindquarters: The hind legs of a Lhasa Apso dog breed are muscled and well developed. They are, in fact, at a good angle to the body. Legs are generally straight with no bowing. Just like the forequarters, the hindquarters are also furnished nicely with fur.
  10. Markings: The breed has markings near the chest collar, muzzle, blaze (marked area between the two eyes running up to the centre of the face) and tail tip. For some different coloured coat dogs, the markings can be found near the head, tail and ears.

The Lhasa Apso has a smooth and effortless gait along with a good front reach and strong rear-drive. The rear legs push the body well while carrying it forward in order to balance it. Also, the legs always move parallel to each other. It is even fascinating to see a Lhasa running here and there with its tail up. 

Temperament and Personality of the Lhasa Apso dog breed

  • The term that is always used by breed standards to identify a Lhasa Apso is ‘gay and assertive but chary of strangers’. This breed however prefers staying aloof from strangers.These little mountain dogs are fastidious by nature and are guardians within their domain. Although calm by nature they are still chary (suspicious) of strangers and are guardians within their domain.
  • The breed has a gentle temperament along with a distinguished demeanour. They do not crave attention and are rather respectful towards their owner. Those who have adopted them have confirmed that ‘they like diversion, and play. They like treats and rewards, but mostly they wanna be with you.’
  • The Lhasa Apso are good with other pets, provided they are introduced properly. However, you may need to socialize your dog at an early age if it is a male for they take more time in adjusting (unlike the female ones) with other animals. 
  • The breed has a protective and loyal personality and prefers being calm and sedate at times.
  • These dogs are sensitive toward the environment but are independent by nature. 
  • They are also famous for their intelligence. Their sharp mind helps them get motivated when rewarded with toys and food.

Health Issues of the Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

Like every breed, even the Lhasa Apso is affected by health problems that are genetic in nature. Although one can always take its dog to veterinary care for understanding the problems better; it will not reduce the harm that is to be caused to the breed. “Watch out for breathing issues, this normally comes from overbreeding so a reputable breeder should solve that”. 

Given below are some of the serious health issues that are common in this breed.

Dental problems:

About 80% of the dogs, including Lhasa Apso have the chance of being affected by dental diseases. The problem begins with tartar build-up on the surface of the teeth followed by the progressing infection of the gums.


  • Inflamed gums
  • Loss of teeth
  • Bad breath
  • A sudden drop in the appetite


For this breed, obesity can be a serious problem. Since they are prone to a genetic joint problem; an increase in the weight of the breed can worsen the situation. Other issues like improper metabolism or digestive problems can also be caused by obesity.


  • Gaining weight
  • Too much body fat
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of mobility


Infections like viral fever are quite common in the Lhasa Apso dog breed. Once affected, they may have to deal with rabies, distemper, etc. Fortunately, some of these infections can be prevented by giving regular vaccines to the breed.


  • Excess pus-like discharge
  • Bad odour
  • Scratching the body
  • The top of the ears look swollen

Besides these, they are also affected by certain genetic health issues. 

Joint problems:

The Lhasa Apso dog breed has musculoskeletal problems. These can cause undying pain to the breed. Thus, they must be properly diagnosed to prevent pain and suffering. Some of the common hip joint problems are hip dysplasia and patellar luxation.


  • Lameness in the legs
  • Limping
  • Frequent slipping while moving around
  • Depression

Bleeding disorders:

Von Willebrand’s disease of blood clotting is the most frequent bleeding disorder found in the breed. There are many cases when the breed appears healthy on the outside but is having a serious injury on the inside.


  • Nose-bleeding
  • Bruises
  • Bleeding in the bowel
  • Blood coming out while urinating

Liver problems:

The Lhasa Apso dog breed has a common liver disorder known as portosystemic shunt (PSS). In this case, the blood that should enter the liver goes around it. Due to this, the canine cannot remove the toxins from the blood effectively. 


  • Growing seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea

Eye problems:

Eye problems for the Lhasa breed are very dangerous as they can cause improper functioning of the eyes and sometimes permanent blindness. A reason why Lhasa is affected by this problem is because of their protruding eyeballs. The most common eye problem in the breed is cataracts.


  • Cloudy appearance of the eye
  • Bumping into objects
  • Puffy eyes
  • Irritation in the paws

Grooming a Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

  • The most important part about Lhasa Apso’s grooming is their fur. The coat of the breed should be brushed daily to avoid knots. You can use a simple soft brush for the process.
  • They should bathe every 4-6 weeks. Afterwards, owners must dry both their coats with a hairdryer to prevent moisture from developing on their skin.
  • As purebreds, the shedding of a Lhasa Apso is invisible. But, ‘if your dog is shedding a LOT…my suggestion is to see a vet’, confirms an owner. Sometimes, parasites enter the skin, causing reactions and hair loss.
  • Clip the coat of a Lhasa Apso once it reaches 10 years of age. This way, the coat can be maintained. You will need to cut short the clipped part so that it does not cause any irritation to the breed.
  • Clip off the toenails of the breed once they grow. Also, clean the corners of the eyes with a damp cloth to avoid tear stains.

Training and Exercising the Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

Training a Lhasa Apso Dog Breed
  • These dogs are perfect for less active people. They don’t require a perfect schedule to work out. Just a little bit of wandering should do the needful.
  • The amount of exercise is the same for both the male and female Lhasa. Besides this, a regular veterinary check-up is also important.
  • Taking the breed out for a walk improves his socialization skills. It also makes the dog more alert and content. The breed gets sound sleep, develops strong bones and muscles and gets to live long.
  • Besides exercising, you must also take your dog to training classes for obedience learning. The Lhasa Apso dog breed requires house training so that it is not scared of the new surroundings.
  • Small breeds like the Lhasa Apso must be given litter box training. Unlike cats, dogs are not going to start using a litter box naturally. Therefore, it needs to be taught to them. 

Feeding a Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

  • Keeping in mind the health of the dog, Lhasa Apso should be given dried food along with additional nutrients like beef-bone. As they have a tendency to gain weight, the portions given to them must be fixed.
  • As owners, you can keep changing the food for your puppy till it gets adjusted to it. ‘For a puppy, you need to feed at least a small pack mixed with some bread or rice, whichever is available at your place’.
  • Your dog should not be given excessive amounts of ‘human food’ at any cost in the form of treats. Dairy products are harmful for the breed and can cause Diarrhoea in them. The amount of ‘human food’ that can be given to a Lhasa Apso Dog breed should not exceed 10%.
  • Until the dog reaches four months, it should be given food three times a day. Gradually, the number can be reduced to two times.
  • However, some dogs may require food only once a day if they are not over-eaters.

Living with a Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

Living with a Lhasa Apso Dog Breed
  • For people having small living spaces, the breed should be perfect for you. Those who cannot find time to take their Lhasa on a walk are its rightful owners.
  • If the dog has been living with its mother since birth, it might feel lonely entering a new place. Give it some time to adjust.
  • Preparing his water bowl and crate should be the owner’s top priority after bringing home a Lhasa Apso puppy.
  • These dogs are much more independent than other breeds. Therefore, they do not bond well with kids. Male dogs are much more possessive than female ones. As a result, they can get aggressive towards small children.  


For Lhasa Apso puppies, a pinch of separation anxiety is normal. Once they are left alone, they might start barking or howling. However, this behaviour subsides once they grow up. Only in a few cases, the dog is still found holding onto its childhood behaviour.

Fortunately, there are ways to handle anxiety. Try not to leave the dog for very long periods. A short span of absence makes the breed accustomed to it. You can even leave a bone for your dog to chew inside the crate or within the house. In case you find the situation stressful, you should consult a vet.


Q. What is the most concerning factor for a Lhasa Apso dog breed?

Make sure you don’t keep your dog around small children. The clumsiness of the kid can trigger them easily. These dogs are no guests to being teased and are possessive by nature.

Q. Do Lhasa Apso bark a lot?

These dogs love to bark. Their barking can also turn to shout when they see new people around them. You can always train them to be good dogs, but you can never make them stop barking.

Q. Which dog is better- Shih Tzu or Lhasa Apso?

A Shih Tzu dog breed would always want you to pay more attention to it while a Lhasa Apso is happy giving you company in whatever you do. While a Shih Tzu prefers a quieter place, the Lhasa Apso prefers wandering the house at all times. 

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