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Breed information

Group: Non-Sporting
Life span: 12-15 years
Height male: 25-28 cm/ 10-11 inches
Height female: 25-28 cm/ 10-11 inches
Weight male: 7-8 kg/ 15-18 pounds
Weight female: 7-8 kg/ 15-18 pounds
Character: Alert, Assertive, Devoted, Friendly, Intelligent, Lively, Obedient, Playful, Spirited, Steady


The Lhasa Apso originated on the Himalayan plateau in the area of Tibet. They were domesticated and actively bred perhaps as long ago as 800 BC, which makes the Lhasa Apso one of the oldest recognized breeds in the world. Recent research has shown the Lhasa as one of the breeds most closely related to the ancestral wolf. (Others are Akita, Shiba Inu, Shar-Pei, Chow, Basenji, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Saluki, Afghan, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and Samoyed.)

Referred to in Tibet as Apso Seng Kyi, which can be translated as "Bearded Lion Dog", the Lhasa's primary function was that of a household sentinel, guarding the homes of Tibetan nobility and Buddhist monasteries, particularly in or near the sacred city of Lhasa. The large Tibetan Mastiffs guarded the monasteries' entrances, but the keen hearing and sharp bark of the Lhasa Apso served to warn residents by acting like a burglar alarm if an intruder happened to get past the exterior guards.

It was believed that the bodies of the Lhasa Apsos could be entered by souls of deceased lamas while they awaited rebirth into a new body. Lhasas in Tibet were never sold. The only way a person could get one was as a gift.

In the early 1900s, a few of the breed were brought by military men returning from the Indian subcontinent to England, where the breed was referred to as the "Lhasa Terrier". The original American pair of Lhasas was a gift from Thubten Gyatso, 13th Dalai Lama to C. Suydam Cutting, arriving in the United States in 1933. Mr. Cutting had traveled in Tibet and met the Dalai Lama there. At this time, there was only one Lhasa Apso registered in England. The breed was at first called the Lhasa Terrier, later the Lhasa Apso. The American Kennel Club officially accepted the breed in 1935 in the Terrier Group, and in 1959 transferred the breed to the Non-Sporting Group. In the UK, they are placed in the Utility Group.

Certain characteristics which are part of the breed type evolved as a result of geographical and climatic environment — the high altitudes, the dry windy climate, the dusty terrain, the short hot summer and the long bitterly cold winter of the Himalaya region. Among these are head features, the coat, eye-fall, the musculation and body structure, the general hardiness and longevity of the breed. DNA Analysis has identified the Lhasa Apso as one of the 14 most ancient dog breeds, verifying that lap dogs and companion dogs were among the first dogs bred by humans.

Today, in the USA, there exists a unique group of Lhasa Apsos known within the fancy as the Gompa dogs. (Gompa is the Tibetan word for a monastery’s main meditation hall.) These Lhasa Apsos are direct descendants of the Lhasa Apsos from the Drepung monastery in Tibet, where, in 1941, Lama Gyen Yeshe was gifted Preserving the Future, Enlisting the Past his first Lhasa Apso by a High Reincarnate Lama. In the 1980s, nine Lhasa Apsos bred by the late Lama Gyen Yeshe or sired by one of his dogs were brought into Canada. Bred together for a number of years, descendants were eventually registered with the United Kennel Club (UKC). In 2000, the remaining descendants entered the United States as part of a successful rescue. Since then, organized efforts have been made to maintain the dogs and preserve the line. The Gompa Lhasa Apso Preservation Program (GLAPP), a 501(c)3 organization, is a small population genetics management program perpetuating the genetic lineage of the Gompa Lhasa Apso. Not having undergone selection to a written standard, this unique gene pool represents the Lhasa Apso as it developed as a landrace. GLAPP’s internal database contains records of all dogs being used to perpetuate this genetic lineage and includes DNA Profiling, DNA Parentage Verification and microchip identification. Dogs born within the Preservation Program continue to be registered with UKC. In August 2011, seventeen dogs from the Gompa Lhasa Apso Preservation Program entered the American Kennel Club (AKC) studbook. The goal of recording recently imported region-of-origin Lhasa Apsos is to increase genetic diversity while maintaining the integrity of the AKC studbook.


Heavy head furnishings with good fall over eyes, good whiskers and beard; skull narrow, falling away behind the eyes in a marked degree, not quite flat, but not domed or apple-shaped; straight foreface of fair length. Nose black, the length from tip of nose to eye to be roughly about one-third of the total length from nose to back of skull.


The Lhasa Apso is prone to a few health problems, but still a very healthy breed. For example, it is susceptible to sebaceous adenitis, a hereditary skin disease that occurs primarily in Standard Poodles, but has also been reported in a number of other breeds, including the Lhasa Apso. They are also prone to the genetic disease progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which can render them blind. Responsible breeders have their breeding dogs checked yearly by a canine ophthalmologist to check that they are not developing the disease, which is heritable in offspring. Lhasa Apsos are also prone to eye diseases, such as cherry eye and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS or dry eye syndrome). A 2004 Kennel Club survey puts the median lifespan of the breed at 14 years 4 months. UK vet clinic data puts the median at 13.0 years. While regarded by many as a "lap dog", Lhasa Apsos do require daily exercise, by play and walks, to maintain physical health and mental well being.


Lhasa Apsos originated in Tibet, where monks used them to guard the monastery grounds. The monks also used the Lhasa Aspo in some religious ceremonies and generally held the dogs in the highest of regards. Today, Lhasas are trusty companion dogs who still take their watchdog role quite seriously. Lhasa owners agree, these dogs have no clue how small they are. They are fearless and often times bossy dogs who demand the attention of people whenever they are in the room. Some can be quite clownish, making mischief or performing for a laugh. They believe they are the center of the universe, and like any self-respecting diva, Lhasas can be quite moody. Despite their egos, Lhasas generally have a heart of gold and bring great joy to the homes they reside in.

Activity Requirements

Lhasa Apsos don't require an excessive amount of physical activity to maintain health or happiness. They should be walked daily to maintain fitness, and be allowed to run and stretch their legs at least once per week. They can live in homes of any size, from farms all the way down to city apartments, and they are capable of adapting their physical activity to match the physical activity level of their owner.


Training requires a lot of patience and a gentle hand. Lhasas can be willful, and if they decide they don't want to do something, they simply won't do it. Harsh treatment will often result in the dog retaliating. Lhasas respond best to food rewards, short training sessions and varied routines. Absolute consistency is important when working with a Lhasa Apso as they will see your bending the rules as an invitation to walk all over you. The time it takes to train a Lhasa is well worth the effort. Once leadership is established and the Lhasa learns that there is food in it for him, will step up to the plate and perform the tasks at hand. Early and frequent socialization is important with this breed. They are naturally suspicious of strangers and this can get out of hand in the form of excessive barking and even nipping or snapping. It is imperative to teach a Lhasa to accept new people as welcome visitors.

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Behavioral Traits

Lhasas Apsos are not the best choice for families with small children. These dogs can be moody, possessive of their toys and food and will not take kindly to being teased. Older children should be taught to respect the Lhasas boundaries. Lhasas are genetically hard-wired to be watch dogs, so even if you properly socialize your dog to accept visitors as welcome, it can be nearly impossible to train the barking alert out of them, and they will alert you (and the neighborhood) to every incoming person, vehicle or animal that comes his way.


Maintaining the Lhasa Apso coat can be time-consuming. Those who do not show their Lhasa often opt for clipping the coat, in order to reduce maintenance. For show dogs, or for those who wish to keep the coat long and flowing, brushing and combing must occur on a daily basis. Baths are required every two to four weeks. Check the ears on a regular basis for signs of wax buildup, irritation or infection. Clean the ears with a cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved cleanser; never use a cotton swab in a dog's ear canal. Teeth should be brushed on a weekly basis to prevent tartar buildup, promote gum health and keep bad breath at bay. Trim nails monthly if the dog does not wear the toenails down naturally outdoors.

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