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Lhasa Apso - Sentinel for Tibetan Monks

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The Lhasa Apso is a small purebred dog from Tibet. Once used as sentinels in Tibet by Buddhist monks and as watchdogs in palaces it is now a companion dog who may be still small in size but is sturdy and loyal to its family. Its name comes from the capital of Tibet, Lhasa and apso means bearded.

Here is the Lhasa Apso at a Glance
Name Lhasa Apso
Other Names Lion Dog
Nicknames Lhasa
Origin China
Average size Small
Average weight 13 to 15 pounds
Average height 10 to 11 inches
Life span 10-15 years
Coat type Silky, long, dense
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Brown, black, white, yellow, red
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 65th by the AKC
Intelligence Fair to average
Tolerance to heat Moderate – not good when it is very warm or hot
Tolerance to cold Good – able to handle colder weather but nothing very cold or extreme
Shedding Low to none – great dog to have if you do not want loose hair everywhere
Drooling Low – not a dog known to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – not prone to obesity but can gain weight if food and exercise are not monitored
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – needs a lot of brushing and grooming
Barking Frequent – can be a problem for close neighbors, needs training to control it
Exercise needs Fairly active but easy to satisfy being small
Trainability Difficult – stubborn and needs experienced trainer
Friendliness Good – somewhat social with socialization
Good first dog Good to very good – size make it easier to care for but the hard training means experience will help
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good but needs socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization, can have high prey drive
Good with strangers Moderate – needs socialization and supervision
Good apartment dog Very good with size but the barking needs to be controlled
Handles alone time well Very good – does not mind being alone
Health issues In good health but some issues include eye problems, patellar luxation and kidney problems
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic care and health insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $595 a year for license, grooming, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys
Average annual expense $1105 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $750
Biting Statistics None reported

The Lhasa Apso's Beginnings

The Lhasa Apso is from Tibet, China bred in the Himalayan mountains and is named for the Tibet's sacred capital, Lhasa. Its ancestors date back to 4000 years ago and it is more closely related to the wolf. This is one of the oldest dogs in the world. It was called Apso Seng Kyi or Bearded Lion Dog. For many years it was bred by monks and nobility only and used as a watchdog for monasteries, palaces and temples.

It was viewed as a scared animal as they believed the soul of its master would enter the dog when he died. This meant the souls of dead lamas could live within the dogs until there were reborn with a new body. They were also considered to bring good luck.

The only main way anyone else could get a Lhasa Apso was if the Dali Lama gave them as gifts to people. They were never sold. Sometimes he would gift them to foreign diplomats for example. From the start of the Manchu Dynasty around 1583 up till the early 20th century the Dali Lama sent pairs as a gift to the Chinese Imperial family and the Chinese Emperor. In the 1900s some came to England with returning military and there the breed was called Lhasa Terrier.

New Lease on Life

The first Lhasa Apsos to come to the US were gifts from the thirteenth Dali Lama to C Cutting in 1933, who was a naturalist and world traveler. He has a farm in New Jersey and he used the pair to start a kennel. It was accepted by the AKC in 1935. At first it was registered in the terrier group but in 1959 were moved to the non sporting group. It is ranked 65th most popular registered dog breed by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Lhasa Apso is a small dog weighing 13 to 15 pounds and standing just 10 to 11 inches tall. It has a straight, dense, silky and long coat that comes in the common colors of white, parti-color, black, yellow, brown and red. It is a hardy dog with a body length that is longer than it is tall. It has straight front legs and its back ones are covered in hair. Its feet are catlike, round and also covered in hair and its tail is high set, carried in a screw and feathered.

Its eyes are deeply set and small and dark brown color. The ears are feathered and pendant. It has a medium length muzzle and hair grows profusely over it face too. The nose is black usually but can be brown. Some have a dark tip at the end of their beard and ears.

The Inner Lhasa Apso


The Lhasa Apso is an alert and intelligent dog. It makes a great watchdog as it will bark if intruders try to get in. It is not however an especially protective dog so is unlikely to act to defend you or the home. It is a good dog for new owners but it can be hard to train and stubborn so it might be better if you had some experience. It does not mind being left alone and usually does not have problems with separation anxiety.


It is a very cheerful, playful and brave dog, energetic too with a strong independent streak. It is a very affectionate and loyal dog, in fact most owners find they are quite clingy and always underfoot. If that is something that will bother you this is not the dog for you. It is a spirited and lively dog but its strong will means training can be hard and it needs firm leadership. Avoid spoiling it and babying it as that can lead to small dog syndrome where it acts out, is destructive, yappy, suspicious and aggressive.

It likes to please its owner and will run its head on its owner and roll on their feet to show it is happy. Socialization is important or it can be overly suspicious of strangers which can lead to aggression. It has a strong stubborn side and if it does not want to do what you ask it will literally lie flat and refuse to budge. Inside if it is well raised and it respects you it is a fairly calm dog but if not it will try to manipulate you.

Living with a Lhasa Apso

What will training look like?

The Lhasa is a hard dog to train because it is so strong minded and stubborn. You will need to have a great deal of patience, be consistent and if needed use professional obedience schools or trainers. It is a smart breed and knows how to try to get its own way and you need to be firm about the rules. Training that uses positive approaches, treats, re-enforcement, praise and encouragement are more likely to be successful than negative approaches. It is important it knows you are the boss, and that any other humans in the house are also above it in the hierarchy. Without this training and clear structure it can be aggressive, suspicious and destructive.

Obedience training is not the only thing that is hard, house training can also be. Be patient and keep with it. Consider using crate training and be prepared for this to take longer than it does with many other dogs. Make sure you also start early socialization as soon as you have it home. It needs to be exposed to different people, children, animals and places so it can get used to them and react appropriately.

How active is the Lhasa Apso?

This is a lively and energetic dog but it is easy to meet its needs with indoor play time, a couple of short walks and some place safe to run off leash now and then. It does not need a yard, though one is a bonus, so it can live in an apartment but it can bark often which might be a problem with close neighbors. When taking it out for a walk take care in hotter weather that it does not overheat. Make sure it has plenty of toys to rotate through and that you offer it mental stimulation as well as physical exercise.

Caring for the Lhasa Apso

Grooming needs

While the Lhasa Apso is low shedding it is actually still a high maintenance dog so owners need to be prepared for a lot of work caring for it as well as regular trips to a professional groomer. It has a long coat and if kept long needs daily brushing to get rid of tangles and debris. The brushing is time consuming and it can be hard. Some opt to get it trimmed by a groomer to make it easier to look after at home.


Things you will need to do include checking its feet for foreign matter that can get stuck there and for mats, giving it a dry shampoo now and then as giving it a bath should be saved for when it really needs one to avoid drying out its skin. You also need to wipe the eyes and under the eyes daily and watch the length of the hair on the face.

You also need to brush its teeth at least two to three times a week, check its ears for infection and clean them with a cleanser (not sticking anything into its ears). Also clip or have them clipped the nails when they get too long. Take care not to cut too low though, dog nails are not like outs and it will bleed and hurt the dog if you are not careful.

Feeding Time

The Lhasa will need to be fed in two meals so that it does not overeat in one sitting. Its daily amount of food will likely equal ½ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food. However how much your dog will need exactly will depend on its size, how much activity it gets, its metabolism, and its age.

How is the Lhasa Apso with children and other animals?

With socialization it can get along with children but is best with kids who are older. This dog does not like being tugged at, startled or teased and is likely to snap at them should they go too far. If it is around children supervision is needed. For older kids who know better, and know not to mess with its food or toys, the Lhasa can be happy to play, and can be affectionate. If your home is full of rowdy kids some of whom are young this breed is not the best fit for you.

If the dog is allowed to develop small dog syndrome it is more likely to be snappy, jealous and suspicious of other pets, children and other dogs. If properly socialized and well trained and in a home with a strong owner who will not stand for nonsense they can get along with animals and other dogs. It sees itself as a large dog and so has no fear of dogs that are bigger than it. Sometimes it just wants to join in the play, sometimes it might try to be the top dog.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Lhasa is quite a healthy dog with a life span of 12 to 15 years. It can have certain health issues it is prone to and these include skin problems, eye problems, kidney problems, ulcers, patellar luxation and allergies.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people in the US and Canada over the last 34 years there are no reports about the Lhasa Apso. However as already stated this dog is prone to snapping, is hard to train and needs a strong owner. It is possible for one to injure someone, or someone’s dog. Make sure if this is the dog you want that you give it the attention it needs, see to its early socialization and training, care for it and exercise it. A dog well looked after and stable is less likely to be a problem. But it does not mean nothing will ever happen, any dog can snap.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Lhasa Apso from a rescue or kennel is going to be just $50 to $300 but is probably going to be an adult. A pet quality dog from a good breeder who can show you parental health clearances and has good breeding practices is going to cost $750 to $1000. For something of AKC standards, perhaps a show dog from a top breeder it is more likely going to cost $2000 up to several thousand. Backyard breeders, pet stores, ads online and the like can charge any kind of price from $200 to $5000! But avoid these puppy mill like places, the less people buy from them, the more will go out of business.


When you have found a dog there are some things it will need back home. A crate, carrier, leash, collar, bowls and other items which are going to cost about $120. You also need to take it to a vet and have it given a physical exam, vaccinations, deworming, blood tests, micro chipped and spayed or neutered depending on whether it is a boy or a girl. These initial medical costs come to about $300.

There are also then ongoing costs of owning a dog. For this one you can expect treats and food to be about $75 a year. For items and miscellaneous costs like grooming, license, basic training, toys and such the yearly amount is about $595. Another $435 at least will be for pet insurance and basic health care like vet check ups, shots and flea and tick prevention. This gives a total annual cost that will start at $1105.


Looking for a Lhasa Apso Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

  • Male and Female Lhasa Apso Puppy Names
  • The Lhasa Apso is a small dog but is sturdy rather than dainty. It loves to be close to you, so if you do not want it around and underfoot all the time a different breed may be a better choice. Its coat is tough to look after so if it is not a show dog having it clipped regularly does help with that. It is a very strong minded dog so be prepared for difficult training. Do not give up on it though, it needs that training, it needs early socialization and it needs time spent on housebreaking. This is a very loyal and devoted dog, calm indoors and a great watchdog. It is not great with children and if overly spoiled can be aggressive and snappy.

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