The Lhasa Apso: Big Sassy Diva Personality in a Small Body

The Lhasa Apso: 
Big, Sassy, Diva Personality in a Small Body

by Janice Jones   |Last Updated 06-01-2023

TheLhasa Apso is a small and sassy non-sporting breed with a big diva personalityin a small dog.

Lhasas are adorable, sweet and popular, and they can beconsidered the “Supermodel dog” because of their amazing coat of hair that isparted perfectly down the middle of their back.

Their hair usually covers theirentire body, which is longer than it is tall. Lhasas have gorgeous and darkfeatures that are highlighted by their light golden coat of hair, and are verylively and intelligent.

Lhasa Apso: Fun, Curious, Devoted, Affectionate

The Lhasa Apso – Small Dog Place Video

They also have a unique tail that is long, curly, andwinding. The tail curls over the back adding a “cute factor” to this overalladorable dog’s appearance. Some Lhasa tails have a kink in them, which mostLhasas do not possess.

It is said that if your Lhasa has a kink in their tail thenthey are considered good luck.

TheLhasa, along like most dogs, needs its exercise, but is not a breed thatheavily depends on it.

If you forget to take your Lhasa on a walk one day, itwill not complain, and will probably be as content as ever; however, they stillneed a small amount of regular exercise.

This makes the Lhasa the perfect dogfor elderly people.

They are perfect for city living and condo living; however,they are very adaptable and can live pretty much anywhere.

One interesting qualityof the Lhasa Apso is that they are extraordinarily healthy dogs and can livewell into their twenties. The oldest recorded Lhasa lived to be a whopping 29years old.

The Lhasa absolutelyadore their families and owners and will stay very loyal to them with theappropriate attention and loving.

Quick Facts:

Other Names Used: Jelly Bean dog (due to thevariety of colors), originally named Apso Seng Kye in Tibet

Affiliation: Non-Sporting group; AKCrecognized in 1935


     Height: 10-11 inches, a little less forfemales

     Weight: 13-15 lbs

Coat Type: Coarse, heavy, and long doublecoat

Colors: Black, Black and Tan, Cream, Golden, Grizzle, Red, Red Gold,  White, Blue, Charcoal, Gray, Liver, Silver (AKC Standard)

Country of Origin: China, more specifically, theHimalayan mountains in Tibet

Activity Level: Low

Life Expectancy: 15 years or more, many live wellinto their twenties

Good with Children: with supervision and responsiblechildren, yes

Good with Other Pets: yes

At a Glance:  The Lhasa Apso

Traits Rating
Playfulness Lhasa Apso in a Puppy Cut

TheLhasa Apso is an ancient breed originated in the Himalayans. For centuries,they were confined only to Tibet where holy men and nobles kept them inisolation where they performed as watchdogs.

In Tibet, they called them “ApsoSeng Kye” which directly translated to “bark lion sentinel dog.” In the 1930s,the Lhasa made it to the United States after being given to the US by the 13thDalai Lama.

Named after the sacred city Lhasa, the Lhasa Apso was consideredsacred. Thanks to C. Suydam Cutting, the breed was spread to other parts of theworld as well by introducing the Lhasa to the U.S as a gift from the DalaiLama. The first of the breed was introduced in Britain in the 1920s, andAmerica in the 1930s.

Recentstudies have shown the Lhasa Apso is one of the breeds that are most closelyrelated to the ancestral wolf. In Tibet, Lhasas were never sold as adults andthey only way someone could get one was as a puppy.

Since these dogs were sosacred, they were very expensive and particularly hard to get possession of.

Lhasas were used to warn the residents of Tibetan nobility and Buddhistmonasteries if the intruder happened to sneak past the external guards. Lhasaswere very good at their jobs and earned high credibility because of it.

Whenthis breed first came to America, they were referred to as Lhasa Terriersinstead of the modern and more common name Lhasa Apso.

The Lhasa has beenidentified as one of the 14 most ancient of all dog breeds.  This suggests that humans first beganbreeding dogs because they wanted a companion that would also warm theirlaps. 

They were first accepted by the American Kennel Club in1935 and now rank 65th in popularity among all of the AKC recognizedbreeds.


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This particular breed is very loyal to those close to them, but is very wary ofstrangers, which is why they make such effective watchdogs.

Lhasas can also bevery hard headed and are prone to Small Dog Syndrome. That is a condition inwhich the dog seems to think that they are the alpha dog and that the humanshould listen to them.

They tend to be snappy, anxious, and act out; however,these are NOT traditionally traits of the Lhasa Apso.

Small Dog Syndrome ishuman induced and is the cause of irresponsible owners. As hard as it will beto give in to the Lhasas cute and adorable face, there has to be an alpha inthe relationship, and that is you.

If you train and raise your pup right, theyare adorable, friendly, sweet, and affectionate with a complete different characterto those who are improperly raised.

Lhasasare also very adaptable and can live pretty much anywhere; however, they areperfect for city living and condo living because they do not require anexcessive amount of exercise.

This also makes Lhasas good for families that areless active. This breed responds well to motivational training, and because oftheir tendency to be more on the stubborn side, it is a good idea to starttraining early.

Overall, the Lhasa Apso is a very loving, friendly dog, andwith proper care and training is not only a pet, but also a best friend.

Grooming this Small Dog

Lhasa in a Full Show Coat

TheLhasa Apso is not the type of breed that one can just brush and comb every oncein a while, and everything will be fine. They need regular visits to thegroomers, especially if one is looking to show them.

Typical Lhasas that arebeing shown have the long, silky hair that goes to the floor. This hair needsextra care, and even more regular visits to the groomer than your average petmight need.

Grooming can be a lot of work, but usually most owners keep theirLhasa in a puppy cut. An advantage to this breed is that they do not shed much,making them ideal for those who struggle with allergies.

While you might not see much of their hair on you or your furniture, the dead hairs need to go somewhere.  Low shedding dogs tend to shed their hair into coat.  Lhasas have a thickdouble coat that continues to grow and can tend to mat if not brushed daily.

First brushing with a pin or slicker brush, followed by a combing with a steel comb will assure that you have gotten down to the skin and removed all tangles and knots.  Just a soft brushing over the top coat will leave mats in the soft undercoat which will continue to get larger if not removed.

The pads of the feetalso need to be checked as well as around the eyes and ears. Hair tends to growexcessively in their ears, which could lead to ear infections.

If you plan to get your Lhasa's coat professionally groomed, the groomer will clip the hair between the foot pads and remove any hair in the ear canal.  If you do the grooming for your pet yourself, then you will need to add those tasks to your grooming routine. 

There are different options for the hair on the head.  Some people who want the long look will pull it up into a single top knot (as seen in the Shih Tzu breed) or enjoy pulling the hair into two pony tales. 

Typically, Lhasas are shown without the elaborate top knots seen in some breeds.

In addition to the special grooming needs of the Lhasa, they also need to have their nails clipped about every couple of weeks and ideally their teeth should be brushed daily. 

Regularlygrooming and brushing will leave your pups hair in perfect and beautifulcondition.

Health Concerns

Lhasas arein general, very healthy dogs that can live to an upward of 20 years, although  the average life span is 12 to 15 years.. They areprone to ear infections due to the hair growing excessively, but other thanthat they are in well condition.

There are a few health concerns to keep youreye out for, but other than that you have a healthy dog on your hands.

Hip Dysplasia

This is an orthopedic disorder where the ball of the hip does not fit snugly into the hip socket resulting in lameness and arthritis.

Read about Hip Dysplasia

Pigmentary Keratitis

In long haired breeds where the hair continues to grow, hair around the head and face can irritate the eyes.  When the hair is pulled up and away from the eyes, this normally does not occur. 

But when shorter hairs begin to touch the eye they can irritate the cornea which is normally transparent. 

Over time, irritation from hair and even injuries, wind, smoke, dust or allergies can cause the cornea to become cloudy and ulcerated.  Eventually the cornea appears darker. 

The color change will not cause pain, but some of the underlying problems can and will also eventually lead to blindness. 

This is common in brachycephalic dogs especially those that have prominent eyes that are easily exposed to injury.

Cherry Eye

Cherry Eye occurs when the gland, also known as the third eyelid swells.  It appears as a red growth thus the name in the inner corner of the eye.  Surgery will take care of the problem

Read about Cherry Eye 

Patellar Luxation

This is an extremely common ailment in small breed dogs where the knee cap slides in and out of place.  Patella is the name for knee and luxation means dislocation.  Dogs can become lame or live normally depending on the severity of the dislocation.

Read about Patellar Luxation

Renal Dysplasia

An abnormal or under-developed kidney that often results in death. There is a DNA test for the Lhasa that breeders should use prior to using them in their program.  Owners can also have their dogs tested to find out if the dog has or doesn't have the disease or is a carrier.

Sebaceous Adentitis (SA)

This is a skin condition with genetic roots.  When this ailment is present, the sebaceous glands in the skin become inflamed and then destroyed.  Symptoms include dry scaly skin with hair loss usually at the top of the head, neck and back.  If the condition is severe, the dog may have an usually unpleasant odor and the skin seem thick.  Secondary infections are common and may cause discomfort in the dog.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This group of eye diseases eventually causes the retina of the eye to deteriorate.  The dog first develops night blindness and the eventually they lose their sight altogether.  Blindness is never a good thing, but dogs can adjust and live fairly normal lives without this sense.

Read about Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Pros and Cons of Lhasa Apso Dog Ownership


  • Nonshedding
  • Minimumexercise
  • Goodwatchdogs
  • Adaptable
  • Small,but not yappy
  • Healthy,and long living


  • Theyneed excessive grooming
  • Cansuffer from Small Dog Syndrome if not brought up right
  • Stubborn
  • Unpredictableactions around strangers

Lhasa Apso Breed Information

Fun Fact

Lhasa Apso have appeared in at least two episodes of TheSimpsons.


Breed Club:
American Lhasa Apso Club, Inc.

Similar Breeds

Shih TzuTibetan TerrierTibetan Spaniel

Conclusion - Is the Lhasa Apso the Right Breed for You?

The Lhasa Apso is a unique and loving breed of dog that makes an excellent companion for families and individuals alike.

However, they do require a certain level of care and attention, so it is important to be prepared before bringing one into your home.

If you are willing to put in the time and effort to care for a Lhasa Apso, they will reward you with years of love and companionship.

If you are considering getting a Lhasa Apso, do your research and find a reputable breeder or rescue organization.

These dogs require a certain level of care and attention, but they are well worth the effort. With proper training, socialization, and care, a Lhasa Apso can be a loyal and loving companion for many years to come.

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