By Avatar photoShiloh Nevada Last updated: 18th October 2022



Avatar photo Shiloh Nevada
Last updated: 18th October 2022

The Kyi-Leo is a small-statured dog which originated from accidently crossing the Lhasa Apso and a Maltese. Though tiny in size, they have pretty striking characteristics. They are stoutly built and are known for their ‘cute’ looks. Their roundish face is studded with roundish eyes, matched with a dark, round nose tip. The whole body is covered with long, silky hair. They are typically black and white, but in rare cases, they can fade to silver and white with age.

Kyi-Leo Pictures

Quick Information

CoatDense, straight, long, silky
ColorsBlack, white, yellow, silver
TypeToy Dog, Lapdog, Watchdog
Group (of Breed)Crossbreed
Life Span/Expectancy13-15 years (average)
Height (Size)Small; 8-12 inches (adult)
Weight9-14 pounds (full grown)
Personality TraitsPlayful, social, energetic, affectionate, peaceful
Good with ChildrenYes
Good with PetsYes
Climate CompatibilityComfortable in cold temperatures
Competitive Registration/ Qualification InformationACA, APRI, ARBA, CKC, DRA, KLC, NKC

Video: Kyi-Leo Puppies Playing

History and Development

After being developed during the 1950s in USA’s San Francisco Bay, it attracted the attention of many. For almost two decades, the line breeding of this new breed continued. During this time, one Mrs. Harriet Linn, who was much fascinated by the new breed, took the initiative in acquiring a few specimens in 1965. She several others in 1969 from the San Jose Kennel which she began producing extensively.

Finally, in 1972, as the new dog could successfully gain the attention of many owners and breeders, they joined hands together and arranged for a formal meeting, wherein the breed was unanimously named as ‘Kyi-Leo,’ also attaining recognition. The breed’s popularity began spreading gradually throughout the country until it officially recognized as a ‘legitimate breed’ by the American Rare Breed Association.

Temperament and Behavior

Kyi-Leos are dogs that are kind, affectionate, gentle, and eager to please. Its calmness is often compared to that of a cat since it ‘s hard to provoke it. These dogs are safe with their families, as well as quite playful with kids. They even mingle well with fellow pets, including other dogs and non-canines.

They are alert and wary when it comes to strangers. Kyi Leos are also vocal, having a keen sense of hearing, warning its family if it comes across anything ‘fishy.’ This behavior makes this little one a good watchdog.

K-Ls are intelligent and patient,  which makes it ideal for indoor life. They would sit and wait calmly for their owners, even when they are left alone for extended periods of time. However, it is important that a pack leader controls them, or else they might show obstinacy at times.



Because of its proneness to orthopedic issues, regular exercise is extremely crucial for this dog. Allow it to play as and when it wants to help it remain active. However, keep an eye especially when it climbs the staircase to avoid unpleasant occurrences of any kind. Take it out for a daily walk or light jogging.


Though they shed less, they have a long, dense, silky coat that is prone to matting, thus needing regular grooming. Brush them 5-6 times a week to prevent their hair from getting entangled. Bathing them once a month is enough. Also, you can trim the hair around the eyes and ears from time to time. If needed, seek help from a professional groomer.

Health Problems

Since this breed has a small size and tender legs, they are prone to suffer mostly from bone issues like slipped patella, patellar luxation, and spinal problems.


  • Socialize your dog right from its puppyhood. Arrange for parties at home, play music, and do everything freely and normally. Let your dog comprehend varied experiences and get used to new faces and sounds.This practice will also help it keep away any possible weariness about strangers.
  • Alternately, you can also hold a small dog party, and invite a couple of friends, who have dogs (even better with medium to larger dogs), along with their pets. This training should also help your dog get accustomed to larger breeds, and get immune to any possible small dog syndrome in its mind.
  •  To keep any possible obstinacy away, teach your dog to respect you right from the prime of its life, as well as impart obedience training by acquainting it to several commands such as ” Come,” “Go,” ” Stop” and so on.


Premium dry kibble, which is high in protein, is good for your little dog. However, you might want to avoid foods like meat since their digestive system is not always able to handle such substances. Refrain giving them spicy or canned foods since their sensitive stomach might end in developing pancreatitis. Note that; food intake might also be an issue because of its small size, for which they tend to gain weight quickly.

Interesting Facts

  • In the Tibetan language, the word “Kyi” means ‘dog,’ while in Latin, “Leo” means ‘lion.’
  • The name “Kyi-Leo” had officially been registered and is often written as ‘Kyi-Leo®,’ as a trademark, very much like a brand name.
  • Interestingly, the cross breed ‘Lhatese’ or ‘American Lamalese’ is also a cross between the Lhasa Apso and the Maltese, but are genetically different from the Kyi-Leo breed. The Kyi-Leo Club does not accept them.
  • It is said that Kyi-Leos can grasp things using their front paws.
  • With age, the hair color of the Kyi-Leo can fade from typical black-and-white to gold-and-white, though in very rare cases.
  • During her Butterfly World Tour in Tokyo, Japan, American singer Mariah Carey got two Kyi-Leo puppies as gifts for adoption, which is now residing in Brooklyn, New York City.

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