By Sergey Uhanov (Certified Veterinarian)Dr. Sergey Uhanov Last updated: 5th September 2023

Lhasa Apso


Sergey Uhanov (Certified Veterinarian) Dr. Sergey Uhanov
Last updated: 5th September 2023

The Lhasa Apso is a tiny, rugged, dignified dog bred in Tibet as a sentinel for remote Buddhist monasteries and palaces.  This ancient breed was initially called the Abso Seng Kye or the “Bark Lion Sentinel Dog,” which perfectly describes its courageous and bold nature. Its long, flowy coat, curled tail, bushy eyebrows, and flattened nose characterize it. The Lhasa Apso is a steadfast and protective companion, famed for its puppy-like disposition despite its longevity.

It is an integral part of Tibetan history, named after the sacred city of Lhasa. Apso means “longhaired dog.” It represents the Snow Lion of Tibetan folklore, a holy guardian of the land.

Lhasa Apso Pictures

Quick Information

Other namesBearded Lion Dog, Lhasa
CoatLong, hard, and silky double coat
ColorGolden, fawn, black, white, red, brown, dark grizzle, parti-color, slate, or sandy
Breed typePurebred
Group Non-Working, Companion
Life expectancy12-18 years
Height9-11 inches
Weight12-18 pounds
Litter Size4-6 puppies
Behavioral Characteristics Playful, friendly, intelligent, spirited, bold, and steadfast
Good with children Moderate; they can get irritable around younger children
Barking Tendency High; they bark whenever they get suspicious or excited
Climate compatibilityHigh; they are adapted to live in extreme cold and heat despite their thick coats
Apartment compatibilityHigh
Do they shedThey are a low-shedding breed
Are they hypoallergenicYes
TrainabilityModerate; they can be wilful and stubborn
How much do they cost$1,000 – $2,000
Competitive Registration Qualification/InformationAKC, UKC, FCI, ALAC

History and Origin

The Lhasa Apso is an ancient breed dating back over a thousand years. Buddhist monks used it along with a Mastiff to safeguard their monasteries in remote, harsh terrain. It was considered sacred, with only monks or “lamas” allowed to breed it. When a lama died, people believed their soul traveled into their Lhasa Apso. For centuries, the Dalai Lama was the only person allowed to send these dogs to other countries and kingdoms as tokens of goodwill. Chinese Emperors used these royal gifts in developing the Pekingese and Shih Tzu breeds from the 16th century onwards.

The first pair entered America with C. Syudam Cutting in 1933, a naturalist and traveler, who received them on a visit to Tibet by the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The AKC added them to its stock in 1935, and the FCI recognized them in 1960.

Temperament and Personality

Lhasa Apsos are independent, spirited, and fearless dogs. Their small size and adaptable nature make them good apartment dogs for novice owners. Due to their pedigree as watchdogs, they are very protective and attached to their owner. However, while they may be fierce, they are rarely aggressive. They do well independently, but avoid keeping them alone for too long to prevent separation anxiety. They are usually untrusting of strangers. They can get irritable around children, and are not recommended for a family with young kids.

Lhasa Apsos tend to remain puppy-like for a long time, which must be considered while training them. They can become dominant if you fail to establish a hierarchy from a young age. However, with proper training, they make lovely, courageous, and playful pets who are incredibly attached to their master and will always be at his heels.




The Lhasa Apso is a low-energy breed, so a daily brisk walk and regular indoor play is enough to keep it healthy. Running around in an apartment and playing in a fenced yard is an adequate physical and mental exercise, making it an excellent option for those living in urban regions.  You can engage your dog in scent work, agility, and retrieving. Lhasa Apsos can be certified as therapy dogs for hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes.


Despite its long flowing coat, the Lhasa Apso sheds very little. However, daily brushing is still recommended to prevent knots and matting. Many owners like grooming their dogs at salons to manage their long hair. A “puppy cut,” where the coat is trimmed short to give a youthful look and lessen grooming difficulties, is widespread. Still, practice daily brushing and regular baths with dry shampoo for hygiene.
Like any dog, you must regularly check your Lhasa Apso’s ears for signs of infection and clean them with cotton balls dipped in pH-balanced cleaner. Brush its teeth daily to avoid plaque and tartar, and clip its nails when needed.

Health Problems

The Lhasa Apso is a long-lived breed, frequently going into the late teens. However, it may suffer from problems like cherry eye, patellar luxation, sebaceous adenitis or SA, progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia, hereditary kidney dysfunction, dry eyes, and allergies. Getting your dog from reputed breeders who conduct regular tests can help prevent most of these issues.


Lhasa Apsos need a high protein and fat diet to maintain their long, thick coats. Ideally, a fat content of around fourteen percent is best for your pet, and the protein can be from any source according to its preferences. Feed it once or twice daily and avoid overfeeding to prevent an upset stomach. You can opt for dry food or high-quality, grain-free canned food for some enhancement. Always consult your veterinarian for suggestions based on your dog’s age, weight, and health considerations.


Lhasa Apsos are intelligent, faithful, and diligent dogs but can become domineering and stop responding to commands if left untrained. Hence, early training and socialization are essential to have a well-adjusted and joyful companion.

Socialization: You must socialize your Lhasa Apso early to get comfortable around strangers and young children. Enrolling in puppy classes, taking your dog to public places, and inviting unfamiliar people to your home are good ways to train it. Crate training is an excellent housetraining method. With enough patience, it can be taught to do its business indoors.

Obedience: It needs gentle and firm leadership to curb its dominating instincts. Otherwise, it may disregard your instructions and become stubborn. Make training engaging and avoid repetition as it becomes quickly boring for a Lhasa Apso. 

Interesting Facts

  • The Lhasa Apso is a highly astute breed, ranking 68th out of 138 in Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs.”
  • Many famous people, such as Ellen Degeneres, Gwen Stefani, Kurt Vonnegut, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jane Lynch, have owned a Lhasa Apso.


1. How do you pronounce Lhasa Apso?

The proper pronunciation for Lhasa Apso is “LAH-sa AHP-so.”

2. What is the difference between Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus?

The Lhasa Apso is Tibetan, while the Shih Tzu is of Chinese ancestry. Lhasa Apsos are slightly larger, with a narrower skull and longer nose than Shih Tzus. Also, they are more energetic and cheerful than Shish Tzus’s laid-back attitude.

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