Lhasa Apso

Table of Contents

lhasa apso portrait
Welcome to the captivating world of the Lhasa Apso, a small yet spirited dog that exudes both charm and charisma! Hailing from the mystical heights of Tibet, this long-haired breed has won admirers far and wide with its keen intelligence, delightful expressions, and unwavering loyalty.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Lhasa Apso is ideal for those seeking a loyal and affectionate companion with a touch of regal charm. Best suited for singles, couples, or families with older children, these intelligent and spirited dogs thrive in households where they can receive consistent love and attention. Their small size makes them well-adapted to apartment living, while their moderate energy levels allow them to enjoy both relaxed indoor moments and outdoor adventures.


OTHER NAMESLhasa, Lhasa Terrier
BREED GROUPNon-Sporting Group
HEIGHT10-11 inches
WEIGHT12-18 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
lhasa apso walking in a park
Photo: Page Light Studios/Getty Images


The Lhasa Apso is a small, yet sturdy and well-proportioned breed with an unmistakable appearance. These charming dogs typically stand between 10 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh in the range of 12 to 18 pounds, making them an ideal size for companionship and adaptability to various living situations.

The Lhasa Apso’s body is slightly longer than it is tall, giving them a rectangular shape when viewed from the side. Their muscular build and strong bones contribute to their surprising agility and endurance. The breed’s tail is another distinctive feature – it is set high, heavily plumed, and carried over the back in a graceful curve.

Lhasa Apsos possess a well-balanced head with a moderately broad skull and a strong, well-developed muzzle. Their noses are generally black, and their bite may be either level or slightly undershot.

One of the most endearing aspects of this breed is their expressive eyes: dark, almond-shaped, and medium-sized, they exude warmth and intelligence. Framing these captivating eyes are pendant-shaped ears that hang down on either side of the head, blending seamlessly into the dog’s luxurious coat.

Speaking of the coat, the Lhasa Apso’s crowning glory is its long, dense, and flowing hair. The double coat consists of a soft, woolly undercoat and a straight, hard outer coat that drapes over the entire body, reaching the floor.

This lavish coat comes in a variety of colors, including gold, cream, honey, smoke, dark grizzle, slate, or a combination of black and tan. While the coat may appear high-maintenance, it serves a practical purpose as an insulating layer, protecting the dog from harsh weather conditions in its native Tibet.

The Lhasa Apso’s overall expression is one of dignity and elegance, combined with a keen, alert gaze that hints at their watchful nature. Despite their regal bearing, these dogs are also known for their playful and spirited demeanor, making them an enchanting blend of sophistication and liveliness.

Overall, the Lhasa Apso’s distinctive physical characteristics – from their well-proportioned body and expressive eyes to their luxuriant coat and elegant bearing – make them a truly unique and captivating breed. These charming dogs are not only visually stunning but also possess the intelligence, loyalty, and spirited temperament that have endeared them to dog lovers around the world.

lhasa apso in the garden
Photo: BiancaGrueneberg/Getty Images


The Lhasa Apso is a captivating canine with a personality as unique as the ancient traditions of its Himalayan homeland. Imagine a little lion in disguise, a small wonder with a heart full of bravery and a spirit as free as the wind. With a regal aura and a touch of mystery, the Lhasa Apso is a breed that will mesmerize you with its charm and keep you enchanted with its captivating demeanor.

Picture a loyal and devoted friend who’s as fierce in their affection as a guardian of ancient treasures. The Lhasa Apso is your steadfast companion, a furry confidant who’ll share your secrets and stand by your side through thick and thin. With a bond as strong as the mountains that cradle their heritage, they’ll be your unwavering support, offering comfort and companionship like a trusted ally.

Don’t be fooled by their small size – the Lhasa Apso has the heart of a lion. They possess an independent and confident spirit, akin to a wise sage who knows their worth. This breed is not one to be underestimated; they have a keen intellect and a strong sense of self, making them a fascinating conversationalist in their own non-verbal way.

With a dash of royal charm, the Lhasa Apso exudes an air of nobility that can’t be ignored. Just like that friend who effortlessly commands attention when they enter a room, the Lhasa Apso demands respect and admiration. Their elegant gait and luxurious coat add to their allure, making them a picture of grace and poise.

However, behind their regal façade, the Lhasa Apso is also known for their mischievous streak. Picture them as a playful trickster, capable of bringing a smile to your face even on the gloomiest of days. They’ll keep you on your toes with their delightful antics, ensuring that life is never dull when they’re around.

While they are devoted to their loved ones, the Lhasa Apso can also be a bit reserved with strangers. Think of them as the thoughtful introvert at the party, who takes time to warm up but forms deep connections with those they hold dear. Once they’ve welcomed you into their circle of trust, you’ll find a fiercely loyal and affectionate friend who cherishes every moment with you.

In essence, the Lhasa Apso is a captivating breed that combines regal elegance with a touch of mischievous playfulness. Like a living link to their ancient Himalayan heritage, the Lhasa Apso is a small wonder with a heart as vast as the mountains and a spirit that will forever leave a mark on your soul.

three lhasa apsos in the park
Photo: VKarlov/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The Lhasa Apso is a versatile and adaptable breed that can thrive in a variety of environments, as long as they receive the love and attention they crave from their human companions.

Physical Environment

These small dogs are particularly well-suited to apartment living, as their moderate energy levels allow them to be content with indoor spaces. However, they can also adapt well to larger homes and suburban environments, provided they have access to regular exercise and mental stimulation.

Climate Adaptability

When it comes to climate adaptability, the Lhasa Apso’s thick double coat serves as an insulating layer, providing protection against cold temperatures. This natural insulation hails from their origins in the harsh climate of Tibet, where they were bred to withstand extreme conditions.

However, this same dense coat can make them more susceptible to overheating in hot climates. In warmer weather, it’s essential to provide your Lhasa Apso with a cool, shaded area to rest, plenty of fresh water, and to avoid excessive exercise during the hottest parts of the day.

Ideal Owner

Lhasa Apsos make excellent companions for singles, couples, and families with older children who understand how to interact respectfully with dogs. They form strong bonds with their human family members and appreciate consistent companionship, though their independent nature means they can tolerate periods of alone time without becoming overly anxious.

As a result, they can be a good fit for pet parents who work outside the home or have other commitments, as long as they ensure their Lhasa Apso receives adequate attention and care when they are together.

Other Pets

In households with other pets, the Lhasa Apso can generally coexist peacefully with other dogs and animals, especially if they have been socialized well from a young age. Their curious and playful demeanor often leads them to enjoy engaging in games and activities with fellow four-legged companions.

However, it’s important to monitor their interactions with other dogs, particularly those of the same sex, as they may display a sense of dominance or assertiveness.

lhasa apso walking in the forest
Photo: Alexas Fotos/Pexels


The Lhasa Apso’s luxurious double coat requires consistent grooming to maintain its health and appearance. Proper grooming not only keeps your Lhasa Apso looking its best but also helps prevent potential health issues, such as matting, skin irritations, and infections.

Coat Care

One of the most important aspects of grooming for a Lhasa Apso is regular brushing. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s coat daily to prevent tangles and matting. However, if daily brushing isn’t feasible, aim for at least three times per week.

Using a pin brush or a slicker brush, gently work through the coat in sections, starting at the base of the hair and working your way out. Be cautious not to pull on any tangles, as this can cause discomfort or breakage. A metal comb can be useful for removing smaller knots and ensuring a thorough grooming session.

In addition to regular brushing, Lhasa Apsos require periodic baths to keep their coat clean and free of dirt and debris. Depending on your dog’s lifestyle and activity level, you may need to bathe them every three to six weeks.

Use a high-quality dog shampoo and conditioner designed for long coats, taking care to rinse thoroughly to avoid residue buildup. To prevent ear infections, clean your Lhasa Apso’s ears with a vet-approved ear-cleaning solution and cotton balls or pads during bath time.

Some Lhasa Apso owners choose to have their dog’s coat trimmed or clipped short, particularly in warmer climates or for easier maintenance. This “puppy cut” style can be more manageable for those who are unable or unwilling to commit to frequent grooming sessions. However, it’s essential to remember that even a short coat still requires regular brushing and upkeep.

Dental Care

Dental care is another crucial aspect of grooming for Lhasa Apsos. Like all dog breeds, they are susceptible to dental issues such as plaque buildup and gum disease.

To maintain good oral health, brush your Lhasa Apso’s teeth at least two to three times per week using a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Regular dental checkups with your veterinarian are also recommended to monitor and address any potential dental concerns.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is an important part of your Lhasa Apso’s grooming routine. Regular trimming or grinding of their nails will help prevent overgrowth, which can cause discomfort and affect your dog’s gait.

Ideally, you should trim your Lhasa Apso’s nails every three to four weeks, depending on their rate of growth. Be cautious not to cut the quick (the blood vessel inside the nail) while trimming, as this can be painful and cause bleeding.

lhasa apso out walking in a city park
Photo: Page Light Studios/Getty Images


The Lhasa Apso is a moderately active breed with moderate exercise needs. While they are not as energetic as some larger breeds, they still require regular physical activity to maintain their overall health, mental well-being, and prevent boredom-induced behavioral issues.

Exercise Amount & Types

Daily walks are an essential part of your Lhasa Apso’s exercise routine. Aim for one or two walks per day, each lasting around 20 to 30 minutes. This will not only provide them with the necessary physical activity but also allow them to explore their surroundings and engage their senses.

In addition to walks, Lhasa Apsos can benefit from engaging play sessions, either indoors or outdoors. They enjoy interactive games such as fetch, tug-of-war, and hide-and-seek with toys, which can help stimulate their minds and provide additional exercise.

Puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys can also be excellent tools for providing mental stimulation and keeping your Lhasa Apso entertained when you’re not available for playtime.

Dog Sports

Lhasa Apsos can excel at various dog sports and competitions, such as agility, obedience, and rally. These activities offer an excellent opportunity for your dog to learn new skills, socialize with other dogs, and strengthen the bond between you and your Lhasa Apso.

Participating in dog sports can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your canine companion.

Exercise Precautions

Be mindful of weather conditions, especially in hot climates, and avoid walking during the hottest parts of the day to prevent overheating.

It’s important to remember that each Lhasa Apso is unique, and their exercise needs may vary depending on factors such as age, health, and individual temperament. Always observe your dog’s behavior and energy levels to determine if their exercise needs are being met, and adjust their routine accordingly.

lhasa apso strolling on the beach
Photo: curtis_creative/Getty Images Signature


Training a Lhasa Apso can be a rewarding experience, but it’s essential to approach the process with patience and understanding.

These intelligent dogs have a strong sense of independence and can sometimes display a stubborn streak, which may make training more challenging than with other breeds. However, with the right approach and techniques, Lhasa Apsos can learn a wide range of commands and behaviors.

Building a Strong Foundation

One of the most critical aspects of training a Lhasa Apso is establishing a strong bond and trust between you and your dog. Building this foundation of mutual respect and understanding will help create a positive learning environment and increase your chances of success during training sessions.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the key to successful training with Lhasa Apsos. Rewarding good behavior with praise, treats, or toys will help motivate your dog to learn and reinforce desired actions. Avoid harsh training methods or punishment, as these can damage the trust between you and your dog and hinder the training process.

Being Consistent

Consistency is another vital factor in training your Lhasa Apso. Be sure to use the same commands and cues for each behavior you’re teaching, and ensure that all family members are on the same page when it comes to training. This consistency will help your dog understand what is expected of them and prevent confusion.


Socialization is an important aspect of training for Lhasa Apsos, particularly given their natural wariness around strangers. Early and consistent exposure to various people, animals, and environments will help your Lhasa Apso develop into a well-rounded and confident adult.

Enrolling your dog in puppy socialization classes or taking them to dog parks can be excellent ways to encourage positive interactions with other dogs and people.

Patience in Training

Patience is crucial when training a Lhasa Apso, as they may take longer to grasp certain concepts or become resistant to learning new behaviors. Stay calm and persistent, and remember that every dog learns at their own pace. Celebrate small victories and progress, and maintain a sense of humor when faced with challenges.

lhasa apso in a fenced yard
Photo: Wanda Jewell/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for the overall health and well-being of your Lhasa Apso. Like all dogs, they require a diet that meets their specific needs in terms of age, size, activity level, and any particular health concerns.

What to Feed & How Much

It’s crucial to choose a high-quality dog food that follows the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines, which ensures that the food contains the necessary nutrients and ingredients for your dog’s optimal health.

There are several types of dog food available, including dry kibble, wet food, and raw food diets. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s essential to consider your Lhasa Apso’s individual preferences and requirements when making a choice.

Dry kibble is often the most convenient option, as it can be easily measured and stored, while wet food may be more appealing to picky eaters due to its texture and aroma. Raw food diets can offer a more natural approach to nutrition but require careful planning and preparation to ensure a balanced and safe diet.

The amount and frequency of feeding your Lhasa Apso will depend on their age, size, and activity level. Puppies generally require more frequent meals (three to four times per day) to support their rapid growth and development.

As your Lhasa Apso matures into adulthood, you can gradually reduce the number of daily feedings to two meals per day. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate portion sizes for your dog based on their specific needs.


Treats can be a valuable tool for training and rewarding your Lhasa Apso, but it’s essential to use them in moderation to avoid weight gain and potential health issues. Opt for healthy treats, such as small pieces of lean meat, fruits, or vegetables, and remember to account for the calories from treats in your dog’s overall daily intake.


Fresh water should always be readily available for your Lhasa Apso to help maintain proper hydration and overall health. Ensure that their water bowl is clean and filled with fresh water at all times, and monitor their water intake to ensure they are consuming an adequate amount.

three lhasa apso sitting on grass with their tongue out
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images


The Lhasa Apso is a generally healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. However, like all dog breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues that may require attention and care throughout their lives. Regular veterinary checkups, a balanced diet, and proper exercise can help maintain your Lhasa Apso’s overall health and well-being.

Here are common health issues associated with the Lhasa Apso breed:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a hereditary condition in which the hip joint doesn’t develop correctly, leading to arthritis and discomfort over time. Regular checkups, maintaining a healthy weight, and providing joint supplements can help manage this condition and reduce its impact on your Lhasa Apso’s quality of life.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye disorder that causes the gradual deterioration of the retina, eventually leading to blindness. Responsible breeding practices can help reduce the prevalence of PRA in the breed, and early detection through regular eye exams can help manage the condition.

Patellar Luxation: This condition occurs when the kneecap (patella) slips out of its normal position, causing discomfort and mobility issues. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem. Maintaining a healthy weight and providing appropriate exercise can help prevent excessive stress on the joints and reduce the risk of patellar luxation.

Allergies: Lhasa Apsos can be prone to various types of allergies, including food, environmental, and contact allergies. Identifying and eliminating allergens from your dog’s environment or diet can help alleviate symptoms. Regular grooming and bathing can also help remove potential allergens from your Lhasa Apso’s coat and skin.

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome: Although not as pronounced as in some other breeds, Lhasa Apsos do have a relatively short snout, which can predispose them to breathing difficulties associated with brachycephalic breeds. Ensuring your Lhasa Apso maintains a healthy weight and avoiding excessive exercise in hot or humid conditions can help minimize the risk of respiratory issues.

While these health issues may be more common in the Lhasa Apso breed, it’s essential to remember that each dog is unique, and not every Lhasa Apso will experience these problems.

Regular veterinary checkups, preventative care, and a proactive approach to your dog’s health can help identify and manage potential issues early, promoting a long and happy life for your Lhasa Apso.

three lhasa apsos on green grass
Photo: VKarlov/Getty Images


The Lhasa Apso is an ancient breed with a rich history that dates back over a thousand years. Originating in Tibet, the breed gets its name from the city of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and the word “Apso,” which means “bearded” or “long-haired” in the Tibetan language.

The Lhasa Apso was initially bred as a companion dog for Tibetan nobility and monks living in monasteries, where they served as both cherished companions and skilled watchdogs.

The breed’s keen sense of hearing and natural wariness of strangers made them excellent guard dogs, alerting their owners to any potential intruders. Their small size allowed them to navigate the narrow passages and staircases of Tibetan monasteries with ease.

In addition to their practical roles, Lhasa Apsos were also revered for their spiritual significance in Tibetan culture. It was believed that these dogs could bring good fortune and protect their owners from evil spirits.

Lhasa Apsos were highly prized and rarely seen outside of Tibet until the early 20th century. The first Lhasa Apsos were brought to the United States in the 1930s as gifts from the 13th Dalai Lama to American explorers and diplomats visiting Tibet. These early imports helped establish the breed in the United States and piqued interest among dog enthusiasts.

In 1935, the Lhasa Apso was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a distinct breed, and the Lhasa Apso Club of America was formed shortly thereafter in 1938. The breed’s popularity continued to grow, and by the mid-20th century, Lhasa Apsos had become a beloved and sought-after companion dog in the United States and around the world.

In popular culture, Lhasa Apsos have made appearances in various forms of media, showcasing their unique appearance and charming personalities.

Perhaps the most famous Lhasa Apso in popular culture is the character “Sandy” from the comic strip and subsequent film adaptations of “Annie.” While Sandy is often depicted as a mixed breed or other type of dog in various adaptations, the original comic strip featured Sandy as a Lhasa Apso.

Another notable Lhasa Apso in popular culture is the character “Gidget” from the 2008 animated film “The Secret Life of Pets” and its 2019 sequel. Gidget, voiced by actress Jenny Slate, is a feisty and resourceful Lhasa Apso who plays a significant role in both films.

Today, the Lhasa Apso continues to be a popular breed among dog lovers for their distinctive appearance, loyal nature, and spirited personality. They are cherished as devoted companions and family pets, and their rich history and cultural significance only add to their allure.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Lhasa Apso is the American Lhasa Apso Club (ALAC). The club is dedicated to the preservation, protection, and promotion of the Lhasa Apso breed. To learn more about the club, access their resources, and explore membership opportunities, visit their official webpage.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Lhasa Apso’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

lhasa apso puppy walking in a backyard
Photo: Ruth Black


Thinking of adding a Lhasa Apso to your family? Prepare for a life filled with loyalty and love! Start by getting a cozy bed, high-quality food, stimulating toys, grooming essentials for their luxurious coat, and a trusted vet.

If you’re considering buying, it’s crucial to choose a reputable breeder to ensure a healthy, happy pup. But have you considered the rewarding path of rescue? There are many Lhasa Apsos in shelters waiting to bring joy to a new home. The American Kennel Club and the American Lhasa Apso Club can guide you through this heartwarming process.

Whether you adopt or buy, you’re gaining more than a pet. You’re welcoming a vigilant, affectionate companion into your life. With a Lhasa Apso, every day is a journey of companionship, devotion, and endless cuddles!


What are Lhasa Apsos famous for?

Lhasa Apsos are famous for their ancient origins in Tibet, where they served as companion dogs and watchdogs for Tibetan nobility and monks. They are known for their long, flowing coats, spirited personalities, and keen sense of hearing, which made them excellent guard dogs in monasteries.

How do Lhasa Apsos compare to Shih Tzus?

Both Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus are small, long-haired breeds originating from the same region. However, Lhasa Apsos are generally more independent and assertive than Shih Tzus, who are often more affectionate and outgoing. Lhasa Apsos have a longer, narrower muzzle compared to the shorter and broader muzzle of the Shih Tzu.

Are Lhasa Apsos hypoallergenic?

While no dog breed is entirely hypoallergenic, Lhasa Apsos are considered to be a low-shedding breed and produce less dander than many other breeds. This makes them a suitable option for some individuals with mild to moderate allergies. However, individual sensitivities may vary, so it’s essential to spend time around the breed before committing to ownership.

Can Lhasa Apsos be left alone?

Lhasa Apsos are relatively independent dogs, but like all breeds, they still require companionship and social interaction. They can tolerate being left alone for short periods, but extended periods of isolation may lead to boredom, anxiety, or destructive behaviors. It’s essential to ensure your Lhasa Apso has adequate mental stimulation and human interaction to prevent these issues.

How much grooming do Lhasa Apsos require?

Lhasa Apsos have long, dense coats that require regular grooming to prevent matting and tangles. Daily brushing is recommended, along with regular baths and professional grooming to maintain the health and appearance of their coat. Grooming also provides an opportunity to check for any skin issues or parasites.

Are Lhasa Apsos good with children?

Lhasa Apsos can be good with children, especially if they are raised together from a young age. However, due to their small size and independent nature, they may not tolerate rough play or handling. It’s essential to teach children how to interact respectfully with dogs and supervise interactions between children and Lhasa Apsos to ensure the safety and well-being of both parties.

How much exercise do Lhasa Apsos need?

Lhasa Apsos require moderate amounts of exercise to maintain their overall health and well-being. Daily walks, along with interactive play sessions and mental stimulation, are essential for keeping your Lhasa Apso physically fit and mentally engaged. Aim for one or two walks per day, each lasting around 20 to 30 minutes, in addition to playtime and mental enrichment activities.

Table of Contents