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

by Janice Jones   

The Lhasa Apso is a small and sassy non-sporting breed with a big diva personality in a small dog.

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

Their hair usually covers their entire body, which is longer than it is tall. Lhasas have gorgeous and dark features that are highlighted by their light golden coat of hair, and are very lively and intelligent.

But is the dog breed of your dreams?  Before running out to find a breeder, check out the facts about the breed and then make a decision about, Is This The Dog For You?

Lhasa Apso:  Fun, Curious, Devoted, AffectionateLhasa Apso: Fun, Curious, Devoted, Affectionate

The Lhasa Apso - Small Dog Place Video

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

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

The Lhasa, along like most dogs, needs its exercise, but is not a breed that heavily depends on it.

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

This makes the Lhasa the perfect dog for elderly people.

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

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

The Lhasa absolutely adore their families and owners and will stay very loyal to them with the appropriate attention and loving.

A young Lhasa Apso puppy is walking down a path surrounded by flowers

Quick Facts:

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

Affiliation: Non-Sporting group; AKC recognized in 1935


     Height: 10-11 inches, a little less for females

     Weight: 13-15 lbs

Coat Type: Coarse, heavy, and long double coat

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, the Himalayan mountains in Tibet

Activity Level: Low

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

Good with Children: with supervision and responsible children, yes

Good with Other Pets: yes

At a Glance:  The Lhasa Apso

Playfulness Paws Ratings
Affection Level Paws Ratings
Friendliness Towards Strangers Paws Ratings
Good with Children Paws Ratings
Good with Other Dogs Paws Ratings
Good for First Time Owners Paws Ratings
Exercise Needed Paws Ratings
Ease of Training Paws Ratings
Watch Dog Ability Paws Ratings
Grooming Requirements Paws Ratings
Shedding Paws Ratings
Cold Tolerant Paws Ratings
Heat Tolerant Paws Ratings

Explanations for At a Glance Ratings 

  • Playfulness:  Most=5   Less=1
  • Affection:  Most=5   Least=1
  • Friendliness Towards Strangers:  Most=5  Least=1
  • Good with Children:  Good=5   Not Good=1
  • Good with Other Dogs:   Good=5   Not Good=1
  • Good for First Time Owners:  Good=5  Not Good=1
  • Amount of Exercise Required:  Much=5  Minimal=1
  • Ease of Training:   Easy=5   Difficult=1
  • Watch Dog Ability:   Excellent=5   Poor=1
  • Grooming Needs:   Extensive=5  Minimal=1
  • Shedding:   Heavy Shedding=5   Minimal Shedding=1
  • Cold Tolerance:   Cold Well Tolerated=5    Poorly Tolerated=1
  • Heat Tolerance:   Heat Well Tolerated=5   Poorly Tolerated=1

History of this Small Dog

Lhasa ApsoLhasa Apso in a Puppy Cut

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

In Tibet, they called them “Apso Seng 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 13th Dalai Lama.

Named after the sacred city Lhasa, the Lhasa Apso was considered sacred. Thanks to C. Suydam Cutting, the breed was spread to other parts of the world as well by introducing the Lhasa to the U.S as a gift from the Dalai Lama. The first of the breed was introduced in Britain in the 1920s, and America in the 1930s.

Recent studies have shown the Lhasa Apso is one of the breeds that are most closely related to the ancestral wolf. In Tibet, Lhasas were never sold as adults and they only way someone could get one was as a puppy.

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

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

When this breed first came to America, they were referred to as Lhasa Terriers instead of the modern and more common name Lhasa Apso.

The Lhasa has been identified as one of the 14 most ancient of all dog breeds.  This suggests that humans first began breeding dogs because they wanted a companion that would also warm their laps. 

They were first accepted by the American Kennel Club in 1935 and now rank 65th in popularity among all of the AKC recognized breeds.


Lhasa Apso Mama with puppies nursing

Photo Source

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

Lhasas can also be very hard headed and are prone to Small Dog Syndrome. That is a condition in which the dog seems to think that they are the alpha dog and that the human should 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 is human induced and is the cause of irresponsible owners. As hard as it will be to give in to the Lhasas cute and adorable face, there has to be an alpha in the relationship, and that is you.

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

Lhasas are also very adaptable and can live pretty much anywhere; however, they are perfect for city living and condo living because they do not require an excessive amount of exercise.

This also makes Lhasas good for families that are less active. This breed responds well to motivational training, and because of their tendency to be more on the stubborn side, it is a good idea to start training early.

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

This is Buddy, from the UK

A young Lhasa Apso puppy from the UK named Buddy
A young Lhasa Apso puppy standing in the grass.

Allison, Buddy's mom has this to say about this breed: 

Never having owned a dog, at 49 I decided I needed a companion dog. I read up on this breed & can honestly say, out of the many breeds out there I definitely made the right choice💙

Buddy is an absolute joy, polite, loving, playful & like the characteristics indicate 'Stubborn' which amuses me😂.
It would be very easy to overfeed this breed, so small & often in measured amounts seems to be the way forward.

He has learned a couple of commands from 9 weeks. Sit, paw & today he learned to fetch, and seems to thoroughly enjoy his short training sessions & I feel Buddy will do well at his puppy classes very soon.

I would recommend this breed for a novice owner but the criteria to make both the puppy & your lives with him/her harmonious & relatively stress free is to read ANY info on the Lhasa Apso as they are high maintenance in some respects. But as an adorable breed you can have a lot of fun with them.

Grooming this Small Dog

Lhasa Apso in a Full Show CoatLhasa in a Full Show Coat

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

Typical Lhasas that are being shown have the long, silky hair that goes to the floor. This hair needs extra care, and even more regular visits to the groomer than your average pet might need.

Grooming can be a lot of work, but usually most owners keep their Lhasa 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 thick double 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 feet also need to be checked as well as around the eyes and ears. Hair tends to grow excessively 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. 

Regularly grooming and brushing will leave your pups hair in perfect and beautiful condition.

Health Concerns

Three adult Lhasa Apso pose on the grass in their full show coats

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

There are a few health concerns to keep your eye 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. (Pigmentary Keratitis)

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

Are Lhasa Apsos Smart?

According to Jen from the Oregon coast in the US, YES, they are very smart. Lhasas are the most devoted & loyal of dogs. In addition to being extremely intelligent, they are also highly playful, sometimes mischievous. The more you talk to your Lhasa, the more they understand. They love to learn and at the same time teach you!😬This is her dog, 

A young Shih Tzu puppy named Gabe contributed by a Small Dog Place reader

Pros and Cons of Lhasa Apso Dog Ownership


  • Non shedding
  • Minimum exercise
  • Good watchdogs
  • Adaptable
  • Small, but not yappy
  • Healthy, and long living


  • They need excessive grooming
  • Can suffer from Small Dog Syndrome if not brought up right
  • Stubborn
  • Unpredictable actions around strangers
The Lhasa Apso Dog Breed InformationLhasa Apso Breed Information

Fun Fact

Lhasa Apso have appeared in at least two episodes of The Simpsons.


Breed Club:
American Lhasa Apso Club, Inc.

Similar Breeds

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.

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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