Lhasa Apso Overview

Dog Breed:
Lhasa Apso
Breed Group:
Confident, smart, aloof, independent, and loving.
9-11 inches
12-18 pounds
Life Span:
12-15 years
Coat Colors:
All colors
Area of Origin:
Best For:
Both novice and experienced owners/Free of young children/Able to manage the guarding nature of the breed.
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Lhasa Apsos
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Lhasa Apsos
Mixed Breeds:

Lhasa Apso Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Lhasa Apso

  • Independent watchdog

  • Loyal to their family

  • Adaptable to apartment living

The Lhasa Apso has a big dog attitude contained in that little body. Bred to be a royal watchdog, they are loyal guardians of house and home. The protective nature can come as a surprise to anyone who just admires them for their long flowing coat and adorable appearance as a pup.

We should say though that it’s rare for a Lhasa to be outright aggressive. They adore being with their families even if their independent streak means it’s more on their terms than on yours.

While maintaining their coat does need some time being dedicated to it each week, this is not an overly demanding breed when it comes to exercise. All dogs need the mental stimulation which comes from daily exercise, but other than a stroll around the block and a chance to check out the latest scents, the Lhasa will be happy to self-exercise in the garden or home.

This is a breed that, with several opportunities to go outside each day, can happily live within an apartment or condo.

Lhasa Apso Breed History

  • Originated from Tibet

  • Had the role of household watchdog

  • Recognized by the AKC in 1935


The Lhasa Apso is thought to be one be of the oldest recognized breeds in the world going right back to 800 BC. In Tibet, they were known as Apso Seng Kyi, or ‘Bearded Lion Dog.’  According to folklore, the mythical Snow Lion is considered to the protector, and they are represented on earth as the Lhasa Apso. The breeds name comes from firstly taking Lhasa, which is Tibet’s sacred city, and then combining it with the term Apso which translates to ‘longhaired dog.’

Their role was as the household sentinel within the houses of nobles and the Buddhist monasteries. The large Tibetan Mastiffs guarded the entrances, but if intruders did get past, then the Lhasa Apso would bark to warn the residents. These little watchdogs were highly prized. Lhasas in Tibet were never sold, and the only way that someone could own one was when they were given as a gift.

It was the 20th century before the breed arrived in the West and 1933 before they arrived in the US. These first arrivals were given as gifts by the 13th Dalai Lama to a Mr. and Mrs. Suydam Cutting, who lived in New Jersey, and they were then followed by another pair, again from Tibet.

In 1935, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed, although, at this point, they were known as the Lhasa Terrier and were assigned to the Terrier Group. It was 1956 before they moved across to the Non-Sporting Group.

Lhasa Apso Size & Weight

  • 10-11 inches in height

  • 12 to 18 pounds in weight

  • Females have a clearly feminine look


Male Lhasa’s measure between 10-11 inches, with females, often being slightly smaller. The breed weighs between 12 and 18 pounds. Although there is little difference in size between the two sexes, females have a definite feminine appearance, which makes them easy to spot amongst the boys.

This is a small, sturdy breed with none of the exaggeration which can be seen in some other breeds.

Lhasa Apso Personality & Temperament

  • Mischievous and independent

  • Wary of strangers

  • Slow to mature


The personality of the Lhasa Apso is a unique mix. On the one hand, they’re a mischievous and happy dog, and then on the other, they’re an independent and, at times, aloof watchdog.

They do tend to be wary of strangers, although they will then quickly make friends once they know that there’s no threat. Just because they’re at the smaller end of the scale, it doesn’t make them fragile, they’re both sturdy and strong.

The Lhasa bonds quickly with their family, and if allowed, they will follow from room to room. Although many dogs with this nature can suffer from separation anxiety, the independent nature of the Lhasa Apso means that’s rarely a problem.

This is a breed that tends to be slow to mature, so you can expect puppy-like behavior for much longer than you may expect with other types of dogs. They also tend not to be as biddable as others, such as the Golden Retriever or Border Collie. However, they are still very capable of learning basic obedience and becoming a well-mannered family dog.

The Lhasa Apso can happily adapt to apartment living as long as they get several short walks every day. They can also get along well with other household pets; however, this is always easier if introductions are made when they’re a pup. When meeting other dogs, don’t be surprised if you’re Lhasa joins in games with much bigger dogs, they’re rarely intimidated!

If you have young children, you may want to wait a few years before introducing this breed to the family. Lhasa’s aren’t always the most tolerant and may not enjoy the rough and tumble which comes with toddlers.

Lhasa Apso Health & Grooming

  • Overall a healthy breed

  • Check with the breeder for the health of their dogs

  • Commitment to regular grooming needed


Generally, a robust and healthy dog, the most serious health problem in Lhasa Apso’s, is hereditary kidney dysfunction which can go from being very mild through to a severe form. At the moment, there’s no reliable test to check which dogs are carriers. This means that it relies on breeders removing any affected dogs from their breeding programs. So do chat with breeders about the condition and how it may have affected their dogs.

Other conditions to inquire about are:

  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca: Often called dry eye, this is caused by the eye becoming inflamed due to a lack of tear production.
  • Patellar Luxation: Also known as slipping stifles, it causes the knee joint to slide in and out of place, causing pain and lameness
  • Cherry eye: Caused by the third eyelid swelling at the inner corner of the eye. It looks like a red mass or cherry and usually requires surgery.

Whether you choose to keep your Lhasa with long hair or go for the puppy cut, both will need regular maintenance. Brushing twice weekly between visits to the groomers is likely to the minimum required to keep them looking clean and tidy.

Lhasa Apso Training

  • Needs training to balance the watchdog tendencies

  • Short training sessions to prevent boredom

  • Low prey drive


The Lhasa is a naturally protective watchdog, so it becomes even more important that they receive early positive training and socialization to become a well-mannered family member. Short training sessions will be most effective as its likely that the Lhasa will quickly become bored if you insist on too many repetitions of a new behavior.

Lhasa Apso’s are not known for having a high prey drive, though don’t be caught off guard, even the most laid back of dogs can have times when they have a sudden urge to chase.

With that watchdog heritage, it shouldn’t be too surprising that this is a breed that can be pretty vocal. If allowed to, they’ll give you a running commentary on anyone or anything going by your home.

Lhasa Apso Exercise Requirements

  • Needs training to balance the watchdog tendencies

  • Short training sessions to prevent boredom

  • Low prey drive


While the Lhasa Apso enjoys a daily walk, they don’t need intensive exercise in the way that some other breeds do. The chance for a play and a wander around the block is often enough for many dogs. This is no couch potato, though, so don’t expect them to sleep on the couch all day, they’ll be pottering around, tiring themselves out.

Some of the best options for exercise for a Lhasa involve using their brain as well as their body. So, hunting out hidden toys or treats or attending an agility class are both great options.  While not the most playful of breeds, they will enjoy short games.

Lhasa Apso Diet & Feeding

  • Speak to a professional for nutritional advice for your dog

  • Select the right food for your dog's age, size and activity level

  • Ensure that the adult food has a fat level of at least 14%


For information on your specific dog’s needs, we recommend speaking to your veterinarian or pet nutrition specialist.

Generally, pups stay on a specially formulated puppy food until they’re around six months old. Then, they move across to an adult food selected for the size, age, and exercise level of each dog.

Lhasa’s have thick skin to help support their heavy hair coat, so this means that they need a diet that has appropriate levels of both protein and fat. Breeders generally recommend looking for food which has a fat level of at least 14%.

You may also be interested in:

Lhasa Apso Rescue Groups

There are times when a Lhasa Apso will need a new home. Speaking to breed rescue organizations can help you to decide if a rescue dog might be the right choice for your family. There are organizations in many states, including:

Lhasa Apso Rescue (Colorado) – http://lhasaapsorescue.org/site/index.php

Lhasa Happy Homes (California) – https://lhasahappyhomes.org/

For further information on the Lhasa Apso, check out the website of the American Lhasa Apso Club – https://www.lhasaapso.org/.