The Lhasa Apso was bred by Tibetan monks and was kept isolated for many centuries until it was brought to Europe in the late 1800s. It was originally used as a companion dog and as a watchdog. It is small in size, standing just less than a foot at 25-28 cm from withers with a weight of only 6-7 kg. The Lhasa Apso has a long dense coat that comes in a variety of colours. The head features fringe all over its face which helps protect the breed from snow glare in its native country. It has good whiskers and beard, a straight foreface with medium stop, black nose, and a short muzzle of about 4 cm. It has dark, medium-sized eyes set at the front of the skull, oval in shape with no white showing at the top or bottom. It has pendant ears that are heavily feathered with long hairs. The teeth form either reverse scissors bite (undershot) or a level bite. The body features a level topline with straight front legs and muscular back legs both covered in long hairs. The highly-set tail is also well-feathered and carried well over the back. Its cat-like feet are round and cushioned by firm pads.
The Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet and bred as a companion dog and watchdog for thousands of years. Lhasa is the capital of Tibet while “apso” is a corruption of the word “rapso” which means “goat-like” in the local language. According to Tibetan Lamas, this dog was originally a small mountain wolf found in the wilds of the Tibetan mountains some four thousand years ago. Centuries of domestication and breeding by the local people produced a fine watchdog, which makes the Lhasa Apso one of the ancient dog breeds that exist today. From wild to domesticated, the Lhasa Apso eventually found its way into many monasteries and Tibetan nobility where it was cared for and loved. It served a purpose as a watchdog and as a lap dog and is said to provide good fortune when given as a gift. Its first appearance in the UK was in 1854 when it was brought by servicemen returning from duties in India. In 1901, the first description of the breed was written and published under the name Lhasa Terrier. It was recognized by the Kennel Club as a different breed in 1934 under the name Lhasa Apso.
The Lhasa Apso is described as “gay and assertive” with an alert temperament. It can be somewhat aloof with strangers but is a loyal guardian to its owner and the family. It may come as a surprise to some that this gentle-looking dog has a protective nature which can sometimes become fierce with strangers. The Lhasa Apso puppy is a playful breed, full of energy and curiosity. It is one of the slowest maturing dogs, not reaching full adulthood until three years of age.
The natural aloofness of the breed towards strangers is something to consider when owning a Lhasa Apso. Early socialisation and training are critical for the dog to become a wonderful addition to the family. It has a natural independent behaviour and may not be the most trainable dog around, but it can be trained successfully by a consistent handler. Housetraining may be a little harder so crate training is highly recommended.
The long coat of this breed requires an enormous amount of time and attention to keep it in tip-top condition. Brushing and combing on a daily basis will keep it from matting and tangling. Occasional bathing will keep it smelling sweet and cuddly. The coat can be trimmed to a certain length to minimize daily grooming, especially the hairs around the face.
There are several health conditions associated with this breed, including several eye conditions that are hereditary and caused by other factors. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is one of them. PRA affects the retina of the dog and is common to short-muzzled dog. It is also prone to cherry eye, and dry eye syndrome. Secondary health issues include sebaceous adenitis which is an autoimmune disease causing dandruff, brittle coat and skin lesions. It is also prone to a hereditary disease known as renal cortical hyperplasia which affects the kidneys. The average lifespan of the Lhasa Apso is between 12 and 15 years but there are dogs that live longer especially when properly cared for.
This hardy breed has moderate exercise requirements. Short walks and half an hour of play inside our outside the house in a cool to moderate weather is enough to satisfy the breed’s daily physical activities. It is fairly active indoors and is well-suitable for an apartment life. This breed enjoys playing fetch whether inside or outside the house which also makes a good exercise routine. Like any other breed, exercise is beneficial for the Lhasa Apso to maintain optimum health.
The Lhasa Apso is a loving and protective breed but it does not possess the long patient that other dogs have. This breed is known for being impatient with the rough and tumble play of small children which may result to the dog nipping the kids. However, older children who know how to handle a dog properly can become good companions with the dog and vice versa. If you are looking for a kid-friendly dog, then this breed should not be on the top of your choice.