Choosing a Lhasa Apso

Choosing a Lhasa Apso

For some, Tibet is a destination of a spiritual pilgrimage. For others, it is a peaceful, calming land with a beauty that is beyond explanation. For a few, Tibet holds a special place in their hearts as the birthplace of the Lhasa apso.

History and Origin

Originating in the villages near the sacred city of Lhasa, the Lhasa apso is one of three dog breeds from the land of Tibet. The others are the Tibetan terrier and the Tibetan spaniel. In his homeland, the Lhasa is known as the Abso Seng Kye, the Bark Lion Sentinel Dog. As the name implies, the Lhasa was bred and developed to be a guard dog. Since larger mastiff-type dogs were used to patrol and protect outdoor perimeters, the Lhasa was given the responsibility of protecting the inside of homes. This included the homes of the privileged classes as well as the Dalai Lama.

During a trip to Tibet in the 1930s, an American named C. Suydam Cutting arranged an audience with the Dalai Lama. They became friends and a pair of Lhasas was given to Cutting as a gift from the Dalai Lama in 1933. This gift resulted in the establishment of the Lhasa apso in the United States.

The Lhasa apso was first admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1935 as a member of the non-sporting group.


Since the Lhasa originates in a land of harsh climates, a hardy constitution and a heavy dense hair coat is to be expected. The hair coat is also straight and long. Typically tan in color, the dog comes in other colors.

The Lhasa is a small dog with a tail that curls up over the back. The head is moderate in shape with a medium length muzzle. The ears are small and heavily feathered.


The adult Lhasa apso stands 10 to 11 inches at the shoulder and weighs about 15 to 20 pounds.


The harsh climate of Tibet has led to the development of a hardy and vigorous dog. The breed is intelligent and seems to have a sixth sense in distinguishing friends from strangers. Aloof and watchful of strangers, the Lhasa quickly becomes friendly and outgoing when he gets to know you.

Home and Family Relations

The Lhasa is a born protector and companion. The breed thrives on human contact but is not very tolerant of small children. The Lhasa does best when kept as a house pet. The Lhasa happily lives with other dogs, as long as human companionship is provided.


The Lhasa is generally an obedient dog and can be easily trained. Some Lhasas tend to be independent and can have some difficulty following commands. The breed will eventually do what is asked but may need to take a little time to think about the instructions first.

Special Concerns

The long dense hair coat of the Lhasa requires frequent grooming to prevent mats and tangles. Some Lhasas tend to be overly protective and aggressive so early socialization and obedience training are strongly recommended.

The independence of the Lhasa can lead to problems with dominance and aggression but with firm and loving discipline, this can be prevented.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the Lhasa Apso is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Urolithiasis is a condition affecting the urinary tract resulting in the formation of bladder stones.
  • Patellar luxation is a disorder affecting the kneecap.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is a disorder of the eye that results when tear production is decreased.
  • Renal Dysplasia is the abnormal development of the kidneys. Problems usually begin when the pet is less than one year of age and include lack of appetite, stunted growth or weight loss, lethargy, drinking and urinating an unusually large amount and vomiting.
  • Chronic valvular heart disease (VHD) is a condition characterized by degeneration and thickening of the heart valves.
  • Tracheal collapse is a weakening of the rings of the windpipe. This leads to irritation and coughing.
  • Atopy is an itchy skin disease of animals that is caused by an allergy to substances in the environment.
  • Food allergy affected pets develop skin allergies due to a variety of food
  • Congenital hypotrichosis - is a congenital disease causing symmetrical hair loss.
  • Drug reactions to "glucocorticoids" may occur in some dogs.
  • Pyloric Stenosis - is a congenital hypertrophy of the pyloric muscle that causes vomiting and obstruction.
  • Perianal gland adenomas - are tumors that can occur of the anal glands.
  • Hydrocephalus a neurological disease in which there is excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the ventricular system of the brain.
  • Intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is a disorder that affects the spinal disks resulting in pain, difficulty walking and possibly paralysis.

    In addition, the Lhasa apso is prone to cherry eye, allergic skin diseases and corneal ulcers.

    Life Span

    The life span of the Lhasa apso is around 15 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.