Lhasa Apso

AKC Non-Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Lhasa Apso originated in the ancient country of Tibet, where these charming little dogs were kept by monks and nobles, and cherished as carriers of good luck. Today’s Lhasa may have been a result of breeding Tibetan Terriers down in size. The dogs participated in religious ceremonies and guarded the monasteries. They were never sold, but were often given as gifts. In their native land, the breed is called the Abso Seng Kye (“Barking Lion Sentinel Dog”). The Lhasa is said to have the uncanny ability to predict avalanches. The breed can tolerate very high altitudes. The Lhasa was first introduced to England in the 1920s. In 1933, the Dalai Lama gave some Lhasas to a friend in America, C. Suydam Cutting, who based his “Hamilton” line on these dogs. When Shih Tzus first came to the United States, several were accidentally classified as Lhasas and were bred into existing Lhasa lines. Cutting’s Hamilton dogs were untainted by this intrusion, and even today, breeders boast of “pure Hamilton lines.” The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1935.


The Lhasa has a long, heavy double coat, draping over his entire body to the floor. The hair falls thickly over the head, pendant ears, and eyes. The dog also sports a beard and mustache. The eyes are dark and the nose black. The flat skull has a moderate stop. The teeth should form a level or undershot bite. The body is longer than tall, with a level topline. The feathered tail is carried over the back. Any color is acceptable, often with dark tips on the ears and beard.

Key Facts

  • Height:  9 to 11 in.
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  Averages 16 lbs.
  • Availability:  Widely available
  • Talents:  Watchdog


Travels well. Lhasa bitches make good mothers. The dense coat, which was well-suited to the extreme Tibetan climate, needs a great deal of frequent attention to prevent mats, or can be clipped short to avoid the issue. Very long-lived. Dogs of 18 years and older are not at all uncommon. Prone to kidney problems, skin conditions, and eye problems. The eyes tend to tear, and should be cleaned regularly. Lhasa Apsos are very popular. Buy only from a reputable breeder, as many poorly bred animals are being sold.


Spirited, devoted, and lively. Confident and hardy. Loving with his master and wary of strangers. Some are willful; some are very obedient to the master. Not tolerant of teasing or rough children. Responds best to motivational training. Should have a fairly dominant master. Some fight with other dogs in the home. Dislikes being alone. Can be snappish if surprised or peeved.


  • Children:  Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness:  Moderately protective
  • Trainability:  Somewhat difficult to train
  • Independence:  Needs people a lot
  • Dominance:  Moderate
  • Other Pets:  Not generally trustworthy with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Friendly with other dogs
  • Indoors:  Very active indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Extensive grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Long coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A poor jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Good for apartment living
  • Outdoor Space:  Does OK without a yard
  • Longevity:  Long (15 or more years)

Useful Links

AKC® Lhasa Apso Breed Standard


Lhasa Apso Breed Club


Search for a Breeder


Rescue Organizations


Books about the Lhasa Apso


Lhasa Apso Gifts