Small But Mighty – The Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso

So you’re not too crazy about small breeds, but you live in an apartment and know that a large dog wouldn’t be happy there. You might want to consider the Lhasa Apso, a small dog that doesn’t act like one!

The Lhasa Apso breed of dog is hundreds of years old. Originally, it was bred to be an interior guard dog for the royalty of Tibet, as well as for the monks in the monasteries close to the sacred city of Lhasa.

The Lhasa Apso was so prized, the dog could not be purchased or adopted, and it was given out only as gifts from the Tibetan ruler. They were very important to their masters as they could hear strangers and intruders coming and would alert their human if they felt the presence was threatening.

In the early 1930s, the first of the Lhasa Apsos were introduced in to the United States when an admirer of the Dalia Lama presented them as gifts. Today, the Lhasa Apso is more commonly found in a family setting and is an American Kennel Club recognized breed.


These small dogs have long, silky coats that hang to the bottom of their paws. Their coats come in a variety of colors such as slate gray, white, brown, or an amber color.

Lhasa Apso's Coat

The coat often changes in color from puppyhood to adult. Frequently, the fur will be darker at the tip of the tail, around the eyes and bottom of the muzzle. Unlike many other breeds, the American Kennel Club does not favor one shade of coat over another.

The fur is heavy and very dense which leads some owners to keep their Lhasa Apso trimmed with a short, easy-to-groom cut.  To get the dogs to be patient enough to be trimmed, however, they need to be trained at a very young age.

Lhasa Apsos have plumed tails and curls on their backs. They have deeply set eyes that are often covered by the fur from their head and their muzzles are of medium length.


The Lhasa Apso is a small dog, with the male being approximately 10 to eleven inches high at the shoulder, and the female being slightly smaller. They will be between 12 and 18 pounds when full grown, again, with the females being more petite then the males; at times by as much as six pounds.

Lhasa Apso with fur trimmed


Lhasa Apsos tend to have a long lifespan ranging anywhere from twelve to eighteen years. They do have some breed specific ailments that they may suffer from including kidney problems, vision problems, hip dysplasia and occasionally ulcers. Additionally, Lhasa Apsos require regular coat brushing to prevent infestations of common parasites.


Lhasa Apsos are not overly known for their aptitude when it comes to obedience training, but the loyalty to their master will be motivation to learn basic commands. It can be difficult to train Lhasa Apsos, as they are a hard-headed breed. Do not give up on training your Lhasa Apso though and remember that Lhasa Apsos love treats, so it may be best to go the motivational training route.


Lhasa Apsos are affectionate, assertive, highly intelligent, devoted and active. They are loyal to their loved ones, but because they were originally bred to be interior guard dogs, Lhasa Apsos can be aggressive or stand-offish and leary toward strangers – something you may not think to look at their little cute faces.

Families with small children may want to reconsider adopting a Lhasa Apso, as they do not like to be handled improperly, and can find young children to be loud and unsettling. If you have small children and do want a Lhasa Apso, be sure to teach your children before adopting a puppy to respect the family dog and to not mistreat it.

Another key to stopping a problem before it starts is to be sure to socialize your Lhasa Apso very early on. This is key with this breed as they do tend to have problems with strangers, other pets and small children.

Lhasa Apso on High

Keeping in mind their history of being bred to serve as a guard dog, they require socialization with other dogs, animals and unfamiliar people throughout their lives. Another evolutionary leftover from guard dog duty is the Lhasa Apsos’ preference for being in high places, or spots with good vantage points to satisfy their need to know what is going on in their domain.

While very loyal to their owners, having a happy master is not necessarily what they are always striving for. They are mischievous and have a keen sense of hearing and smell. These traits could lead to misadventures if the dog is left alone with unsecured food or household trash.

One of the most unique traits of the Lhasa Apso is how they show happiness to their owners. Instead of settling for a belly scratch they will sit on their owner’s feet or rub heads with them.

Lhasa Apso resting on owners feet

All in all, Lhasa Apsos are a great companion for someone looking for a smart and affectionate dog. They are sweet little mops that are a great option for a unique small breed.

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