All you need to know about the Lhasa Apso (the pros and cons)

N.B This post contains links that will redirect you to my Amazon Affiliate Program.

I have owned a Lhasa Apso for seventeen years, he’s called Lucky. The knowledge that I have gathered over the years concerning this little breed of dog, I would like to share that knowledge with you. Read more to understand the pros and cons of these little Lhasa Apso’s.


The Lhasa Apso the small dog with a huge character. You will either love it or hate it. Although small it has lots going for it, but lots going against it. Do we start with the pros or do we start with the cons this is the question?

In my personal view, the pros far outweigh the cons so let’s start with the pros. Where do we start with the Lhasa Apso? As stated above the first thing you will notice is that the Lhasa Apso is a small breed dog, that you could even say it looks like a toy dog,  but it is definitely not a toy.

Let’s go back to the origins of the Lhasa Apso and the reason this dog was bred. Around 800 to 1000 years BC making them one of the oldest breed of dogs known in the world. Along with some other breeds they are believed to be closely related to the ancestral wolf. Tibetan monks bread this little dog to be a Sentinel guard inside their monasteries, the Lhasa Apso was also a companion for the monks. These are the first two qualities that I would put into the pro category.  

Why are they called Lhasa Apso?

Now let’s look into how these little dogs got their name Lhasa Apso. If we look into the history and the origins of the Lhasa Apso we will find they originated from the Himalayan plateau near Tibet. The capital city there is called Lhasa.

The city of Lhasa is situated on the northern banks of the river Lhasa in the valley of the Himalayas. The plateau rises to 3700 m in altitude. So these little dogs are hardy creatures living at that altitude. So the first part of their name comes from the city near to their origins.

“Next is the word Apso, This can be found in the Tibetan language meaning bearded or long-haired, there are other opinions on the word Apso, some believing it comes from the word “raspo” in the Tibetan language meaning goat-like. Which would make the Lhasa Apso a woolly-haired goat-like dog.

Also known in Tibet as the Apso Seng Kyi, this can be translated into a “Bearded lion dog” I personally like this translation more than the woolly-haired goat-like dog translation.

Role as Guard Dogs

In their role as a sentinel guard dog, they were posted inside the monasteries, and to this effect, they were used with their acute hearing to alert the monks if anybody managed to get past the Tibetan Mastiff exterior guard dogs. The rich people of Lhasa also used the Lhasa Apso as guard dogs for their homes and villas, with their loud bark they would warn the neighbors and their owners if anyone was in the vicinity.

It was strongly believed that the Lhasa Apso was sacred and that when the Lama’s died they would enter the body of a Lhasa Apso awaiting their reincarnation. Because of this belief, Lhasa Apsos were never sold, the only way to become the owner of one was if you were given one as a present.
Guard dog

Their Arrival into Europe and the U.S.A

Once upon a time, a long time ago, the British colonized large areas of the globe, particularly the Indian subcontinent. Amongst the many trophies and souvenirs the military men returned with were a few of these small Lhasa Apso dogs were brought back into England in the early 1930s In those early days the Lhasa Apso was known as the Lhasa Terrier.

The first Lhasa Apso’s arrived in the USA in 1933, A pair of Lhasa Apsos were a gift to a certain Mr. Cutting, they were presented to him by the Lama Thubten Gyatso the 13th Dalai Lama. Records at this same time state there was only one Lhasa Apso registered in England!

They were finally accepted into the AKC, (American Kennel Club) in 1935 and placed into the category of terriers. Later in 1959 they were removed from the terrier group and put into the non-sporting category.

If you are thinking of becoming the owner of a Lhasa Apso then I strongly advise you go to a certified breeding kennel, you will receive the papers necessary to prove your Lhasa Apso is a true pedigree. Once you have chosen your puppy and get them home then it will be time to start training them. But before that let us see some information concerning the Lhasa Apso.

  1. Lifespan, between Between 12 and 14 years
  2. Colors, all dog colors included
  3. Coat, long and straight
  4. Height, between 10 and 11 inches
  5. Weight, between 15 and 18 pounds
  6. Litter size, between 4 and 6 puppies


Another pro quality of the Lhasa Apso is they are very loyal to their owners. Wary of strangers, bred as sentinel guard dogs this apprehension towards strangers is normal. Firm training is required so they do not become aggressive to strangers.

They are an independent breed dog, very loyal, and do their best to please you. But they do have a stubborn side to their character, when not wishing to do a task they will let you know. Acting like a donkey in a smaller way they will just not move or obey any of your commands. You need to build over time a relationship with your Lhasa Apso where trust is respected by both.

The Lhasa Apso is a small dog but has lots of energy, needing regular exercise and discipline, this time together builds that bonding relationship with your dog. Joining a local dog club will help in the socializing of your puppy with humans and other dogs.

Their independent nature makes it difficult to housetrain them, this may take time and patience from you. Have with you some treats that you can reward your puppy with when things go correctly, they love to please their owners and will soon learn by receiving their treats.

The life span average of the Lhasa Apso is between 12 and 14 years but they can live much longer than that and the oldest on record lived to be 29 years old. My Lhasa Apso Lucky is 17 years old taking him beyond the average life span.

Being a small breed and with their inherited Sentinel character they do like to get high up so they can see more around them.  Lucky will often climb on to the back on the settee or couch to have this visual vantage point.

Being small, not much larger than a big cat they can get under your feet. You need to be careful around the house, so as not to injure them. With his age Lucky has lost most of his hearing and sight and is constantly beside us to be reassured. This can be dangerous at times

Health Problems

Lhasa Apsos have some illnesses specific to the breed. I will explain some of them here, but not in full depth. The Lhasa was bred to have a long back and short legs, this leading to a condition called chondrodysplastic Let’s see what chondrodysplastic means

Two syllables, the first being chondro, which means cartilage then dysplasia which means growth that is abnormal. This illness is visible in the Lhasa Apso with their short legs and long body.

Common illness are dry eyes, (PRA) progressive retinal atrophy, these symptoms can be seen at the age of 3 to 4 years. and cataracts, symptoms can be seen at the age of 3 to 6 years slowly leading to blindness in later years.

There are other eye illnesses called corneal dystrophy, cherry eye, corneal ulcers, lens luxation, and eyelash abnormalities.

A kidney disease that Lhasa Apsos suffer from is called Renal dysplasia, Unfortunately, this is a disease that is inherited from parent stock and sadly can kill puppies as young as 6 to 12 months old. You can have a DNA test on your dog to see if it carries this disease or is free from it.

Pyoderma is the result of Allergens creating allergies on the dog’s skin causing the dog to itch, Sebaceous Adenitis is a skin disease much more serious and is increasing in the Lhasa breed.

Due to their ears hanging low on the side of the head and the long hair, they are prone to get ear diseases. When grooming I suggest with your thumb and forefinger pulling out the hairs inside the ear canal, this does not hurt them.

Breeds that have long backs suffer more from intervertebral disc dysplasia.

Intervertebral disc dysplasia. or IVDD is a hernia in the spinal column, the soft discs in between each vertebrae collapse causing severe pain. In some cases, it can cause paralysis. These discs in between the vertebrae act just like shock absorbers on your car, cushioning jolts and shocks as your dog runs and plays.

Some signs are

  • Not wanting to jump
  • Weakness & Pain in rear legs
  • Crying
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Spasms over back or neck
  • Hunched neck & back
  • Appetite and activity level reduced
  • No bladder, bowel control

Patellar luxation. Another word used to explain this is floating kneecaps, which is common in small and tiny dogs. They can lead a normal active life not showing any signs of patellar luxation.  When suddenly for no reason they might suddenly limp, cry or lift the leg off the ground, signs of patellar luxation.

After a couple of minutes, they put the leg back on the floor, run and play again to your amazement as if nothing had happened. What happened whilst your dog was running around the knee cap has popped out of its correct position. Causing your  Lhasa Apso to stop dead in his tracks, after a minute or two the kneecap slips back into place and they carry on in their normal way.

Dysplasia of the hip joints. Hip X-rays on 800 Lhasa Apsos found 6% were Dysplastic. This disease attacks all sized dogs and is a problem with the bone structure and skeleton. The activity and movements of your dog will be restricted. Seeing your dog in pain is hard to accept. Hip dysplasia is hereditary. When buying a new puppy you should ask if the parents suffer from this disease as it will be passed on to the puppy

This poor little breed of dog has other illnesses that include heart disease,

Hypothyroidism, Thyroid glands not working properly will result in hair loss, lethargic, becoming overweight, not supporting a cold environment in your dog. There might also be signs of hypothyroidism if your pet is constantly having ear infections. Fortunately, this can be controlled by medication orally, a treatment for the rest of your dog’s life.

A serious brain disease called Lissencephaly can appear in young Lhasa Apsos. The effects of this illness manifest in sudden aggression and unprovoked attacks. Abnormalities in their behavior. Coordination problems when walking and visual deficiencies,  seizures are not uncommon.

Urinary stones, Pyloric stenosis, Von Willebrand’s disease, (blood clotting)

Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Pyloric Stenosis High $1,500-$5,000
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease High $1,000-$3,000
Patellar Luxation High $1,500-$3,000
Atopic Dermatitis High $100-$1,000
Hydrocephalus Medium $5,000-$10,000
IVDD High $2,500-$7,000
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye) High $200-$1,000

You can read more on the common health problems of the Lhasa Apso here

My advice is to never ever buy a puppy from a pet store, you run the risk of buying an unhealthy puppy that will be difficult to housetrain.

Some more Pro’s

The above paragraphs have outlined some of the cons of the Lhasa Apso medically. So let’s get back and look at some other pros of this breed.


Contrary to what you can read on the internet about the Lhasa Apso not being an ideal dog for children. I can vouch in my case the opposite, Lucky my Lhasa Apso has been the perfect dog for my daughter. Chloé would put Lucky into a baby’s pushchair cover him in blankets laying on his back and go for walks in the grounds, never being aggressive towards her.

On one particular occasion, Chloé put ribbons all over Lucky while she was brushing him, and he took all this in his loving character for children. As we have Lucky since he was one year old he has been in children’s company constantly. I advise you to never leave any animal alone with a small child. No matter how good they are with children.
Time to visit the hairdresser!!


The size of the Lhasa Apso is a pro-quality as they are easy to take with you anywhere, for example, traveling or even going shopping. When considering their small size the amount of food intake is minimal which is positive for money management. Being small they are lightweight and are easy to pick up and carry, especially if the owner is older and not very strong.

Again being a small breed of dog they will need less physical exercise. Do be careful they do not become overweight, by getting too many treats or eating too much, and then not getting enough exercise. But don’t get it wrong their small size does not hide their big heart. Another advantage when walking your dog on a leash, they are not going to pull you around because of their strength!

Amusing and Playful

The Lhasa Apso has an amusing character, I have often laughed at Lucky’s antics when he’s been playing. Now, Lucky has an annoying game, I throw the ball which he would catch but he does not bring it back. He will run away and leave the ball somewhere for me to find.  Another funny trick he does when we are playing ball together is when I play football with him. It’s so amusing to see him using both his front paws to dribble the ball just like a footballer.
Playing Ball


As you have learned reading this article the Lhasa Apso was bred as a guard dog and a companion for the Tibetan monks. This makes them affectionate towards their owners and family. Once you have won their trust they will shower you with their love and affection. Being very independent they do like to spend some time close to their owners, even if they do not like to be cuddled for long periods


A good reason to own a Lhasa Apso is they are very loyal, becoming your companion and best friend for life. Their loyalty to you is primordial to them and they will protect you and your property to their last bark if need be. Their natural instinct is to protect you.

With a reputation for living long lives, a Lhasa Apso can be loyal to you for up to twenty years. The oldest on record living to the ripe old age of twenty-nine years old. My own Lhasa Apso Lucky has been with me for 16 years and his loyalty is irreproachable.


Lhasa apsos are a non-shedding breed making them hypoallergenic, of course, they need to be groomed regularly. If you are somebody that is allergic around dogs then a Lhasa Apso would be a good choice because they shed so little.

Now that you know your Lhasa Apso shed less dander or hair there will be fewer allergens floating in the environment. Reduced allergens in your home is a positive characteristic for you to take into account. This will enable you to live without allergic health problems.
Check this post for more details on Hypoallergenic

The Choice is Hard

I did say at the beginning of this article that the pros far outweigh the cons with the Lhasa Apso. And of surely they do. Now that you have read this article, in full I hope, you will by now have decided to become the proud owner of a Lhasa Apso. Let’s look deeper into how to start the process of becoming an owner of a Lhasa Apso.

On top of the criteria list you should look for a reputable dog breeding kennel. Searching on the internet or by talking to friends you will find the correct one that has a good reputation. Be careful of adverts that propose puppies at very low prices these may well not be true Lhasa Apsos.

So there you are at your chosen dog kennels, there in front of you before your very eyes are so many beautiful little Lhasa Apso puppies. How on earth do you choose one? The one that is so cute? the little one making eyes at you? Or are the colors of another one pleasing to you? the answer to the question is it’s your choice.  If you are attracted by the puppies color do bear in mind as they grow the coat color will change, this is normal.

Selecting at the Kennels

Be on your guard for unscrupulous kennel owners that might try and sell you a Shih Tzu instead of a Lhasa Apso, how can you tell the difference

The first major visual difference is in the muzzle, the Shih Tzu has a very short muzzle whereby the Lhasa Apsos muzzle will be longer. Then you look at the hair on the muzzle, the Lhasa Apso has less hair swirling around the muzzle.

Another sign between the two breeds which is easily identifiable is the eyebrows. The Shih Tzus eyebrows tend to be more open and expressive compared to the Lhasa Apso. This gives the Shih Tzu a rounded looking face. Some people even save a Shih Tzu looks like a grumpy old man with their expressions.

Continuing the difference between the two breeds. The Shih-Tzu is a smaller dog. The skull of a Shih Tzu is domed, unlike the Lhasa. There is a difference in height, around five cm more for the Lhasa, the Shih-Tzu will be lighter, two or three kilos less than a Lhasa Apso. If you see two puppies side by side and you have a doubt the biggest of the two will be the Lhasa Apso

Another sure visible sign your puppy is a Lhasa Apso is the hair color on the tips of their ears, this should be black. The hair on the muzzle will be black as well. And all purebred Lhasa Apsos have a black nose. When you look closely at a Lhasa Apso look along their backbone,  you will see that the hair or their coat is parted down the spine and will fall down straight on both sides.

Finally, when looking at both dogs the Lhasa Apsos head is longer and narrower than the Shih Tzu. The Shih Tzus eyes are much larger and round. Their characters will also reveal which breed they are from. If you are looking for a companion then the Shih Tzu will be the best choice, this was the reason they were bred. Whereas the Lhasa Apso was bred to be a guard dog, making them much more independent and wary of strangers, contrasting the Shih Tzu who is friendly and will accept everyone.

Cost of Puppies

Your choice has been made. You are now looking to buy Lhasa Apso puppy.  What are the typical prices you should pay for a puppy from a reputable kennel?  prices vary depending on the litter size the reputation of the Kennels.

Median Price: $725.00
Average Price: $500.00
Top Quality: $1,300.00 to $5,100.00

*Data sourced from the sale of 4024 Lhasa Apso puppies across the United States on

Bearing in mind once the initial cost to acquire your Lhasa Apso has been met there are the annual expenses that you must take into consideration. Overlooked quite often are the medical expenses deworming heart worming vaccination Flea control Training, Including Dog collars, leashes, dog crate if you are traveling, snow boots if you take them on a winter holiday, clothing, bedding, toys, and many other items. This all adds up to a large financial commitment.

For the initial cost of buying and purchasing the equipment and accessories vaccinations etc the first year will cost between $500 and $2,000 Thereafter this annual cost will go down to a sum of $500 to $1,000 annually

as fat is absorb into your dogs system
A young Lhasa Apso


As you will have learned I have been the happy owner of a Lhasa Apso for 16 years, during this time I have received so much loyalty and affection from my Lucky, we have spent many many hours together in the gardens where I work, I have been amazed at his courageous character chasing wild boars in the grounds, for his calmness with my daughter,  with his loud bark alerting me to any abnormality.

To be honest with you I had always wanted a German Shepherd, but when Lucky arrived unexpected as a lost or abandoned puppy I took him into my home and have never regretted one single moment. Now he is reaching 17 years old I am preparing myself for the day when he goes over the Rainbow Bridge. I don’t think there will never be another dog that can replace him.

So until that day comes I will continue to look after him, now his hearing is reduced so much he cannot hear me call him, and with cataracts now he is slowly going blind. But this does not to seem to affect him finding me on the grounds, because he has such a sensitive nose and he can smell me out anywhere.










Recent Posts