Manipulative. Dignified. Mischievous. Tough. All of those words describe the lovely Lhasa Apso. The breed’s name means “bark lion sentinel dog,” a reference to his purpose as an alarm dog for Buddhist monks as well as to his “lionlike” appearance. The Lhasa is not a fearful dog by any means, but he is cautious. Lhasas are thinkers, and they like to study people and situations thoroughly before accepting them. They have a moderate activity level and their size makes them suited to any home, from an apartment to a palace.
Is the Lhasa Apso the Right Dog for You?
The sturdy Lhasa Apso once lived as a monastery watchdog in Tibet and is still a good watchdog today. Toward strangers, he is suspicious. This is not a dog who will invite the burglar in and show him where to find the silver. He is affectionate with family members, but independent enough that he doesn’t need constant attention.
The Lhasa pegs his activity level to that of his family. Exercise is good for him, though, so make sure he gets some activity daily. A brief walk is a good way to get him out and about, but he will also enjoy playtime in the home.
The Lhasa can be a wonderful family companion if children are old enough to treat him with respect. He is not a breed that will put up patiently with having his ears, tail or hair pulled.
Pleasing his people is not high on the Lhasa’s list of life goals. Lhasas are smart, but they can also be stubborn and independent. Train them with patience and positive reinforcement techniques, and be firm and consistent in what you ask of them. This is a breed that is easily bored. Keep training sessions short and fun.
That said, there are Lhasas who compete successfully in agility, rally and obedience trials. If you have a Lhasa who is motivated by praise, attention and applause, these sports can be a fun way to spend time with your dog. Lhasas with outgoing personalities are popular therapy dogs, providing a dose of Lhasa love to hospital patients and residents of nursing homes.
If you are looking for a dog with an easy-care coat, it’s safe to say that the Lhasa Apso is not the right choice. That glamorous Lhasa you see sweeping around the show ring is the product of endless hours of grooming. Expect to brush and comb the long, straight, heavy coat at least every other day. Pet Lhasas can be kept clipped short, but that still means frequent professional grooming. Neglected coats become tangled and matted, which is painful and can lead to serious skin infections. A Lhasa needs a bath at least every two to three weeks. And don’t forget to trim the nails and clean the ears every week or as needed.
Speaking of coat, you may have heard that the Lhasa does not shed like shorthaired dogs, making it a "non-allergenic" breed, but that's not correct. It's a dog's dander – flakes of skin – that triggers allergic reactions, not the coat. Because their coats have a longer growth cycle than those of dogs with the more typical canine "double coat," Lhasas may shed less, which means less dander in the environment and sometimes fewer allergic reactions. But they still produce dander and can still cause an allergic reaction. Avoid breeders who tell you their dogs are "non-allergenic."
Lhasa Apso puppies are incredibly cute, and it’s one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Lhasa Apso a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these dogs.
It also goes without saying that the Lhasa Apso, which was bred exclusively as a companion dog, needs to live in the house and never outdoors.
6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Lhasa Apso Puppy
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start by finding a breeder who is a member in good standing of the American Lhasa Apso Club, and who has agreed to abide by the ALAC’s Code of Ethics.
- Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Lhasa Apsos aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Lhasa Apsos can live 15 years or longer, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
- Puppy or adult, take your Lhasa Apso to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Lhasa Apsos
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Lhasa Apsos have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip dysplasia, juvenile renal disease, intervertebral disc disease and eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy.
At a minimum, ask the breeder for evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have OFA hip certifications and are certified free of eye disease by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.
|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 |
|Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance |
Pet Insurance for Lhasa Apsos
Pet insurance for Lhasa Apsos costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Lhasa Apsos are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Lhasa Apsos are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Lhasa Apso is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.