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Lhasa apso dogs standing side by side.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Non-Sporting group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 10-11 inches
  • Weight — 12-18 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Long and silky
  • Coat color — Typically black, tan, cream, or red-colored, but occasionally silver, gray or blue
  • Exercise needs — Average
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 12-15 years
  • Temperament — Affectionate, confident, aloof, and comical
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — Tibet

Lhasa apso fun facts

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Lhasa Apsos Teddy and Gizmo. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Lhasa Apsos love Bella, then Daisy.

  • Lhasa apsos were bred by Tibetan monks. Tibetan Buddhist monks were the primary breeders and caretakers of Lhasa apso dogs, named for the sacred city of Lhasa. The monks typically bred them for themselves as companions and temple protectors, but Lhasas were also commonly given as gifts to local and religious leaders.
  • This ancient breed arrived in the United States thanks to the Dalai Lama. The first Lhasas to arrive in the U.S. were gifts from the 13th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lama gave them to a traveler named Charles Suydam Cutting in the 1930s, who eventually imported more Lhasas to America in the following years.
  • The oldest Lhasa apso lived to be 29 years old. Though the average lifespan of a Lhasa ranges between 12-15 years, some can live beyond age 20! In fact, the oldest known Lhasa apso lived to be 29 years old and passed away in the early 1900s.
Lhasa apso long coat standing in grass.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Lhasa apso temperament and characteristics 

The highly intelligent and agile Lhasa apso is beloved for its cheerful, comical personality, but don’t let their goofiness or small size fool you.  Lhasas make for fantastic, albeit tiny, guard dogs. Despite being relatively laidback, affectionate, and friendly dogs, they can be quite stubborn, so early training and socialization is a must. However, the breed doesn’t require much space to thrive, so apartment living will do just fine as long as your pup gets about an hour of exercise per day, plus proper mental stimulation. When it comes to kids, other pets and even strangers and visitors, early exposure is key as Lhasas can be somewhat distant and aloof around new animals and people.


The Lhasa Apso is a small breed with a heavy, double coat. According to the AKC breed standards, all colors are equally acceptable. The typical coat colors include black, black and tan, cream, golden, grizzle, red, red, gold and white. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, a common coat color for the Lhasa Apso is (66%) white. 

Common Lhasa apso health problems 

Lhasa apsos are a generally healthy and resilient breed, but they are still prone to certain genetic conditions. Knowing what you might expect with your pup can help you address and treat any medical conditions early on.

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). This genetic disease can lead to a degeneration of the retina, potentially resulting in blindness. There is currently no effective treatment available for PRA , though if your veterinarian recommends treating related conditions like cataracts or retinal detachment, doing so may prevent further loss of vision.
  • Hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a chronic condition that occurs when joints develop improperly in growing dogs. Dogs with hip dysplasia are also more prone to developing arthritis in the area. Pet parents have several options to help improve their pup’s quality of life, including weight management, pain medication, daily exercise, and surgery.
  • Patellar luxation. This hereditary condition, common among small dogs and toy breeds, refers to loose kneecaps in the hind legs. When dislocation occurs, the condition may potentially cause lameness.
  • Dry eyes. When a dog has keratoconjunctivitis (also known as dry eyes), they typically have trouble producing enough tears. The resulting inflammation from this lack of moisture can cause discomfort and squinting.
White lhasa apso wearing a bow and sitting beside a lake.

History of the Lhasa apso

The Lhasa apso is a thousand-year-old breed with origins in the Himalayan Mountains. These dogs, named for the sacred city of Lhasa, were primarily bred and cared for by Buddhist Tibetan monks as companions and monastery protectors. In the 1930s, the 13th Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, gifted a Lhasa apso to well-known American traveler Charles Suydam Cutting and his wife during their trip to the region. This eventually led to an increase in imports of the breed, establishing its reputation in America.

In 1935, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Lhasa apso as part of the Terrier Group. The breed was eventually reassigned to the Non-Sporting Group in 1959, the same year as the formation of the American Lhasa Apso Club.

Caring for your Lhasa apso

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. We can even help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. And while no one likes to think about losing their new dog, FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag, so you’re prepared just in case.

Diagnosis and treatment for health conditions specific to the Lhasa Apso vary between $500-$900 for PRA, $3,500 per hip to $7,000 for hip dysplasia, $1,500-$3,000 for patellar luxation and $20-$50 or more per month for dry eyes.

Besides the basics of feeding and medical care, there are a few other things to keep in mind to be the best and most responsible dog owner you can be with your Lhasa.

  • Don’t skimp on grooming.  When it comes to grooming, the Lhasa apso needs some extra attention, especially if their silky coats are on the longer side and tend to grow around your dog’s eyes.
  • Learn how to inspect your dog’s eyes. Because Lhasas are more prone to eye-related health problems, as well as tear stains, you’ll want to get comfortable inspecting your pup’s eyes.
  • Focus on early socialization. These cute, friendly dogs can be quite stubborn and mischievous, so early training and exposure is key to avoiding overexcitement or aloofness with strangers, visitors, young children, and other pets.


The agile Lhasa requires a moderate amount of exercise every day. About an hour of walking or playtime should be sufficient, though this may vary by individual. For some added mental exercise, puzzle toys are a good option for this highly intelligent breed.

Lhasa apso playing in a green yard with a ball.


Though Lhasa apso dogs don’t shed much, the breed does need some extra attention as their silky coats can grow quite long. Keeping up a regular grooming routine can help keep your pup looking good and avoid issues like matting down the line

  • Trim regularly. Whether you visit a professional groomer or trim your dog’s hair at home, regular cuts every one to six weeks depending on your pup’s environment and hair length help avoid overgrowth, matting, and issues like conjunctivitis.
  • Brush both the short and long coat. If your Lhasa dons the iconic long coat hovering over the ground, you’ll want to brush the short coat weekly and the long coat almost every day to avoid matting and overgrowth.
  • Consider a puppy cut for easier maintenance. A puppy cut keeps your Lhasa’s hair nice and short, reducing maintenance between grooming appointments. Though puppy cuts vary by groomer, they typically involve cutting the dog’s fur around 1-2 inches in length all over the body.
  • Get your puppy used to being touched. Because the Lhasa apso requires a good amount of grooming and maintenance,  it’s essential that you get your pup accustomed to being touched, washed, and brushed.
  • Don’t neglect other grooming regimens. That includes ear cleaning and teeth brushing. A complete and comprehensive grooming routine is the best way to keep your dog looking fit and fresh.

👉 Remember, no dog breed is truly hypoallergenic. Allergic reactions occur due to the protein found in a dog’s dander, hair, and saliva. Dogs that are considered “hypoallergenic” shed and drool less, and thus have a lesser effect on those with dog allergies.

Diet and nutrition

Lhasas and their heavy, silky coats need high-quality food to truly thrive. Opt for a vet-approved diet high in protein and healthy fats. Avoid overfeeding to prevent digestive issues.

In general, Lhasas should eat about ¾-1 cup of high-quality, small-breed dog food each day, depending on the caloric density of their daily diet. If your pup gets picky or isn’t getting enough water, you can mix in some canned food or a tasty topper. As always, refer to your pet’s vet for questions related to diet and nutrition, including food portioning.

Training your Lhasa apso

The Lhasa apso is considered highly intelligent, but their stubbornness and desire to be independent may put a damper on your housetraining. Like many dogs, they are most responsive to rewards and positive reinforcement, so consider using food, treats, games, and verbal praise to help them associate training with things that bring joy and are mentally stimulating.

Lhasa apso walking on a leash outside.

Breeds similar to the Lhasa apso

Not quite sure that a Lhasa apso is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Shih tzu. This toy breed is another playful, highly intelligent option with origins in Asia. Shih tzu are also a great choice for allergy sufferers.
  • Maltese. The small, loving Maltese is another breed considered to be hypoallergenic. These dogs make great watchdogs and love to show off their athletic skills.
  • Pomeranian. The spunky Pomeranian dons a long and shiny coat and is known to be highly intelligent and affectionate.

Frequently asked questions

How much exercise do Lhasa apsos need?

Lhasas require a moderate amount of exercise every day. About an hour of walking or playtime should be sufficient. For some mental exercise, puzzle toys are a good option for this highly intelligent breed.

How often does a Lhasa apso need a haircut?

Whether you visit a professional groomer or trim your dog’s hair at home, regular cuts every one to six weeks depending on your pup’s environment and hair length help will avoid overgrowth and matting.

What are the differences between the Lhasa apso and Shih tzu?

These tiny, regal-looking long-haired breeds may be hard to tell apart, but they have a few identifiable differences beyond belonging to different breed groups. For one, the Shih tzu, part of the AKC’s Toy Group, has a more flowy coat, whereas the Non-Sporting Group’s Lhasa has a heavier, more straight coat. But their personalities are also a little different. Unlike Shih tzu, Lhasas are more wary of and aloof around strangers.

What are some common health conditions among Lhasa apsos?

Some common health conditions specific to the breed include progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation and dry eye.

Are Lhasa apsos hypoallergenic?

Lhasas are considered “hypoallergenic”, but no dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic. Dogs that are considered hypoallergenic simply shed less, and thus have a smaller effect on those with dog allergies.