The Lhasa apso is longer than it is tall, with a strong loin. Although the breed has never been used for purposes requiring great athleticism, it should nonetheless have a strong loin and well-developed quarters and thighs. The head is well-covered with a good fall over the eyes and good whiskers and beard, imparting a dignified, almost lionlike look. The bite should be either level or slightly undershot. The coat is heavy, straight, long and hard.

Despite its lap-dog appearance, the Lhasa is a tough character. It is independent, stubborn and bold. Although it is eager for a romp or game, it will be happy as long as it is given exercise. It will also happily snooze beside its owner. These characteristics make it an excellent small companion in adventure. It is somewhat reserved with strangers.

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The origin of the Lhasa apso has been long lost; it is an ancient breed bred and revered in the villages and monasteries of Tibet. Its history is intertwined with Buddhist beliefs, including a belief in reincarnation. The souls of lamas were said to enter the sacred dog’s bodies upon death, thus imparting an added reverence for these dogs. The dogs also performed the role of monastery watchdog, sounding the alert to visitors, thus giving rise to their native name of abso seng kye (“bark lion sentinel dog”).

It is likely that the breed’s Western name of Lhasa apso is derived from its native name, although some contend that it is a corruption of the Tibetan word rapso, meaning “goat” (in reference to its goatlike coat). In fact, when the breed first came to England, it was known as the Lhassa terrier, although it is in no way a terrier.

The first Lhasa apsos were seen in the Western world around 1930, with some of the first dogs arriving as gifts of the 13th Dalai Lama.

The breed was admitted into the AKC’s terrier group in 1935, but it was reassigned to the nonsporting group in 1959. After a slow start, the Lhasa quickly outpaced its fellow Tibetan breeds to become a popular pet and show dog.

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The Lhasa is an active dog, but its relatively small size makes it possible to meet its energy needs either with short walks or vigorous play sessions in the yard, or even home. It makes a fine apartment dog. It is not suited for outdoor living. The long coat needs brushing and combing every other day.

  • Major concerns: none
  • Minor concerns: patellar luxation, entropion, distichiasis, PRA, renal cortical hypoplasia
  • Occasionally seen: CHD, urolithiasis, vWD
  • Suggested tests: knee, eye
  • Life span: 12 – 14 years

 

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