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Breed profile: Lhasa apso

I have a hard time telling the difference between a lhasa apso (pictured) and a shih tzu, so I figured other people might not know the difference either. They are obviously closely related, but the main difference between the two breeds is size.

Lhasas are larger, about 13-15 pounds, while shih tzus are a member of the toy group and are sometimes as small as nine pounds. Lhasas have a narrower, terrier-like head while shih tzus have a flatter face (like a pug). Shih tzus are also generally more outgoing.

The lhasa apso originated in Tibet during ancient times, according to The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds by D. Caroline Coile.  Buddhists believed these dogs were sacred and that the souls of lamas entered the dogs’ bodies after death. Lhasas were also used to guard monasteries.

During the 1930s, lhasas were seen in the Western world, according to Coile. The breed was recognized by the AKC into the terrier group in 1935 and was then reassigned to the nonsporting group in 1959. They come in all kinds of solid colors and combinations of colors.

Advantages to owning a lhasa apso:

1. At just 13-15 pounds, this breed is very easy to manage. They make great lapdogs and are easy to carry or travel with.

2. Lhasa apsos do not need a lot of exercise, but like any dog they still like to go for a walk.

3. They are in that perfect middle ground as far as friendliness, playfulness and energy. They are happy little dogs willing to tag along outdoors, but they won’t annoy you with endless excitement. They are perfectly happy to take a nap on the couch.

4. Lhasas can get by just fine in an apartment or house with a small yard. Just remember they tend to bark.

5. They are intelligent and tough little dogs. They are both physically and mentally strong and adapt well to most environments.

Disadvantages to owning a lhasa apso:

1. Lhasas bark a lot. They were bred to be watchdogs and will alert you of all visitors.

2. They are not easy to train. Lhasas can be independent and stubborn. They are not desperate to please their owners unlike so many other breeds.

3. Lhasa apsos have a long coat that will need brushing and trimming. Most people who don’t plan on showing their lhasas trim their coats so the  hair is more manageable.

4. They are generally skeptical of strangers at first.

5. The breed is prone to knee problems.

If you would like to write a profile of your favorite breed, send me an email at I’ll use pictures of your dog and link to your site. I’m happy to feature any breed, including mixed breeds!

Tan Lhasa Apso dog with a ribbon in its hair
Lhasa Apso dog gray and black and white with long hair

(Top image from, bottom image from


Sunday 16th of October 2011

Well, well, I think my Lhasa Apso is a little different, she NEVER barks, it's seems like there were no dog at all. Not hyper and very independent. Likes to hang around me (on my feet or very close to them), but can also be by her self with no problem. I love her so much and I'm happy to have chosen this breed.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 17th of October 2011

Each dog is an individual. The reason Lhasas tend to bark is because they were bred to be watchdogs and the barking was encouraged. But the Lhasas I know are quiet dogs as well, something I like about them.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 20th of April 2011

All of the Lhasa Apsos I have known have been very calm, friendly dogs. I also like that they do not bark a lot and don't seem to have hyper, crazy energy. They are great little dogs!


Wednesday 20th of April 2011

I have a 2yr old Lhasa Apso, her name is Bacardi and she is amazing! She is great with with kids even the little ones that wanna pull her hair all the time. She, was kind of difficult to potty train. However, once they get it down pat they dont have a problem. Bacardi is very smart she knows when she has done something bad because she goes to her time out spot (yes people i put my dog on timeout! lol) and she stays there with no attention till I tell her she can get up. And these dogs like attention so it works for her. I would never trade her for any other dog shes a perfect fluffy little thing :)


Sunday 27th of February 2011

Great article. As an owner of two Lhasa-apso's I have to agree with everything you said. Good and bad. They are also known amoung owners as my little shadow. Due to the Lhasa-apso following you everywhere you go. Even if she's sleeping in the middle of the night and you try to tiptoe out the room to go to the bathroom, she immediately will know and follows you. They tend to stand guard not only of your home, but of you as well. Wich is why I think they don't like strangers very well. One problem I do have with her is the stanger agressiveness. Once she gets to know someone she is a very good girl though. Anyway, just thought I give you my two cents worth lol. Feel free to take a look at my Lhasa's on

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 28th of February 2011

Thanks for the info! They are cute little dogs. I've known quite a few over the last few years.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 31st of December 2008

Hi Noemi. Thanks for stopping by. Your dog is cute!