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Lhasa Apso Breed Fact Sheet

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Lhasa Apso Breed Information

Group 7: Non Sporting

Energy Level: Not a hyperactive dog, but a robust and sturdy dog with lots of energy for fun and play.

Original Function: companion, watchdog in Tibet

Temperament: Playful, Alert, Devoted. Highly intelligent.

Recommended for: All people of all ages. Due to their high intelligence, training is recommended.

Be Aware: Need a lot of grooming only if kept in long coat. Most pet owners have a beautiful 'teddy' clip done about 3 times a year. Feet and ears need to be clipped and plucked regularly.

Lifespan: 18 to 20 years


Height: 10" for males and females slightly smaller (to the shoulder).

Colour: Gold, sandy, silver, slate, smoke, parti-colour, black, brown, red or white. Many of the original style have black masks and ear tips.

Coat: Top coat - Straight and coarse, making grooming easy. Undercoat - Finer than topcoat, but should not mat easily.

General Appearance: Small sized body, slightly longer in length than height to shoulders. Long coated ears that hang to the side of the head, but prick up when alert. Eyes must be black and almond shaped with no white showing at top or bottom. Tail curled up and carried over on to the back.


It is impossible to separate out the Lhasa Apso from the Tibetan people with their strong practice of Buddhism, as this comes before anything else. As the famous Lama Thubten Yeshe said, "Tibet is not some magical Shangri-la, it is simply that Tibetans all try to practice compassion for all living beings".

It is sometimes difficult for us in the 'west' to understand that "lack of attachment" (not to be confused with a cold 'detachment') ceases unhappiness as we are taught the opposite is true. Tibetans practice lack of attachment, aversion and ignorance (or lack of awareness) all the time, which is what has brought them world acclaim since they came out of Tibet. I mention this, because their dogs are not "owned" and grasped after as "mine" as we do with our dogs. So from the very beginning we must look at the different approach to a Lhasa Apso that the Tibetans have in order to understand how they treat all living beings, including their dogs.

I believe that over the hundreds of years that Lhasa Apsos have been bred and owned by Tibetans that some of their characteristics have become inherent as a result of this. They expect kindness, they do not bark unless there is a reason, they are a calm and strong dog, they are loyal and excellent watch dogs. They respect humans and expect the same in return.

Firstly, according to Tibetan belief, a "dog rebirth" is said to be brought about due to lack of awareness (I.e. ignorance) in a former life. For this reason it is not considered to be anywhere near the preciousness of a human rebirth in which we have the opportunity to be kind, loving and aware of our actions, all due to our own choice. An animal rebirth does not have this choice.
Therefore humans have the opportunity to show kindness to animals as they are dependant upon their owners, for food, shelter, love and care.

Secondly, an animal, (like a human) has various 'degrees' of a higher rebirth. As a consequence a truly loved Lhasa Apso was often given to a high Lama as an offering for its life - not for the Lama's pleasure, in the hope that it would attain a human rebirth next life or at the very least some 'good karma' would rub off onto the dog from hearing prayers all day . [Lamas do not own dogs as a "need" - they need nothing and many great Lamas have lived in caves in the wild forests eating old bones and thistles for decades.]

This brief explanation might shed some light on how the Lhasa Apsos came to live in monasteries and homes of the Tibetans who would love and care for them well, just as we do. The general thought is not that the dog is "theirs", but rather that they have a duty to care for it and to stop it creating negative karma: hence, their dogs are well trained.

Never have Lhasa Apsos been considered "holy" in any sense of the word! If the dog were holy, it would not be a dog, it would be a human. Mind you, I have plenty of friends who firmly believe their Lhasa Apsos are "not dogs"! Calling a Lhasa Apso a 'holy dog' is simply not true. However, due to their high intelligence, Tibetans nuns and monks often say with a smile that these dogs were nuns or monks in a previous life. Many of them sit on their back legs and "pray"!

By Pema Sarah Cash
[who has lived with Tibetans and in their monasteries]

Grooming- LONG COAT: daily combing is needed to keep the coat tangle free, a neglected coat will be come a matted mess.
SHORT COAT: They can be clipped to keep the maintenance lower. Bath when needed, about every fortnight.

Exercise- regular playtimes and walks are all that is needed to keep them fit and happy. They are a self-exercising dog and love to run around the garden for exercise.

Health- Generally speaking, they are one of the healthiest of any breed. Although recently some Lhasas have suffered from PRA (eye), luxating patella and kidney problems.
For Diet and other general dog health information Health/Nutrition


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