The Lhasa Apso Dog Breed Is From Tibet; An Indoor Guard Dog

Lhasa Apso Dog

The Lhasa Apso dog breed is alert, curious and watchful.

This is an unusual breed from Tibet, bred to act as a watchdog inside Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. They have exceptionally god hearing, even for dogs, and regard all strangers with suspicion. They need to be socialized from an early age, otherwise they can be aggressive towards people they don’t

Lhasa Apso dog breed
Image courtesy American Kennel Club

Lhasa Apso dog breed –

The Lhasa Apso has a strong and independent nature, and they are probably not best suited to first-time dog owners. They have a sense of self-importance, and can be intolerant of small children’s antics. They may well snap at a small child if they find the rough play too much.They do better with older children, teenagers and adults.

Remember, these are watchdogs, and their nature is to watch, listen, and alert their household to any unusual movement inside the house or near the door. They have a natural suspicion of any stranger, and may even try to attack an intruder despite their small size.

Their independence means that they are not particularly focused on pleasing their owners – they will do what they want to do! Nevertheless, they were bred as indoor dogs and they like human company. They will follow their owner from room to room, and stay in close company.

The Apso breed is slow to mature, and can behave like a puppy up to almost 3 years of age. Some owners may find this frustrating, as the dog doesn’t seem to take training too seriously. They are playful, and can be mischievous.

As a watchdog, the Apso will bark at anything unusual. This readiness to bark means that they may not be suited to apartment life if your neighbors have sensitive hearing. However, if noise is not an issue, then this breed will do well in a small home, as they are physically small themselves, do not need much space to be happy, and do not need much exercise. Of course, a daily walk outdoors is always good, but it doesn’t need to be a long walk.

Lhasa Apso dog breed
Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso dog breed –
Breed History

The breed can be traced back over 2000 years in Tibet, in and around the capital city of Lhasa. They were used in large houses of noblemen, and in Buddhist temples and monasteries, to act as watchdogs inside. While the outer gates and gardens were usually guarded by big Tibetan Mastiffs, the Apso stayed indoors to detect any intruders who may have managed to evade the outdoor dogs.

This breeding as an indoor watchdog makes the Apso alert, curious, and suspicious of strangers, ready to bark at a second’s notice to raise the alarm.

The breed was considered sacred, and were not for sale; they could only be given as a gift, usually in pairs. The Dalai Lama used to send gifts of Lhasa Apso dogs to the Emperor of China and his family, as well as other luminaries.

The Lhasa Apso dog breed first entered America when the Dalai Lama sent some dogs to Suydam Cutting in 1933, in New Jersey. This pair of dogs were the base pair of a subsequent breeding program, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1935.

Vital Statistics;

Height;  10 inches to 11 inches

Weight;  12 lbs to 18 lbs

Life Span; 12 to 15 years


Black; White; Red; Gold.

Ease of training

The Lhasa Apso dog breed is NOT an easy dog to train, but with a careful plan, patience and persistence, they can become well-behaved family dogs, although an Apso is unlikely to win any Obedience Trials!

The first step is early socialization, as a puppy. The dog should be gradually introduced to new people, other animals, and outdoor sights and sounds. By getting the young dog used to meeting strangers, their natural suspicion can be reduced to a ‘cautious’ attitude when meeting new people.

This will reduce your dog’s anxiety in new situations, and reduce anti-social behavior such as excessive barking and possibly trying to nip.

The other important thing to achieve early is house training. Like most smaller dog breeds, this can be a slow process, and many breeders recommend crae training to speed up the process.

When the puppy is old enough, puppy training classes are a good idea. By attending training classes regularly, the dog becomes used to meeting other dogs and people, and gets an introduction to formal training. In addition, YOU will learn a few things about how to train your dog.

When you dog is older, I recommend continuing training by going to obedience classes. This may seem like an uphill struggle at times, if your Apso has an “off” day and doesn’t seem interested, bu persistence and a consistent approach will yield big benefits in the long term. But you have to be prepared for a bit of work over a long period of time.

Lhasa Apso dog breed
Tail curled over the back. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons


As a watchdog breed, this dog is ideal for letting you know if something’s amiss in the vicinity. With their acute hearing and alert nature, you can be sure that your dog will bark if they detect anything unusual going on. As a watchdog breed, the Lhasa Apso is one of the best!

However, as a guard dog, they are not so good. Although they are incredibly brave and surprisingly tough, they are not physically big enough to deter an intruder. They will bark their head off and even have a go at an unwanted visitor, but lack size and weight to be effective.

If you want a watchdog, this breed is great. But if you want a guard dog for protection, I suggest you look at a bigger breed.

Lhasa Apso Dog Breed – Grooming

The Lhasa Apso dog breed has a double coat to help it stay warm in the cold Tibetan winters. The undercoat is soft, fine and dense, and traps a layer of warm air next to the dog’s skin. The top coat is long and luxurious.

That long coat takes a lot of looking after if you want to keep it looking it’s best. The coat hairs are long, straight and heavy. This breed does not shed hair on a seasonal basis, but sheds a small amount of hair continuously throughout the year. This low-shedding rate means they also shed less dander than other dogs, and the Apso may be suitable for people with allergies to dog hair and dander.

These dogs should be brushed every day to remove any loose hairs, and to prevent the top coat becoming matted. Regular brushing also keeps the coat clean.

Many owners choose to have their dog groomed by a professional dog groomer. This may need to be done every 2 to 4 weeks, in addition to daily brushing at home. The other option is to have the long top coat trimmed back to just a few inches in length. Especially around the head and mouth, trimming the long hair back reduces the amount of food collecting, and reduces dribbling after drinking water. It also lets you see the dog’s sparkling eyes!

Lhasa Apso dog breed
Lhasa Apso with trimmed coat

Health Considerations

The Lhasa Apso dog breed is basically very healthy, with such a long breeding history behind it. However, there are certain possible conditions to be aware of;

  •  Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  •  Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

Responsible breeders should get their dogs screened annually for potential eye problems.

Famous Lhasa Apso Dogs

The Lhasa Apso makes an appearance in several television programs and films, such as The Lady and The Tramp (2019), and Princess.

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