The Lhasa Apso is a small breed of companion dog originating from Tibet. It is one of the most popular breeds here at Yorkshire Vets. In fact, Lhasas are the seventh most common breed we see across our surgeries. To find out more about the breed, and its suitability for your family, read on below.
The Lhasa Apso is a small breed that usually weighs between 5 – 6.5kg (females) and 6.5 – 8kg (males). They are more sturdy than they may at first appear, with a robust but compact frame. Their most notable feature is their distinctive coat. As the breed originates from the Himalayan mountains of Tibet, they have a double-layered coat, with a warm under coat and a protective outer coat. The outer coat is less like typical dog hair and more like human hair. Because of this, it will continue to grow and not shed in the same way as most dog fur. This characteristic makes Lhasas more likely to suit those with dog allergies. It does, however, mean that Lhasas require regular grooming.
First bred by Tibetan monks to guard their monasteries, Lhasa Apsos are loyal towards their family, but are often wary of strangers. The personality of a Lhasa often belies its size, with the breed often displaying a boisterous and energetic character. Because of this, they need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to maintain a healthy body and mind. They can be stubborn and require consistent training early in their life, so may not be suitable for novice dog owners. They can also be habitual barkers, though careful training can minimise this in most cases. It is important to provide plenty of socialisation with other dogs at as early an age as possible, as unsocialised Lhasas can exhibit aggression towards other dogs. The breed is typically an excellent family dog, bonding well with children. A low prey drive also makes them well suited to a multi-pet household.
Lhasa Apsos typically have a slightly above average lifespan, with an average life expectancy of 12-14 years. It is not uncommon, however, to find much older examples. There have even been Lhasas that have made it into their 20s! As with most breeds, Lhasas are prone to a number of health problems. These include progressive retinal atrophy, which is a degenerative eye condition that results in blindness. They are also prone to a number of other eye conditions, including cherry eye and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye). The breed is prone suffering from a skin condition called sebaceous adenitis, which causes the dog’s immune system to attack its sebaceous glands.
As previously mentioned, Buddist monks in Tibet first developed the Lhasa Apso. They were primarily developed as guard dogs, working within monasteries and alerting the monks of any intruders. The breed became domesticated as far back as 800BC, making them one of the oldest recognised dog breeds in the world. Curiously, despite appearances, DNA research suggests that the Lhasa is one of the breeds most closely related to the wolf. There is some indication that Lhasas were being bred in the UK as early as 1854, though the lack of distinction between the Lhasa and the Tibetan Terrier at the time clouds this issue somewhat. To begin with, the breed was known as the Lhasa Terrier in the UK but was renamed the Lhasa Apso in 1970. The breed is now one of the most popular breeds in the UK, but are relatively rare in modern Tibet.