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The Lhasa Apso is a small, non-sporting dog known for its long, silky, dense coat which (unless groomed otherwise) flows to the floor. Named after Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet and “apso” (meaning bearded), its name literally means “bearded Lhasa dog.
Their coat is long, straight and dense, though they are considered to be only light shedders. Because of their unique coat, they need to be brushed each day and be professionally groomed every 6-8 weeks. Lhasa Apsos come in many colours, including black, white, red, gold, or a mix.
A healthy Lhasa Apso weighs around 6 – 7 kg and stands at 25 – 28 cm tall (though females can be lighter and/or shorter). They usually live between 13 and 15 years, but some can live more than 18 years.
Playtime will use up a lot of the Lhasa’s energy, but it still needs to be taken for a daily walk for both physical and mental stimulation.
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Lhasa Apsos are well suited to both large homes and small apartments. They are friendly, energetic and intelligent dogs, but their stubborn nature may interfere with training.
Because they can be moody, possessive and do not like to be teased, they are not recommended for families with young children.
It is important not to let the dog develop Small Dog Syndrome, in which humans allow it to get away with things they would not allow a larger dog to, such as jumping, simply because it is small.
Any behavioural issues (for example, separation anxiety) are learned and not innate in the Lhasa Apso. To prevent the dog developing behavioural problems, ensure it gets enough exercise and mental stimulation and it is not left alone for long periods of time.
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As its name suggest, the Lhasa Apso originated near the city of Lhasa in Tibet, where they were bred as watchdogs and companions for Buddhist monks. They were bred specifically to maintain their lion-like colouring and shape. Since they are naturally smart, alert, have a great sense of hearing and could easily tell the difference between friend and enemy, they were perfectly suited to protect the Tibetan monasteries.
According to legend, when a monk died but failed to reach Nirvana, he was reincarnated as a Lhasa Apso to protect and serve the monastery. Furthermore, between the 1500s and 1900s, Dalai Lamas gifted Lhasa Apsos to Chinese dignitaries as tokens of peace and good luck. It is probable that the breeds of Shih Tzu and the Pekingese arose out of crossbreeding the Lhasa Apso with Chinese dogs.
Prior to the 1930s, the Lhasa Apso and its larger cousin, the Tibetan Terrier, were both called “Tibetan Terriers”, causing confusion when looking into the Lhasa’s history.
Lhasa Apsos remained within Tibet for centuries and it was not until around the beginning of the 20th century that they were bred seriously in other countries. In WWI, Lhasa Apsos all but disappeared, until their numbers were slowly rebuilt thanks to English breeders.