These small but powerful dogs were bred for used as guardians in the temples and monasteries of the Tibetan mountains thousands of years ago, but it wasn’t until the Dalai Lama gave the gift of several dogs to Mr. and Mrs. Suydam Cutting of New Jersey in 1933 that the little dog became popular in America. They are a cheerful breed, in some cases, downright clownish at home, but is more aloof with strangers and can tend towards guarding behavior of their food and their toys. Their long, flowing coats require a great deal of maintenance, even when clipped fairly short, and thorough brushing and combing should be done on a daily basis.
The Lhasa Apso breed was developed by the Buddhist monks in the mountains of Tibet to act as sentinels for the temples and monasteries thousands of years ago, and their original lineage is most likely lost to history. Some experts believe them to be descended from the larger Tibetan Terriers, while others believe there may be a northern component to the breed. Recent DNA studies indicate that this little dog is one of the breeds most closely related to their wolf-like ancestors, leading some to conjecture that the Lhasa Apso was actually bred from a variety of mountain wolf. These dogs were bred exclusively by the monks for their ability to withstand the cold, their keen sense of hearing, and the good judgment to determine who was friend and who was foe. They were carefully guarded by the monks from outside influence. They were never sold, but the Dalai Lamas did occasionally present a pair of these elegant dogs to Imperial families and visiting dignitaries. The dogs that were gifted to people outside of the monasteries most likely contributed to several small Chinese dog breeds, such as the Shih-Tzu. These little temple dogs made their first appearance in the United States in 1933 when the 13th Dalai Lama presented a group of the little dogs to Mr. and Mrs. Suydam Cutting of New Jersey. The dogs owned by the Cuttings formed the foundation for the Lhasa Apsos in the United States, and the breed was recognized by the AKC just a few years later in 1935.
The Lhasa Apso is longer than it is tall with a narrow, domed skull and a medium to short muzzle that ends in a small black nose. The fur hangs over the face and frequently hides the small, alert eyes. The ears hang down like pendants and are often highly feathered, and the tail is held in screw shape over the middle of the back and is also covered by long fur, which spills over the hindquarters of the dog. The traditional show coat seen on Lhasa Apso dogs is long, heavy and straight, and it hangs down, covering their face and often reaching down to the ground. They come in many colors, from black to white and anything in between and there are several markings which are recognized as acceptable for this breed. Their elegant coat also requires a great deal of grooming to prevent serious tangles from matting the coat and many Lhasa owners elect to have it trimmed, although even trimmed dogs should be bathed, brushed, and combed on a regular basis.
The distinctive long and elegant coat of the Lhasa Apso requires a great deal of care. Bathing should take place every one or two weeks, and extensive brushing and combing are required on a daily basis. It is important to start training your Lhasa puppy to accept the grooming routine so that they will be more cooperative with the process as adults. The coat should be brushed in layers, and use of an anti-static spray or detangler may be useful before starting on each layer. Many Lhasa Apso owners may choose to have regular professional clipping and grooming completed for their dogs in order to make caring for the coat easier; although this does not eliminate the need for daily grooming, it may reduce the amount of time spend on it each day. These dogs should be walked or exercised daily to maintain their fitness, but they aren’t overly active even in small living spaces. Dental care should also be addressed on a regular basis as this dog’s brachycephalic facial structure and small size may make it more susceptible to dental disease.