Welcome to the wonderful world
by Dorothy Kendall, Orlane Lhasa Apsos
Having lived with and enjoyed the Lhasa Apsos for
almost thirty years, you might think I would be prejudiced about their
character. You would be right, of course, because there is nothing like
spending time with dogs to get to know them better - but I must add
in my defense that I've been associated with a lot of breeds over the
years as an all-breed professional handler, groomer and breeder.
What makes the Lhasa Apso different? Most medium and
small dogs (and I don't mean Toy size) have a tendency to be busy, to
be anxious, and to depend on their owners for reassurance and lots of
attention. Some dog lovers like this, and need the constant demonstration
of their pet's undying adoration ... others prefer a companion that
isn't always clinging, climbing on them, or pushing for attention.
Lhasas, with their typical Oriental inscrutability,
seem to be observers as much as participants in their daily routines
... but don't let them fool you, they know exactly what is going on
and seldom miss a cue! They are quiet, and very clean in their habits,
being easy to housebreak even as young puppies - they are also quickly
locked into routine, and dislike disruption of daily habits. Being of
a suspicious nature by virtue of their origins, Lhasas tend to question
your motives - and can be rather stubborn about their likes and dislikes.
Crediting you with the common sense any good Lhasa has, they consider
you their equal - unless you are so foolish as to demand (what they
consider) something unreasonable from them; then you may have a battle
of wills on your hands! This is why it's so important to determine who
is the "leader of the pack" in the early months of your Lhasa's
life - because they are quick to learn, and have long memories, you
must establish dominance at a very early age, or you might become just
another pack member subservient to their demands!
Lhasas have gotten a bad rap from the Veterinarian
and Grooming Shop community today - they forget that many of their clients
came from Pet Shops, where temperament was probably not considered a
priority; this breed does not adapt itself well to kennel confinement.
They need close human contact, and most serious breeders today have
made a concerted effort to eliminate any hint of aggressiveness from
their breeding animals. Lhasa babies are adorable, and should love people,
even strangers; avoid a puppy that hides or cowers under things, urinates
when picked up, or jumps out of its skin when touched.
Starting with a puppy gives you an opportunity to
teach him respect from the beginning - respect for your wishes, and
respect for other people. There are excellent "Kinder Puppy Training"
classes in many areas, a wealth of written material on behavioral training
available, and the advice of the breeder from whom you get your puppy.
Harsh or painful methods of training just don't work on the Lhasa -
they will rebel and fight back; but love and consistent discipline will
earn their undying adoration. Take the time to learn how to train your
puppy, and you will be rewarded for years to come, for they are very
long lived breed.
Like any long coated dog, Lhasas require grooming
- a task that requires discipline on your part - a commitment to groom
on a weekly basis, even when you don't feel like it. There is no magic
formula of shampoos, detanglers, or special equipment needed; just the
determination to keep ahead of tangling or matting. A large pin brush,
small cushioned slicker brush, and a wide toothed metal comb are the
basics ... a table dryer speeds up the job, but a hand dryer can be
used. People shampoos are the wrong PH for dogs, and any shampoo should
be mild, never a harsh detergent. Avoid heavy, sticky conditioners which
can gum up a coat - less is better than more. Once a week too much?
There are many attractive clips that offer the convenience of wash-and-wear
comfort for your little shaggy friend.
Nothing is more disgusting, and even dangerous to
your Lhasa's health, than a dirty, matted coat over numerous skin problems.
Mats are caused by scratching, and scratching is caused by an itch ...
what causes the itch? As Shakespeare said, "Therein lies the rub!";
you must find and eliminate the itch if you are to have a beautiful
coat on your Lhasa, and this is not always an easy task. Fleas are a
major source of problems, but are easily identified, and can be eliminated
- no matter where you live, you can have a flea-free environment, regardless
of what you've been told.* Bacteria and Fungi are another source of
itches, but like Sarcoptic Mange, rarely present a problem unless the
animal is debilitated, and has a poor immune response. Allergies are
usually the response to flea infestations or poor diet, but may tend
to run in certain bloodlines - these can be difficult and expensive
to treat. It's important that breeders strive for correct straight and
hard coats that are easily managed, and buyers should look for those
puppies with flat, sleek coats rather than the fluffy little puff-balls.
The History of the Lhasa Apso is fascinating, from
its inception over 2000 years ago in the remote and mysterious Himalayan
Mountains. The rigors of climate and altitude required a small or medium
size animal with a harsh, protective outercoat over a softer insulating
undercoat- and a compact, muscular body surprisingly strong for its
size. The Lhasa slept with his family for warmth (many of their herd
animals slept in the same room), and the Tibetan nomadic life-style
made "survival of the fittest" more than a theory. Strangers
were few, encountered with grave watchfulness rather than aggressiveness,
and this characteristic is still seen in the Breed today.
There has been a great deal of research on the history
and background of the Lhasa Apso, from books and letters, and word of
mouth. People have visited the AKC Library and looked for pedigrees
on all the original imports, with Reg. Numbers - and found some missing,
and other discrepancies or confusion between dogs with the same names.
Some of the Lhasas were traced to imports from England, registered as
Shih Tzus - which are currently behind some of the Shih Tzus of today.
The early California lines of La Sa Gre and Glen Pines used these dogs
in their breeding programs, and produced small, refined gold dogs with
straight legs and shorter backs ... rather untypical of the heavier
bodied and bow-legged Shih Tzu then seen. One early import of Hamilton
Farms, Ch. Tatsienlu, who sired many of their top winners, was registered
as a Tibetan Terrier through Shanghai, China - so any claim to a "pure"
line can only refer to those breeders who have isolated their bloodlines
from others, and only used dogs from within their own program. Some
of those same imports behind both Lhasas and Shih Tzus were probably
responsible for the happy, outgoing temperaments seen uniformly in bloodlines
I'm sure the Tibetans themselves with their many different
but similar breeds, didn't have strict line-breeding practices in their
2000 year history; this coupled with the fact that many of these small
dogs were carried between China and Tibet as gifts, contributed to the
genetic pool. American breeders of the Lhasa Apso in the past forty
years have been surprised to find the genes for smooth coats popping
up in litters of fully coated siblings (resembling Tibetan Spaniels);
and occasionally the "giant" occurs, that is 16" or more
in height! I've seen the advertisement placed in the Westminster Catalog
of 1954, 1955, and 1956 that offered puppies for sale "... from
10 to 13 inches" in size. These facts only reinforce my belief
that the Lhasa Apso is a combination of genetic influences, likely brought
about by their Tibetan environment. Dr. Marley (long time breeder) has
done an excellent article on the Lhasa Apso, entitled "Made in
Tibet", which explores the physiological effect that climate produces
on the dog, and the Lhasa Apso in particular..
Whatever genetic makeup went into creating our current
Lhasas, breeders have now established pure lines of true-breeding little
dogs, and any attempt to introduce one line as superior to another by
virtue of its background or history seems rather self-serving. We must
give credit to those early fanciers who went to the expense and effort
to bring in the first Lhasa Apsos, for upon those foundations were built
the beginnings of the breed as we know them today. How fortunate for
My perception of the Lhasa Apso is that of a silhouette
first (because of the beautiful coat draped from head to toe), and then
the balance of length of body to leg length, and then to tail set-on
and head carriage. The head is unique, and very important to correct
type ... and should never be long nosed or Terrier in Type, and must
be free of coarseness in skull. Big round eyes are as incorrect as small,
beady slitted eyes ... and the mouth should be level, or slightly undershot
with a jaw wide enough to hold full dentition. A scissors bite is not
correct for this breed. The Lhasa should have a "soft" expression
- not downfaced, or snipy - with one third muzzle to two thirds skull.
This is not a long-backed breed, just longer than tall, and should not
appear "dumpy" or low to the ground. Their size is ideal for
family life - 11" in height at the wither, and about 14 to 18 lbs.
is the norm; we don't want to get them too large to fit under our arm,
but never toyish or fragile and subject to bone and joint problems.
All in all, a moderate little dog with a sturdy constitution, and an
intelligent friend of the family.