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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The Apso, as he’s known in his homeland of Tibet, is dignified yet mischievous. His alert and somewhat suspicious nature make him an excellent watchdog, and indeed that was his purpose for centuries. He has a long, flowing coat that requires extensive grooming.
Lhasa Apsos were first bred 2,000 years ago by Buddhist monks in and around Tibet. The monks believed that when the Lhasa’s owner died, if he was not ready for Nirvana his soul would be reincarnated in the dog’s body.
Manipulative. Dignified. Mischievous. Tough. All of those words describe the lovely Lhasa Apso. The breed’s name means “bark lion sentinel dog,” a reference to his purpose as an alarm dog for Buddhist monks as well as to his “lionlike” appearance. The Lhasa is not a fearful dog by any means, but he is cautious. Lhasas are thinkers and they like to study people and situations thoroughly before accepting them. They have a moderate activity level and their size makes them suited to any home, from an apartment to a palace.
The sturdy Lhasa Apso once lived as a monastery watchdog in Tibet and is still a good watchdog today. Toward strangers, he is suspicious. This is not a dog who will invite the burglar in and show him where to find the silver. He is affectionate with family members, but independent enough that he doesn’t need constant attention.
The Lhasa pegs his activity level to that of his family. Exercise is good for him, though, so make sure he gets some activity daily. A brief walk is a good way to get him out and about, but he will also enjoy playtime in the home.
The Lhasa can be a wonderful family companion if children are old enough to treat him with respect. He is not a breed that will put up patiently with having his ears, tail, or hair pulled.
Pleasing his people is not high on the Lhasa’s list of goals in life. Lhasas are smart, but they can also be stubborn and independent. Train them with patience and positive reinforcement techniques, and be firm and consistent in what you ask of them. This is a breed that is easily bored. Keep training sessions short and fun.
That said, there are Lhasas who compete successfully in agility, rally and obedience trials. At least one Lhasa has achieved a Utility Dog title. If you have a Lhasa who is motivated by praise, attention, and applause, these sports can be a fun way to spend time with your dog. Lhasas with outgoing personalities are popular therapy dogs, providing a dose of Lhasa love to hospital patients and residents of nursing homes.
If you are looking for a dog with an easy-care coat, it’s safe to say that the Lhasa Apso is not the right choice. That glamorous Lhasa you see sweeping around the show ring is the product of endless hours of grooming. For a pet, expect to brush and comb the long, straight, heavy coat at least every other day. Pet Lhasas can be kept clipped short, but that still means frequent professional grooming. Neglected coats become tangled and matted, which is painful and can lead to serious skin infections. A Lhasa needs a bath at least every two to three weeks; his nails need to be trimmed and ears cleaned every week or as needed. And don't forget to brush his teeth.
Speaking of coat, you may have heard that the Lhasa does not shed like shorthaired dogs, making it a "non-allergenic" breed, but that's not correct. It's a dog's dander -- flakes of skin – that triggers allergic reactions, not the coat. Because their coats have a longer growth cycle than those of dogs with the more typical canine "double coat," Lhasas may shed less, which means less dander in the environment and sometimes fewer allergic reactions. But they still produce dander and can still cause an allergic reactions. Avoid breeders who tell you their dogs are "non-allergenic."
It goes without saying that the Lhasa Apso, which was bred exclusively as a companion dog, needs to live in the house and never outdoors.
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The cold and mountainous country of Tibet has produced several interesting dog breeds. Three of them — the Lhasa Apso, the Tibetan Terrier, and the Tibetan Spaniel — very likely have a common ancestor. In earlier times, the Lhasa and the Tibetan Terrier were sometimes considered to be the same breed, but eventually they were separated by height, with the taller dog becoming the Tibetan Terrier and the shorter the Lhasa Apso.
In his homeland, the Lhasa was kept by people of nobility and presented as gifts to dignitaries and foreign rulers. That is how some of the first Lhasas came to the United States. In 1933, a pair was presented to naturalist C. Suydam Cutting by his friend the 13th Dalai Lama. Cutting brought them back, and the rest is history.
The Lhasa became the first of the Tibetan breeds to be registered with the American Kennel Club, in 1935. At first he was classified as a Terrier but later designated as a Non-Sporting breed. These days, he is fairly popular, ranking 62nd among the dogs recognized by the AKC.
The perfect Lhasa doesn’t come ready-made from the breeder. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, countersurfing, and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained, or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 10 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an Apso, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
In Lhasas, health problems include hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, juvenile renal disease, intervertebral disc disease and eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, dry eye, and glaucoma. Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding.
Not all of these conditions have screening tests, but the breeder should be able to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have OFA hip and patella (knee) clearances and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. If a breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Lhasa at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
If you are looking for a dog with an easy-care coat, it’s safe to say that the Lhasa Apso is not the right choice. That glamorous Lhasa you see sweeping around the show ring is the product of endless hours of grooming. Even if your Lhasa will be a pet, his long coat will still need regular care.
For a pet, expect to brush and comb the long, straight, heavy coat daily. When you brush, be sure you get all the way down to the skin. If you just go over the top of the coat you’ll miss many mats and tangles. Your dog’s breeder can show you the best techniques to use. The American Lhasa Apso Club also has good grooming advice.
Pet Lhasas can be kept clipped short, but that still means frequent professional grooming. Neglected coats become tangled and matted, which is painful and can lead to serious skin infections. A Lhasa needs a bath at least every two to three weeks. The good news is that he doesn’t shed much, but you will still find a few hairs here and there.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Small dogs are prone to periodontal disease so brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Lhasa and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the American Lhasa Apso Club (ALAC). Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ALAC’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Many reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Lhasa puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Lhasa might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Lhasa Apso in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Lhasa Apsos available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Lhasa Apso. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Lhasa Apsos love all Lhasa Apsos. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Lhasa Apso Club's rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Lhasa Apso rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Lhasa home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Lhasa, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Lhasa to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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