The Official American Lhasa Apso Club
to the Breed Standard
The Lhasa Apso standard is an attempt to define an ideal specimen
and is a word pattern by which a Lhasa Apso should be judged. The standard
is not designed for the person who has never seen a Lhasa Apso but meant
as a description for those who are familiar with the breed and dogs
in general. It is important, therefore, to offer a guide, a more in-depth
study of the unique qualities that set the Lhasa Apso apart from other
breeds and, at the same time, capture the concepts that cause Lhasa
Apsos to look alike.
CHARACTER - GAY AND ASSERTIVE, BUT
CHARY OF STRANGERS.
Originating in the lonely and isolated reaches of the Himalayan Mountains,
the Lhasa Apso reflects his Tibetan heritage in manycharacteristic ways.
Relatively unchanged for hundreds of years, these sturdy littlemountain
dogs are fastidious by nature and are guardians especially within their
The Lhasa Apso exhibits a regal attitude when looking his best; seldom
a pet, but rather a companion; often a clown, but never a fool. Historically
in Tibet, his primary function was that of a guardian inside the palace,
where his intelligence, acute hearing and natural instinct for being
able to identify friend from stranger made him well suited for his role.
The Lhasa Apso temperament is unique. His rather independent and
stubborn nature requires patient understanding, and he resists harsh
or strict discipline. He is rather calm and deliberate, although chary
(suspicious) of strangers, a direct reflection of his long-standing
heritage of seclusion in Tibet.
Extremely devoted to family, the Lhasa Apso does not change loyalties
easily and is less protective away from his home environment. Slow to
mature, he does not reach his prime until well into his third or fourth
year. He ages gracefully and keeps a youthful appearance and attitude
well into his teens.
SIZE - VARIABLE, BUT ABOUT
10 OR 11 INCHES AT SHOULDER FOR DOGS, BITCHES SLIGHTLY SMALLER.
The height of the Lhasa Apso is variable. The use of the word "about"
allows variation, ideally between 10 and 11 inches. "Bitches slightly
smaller" refers to those feminine characteristics which distinguish
bitches easily from males rather than simply to height.
The standard's request for a Lhasa of 10 or 11 inches at shoulders
dictates a dog whose bone is in proportion to his height and weight.
A reflection of his heritage and origin as a breed accustomed to the
mountainous and rugged terrain of Tibet, he is agile and capable of
maneuvering; there should be no hint of massive bone or body.
The Lhasa Apso is a dog of moderation. Not only is height a factor
in the breed, but consideration must also be given to weight, proportion
and length of body, for these all contribute to the final overall balance.
The Lhasa Apso in proper weight and condition will be of good hard flesh,
well muscled and neither too fat nor too thin, although a tendency to
leanness is not uncommon in the young Lhasa Apso, slow to mature.
COLOR - ALL
COLORS EQUALLY ACCEPTABLE WITH OR WITHOUT DARK TIPS TO EARS AND BEARD.
All colors equally acceptable, with or without dark tips to ears
- THE LENGTH FROM POINT OF SHOULDER TO POINT OF BUTTOCKS LONGER THAN
HEIGHT OF WITHERS, WELL-RIBBED UP, STRONG LOIN, WELL-DEVELOPED QUARTERS
When viewed from the side, the Lhasa Apso silhouette is that of a
well-balanced dog, possessing a level backline without exaggeration
of body parts. Body length is measured specifically longer than height
at withers. The most acceptable range of height to length ratio is between
30 and 35 percent, or about one-third longer than height at withers.
It is important that a rectangular profile be maintained without excessive
length of body.
That the standard calls for a well-ribbed up Lhasa Apso is often
misconstrued as a request for a full, rounded or barrel-shaped rib cage,
but this is not the correct meaning of "well-ribbed up." Rather, this
expression is used to describe a long rib that by nature will extend
well back toward the loin area. This longer rib carries less curvature
than a shorter rib and will provide for a flatter side of body and a
The loin is the area of the back from the last rib to the point of
pelvis. A strong loin, coupled with a long rib cage, is essential for
efficient movement with a level backline. A smooth, free-flowing gait,
when trotting, is correct. The legs move parallel, coming and going,
with a tendency to converge as the dog increases speed. The front foot
contacts the ground well forward; restriction of reach and a mincing
of gait is not desirable. Strong, well-developed rear quarters should
provide good drive. The rear legs should reach under the body and push
out well behind, carrying the body forward in balance with the front;
going away, the pads of the rear feet give evidence of good follow through,
but exaggerated kickup is undesirable.
The neck is strong and well-proportioned, rising smoothly from the
shoulders and carrying the head with an air of assertiveness. As the
Lhasa Apso moves and increases speed, there is a tendency for the head
to be extended slightly toward the line of travel.
COAT - HEAVY,
STRAIGHT, HARD, NOT WOOLY OR SILKY, OF GOOD LENGTH AND VERY DENSE.
One of the most distinguishing features of the Lhasa Apso is the
beautiful cloak of hair, parted in the middle and draping to each side
from head to tail. "Heavy," "straight," and "hard" are words that bring
to mind a definite visual as well as tactile connotation. Heavy implies
not light or fine or flyaway; strong, resilient hair with a moderate
amount of undercoat is desirable. When lifted out from the body, it
will fall immediately back and blend in with the rest of the coat. Heavy
hair must be hard in texture, so that when it is rubbed between the
fingers, individual hairs will be felt. The straightness (or lack of
it) is apparent at a glance. To assess heaviness and hardness of coat,
one must touch it. The coat should not be wiry or rough to the touch.
The adjectives "wooly" or "silky" are self-explanatory and are not
typical of the breed. "Of good length" denotes ample length, substantial
but not exaggerated. The coat length must be adequate for the purpose
of protection notwithstanding ease of maintenance, yet give the appearance
of luxurious beauty in the show ring. The good headfall and well-feathered
feet and legs requested in our standard protected this small dog against
extreme temperatures and rough terrain of his native land. Because of
their late-blooming maturity, the Lhasa Apso may be two or three years
of age before the adult coat reaches the ground. Excessive trimming,
and/or sculpturing is to be discouraged.
MOUTH AND MUZZLE - THE PREFERRED
BITE IS EITHER LEVEL OR SLIGHTLY UNDERSHOT. MUZZLE OF MEDIUM LENGTH;
A SQUARE MUZZLE IS OBJECTIONABLE.
The muzzle is of medium length, bearing in mind the desired one to
two ratio (1:2) of muzzle to skull. The muzzle is neither turned up,
nor down-faced; in other words, the planes are parallel when viewed
in profile. The top of the muzzle is on a line with or slightly below
the bottom of the eye; it should be blunt but never square. The underjaw
should be strong and visible from a frontal view, without any indication
of snippiness; accordingly, the shape of the muzzle and prominence of
lower jaw contribute to the proper expression.
The preferred bite is either level or slightly undershot.
A scissors bite, while not desirable,
is not a serious fault.
An undershot bite with canines visible when the mouth is closed
is not desirable. Adequate width of the lower jaw, with a full compliment
of incisors, contributes to proper expression.
HEAD - HEAVY HEAD FURNISHINGS
WITH GOOD FALL OVER EYES, GOOD WHISKERS AND BEARD, SKULL NARROW - FALLING
AWAY BEHIND EYES IN A MARKED DEGREE, NOT QUITE FLAT, BUT NOT DOMED OR
APPLE-SHAPED; STRAIGHT FOREFACE OF FAIR LENGTH, NOSE BLACK, THE LENGTH
FROM TIP OF NOSE TO EYE TO BE ROUGHLY ABOUT ONE-THIRD OF THE TOTAL LENGTH
FROM NOSE TO BACK OF SKULL.
The Lhasa Apso head must be regarded as very important. The distinct
expression of the Lhasa Apso is enhanced by the standard's request for
heavy head furnishings which includes muzzle furnishings and beard,
its length and density in proportion to the head fall. The long headfall
over the eyes is commonly brushed to the sides when being shown, enabling
the dog to see better. Artificial means, such as bands and/or barrettes,
to hold back the hair should never be used in the conformation ring.
The skull shape is narrow and, although not quite flat, it should
not be domed or apple-shaped. Well-placed ears, at eye level, will accentuate
the narrow head. An earset that is higher than eye level can mislead
one into assuming the skull is broad.
The foreface of the Lhasa Apso is straight. This means not roman
nosed or dish faced. The length from the outer tip of the nose to eye
is roughly one third the total length from the tip of nose to back of
skull or occiput and can be expressed as a one to two ratio (1:2). The
muzzle meets the backskull at a moderate angle, forming a shallow stop
when viewed in profile.
The standard's request for "nose black" eliminates any possibility
of self color liver pigment being correct. Full depth of pigmentation
is extremely important in the Lhasa Apso. Dark pigment on eye rims,
lips and nose are essential for good expression.
EYES - DARK
BROWN, NEITHER VERY LARGE AND FULL NOR VERY SMALL AND SUNK.
The darkness of the eye and its medium size help give the Lhasa Apso
the desired softness of expression. The eye should be somewhat frontally
placed, oval in shape, and should not be prominent. The iris should
fill the eye with "minimal" white showing.
EARS - PENDANT, HEAVILY FEATHERED.
The ears of the Lhasa Apso are pendant, hanging close to the head,
and are heavily feathered. Ears that are placed well back on the skull
and ideally set near eye level, will compliment the standard's request
for a narrow skull.
LEGS - FORELEGS
STRAIGHT, BOTH FORELEGS AND HIND LEGS HEAVILY FURNISHED WITH HAIR.
There should be no discussion of the front legs without mention of
the shoulder assembly. The lengths from point of shoulder to elbow and
point of shoulder to withers are equal. Proper shoulder placement is
essential for support and balance, with smooth transition from neck
to backline, and prominent prosternum. From elbow to pastern the leg
should appear straight when viewed from the front. The feet may, however,
turn out slightly, when viewed from the side, the pasterns are slightly
let down. The rear construction of the Lhasa Apso is that of normal
canine structure, with adequate angulation and placement, hocks perpendicular
to the ground and slightly behind the buttocks. The front and rear angulation
should be in balance, providing well-matched reach and drive.
FEET - WELL-FEATHERED,
SHOULD BE ROUND AND CATLIKE, WITH GOOD PADS.
The feet are well-rounded with thick pads. They are heavily furnished
with hair between the toes. The hair may be trimmed for neatness. Dew
claws may be removed.
TAIL AND CARRIAGE
- WELL-FEATHERED, SHOULD BE CARRIED WELL OVER BACK IN A SCREW; THERE
MAY BE A KINK AT THE END. A LOW CARRIAGE OF STERN IS A SERIOUS FAULT.
The Lhasa Apso has a tail set high enough to enable the tail to be
carried well over the back. Carriage of tail may be dependent on attitude
as well as structure. In the standard, reference is made to "a low carriage
of stern is a serious fault." This means the tail should be up and carried
well over the back under normal circumstances. When moving, a Lhasa
Apso should carry the tail well over the back, to indicate that the
tail can be carried high, but may drop the tail when standing or otherwise
bored; the tail should, however, immediately flip up over the back as
soon as the Lhasa Apso moves. It should be noted that the tail is not
always carried in a screw but is often carried well over the back in
a curl lying to the side. A kink is not uncommon in the Lhasa Apso's
tail. The tail should be well-feathered with long hair.