The Official American Lhasa Apso Club
Annotated Guide 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 many characteristic ways. Relatively unchanged for hundreds of years, these sturdy little mountain dogs are fastidious by nature and are guardians especially within their domain.
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 and beard.
BODY SHAPE - THE LENGTH FROM POINT OF SHOULDER TO POINT OF BUTTOCKS LONGER THAN HEIGHT OF WITHERS, WELL-RIBBED UP, STRONG LOIN, WELL-DEVELOPED QUARTERS AND THIGHS.
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 deeper brisket.
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.