First trained in the Tibetan monasteries as sentinels who alert the monks of intruders, the dog lhasa apso is a very alert breed, with a highly-developed sense of hearing and a loud bark. Like the basenji dog of Congo, it is loyal to its closest masters and extremely wary of strangers. It is named after Tibet’s capital city, Lhasa, and the Tibetan word “apso”, meaning “bearded”. Thus the name literally means “bearded dog of Lhasa”. Indeed the breed exhibits a very dense, heavy coat, probably an adaptation to the cold temperatures of the Tibetan mountains where some monasteries are located.
The size of the dog lhasa apso makes it a cute pet, and indeed it strives to please its owner. But its burglar alarm-like character is what makes it a prized guardian of the house. It works well with larger dogs, alerting them of the presence of an intruder or enemy. It has a high sense of obedience, devotedness and affection, but is never a weakling. It is a hardy breed. Occasionally, some dogs of this breed develop the attitude of leadership over humans. Thus it is not surprising if they exert much effort to get their owners’ attention, becoming irritating at times. The breed is also not very friendly towards children.
The dog lhasa apso has been depicted as a girlie pet, groomed extravagantly with ribbons and clips to keep its double-coated hair in place. Indeed its small size makes it a favorite among women, not knowing that the breed is revered by Tibetans. This is not to say that modern pop culture has degraded the status of the breed, but has, in effect, simply transformed its image into a much more affectionate one. A dog of this breed is not hard to love, as its attachment to its human owners can be very enjoyable to observe.
Its long coat of fur primarily distinguished the dog lhasa apso from other breeds. The coat needs daily combing to keep it in good condition. Hair fall is frequent, given the two coats the breed exhibits. Whereas the outer coat does not shed much hair, the inner coat does, and this may pose a threat to people with asthma. As with other dogs, it needs a daily walk, but a moderate amount of space is enough for its playtime requirements. This however should not stop the owner from exposing it to large spaces.
Early socialization and obedience training is important. Training given to a lhasa apso at an advanced age may cause problems between it and its owner, for, as mentioned earlier, it tends to assert itself to the point of becoming aggressive. It must also be remembered that a dog of this breed bond to one person only, perhaps a few, so several people training it may not be a very good idea.