Kailasa Lhasa Apsos - Western Australia


Judging the Lhasa Apso

By Kerrie Mansell

Breed standards, one imagines, are written as guides to the conformation and characteristics of a breed in its original or authentic form. They are or should be a blueprint and benchmark which breeders should endeavour to attain in their stock and by which judges can measure and evaluate a breed. Of course, the first Lhasa Apsos to arrive in the western world, did not come with a written standard and it was Lionel Jacob, an expert in Indian dogs, who set down the first 'description and standard of points' in the Kennel Gazette and Dog Owners Annual in 1901. However, the UK Kennel Club has revised the standard a number of times since this first description. Lhasa Apsos in Australia are judged in accordance with the Pre 1987 London Kennel Club standard, Australia rejecting the latest revision.

The Lhasa Apso should give the appearance of a well balanced, solid dog.

What does it mean to be well balanced? This may well refer to what is determined as 'pleasing to the eye', something that is aesthetically acceptable, has symmetry and certain proportions. So we are not looking for a dog that may be perceived as extreme or exaggerated in any way; no long giraffe neck, no ultra short back or over angulated rear. In looking for a 'solid dog', the breed should present itself as a hardy little dog capable of surviving the rigors of a harsh environment like Tibet, its homeland.

Gay, assertive, but chary of strangers.

Whilst this may appear as contradictory, it tells the judge a lot about how this breed should be approached. The Lhasa Apso may well come into the show ring appearing confident and very self contained. However, the dog that is assured with its owner, may not greet the judge, a stranger, in the same manner. In fact, the Lhasa Apso is reserved and cautious with newcomers. They are a calculating and intelligent breed, happy or 'gay' with the ones they know and careful or 'chary' of others. Please do not dive on them on the table or the ground. Respect that wariness and judge them accordingly.

(Refer characteristics)

This has been covered in the breed CHARACTERISTICS. The Lhasa Apso is a dog which appears comfortable with his owner but somewhat guarded about those he doesn't know. However, given time (beyond those few minutes you have in the ring) this dog will come around and if you are 'worthy' accept you as a new friend.

Heavy head furnishings with good fall over the eyes, good whiskers and beard. Skull moderately narrow, falling away behind the eyes in a marked degree, not quite flat, but not domed or apple headed. Straight foreface with medium stop. Nose black. Muzzle about 3.8cm (1 ins) long but not square, the length from tip of nose to be roughly one third the total length from nose to back of skull.

The Lhasa Apsos's head is a very important and distinguishing feature of the breed. The skull and muzzle proportions equal two to one, i.e. the muzzle is roughly one third the length of skull and muzzle combined, from nose to the occiput. Approaching the head, note the muzzle, appearing rectangular in shape (the narrowest sides of the rectangle being the horizontal) when frontally viewed. The foreface tapers very slightly. However, it is not snipey or foxy in any way. The black nose is positioned approximately level with the lower rim of the eye. A 'down face' is untypical. Check for a moderate or medium stop before arriving at the skull, which is clearly described as 'moderately narrow' and 'not quite flat'. Find a deep or defined stop and you will more than likely find the accompanying domed skull which is not typical of this breed. The round and broad skull characteristic of the Lhasa Apso's Chinese cousin, the Shih Tzu, should also be discouraged. Much discussion has occurred over the years in relation to the 'falling away behind the eyes in a marked degree'. The late Frances Sefton explained this in reference to looking at the head in profile where it 'rises slightly through the stop', and then recedes noticeably behind the eyebrow ridges, the cranium itself being almost flat, to a distinct bony crest at the back of the skull. Viewed from the front, the top of the cranium itself can be seen to be 'narrower than the width at the level of the eyes'. Lastly, the heavy head fall, whiskers and beard finish the head; the fall parted and in his native Tibet, capable of giving protection to the eyes from snow, glare, blizzards and dust.

Dark, medium sized to be frontally placed, not large or full or small and sunk. No white showing at base or top of eye.

By dark eye, the judge should be looking for a dark brown eye which might appear oval or almost almond shaped. Frontally placed in a 'moderately narrow' skull, the eyes and their bony surrounds present the widest part of the Lhasa Apso's skull. In considering a circular pupil and iris, with no white at either base or top, a mental picture of the correct shape may be obtained. The Lhasa Apso's eye is not prominent, round or bulging. Not mentioned in the Standard, but often of curiosity, are the long eyelashes which hold the headfall away from the eye itself and historically functioned as a protective feature against ice or dust that could damage the eyes.

Pendant, heavily feathered. Dark tips an asset.

Once again, the Lhasa Apsos ears would have traditionally functioned as a protective feature, heavily feathered to guard against environmental hazards. There is no mention of the Lhasa Apso's ear set but as they appear to frame the face, they should not be high set to appear above the crown of the skull or even level creating a flat skulled look. They are set below the top of the skull, slightly above the level of the eyes. Whatever the colour, the dark tips are usually present. However, the colour description for the breed permits all colours except liver, so this aspect may not appear with some self colour genes.

Upper incisors should close just inside the lower ,i.e. a reverse scissor bite Incisors should be nearly in a straight line. Full dentition is desirable.

Here, this breed deviates from the 'normal' canine bite. The 'nearly' straight line describing the placement of the incisors, does not suggest that the canines follow suit. The wide jaw belongs to the Shih Tzu. Whilst there is no mention of the lower lip, the reverse scissors bite displays the lower lip, made noticeable through good pigmentation.

Strong, well covered with a dense mane which is more pronounced in dogs than in bitches.

Note here the mention of 'strong', not 'long'. There is no requirement either for a 'sloping neck', a 'swan neck' or anything other. However, consider the recommendation for shoulders to be 'well laid back' and clearly, the correct neck can neither be short or 'stuffy'.

Shoulder should be well laid back . Forelegs straight, heavily furnished with hair.

In determining lay of shoulder or the angle which would produce ideal movement, a degree of 45 to 50 in relation to the horizontal axis , should be the aim. The correct angulation gives the necessary 'reach' rather than 'lift' in fore movement. The upper arm should be equal in length to the shoulder. The Lhasa Apso should not be loose or out at elbow. The chest will reach to the elbow and although there is no mention of this in the Standard, this dog, originating in mountainous regions, needed a chest capacity to accommodate the necessary heart and lung space necessary for high altitude living. A good fore chest and brisket is also needed in a dog from the mountains. The dog is neither 'slab sided' nor barrel ribbed. Once again, remember the idea of a 'moderate' dog. The forelegs should be straight with feet neither turning in or out.

The length from point of shoulder to point of buttocks greater than height at withers. Well ribbed up. Level topline. Strong loin. Well balanced and compact.

The Standard clearly sets out a body shape which is rectangular rather than square. This is further supported by the specification to be 'well ribbed up'. This term needs to be understood in relation to ribs extending well back, that is, a long rib cage. Whilst the loin is described as 'strong', there is no requirement for this to be 'long' as well. So the ideal Lhasa Apso cannot be short backed nor long coupled. Visually, the Lhasa Apso's body presents itself as appearing longer than tall. The length should be evaluated from measuring from point of shoulder to point of buttocks.

Well developed with good muscle. Good angulation. Heavily furnished. The hocks when viewed from behind should be parallel and not too close together.

A rugged little dog built for mountainous terrain would not survive with a pelvic tilt which sets the back legs way out beyond the root of the tail. Long hocks would not give the dog a strong rear or the necessary agility to move about in his native land, rather, they should be well let down. The Lhasa Apso's rear is well muscled with well developed quarters and thighs. The dog should not be straight stifled. However, there should not be the 'waste' of movement associated with an over angulated rear.

Round and 'cat like', with good pads. Well feathered.

The Lhasa Apso's feet should be round not hare shaped. They are well feathered or covered with hair, a protection against the snow in its native Tibet. Whilst hair also grows between the firm pads, this is usually trimmed flush with the pads.

High set, carried well over the back and not like a pot-hook. There is often a kink at the end. Well feathered.

The Lhasa Apso's tail is distinct from the Shih Tzu, which is more like the pot hook and carried 'gaily'. The tail is carried well over the back so that the feathering or hair tends to blend with the body coat of the hindquarters. The kink found at the end of some is a slight deformity of the last bones. Whilst it was said to have been a prized feature of the breed, it serves no known function.

Free and jaunty in movement.

The 'free' movement associated with this breed should be a result of its lack of extremes or exaggeration. Unhindered by structural or anatomical obstacles, the dog is able to move forward covering ground efficiently. The strong and well muscled rear and good angulation propels the dog forward without waste or kick back. Whilst 'jaunty' is not a term much used these days, we may interpret this as the visual impression of this agile little dog on the move; slightly sloping pasterns producing a spring as the dog gaits. A correctly built Lhasa Apso covers ground. There is no necessity to race the dog around the ring.

Top coat heavy, straight and hard, not woolly or silky, of good length. Dense undercoat.

The coat features described above are those that common sense would dictate the most suitable for our little mountain dog. The dense undercoat provides necessary insulation and the heavy, straight and hard top coat acts as a protection for the undercoat, theoretically allowing it to remain dry during snow falls. The ideal Lhasa Apso coat is like the rest of this little dog; fairly resilient and hardy. It is a soft and woolly coat that would felt in the original environment of this dog. The coat is parted from the nose to the tail, falling to either side of the muzzle, skull, neck and body. Good coat texture can be determined when rubbing some top coat between the fingers as individual hairs should be felt. The Standard asks for 'good length', meaning a length which would give the dog adequate protection. A good Lhasa Apso is not necessarily recognised by having the longest coat. The breed is fairly slow maturing so it would not be expected that the 'finished' product would be seen before two to three years of age.

Golden, sandy, honey, dark grizzle, slate, smoke, parti colour, black, white or brown.

This breed appears in a wide range of permissible colours, liver being the exception due to the requirement for a 'black nose'. There is no colour preference and all colours should be considered of equal merit.

Ideal height 25.4cm (10ins) at shoulder for dogs, bitches slightly smaller.

The Standard asks for a desirable height of 25.4cm(10ins) with bitches slightly smaller. Whilst a slight variance at either end of this 'ideal' is bound to occur, the breeder is aiming for this small dog which Lionel Jacob described in 1901 as 'about 10 ins to 11 ins'.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree.

Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

The Lhasa Apso is an ancient breed; hardy, moderate without exaggeration, and made to survive in its native Tibet. Both breeders and judges have the responsibility to conserve its unique characteristics by aiming to interpret the standard in the context of this dog's form, matching its function, in relation to its place of origin.

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