Judging the Lhasa
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
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.
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.
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 (1½
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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