What Is the Difference Between Lhasa Apso & Shih Tzu Dog Breeds?

Written by kimberly kilmer
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To the casual observer the Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu dog breeds look quite similar. The Shih Tzu is in fact thought to be a descendant of the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan mountain dog and Pekinese. Beyond that tie, there are vast differences in the breeds.

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Breed Origins

The Lhasa Apso originated in the Himalayan Mountains and was used as a sentinel and guard dog in the homes of nobility. The breed was introduced to the US in 1933 as a gift from the Dalai Lama.

The Shih Tzu originated in China and was a house pet to most members of the Ming Dynasty. The breed was discovered by British soldiers in WWII and imported to England.


The Lhasa Apso is the larger of the two breeds. The dog is longer in body and slightly taller at the shoulder measuring 10 to 11 inches at the withers and weighing on average 5.44 to 8.16 Kilogram. The Shih Tzu is far shorter in length with a tail that is carried over the back and a head held high. Shih Tzus measure 8 to 11 inches at the withers and weigh 9 to 16 pounds.

The head shape of each breed differs slightly and while coat colour can range from blond to black and anything in between for both breeds, the coat is slightly different in texture and is groomed in a style unique to each breed. You often see the Shih Tzu with hair in a topknot on it's head while the Llasa Apso hair is parted down the middle from head to tail. Both breeds require extensive grooming.


Both of these breeds are charming but the Lhasa Apso, while joyful and mischievous, is somewhat aloof and curious of strangers. Shih Tzus are far more outgoing and sweet and are known for their more playful, impish personality.


Due to the somewhat aloof personality of the Lhasa Apso, the Shih Tzu is the more trainable of the two breeds. This may in fact be due to the original purpose of the Lhasa Apso which was that of an independent small guard dog. The Shih Tzu on the other hand was bred purely for the pleasure of it's company as a companion animal.


Both of these breeds are generally healthy when properly bred; however, the Shih Tzu is more prone to eye problems than the Lhasa Apso.

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