The Impact of Early Breeding Programs on the Lhasa Apso’s Health and Temperament

The Lhasa Apso, a small dog breed originating from Tibet, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. However, with early breeding programs focused on physical appearance rather than sound genetics, the breed faced numerous health and temperament issues that still persist today. In this article, we delve into the impact of these early breeding programs on the health and temperament of Lhasa Apso and explore the improvements in modern breeding programs aimed at promoting a healthier and more stable breed. So, let’s dive into the fascinating journey of the Lhasa Apso breed.

The Origin of Lhasa Apso

The Origin Of Lhasa Apso
As we explore the impact of early breeding programs on the Lhasa Apso’s health and temperament, it’s important to start with the breed’s origin story. The Lhasa Apso is a small, ancient dog breed that originated in Tibet. Highly valued by Tibetan monks and nobles, they were known as “Abso Seng Kye,” meaning “Bark Lion Sentinel Dog.” Their purpose was to guard sacred temples and monasteries, and they were believed to bring good luck and fortune to their owners.

Today, the Lhasa Apso is a popular companion dog known for its long, flowing coat and spirited personality. However, their breeding history has not always been kind to their health and temperament. Let’s dive deeper into the history of the Lhasa Apso and the impact of early breeding programs.

For more information on the evolution of Lhasa Apso breeding, check out our article on how the breeding methods have changed over time.

History of Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso is a small and long-haired dog breed that originated in Tibet. According to AKC, the breed has a history that dates back to 800 B.C. They were initially bred to be guard dogs for Tibetan monasteries and palaces. Their name, “Lhasa Apso,” comes from the Tibetan city of Lhasa and the word “apso,” which means “bearded.”

During their early history, the Lhasa Apso was highly valued and even considered sacred. Because of their religious significance, they were never sold but only given as gifts. In fact, the Dalai Lama himself would present the breed as gifts to visiting dignitaries.

Their small size and non-shedding coat made them excellent indoor dogs as well. They didn’t need as much exercise as larger breeds and could be kept in small places. This made them popular among the nobility and royalty of Tibet.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that Lhasa Apsos began to make their way to other parts of the world. British soldiers were responsible for bringing some of the first Lhasa Apsos to England. Eventually, the breed made its way to the United States, where it became increasingly popular.

Today, the Lhasa Apso is still considered a beloved companion dog and excels in obedience competitions and agility trials. They are known for their loyalty, intelligence, and playful personalities.

Below is a table outlining the basic history of the Lhasa Apso:

Year of Origin800 B.C.
Original FunctionGuard dog for Tibetan monasteries and palaces
Name MeaningLhasa: Tibetan city; Apso: “bearded”
PopularityPopular among nobility and royalty of Tibet; spread to other parts of the world in early 1900s

The history of the Lhasa Apso is both rich and fascinating, and serves as a testament to the breed’s enduring popularity and appeal. Through the years, the Lhasa Apso has proven to be not only a beloved companion, but also a breed that excels in a variety of activities thanks to its intelligence and loyalty.

Early Breeding of Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso is an ancient breed that originated in Tibet. Early breeding of Lhasa Apso was mostly done by Tibetan monks, who bred these dogs to act as sentinels in monasteries. These monks believed that Lhasa Apsos were sacred dogs and brought good luck. As a result, these dogs were kept exclusively within monasteries and were not allowed to be sold or given away. In the early days, breeding was not done with much regard for the dog’s health and temperament [1].

The monks bred Lhasa Apsos based on the appearance of the dogs and their ability to guard the monastery. Because of this, there was little attention paid to any health issues that might arise from selective breeding [2]. As a result, early breeding programs often promoted inbreeding, which is a common practice in small closed populations. This lead to many genetic disorders that were inherited by several generations of Lhasa Apsos [3].

Early breeding was not done with any specific selection criteria in mind, which could have led to a decline in the breed’s temperament. The Lhasa Apso became stubborn, independent and aloof. All of these characteristics made them good guardians but not ideal pets for families. As a result, early Lhasa Apsos had an image of being aggressive and difficult to train [4].

It was only after the breed was introduced to the western world that things began to change for the Lhasa Apsos. Breeders started focusing on improving the breed’s health and temperament [5]. They worked on different strategies to improve its genetic diversity and curb the incidence of genetic disorders by outcrossing with other breeds [6]. Nowadays, breeding programs have drastically evolved, making the Lhasa Apso an adorable and friendly pet.


Health Issues

Health Issues
The Lhasa Apso breed has become increasingly popular over the years, but with their popularity comes the potential for health issues. Unfortunately, early breeding programs for the Lhasa Apso breed did not prioritize health and longevity, which has resulted in some health concerns that are specific to this breed. In this section of the article, we will explore some of the health issues that Lhasa Apsos may face, including genetic disorders from inbreeding, eye problems, and other common health issues.

Genetic Disorders from Inbreeding

Inbreeding refers to the practice of mating closely related dogs. While early breeding programs of Lhasa Apso focused on preserving the breed’s traits, it led to a variety of genetic disorders. These disorders are a result of a limited gene pool and the accumulation of harmful recessive genes.

Table: Common genetic disorders in Lhasa Apso due to inbreeding

Patellar LuxationDislocated kneecap, lameness, and joint pain
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)Gradual vision loss leading to blindness
Renal DysplasiaKidney failure, excessive urination and thirst, weight loss
Canine Hip DysplasiaLimping, stiffness, and reduced mobility due to malformed hip joints

Patellar luxation, a condition where the kneecap dislocates, is common in Lhasa Apso. Similarly, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a genetic eye disease that causes gradual vision loss and can lead to blindness. Renal dysplasia, an inherited kidney disease, and canine hip dysplasia (CHD), a developmental disease that affects the hip joint, are also prevalent in the breed.

These health problems can cause mild to severe discomfort and can significantly reduce the dog’s quality of life. Treating these illnesses can be expensive and emotionally distressing for dog owners.

To prevent genetic disorders, Lhasa Apso breeders have started implementing health testing and certification programs. Breeders can test dogs for genetic diseases and only breed those who pass the test. Additionally, outcrossing and cooperative breeding programs have been introduced to increase the gene pool and reduce the occurrence of harmful recessive genes.

Eye Problems

Lhasa Apsos are prone to various eye problems, which can significantly impact their overall health and wellbeing. The following are some of the most common eye problems that affect Lhasa Apsos:

  • Cataracts: Cataracts are a common eye problem in Lhasa Apsos. These occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded, leading to vision impairment or blindness. Cataracts can occur at any age and can be hereditary. It is crucial to get your Lhasa Apso’s eyes checked regularly to detect cataracts early on.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is a degenerative eye disease that can eventually lead to blindness. It is hereditary and is caused by the gradual deterioration of the retinal cells that are responsible for detecting light. Unfortunately, there is no cure for PRA, but early diagnosis can help delay the progression of the disease.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS): Also known as dry eye, KCS is a condition where the eyes cannot produce enough tears to lubricate them, leading to inflammation and discomfort. Symptoms of KCS include redness, discharge, and squinting. This condition can be treated with eye drops or medication to stimulate tear production.
  • Entropion: Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inwards, causing the eyelashes to rub against the eye, leading to irritation and infection. Surgery may be necessary to correct this condition.

It is important to keep your Lhasa Apso’s eyes clean and free from debris to prevent eye problems from occurring. Regular check-ups with a veterinary ophthalmologist can help detect eye problems early on and prevent irreversible damage.

Other Health Issues

Lhasa Apso’s early breeding programs have brought some serious health issues that still persist today. Although eye problems are the most common health issue that Lhasa Apso dogs face, they are not the only concerns that breeders and owners should be aware of. Here are some other health issues that could affect the Lhasa Apso breed:

  • Autoimmune Disorders: Lhasa Apso dogs are prone to suffer from autoimmune disorders, which occur when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. Some examples of autoimmune disorders that have been found in Lhasa Apsos are autoimmune anemia and autoimmune thyroiditis.
  • Joint Problems: Due to their small size and short legs, Lhasa Apsos are at a higher risk of developing joint problems, such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. These conditions can cause pain and lameness, and in severe cases, may require surgery.
  • Respiratory Issues: Lhasa Apsos have a brachycephalic skull shape, which means that they have a short muzzle and flattened face. This conformation can cause breathing difficulties, especially during hot weather or after physical activity. Some Lhasa Apsos may also develop tracheal collapse, a condition where the windpipe becomes narrow and makes breathing harder.
  • Skin Problems: Lhasa Apsos have a thick and luxurious coat, which requires regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles. However, their skin is also prone to allergies, bacterial and fungal infections, hot spots, and sebaceous adenitis, a genetic disease that affects the sebaceous glands and causes hair loss and skin lesions.

These health issues are not to be taken lightly, as they can affect the quality of life and longevity of Lhasa Apso dogs. Responsible breeders should strive to reduce the incidence of genetic disorders by performing health screenings and only breeding dogs that are free of hereditary defects. Additionally, owners should provide their Lhasa Apsos with proper nutrition, exercise, and veterinary care, and monitor their health regularly for any signs of illness or discomfort.

Temperament Changes

Temperament Changes
As breeding programs have evolved over time, the Lhasa Apso breed has undergone noticeable changes in temperament. The personality traits that once defined the breed have been subject to alteration through various breeding practices. In this section, we will take a closer look at how early breeding programs affected the Lhasa Apso’s temperament and what can be done to mitigate any negative effects. Let’s delve into the changes in the Lhasa Apso’s temperament and explore how we can improve their behavior.

Aggressiveness and Anxiety

The Lhasa Apso breed’s early breeding programs have had a significant impact on their temperament, causing issues such as aggressiveness and anxiety. These issues can be attributed to the breed’s history as a watchdog in monasteries in Tibet, where they were trained to be wary of strangers and bark at any perceived threat.

Unfortunately, these traits have been exacerbated by inbreeding for certain physical characteristics, leading to a breed with a predisposition for aggression and anxiety. In particular, Lhasa Apsos that are not properly socialized may display territorial behavior and a tendency to bark excessively.

This aggression can also manifest as resource guarding, where the Lhasa Apso may become fiercely protective of their food, toys, or even specific areas of the house. In extreme cases, this behavior may escalate to biting or attacking those who come too close.

In addition to this aggressiveness, Lhasa Apsos may also suffer from anxiety as a result of their breeding. This anxiety may manifest in a number of ways, including excessive licking or chewing of their paws, trembling, and even destructive behavior such as digging or chewing furniture.

It is important to remember that while these traits are bred into the Lhasa Apso’s DNA, they can be managed and minimized with proper training and socialization. It is vital for Lhasa Apso owners to start socializing their puppies early and expose them to as many positive experiences as possible. Patient and consistent training can also help to minimize unwanted behaviors.

To help alleviate anxiety in Lhasa Apsos, providing them with a safe and comforting space can work wonders. This can include creating a cozy bed in a quiet area of the house and providing them with familiar toys to play with.

By acknowledging the specific temperament issues that Lhasa Apsos may face as a result of their breeding history and taking steps to address them, owners can ensure that their furry friends are as happy and healthy as possible.

Temperament IssuesCausesManagement
AggressivenessInbreeding for certain physical characteristics and breed history as watchdogsProper socialization, patient and consistent training
AnxietyInbreeding for certain physical characteristicsProviding a safe and comforting space, positive experiences, and patient training


Socialization plays a critical role in shaping the Lhasa Apso’s temperament, particularly when it comes to their interactions with people and other animals. It’s essential to socialize them from a young age to ensure they grow up to be well-adjusted and amicable dogs.

The Importance of Socialization

Early socialization can help prevent aggression and anxiety in Lhasa Apsos. It can also help them develop a positive outlook on life, making them easier to train and live with.

Socializing with Other Animals

Exposing Lhasa Apsos to other animals during their socialization period is crucial. This breed has a strong prey drive, and without proper socialization, they may view smaller animals as prey. Introducing them to other pets, such as cats, birds or ferrets, will help them understand that these animals are not potential meals but friends.

Socializing with People

Lhasa Apsos bond closely with their owners and may be wary of strangers. Exposing them to different people during the socialization period can help them learn to trust humans. They should be introduced to individuals of all ages, including children. It’s important to note that Lhasa Apsos are a small breed, and young children must be taught how to interact with them gently.


Socialization and training go hand-in-hand. A well-socialized Lhasa Apso is typically easier to train. Formal training sessions, such as obedience classes, can help reinforce positive behavior and further socialize them.

To summarize, socialization is an essential aspect of raising a well-behaved and happy Lhasa Apso. Early and ongoing socialization with both people and other animals will help promote positive behaviors and prevent anxiety and aggression.


Training plays a critical role in shaping the behavior and temperament of any dog, including the Lhasa Apso. Due to their small size and stubbornness, Lhasa Apsos can be difficult to train, but it is not impossible. As with any breed, early training and socialization are essential to raising a well-behaved and happy dog.

Positive reinforcement training is the most effective training method for Lhasa Apsos. This involves rewarding the dog for desired behavior rather than punishing them for unwanted behavior. Negative reinforcement, such as scolding or physical punishment, can cause anxiety, stress, and aggression.

Consistency is also crucial in training your Lhasa Apso. They respond best to repetitive routines and clear guidelines. Setting a consistent schedule for feeding, exercise, and training will help your dog understand what is expected of them and reduce the likelihood of accidents or behavior issues.

Additionally, Lhasa Apsos are intelligent and easily bored, making mental stimulation an essential part of their training. Incorporating interactive toys or puzzles into their routine can keep them occupied and challenged, reducing the likelihood of destructive behavior.

It is vital to keep in mind that Lhasa Apsos are sensitive and affectionate dogs that thrive on companionship and human interaction. Socializing them with other dogs and people from an early age will help them develop into outgoing and well-adjusted pets.

Lastly, it is essential to be patient and persistent when training your Lhasa Apso. They may not obey commands immediately, but with consistency and positive reinforcement, they are capable of learning a range of commands and tricks.

Training Tips for Lhasa Apsos
Use positive reinforcement training methods
Be consistent with training and routines
Incorporate mental stimulation into their routine
Socialize them with other dogs and people
Be patient and persistent

Improvement in Breeding Programs

Over the years, the Lhasa Apso has faced several health and temperament issues as a result of early breeding programs. However, there is hope for the breed with the improvement in breeding programs that have been established to counteract these issues. These programs have made significant strides in ensuring the health and well-being of Lhasa Apsos. In this section, we will discuss some of the improvements that have taken place in breeding programs for Lhasa Apsos, including health testing and certification, outcrossing, and cooperative breeding programs. These advancements have helped to preserve the integrity of the breed and ensure that Lhasa Apsos continue to thrive for generations to come.

Health Testing and Certification

As awareness about the health issues associated with early breeding of Lhasa Apso became more widespread, steps were taken to improve the breeding programs. Health testing and certification is now an important part of these programs.

Health testing involves screening the parent dogs for any genetic disorders that they might pass down to their offspring. This can help reduce the incidence of severe health issues in future generations of Lhasa Apso. Tests can be performed for a range of health problems, such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and renal dysplasia.

Once the parent dogs have been tested and cleared of any genetic issues, they are certified by organizations such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). This certification ensures that the dog is healthy and does not carry any inherited disorders that could negatively impact their offspring.

Certification provides breeders with proof that the dogs they are breeding are healthy and free of genetic issues. This is essential when it comes to creating a healthier Lhasa Apso breed. Not only does it reduce the risk of offspring inheriting health problems, but it also gives buyers peace of mind that the breeder has done everything necessary to create healthy puppies.

Certification makes it easier for buyers to find reputable breeders who prioritize their dogs’ health. Buyers should always ask breeders for proof of the parents’ health certification before purchasing a puppy.

Health testing and certification are critical steps in creating a healthier Lhasa Apso breed. This practice ensures that dogs are healthy and free of genetic disorders that could negatively impact future generations. By choosing a breeder who prioritizes health testing and certification, buyers can be confident that they are getting a healthy and happy puppy.


Outcrossing is a breeding strategy that involves using a dog from a different breed or bloodline in order to introduce genetic diversity into the Lhasa Apso’s gene pool. This strategy is particularly useful in reducing the prevalence of genetic disorders that arise from inbreeding. Outcrossing can also help to improve the Lhasa Apso’s temperament by introducing new and desirable traits from other breeds.

However, outcrossing must be done with caution to avoid introducing genetic disorders from the new breed into the Lhasa Apso’s population. Breeders should only use dogs that have been fully health tested for genetic disorders and temperament issues. One of the challenges in outcrossing is finding a breed that is compatible with the Lhasa Apso in terms of temperament, size, and appearance.

Another benefit of outcrossing is that it can help to increase the Lhasa Apso’s genetic variation, which can improve overall health and longevity. When dogs are bred within a closed gene pool for a long time, they become more susceptible to genetic disorders and health issues due to the accumulation of harmful mutations. Outcrossing can break up this accumulation and create a healthier population of Lhasa Apsos.

However, it’s important to note that outcrossing should not be overused, as it can lead to loss of breed traits and characteristics that are important to the Lhasa Apso. Outcrossing should be done strategically and judiciously, preserving the breed standard and characteristics while introducing beneficial traits from outside breeds.

Outcrossing is a valuable breeding strategy for improving the Lhasa Apso’s health and temperament through introduction of new genes from outside breeds. Proper planning and testing can help to prevent the introduction of negative traits while improving genetic variation and overall health of the breed.

Cooperative Breeding Programs

Cooperative breeding programs for Lhasa Apso are one of the most effective solutions to address the genetic problems and temperament issues that have come about as a result of early breeding programs. These programs bring together breeders who share their expertise, knowledge, and resources to produce healthier and well-tempered Lhasas.

How do Cooperative Breeding Programs Work?

Cooperative breeding programs involve breeders from different geographical locations who share a common goal of improving the health and temperament of Lhasa Apso. The breeders work together to develop a breeding plan that aims to reduce the frequency of genetic disorders and improve the temperament of Lhasa Apso. Together, they make use of selective breeding to produce litters with desirable traits, and health testing to ensure that the dogs are free of genetic diseases.

Benefits of Cooperative Breeding Programs

Cooperative breeding programs have numerous benefits. Firstly, they help minimize the incidence of genetic disorders by introducing new genetic material from outcrossing with other breeds. This helps to increase the genetic diversity of Lhasa Apso, which in turn reduces the risk of inherited diseases. Secondly, these breeding programs help improve the temperament of Lhasa Apso, as the dogs are selected based on their temperament as well as their physical characteristics. This ensures that only dogs with excellent temperaments are chosen for breeding.

These programs offer breeders access to valuable resources, such as high-quality stud dogs or breeding females, which they might not have had access to otherwise. This sharing of resources can help to improve the overall quality of the litters and reduce inbreeding. Cooperative breeding programs can build a sense of community among breeders, foster collaboration, and improve communication.


Cooperative breeding programs are essential for improving the health and temperament of Lhasa Apso. They offer a collaborative and sustainable approach to breeding, address genetic disorders and temperament issues through selective breeding and health testing, and foster a sense of community among breeders. If you are considering adding a Lhasa Apso to your family, it is essential to choose a breeder who participates in a cooperative breeding program to ensure you get a healthy and well-tempered dog.


After exploring the impact of early breeding programs on the health and temperament of Lhasa Apso dogs, it is clear that these programs have had significant consequences that have affected the breed to this day. The practice of inbreeding has resulted in genetic disorders and eye problems that continue to plague the breed. Additionally, changes in temperament such as aggressiveness and anxiety have been linked to these early breeding programs.

However, there is hope for the future of the Lhasa Apso. Modern breeding programs are placing a greater emphasis on health testing and certification, outcrossing, and cooperative breeding programs. These efforts have already led to improvements in the overall health and temperament of the breed.

Moving forward, it is important for breeders and owners to prioritize the well-being of Lhasa Apsos. This includes responsible breeding practices, socialization, and training to ensure that these dogs can live happy, healthy lives. By continuing to prioritize the health and temperament of the breed, we can ensure a bright future for the Lhasa Apso and preserve this beloved dog for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Lhasa Apso’s origin?

The Lhasa Apso is a breed that originated in Tibet.

What is the history of Lhasa Apso?

The Lhasa Apso was originally bred as a guard dog in Tibetan monasteries, where it was highly valued for its watchful demeanor and ability to protect its owners from harm.

What were the early breeding programs of Lhasa Apso like?

The early breeding programs of Lhasa Apso were focused on producing dogs with strong protective instincts and guarding abilities, which often involved inbreeding and a focus on physical traits over health and temperament.

What are some common health issues with Lhasa Apso’s?

Genetic disorders such as luxating patella, hip dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy are common health issues with Lhasa Apso’s. They also tend to be prone to eye problems, allergies, and dental issues.

What are some genetic disorders that can result from inbreeding in Lhasa Apso’s?

Lhasa Apso’s that are bred through inbreeding are at risk for developing genetic disorders such as respiratory problems, bone disorders, and compromised immune systems.

What are some eye problems that Lhasa Apso’s can experience?

Lhasa Apso’s are prone to eye problems such as cataracts, corneal ulcers, and dry eye syndrome.

How do early breeding programs impact the temperament of Lhasa Apso’s?

Early breeding programs that focused on physical traits and protective instincts over health and temperament have resulted in Lhasa Apso’s that can be anxious and aggressive.

How can socialization help improve the temperament of Lhasa Apso’s?

Socialization can help Lhasa Apso’s become more comfortable and confident around people and other animals, reducing anxiety and aggression that may have resulted from early breeding programs.

What is health testing and certification in breeding programs?

Health testing and certification in breeding programs involves screening breeding dogs for genetic disorders and certifying that they do not carry these disorders, helping to reduce the risk of health issues in their offspring.

What is outcrossing in breeding programs?

Outcrossing in breeding programs involves breeding dogs that are not closely related, increasing genetic diversity and reducing the risk of inherited health issues and temperament problems.


Britta Thygesen

Britta Thygesen

A passionate dog owner and a full-time certified dog trainer. Aspires to make DogCareHacks a go-to place for all the doggo info. Shares personal experience and professional knowledge.

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