Lhasa Apso vs Shih Tzu: Which Small Pet is Right for You?

Small yet sturdy, the Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu are two adorable tiny dog breeds.

With their regal appeal and luscious long locks, it can be easy to get these two types of dogs confused, but they are different breeds. 

A Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu
The equally stunning Lhasa Apso (left) and Shih Tzu (right)

Although they have a shared history, the Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apo differ in their personalities and physical characteristics. Discover more about these dogs in this article.

Breed Comparison: A Quick Overview

With a small stature, rectangular body shape, and long coat, the Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso can be challenging to tell apart, particularly to the untrained eye.

These small dogs have ancient ties to Asia, make great companions, and, of course, are utterly adorable. 

While quite similar in appearance, the personalities of these two breeds are pretty different. Here’s a table so that you can quickly compare which might be the right breed for your home:

Lhasa Apso VS Shih Tzu
Features Lhasa Apso Shih Tzu
Height 10 to 11 inches 8 to 11 inches
Weight 12 to 18 pounds 9 to 16 pounds
Place of origin Tibet China
Personality Assertive, happy,
intelligent
Friendly, outgoing,
affectionate
Coat Harsh, hard, long Long, soft, flowing
Purpose Watchdogs, companions Companions
Family dogs Better with older children
or adults
Great with kids 
Exercise needs Moderate Low
Lifespan 12-15 years 10-18 years
Price $600 and up $800 and up

Where Did Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus Originate?

A Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu standing
The graceful Lhasa Apso (left) and Shih Tzu (right) breeds

Both Shih Tzu and the Lhasa Apso are ancient dog breeds from Asia.

The Lhasa Apso is the older of the two breeds, originating in Tibet in 800 AD. These dogs take their name from the capital of Tibet, Lhasa.

This ancient breed is strongly tied to Buddism, being favored as companion dogs to the Dalai Lamas in the temples. 

They were also used as watchdogs as their acute hearing helped them alert the residents of these Buddhist monasteries to any potential intruders.

They often lived in temples with various other dogs, including Tibetan Mastiffs and Tibetan Terriers

The Shih Tzu was later developed in the imperial palaces of China. Documents, paintings, and other objects that date back to the Tang Dynasty from 618-907 A.D. are seen to depict the Shih Tzu breed or Little Lion Dog.

While the exact history of the Shih Tzu breed remains a mystery, it is thought that these dogs were created from Tibetan Lhasa-type dogs crossed with the Chinese Pug or Pekingese in the palaces of Beijing. 

As the Shih Tzu is thus a descendent of the Lhasa Apso, it makes sense that they are often confused with each other.

These dogs are so similar that Shih Tzus, first brought to the United States in the early 1940s, were initially mistakingly registered as Lhasa Apso dogs. 

Today, the Shih Tzu is part of AKC’s Toy Group, while the Lhasa Apso is part of the Non-Sporting group. 

Physical Differences Between the Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso

Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso look very similar when in full coat, but some physical distinctions help to spot their differences.

The Shih Tzu stands between 8 and 11 inches tall (20 and 28 cm) and weighs 9 to 16 pounds (4 to 7 kg).

A Lhasa Apso sitting and a Shih Tzu standing
The physiques of the Lhasa Apso (left) and Shih Tzu (right)

On the other hand, the Lhasa Apso is slightly bigger, standing between 10 and 11 inches tall (25 and 28 cm) and weighing 12 to 18 pounds (5 to 8 kg)

Both breeds are pretty substantial for their size; they are not delicate, frail little dogs.

Shaped by the rugged mountains of Tibet, the Lhasa Apso tends to be a hardier dog with a more muscular, narrow body with good lungs and short legs. They also have a longer nose which helps warm up cold air when breathing.

The regal Shih Tzu, on the other hand, has a proud, almost arrogant carriage

Both dogs have dense double coats while the tail of both breeds curls over the back. There are, however, some differences in the coat color and texture.

The Lhasa’s coat is straight, heavy, and quite hard compared to the more luxurious and flowing coat of the Shih Tzu breed. 

Lhasa Apsos are usually white, black, black and tan, gold and white, red or cream-colored.

The Shih Tzu coat comes in a wider variety of colors, including solid black, solid white, solid blue, solid red, silver, gold, liver, brindle.

Shih Tzus are sometimes nicknamed “chrysanthemum dogs” due to their colorful coats and fur that fall in petals around the face.

The Lhasa Apso, on the other hand, has luxurious facial hair with whiskers and beards that give them a lion-like appearance. They also have quite a feathery tail.

Want to see a Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu side by side? Check out this cute video of Smudge and Charlie, two nine-month-old puppies playing with each other: 

Are Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus Prone to Behavior Issues?

Both the Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu make great companions, although they have pretty different personalities.

As the Shih Tzu was bred solely as a companion breed, this dog tends to be more friendly, outgoing, affectionate, and trusting.

Their fun-loving personalities led them to be considered the jesters of Chinese emperors.

A Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu outdoors
A Lhasa Apso (left) and Shih Tzu (right) roaming outdoors

The Shih Tzu is the perfect lap dog. It will dote on anyone who shows it some love, including children, making these small dogs great family pets.

These pups thrive on being spoiled by their owners and quickly adapt well to homes with other pets. Ignore your Shih Tzu, and they will likely misbehave by destroying your shoes or furniture.

Although the Lhasa Apso can also be a happy little dog, they are pretty assertive and independent.

These extremely intelligent dogs are very mindful of their surroundings and have a very well-tuned sense of hearing that helps them to alert their owners of any potential danger. 

As they have a history of being used as guard dogs, they tend to be quite wary of strangers and bark.

However, the Lhasa Apso is very loyal and loving to their owners and those that they trust. These dogs respond well to consistent, strong leaders and are not ideal dogs for first-time pet owners.

They are better suited to houses with older children or adults only because willful dogs don’t like pulling or tugging. They will also need early socialization with other dogs.

Both of these breeds will benefit from positive reinforcement while training. Treat these dogs harshly, and the Lhasa Apso will get stubborn, while the Shih Tzu will become depressed and sulky.

Lhasa Apso vs Shih Tzu: Which Dog Requires More Maintenance?

A Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu with grooming tools
A Lhasa Apso (left) and a Shih Tzu (right) being groomed

While Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu don’t eat a lot or require much exercise; they have some moderate grooming needs.

They are pretty adaptable dogs that can do well in various conditions and environments. 

Due to its Tibetan history, the Lhasa Apso, in particular, can adapt exceptionally well to freezing conditions with a harsh, dense coat that helps protect this dog against various conditions.

Which dog needs more exercise, a Lhasa Apso or a Shih Tzu?

Both breeds can live happily in apartments or tiny homes. A small amount of playtime each day or a short walk will be sufficient for these small dogs.

Of the two breeds, the Lhasa Apso is the more energetic, requiring moderate exercise of around 30 minutes a day, while the Shih Tzu needs only a brief outing to stretch his legs and go to the loo.

Both dogs, however, will enjoy romping around your living room or backyard to keep themselves entertained.

When done with the ‘zoomies,’ the Shih Tzu will be more than content to cuddle up on your lap, while the Lhasa Apso might enjoy the mental stimulation of a puzzle game or treat-filled toy.

Lhasa Apso vs Shih Tzu: Who sheds more?

Both the Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu breeds are famous for their beautiful floor-length coats. Frequent, regular grooming is essential to maintain the long coat of both of these dog breeds. 

You will need to bathe your Lhasa Apso dog at least every second week while also giving his nails a trim and his teeth a clean. His coat will need to be brushed daily to keep it shiny and free from mats.

Your Shih Tzu will also require daily brushing, while his eyes will likely need to be wiped with a damp cloth regularly to prevent tear stains.

However, your Shih Tzu can be bathed less frequently than the Lhasa Apso breed, with a bath once a month being sufficient for this breed.

To protect the Shih Tzu’s eyes from irritation, the hair on the top of its head should be often combed back and tied into a top knot or kept short. 

You can cut both breeds in a puppy cut, which is a short cut that is much easier to maintain while not suitable for show.

However, you will need to take your dog back to the groomer every couple of months to get them cut again as the hair grows.

The good news is that both these dogs are infrequent shedders. That said, they are not considered hypoallergenic breeds.

The dander from their coats can cause allergies, and the undercoat does tend to shed into the topcoat.

Frequent brushing of your dog will help remove this loose hair and minimize the amount of shedding. 

If you have severe allergies and need a pet with a hypoallergenic coat, then a Maltese, Bichon Frise, or a Miniature or Toy Poodle might be better suited to your needs.

Feeding your tiny companion

As these are both small dog breeds, they don’t require an enormous amount of food.

As the Lhasa Apso is the more energetic of the two, he will eat slightly more at one and a half cups of food a day, while the Shih Tzu is okay with a single cup of food each day. 

As both of these breeds love treats, make sure to watch their calorie consumption as they can put on weight quite quickly.

Lhasa Apso vs Shih Tzu: Which Dog Breed is Healthier?

A Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu lying down
A Lhasa Apso (left) and a Shih Tzu (right) resting

Both Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos are pretty healthy little dogs. The Lhasa Apso has a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years, while the Shih Tzu can live between 10 and 18 years.

Some common health issues that plague these breeds include hip dysplasia and eye issues, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), entropion, and keratitis.

Other eye problems that tend to occur in the Lhasa Apso breed include dry eye, slipping stifles, and cherry eye.

Lhasa Apsos are also known to occasionally suffer from renal dysplasia, a hereditary form of kidney failure.

These dogs can also develop the severe skin condition Sebaceous Adenitis which can lead to infections and an unpleasant odor.

Other health problems seen in the Lhasa Apso breed include intervertebral disc disease, bladder stones, slipping stifles, hernias, and hemophilia B. 

Some common ailments in Shih Tzu dogs include patellar luxation and various other eye issues such as cataracts, retinal detachment, corneal dryness, third eyelid prolapse, and eye inflammation.

Shih Tzus are also predisposed to Portosystemic liver shunts, a condition in which the blood is not cleansed effectively.

Both Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus are brachycephalic dogs which means that they have shortened muzzles and fat faces. This means they are prone to developing several breathing and dental issues.

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, a severe respiratory problem, is more common among Shih Tzus due to their shorter, square face shapes.

Lhasa Apso vs Shih Tzu Puppy Prices: Which is More Expensive?

Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu puppies
The adorable Lhasa Apso (left) and Shih Tzu (right) puppies

The Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu are similarly priced, with the Lhasa Apso being the slightly cheaper of the two breeds.

For a Lhasa Apso puppy from a breeder, you can expect to pay $600 and up, while a Shih Tzu puppy will set you back at least $800

A dog from an award-winning championship lineage is going to cost significantly more. Don’t be surprised to see a price tag of more than $5,000 for dogs from the best bloodlines. 

To start your search for a puppy, you can visit the websites of the American Lhasa Apso Club and the American Shih Tzu Club, which list reputable breeders in the United States.

Always make sure you get your puppy from a reputable breeder that cares for the health and wellbeing of their parent dogs and not a puppy mill that puts profit over the wellbeing of their animals.

National breed clubs don’t have any particular health testing guidelines for these breeds.

A reputable breeder should be able to provide you with health checks for the parent dogs and be open to letting you see their living conditions and environment before purchasing your puppy.

Also, don’t forget that the original purchase price is just the first cost of dog ownership.

You’ll also need to consider the costs of vet visits, spaying or neutering, vaccinations, deworming, microchipping, and pet insurance.

Then there is also the cost of essentials like food, bedding, a crate, lead, collar and water, and food bowls. 

Of course, you’ll also want to spend hours trolling Amazon or Chewy looking for the best dog toys, accessories, and treats for your new beloved pet. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

A Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu looking up
The cute Lhasa Apso (left) and Shih Tzu (right) breeds

Is there a difference between the Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu’s popularity?

The Lhasa Apso is the lesser-known and thus less popular of these two dog breeds.

According to the American Kennel Club’s (AKC’s) popularity rankings for dogs, the Shih Tzu is the 20th most popular dog breed in the United States.

The Lhasa Apso, on the other hand, ranks 71st in terms of popularity out of 194 dogs. 

Due to their loving personalities, both Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzus are great companion pets and make quite popular therapy dogs.

Do Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu get along?

With the proper training and socialization, particularly on the side of the Lhasa Apso, there’s no reason why these two dog breeds can’t get along.

The Shih Tzu welcomes most other dogs, while the Lhasa Apso may require a bit more obedience and socialization training to make them comfortable.

If you can’t decide between the Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu, why don’t you consider a Shih-Apso instead of getting one of each?

An adorable Shih Tzu Lhasa Apso mix dog
Meet Daisy, the adorable Shih-Apso dog

A mix between a Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso, the Shih-Apso exhibits features of both breeds. It’s a small dog that stands about 11 inches (28 cm) tall and weighs around 16 pounds (7 kg).

Lhasa Apso vs Shih Tzu: Which One Should You Get?

Both the Lhasa Apso and the Shih Tzu are lovely pets that pack a lot of personality in a little body. Whichever one of these adorable, long-haired breeds you choose, you are bound to feel like royalty.

The Lhasa Apso will do their best to loyally protect your palace, while the Shih Tzu will make you feel like a queen with his doting affection and love.

A Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu running outdoors
A Lhasa Apso (left) and a Shih Tzu (right) enjoy running outdoors

With his headstrong, willful personality, the Lhasa Apso is not well suited to first-time dog owners. This breed requires consistent training and a firm owner that doesn’t give in to his bouts of moodiness.

While easier to train, the Shih Tzu breed requires lots of love and affection and can suffer from separation anxiety.

Before you get either of these breeds, ensure you’re ready to devote the time and energy to your new pet.

Check out our article on getting a dog which will help to answer any questions you might have about introducing a canine into your home.

Do you have a Lhasa Apso or Shih Tzu at home? We’d love to know more about your dog. Did you get him from a breeder, or is he a rescue? What’s your favorite thing about his personality?

Let us know in the comments below.

Further reading: Your favorite dog breeds compared

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