Shih Tzu dog (left) vs Lhasa Apso dog (right)

Difference between Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu: A comprehensive guide


Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus are both popular small dog breeds that share similar appearances, making it challenging for many dog enthusiasts to tell them apart. Despite their similarities, these breeds have distinct traits and temperaments that set them apart. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key differences between Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus, helping you identify and choose the perfect breed.

History and Origin

Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso originated in the Himalayan region of Tibet, where it served as a watchdog for Tibetan monasteries. This ancient breed dates back more than a thousand years and was highly valued for its keen senses, loyalty, and ability to alert monks of intruders. Lhasa Apsos were considered sacred, and owning one was seen as a symbol of good fortune.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu, which translates to “lion dog” in Chinese, is believed to have originated in Tibet and China. This breed was primarily a companion dog for Chinese royalty and nobility. The Shih Tzu’s history can be traced back to the Ming and Manchu Dynasties, where the breed was cherished for its beauty, charm, and affectionate nature.

Physical Appearance

Size and Weight

While both Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus are small dogs, there are differences in their size and weight. Lhasa Apsos typically weigh between 12 to 18 pounds and stand 10 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder. On the other hand, Shih Tzus usually weigh between 9 to 16 pounds and stand 9 to 10.5 inches tall.

Coat and Colour

Both breeds have long, flowing coats that require regular grooming. Lhasa Apsos have a dense, double coat that’s heavy, straight, and hard, while Shih Tzus have a double coat that is long, soft, and slightly wavy. Lhasa Apsos can come in various colours, including black, white, gold, and various shades of grizzle. Shih Tzus also have a wide range of coat colours, such as black, white, gold, brindle, and various combinations.

Temperament and Personality

Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apsos are known for their loyal and independent nature. They may be aloof with strangers, but they form strong bonds with their family members. Lhasa Apsos are intelligent, trainable, and have a strong sense of humor. They can be stubborn at times, so consistent and patient training is essential. Due to their watchdog origins, Lhasa Apsos can be quite vocal and may bark to alert their owners of any perceived threats.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are outgoing, friendly, and affectionate dogs that love spending time with their family members. They are adaptable and can thrive in various living environments, making them ideal for both apartment dwellers and those with larger homes. Shih Tzus are known to be less vocal than Lhasa Apsos, but they still enjoy receiving attention and being involved in family activities. Their gentle and easygoing nature makes them great companions for families, singles, and seniors alike.

Exercise and Activity Level

Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apsos have moderate energy levels and require daily walks and playtime to keep them healthy. They enjoy games like fetch and puzzle toys that challenge minds. Due to their small size, Lhasa Apsos can get enough exercise indoors but they will also benefit from outdoor activities.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus have a lower energy level compared to Lhasa Apsos. They still require daily exercise to maintain their health. Short walks and play sessions are usually sufficient to meet their exercise needs. Shih Tzus can be prone to obesity, so it’s crucial to monitor their diet and ensure they get enough physical activity.

Grooming Requirements

Both Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus have high grooming needs due to their long, luxurious coats. Regular brushing is essential to prevent matting and tangles. Professional grooming is a good idea every 6 to 8 weeks. This helps maintain their coat’s health and appearance. Both breeds require regular ear cleaning, teeth brushing, and nail trimming to stay in optimal health.

Health issues

Both Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus are generally healthy breeds. They could be prone to specific health issues though. Lhasa Apsos are susceptible to eye problems, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cherry eye. They could also be prone to hip dysplasia and allergies. Shih Tzus can face issues like brachycephalic syndrome, eye problems, hip dysplasia, and ear infections. Regular vet checkups and a healthy lifestyle can help manage and prevent these issues.

Final Thoughts

While Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus may look similar, they have distinct histories, temperaments, and needs. Lhasa Apsos are independent, loyal, and sometimes aloof, making them excellent watchdogs. Shih Tzus are friendly, affectionate, and adaptable, ideal for families looking for a loving companion. Understanding their differences will help you make an informed decision when choosing the perfect breed.


  • I have a Lhasa and a Shorkie (Shih and Yorkie mix) and when they are due to have a date at the groomers, they are often thought to be the same breed. Beyond their personality differences, the biggest standout for me is that Lhasa’s are bigger, but due to their smaller skeletal structure they appear slimmer. This is 100% true with my fur babies! More than one trip to the vet scale has had me dumbfounded because I thought for sure Cilly (Shorkie) weighed more than Cole (Lhasa) but every time Cilly weighs less, even if just a few pounds.

    • Hi Randa
      Thank you for writing to us with details of your lovely dogs Cilly the Shorkie and Cole the Lhasa. We love to hear readers comments on our published articles.
      Generally speaking, the Lhasa is marginally heavier than the Shih Tzu even though it has a more delicate frame. It is just that the Lhasa is a slightly bigger dog.
      Thanks again for your contribution

  • Thank you for this helpful article. We sometimes question our dog’s breed because so many websites use the same stock photos but label them not just Lhasa Apso or Shitz Zhu, but also Havanese. Teddy Bear, etc. We adopted her from a family who told us she’s a Lhasa, and our vet agreed. Her size (a consistent 16 pounds), eyes and face shape seem to confirm that. But she almost never barks except at a door bell or snow plow noise, she is incredibly friendly with strangers and children, her hair has a slight wave, and she has no center part. Whatever she is, she’s the best dog ever. :)

  • Yes, we have an older shih tzu, Bebe who will turn 14 in Dec., and Mui Mui, a Lhasa Apso who will turn 7 in August. Both are females, and both are like night and day. As stated in many articles, the differences between the two clearly distinguishes shih tzus’ and Lhasa apsos’ physical, temperament, personality, and breed specific characteristics. Truth be told: we were amazed that
    Mui Mui was advertised as a shih tzu when we bought her, but as she grew, we wondered if she
    were of another breed similar to BeBe. Alas, we are happy to have both as companions, and their
    respective nicknames are ‘Snow White princess’ (BeBe) and Ms Lovely (Mui Mui)!

  • I think my dog might be a cross of a Shih Tzu and a Lhasa Apso. His head is that of a Lhasa Apso and a fine single coat that parts over his head but his fur isn’t dead straight and has a slight wave. People think he is crossed with a bichon but that has been ruled out. Our vet did a full sinspection based on frame, coat etc and he said shih tzu but looking at the photo above, he face is more lhasa. Is it possible to have a Tzu with a more longer snout?

    • Hi there Nicola. Thanks for your reply. It’s always interesting to see when dogs show characteristics of two breeds. A longer snout is usually seen in Lhasa dogs. It’s certainly possible though, to have varying characteristics. I’d say your vet is probably best placed to determine the dog’s breed but it is very easy to get the exact classification wrong. Please feel free to email us at and attach a photo.

  • I have Lhasas and while they are certainly sentinel dogs, they are also *quite friendly and eager to play with visitors to our home, even if they’ve never met them before. One person told me almost three years ago that they were thinking about getting a Lhasa but backtracked and said she didn’t want an unfriendly dog. Looking at my batch, I have absolutely NO idea where the ‘unfriendly’ tag comes in!

  • I have Shih tzu with papers stating he is all Shih tzu
    My Shi tzu weighs 18 pound with a sturdy build . From what I have read have read his personality appears to be more Lasa than Shih Tzu and people often think he is a Lada because of his size. My question is can a Shi Tzu inherit Lasa traits since the Shih Tzu breed originated from crossing breeding a Lasa Apso and a Pekeines?

  • I am now on my third generation of Lhasa Apso , not related, and we live together 24/7. My first lived to 19 and my last pair made 16 and 17 and these were litter sisters. My current pair, again litter sisters, are now 7 making 43 years in total. They are great companions loyal and tough. My Molly takes on any perceived threat to me and has never backed down however big or noisy the other breed.

  • We have a lovely 5 year old Shih Tzu called Reg. He has a fantastic temperament and is kind and
    loving. He welcomes strangers after he has checked them out and passed them as safe. He tells me its walk time by sitting in front of me and singing until I get up and say c’mon then walkies at which point he races to the door. He loves a cuddle and a play fight with his toys. He will lie on his back and stretch his legs -back and neck for 5 mins and then invite us to rub his belly and chest whilst moaning and grunting his approval. HE snores and makes noises when he dreams.He goes to bed about 10pm and that it till 8.30-9.00am.

    He’s a wonderful chap and we love him dearly. He is very clever and sometimes I think he thinks he is one step ahead of us !sometimes we know he is.

  • we have had our lhasa apso bitch from 9 weeks old and she is now 18 months old. she is called trixibelle or just trixi to her friends. she is very loyal and friendly,yet quite aloof with strangers when i take her for a walk and she tends to ignore other dogs and if they run up to her she just stands quite still and never growls or snaps but simply waits till they go on their merry way. also after about ten minutes of walking she stands on her back legs nuzzles my hand and takes me back to the car(which she loves riding in, i have never before owned a dog who is so well behaved in a car as trixi). she very rarely barks when away from the house but boy does she like the sound of her own voice when at home. we also have a male tuxedo cat called bing who is a year older than trixi and was with us before trixi was born. hilarious chases and the odd punch up between them but every morning they both rub and kiss each other and even share the odd snack together. im 64 and have congestive heart failure so am at home most of the time and my trixi is my constant daytime and evening best pal.i love her unconditionally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Why does my Lhasa Apso bark so much?

How many people in the UK own dogs?