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Lhasa Apso vs. Shih Tzu: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 11, 2024
Lhasa Apso, originating from Tibet, is a smaller, longer-haired breed known for its watchdog capabilities, whereas Shih Tzu, with Chinese origins, is known for its affectionate nature and slightly shorter, luxurious coat.

Key Differences

The Lhasa Apso, a breed hailing from Tibet, is distinguished by its role as a sentinel in monasteries, showcasing a keen sense of alertness. The Shih Tzu, on the other hand, has its roots in China, where it was bred primarily as a royal lapdog, reflecting a more relaxed and affectionate demeanor. Both breeds exhibit long, flowing coats, but the Lhasa's is denser and harsher, while the Shih Tzu's is softer and more luxurious.
In terms of temperament, the Lhasa Apso shows a more independent and assertive nature, often being reserved with strangers, a trait stemming from its watchdog heritage. The Shih Tzu, conversely, is known for its outgoing and friendly personality, often seeking attention and companionship. While both breeds can adapt well to various living environments, the Lhasa Apso may require more consistent training due to its strong-willed nature, unlike the more compliant Shih Tzu.
Physically, the Lhasa Apso typically has a longer, narrower skull and a more pronounced snout, whereas the Shih Tzu often has a shorter, wider skull with a distinctive flat face. Both breeds require regular grooming due to their long coats, but the Lhasa Apso's coat is more prone to matting and requires more frequent attention, contrasting with the Shih Tzu's slightly easier-to-maintain fur.
The lifespan of a Lhasa Apso generally ranges from 12 to 15 years, and they are known for their robust health. The Shih Tzu, sharing a similar lifespan, is also a generally healthy breed but is more prone to certain health issues like respiratory problems due to its brachycephalic (flat-faced) features. Both breeds, however, require regular veterinary check-ups and a well-balanced diet to maintain their health.
The Lhasa Apso, originally bred in the harsh Tibetan climate, is known for its sturdy build and resilience to cold weather. The Shih Tzu, bred in the more temperate Chinese court, is less adapted to extreme climates. Both breeds, however, thrive in loving, attentive households and can form strong, loyal bonds with their owners.

Comparison Chart



Historical Role

Watchdog in monasteries
Royal lapdog


Independent, alert
Affectionate, outgoing

Physical Characteristics

Longer, narrower skull; longer snout
Shorter, wider skull; flat face


Robust, resilient to cold
Prone to respiratory issues

Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu Definitions

Lhasa Apso

Characterized by its keen sense of hearing and alert demeanor.
The Lhasa Apso perked up its ears at the slightest sound.

Shih Tzu

Known for its friendly and affectionate nature, often seeking attention.
Our Shih Tzu loves to cuddle on the couch with us.

Lhasa Apso

A breed requiring regular grooming due to its dense, long coat.
Grooming our Lhasa Apso is a weekly ritual to keep its coat tangle-free.

Shih Tzu

Requires regular grooming to maintain its luxurious coat.
I spent the afternoon brushing my Shih Tzu's silky fur.

Lhasa Apso

A small, hardy dog breed from Tibet, known for its long, flowing coat.
The Lhasa Apso, with its luxurious fur, trotted proudly through the park.

Shih Tzu

A breed with a distinctive flat face and expressive eyes.
The Shih Tzu looked up with its big, soulful eyes, begging for a treat.

Lhasa Apso

A breed often used historically as a sentinel in Tibetan monasteries.
Our Lhasa Apso always alerts us when someone is at the door.

Shih Tzu

Prone to certain health issues, particularly respiratory problems.
Our vet monitors our Shih Tzu closely for any signs of breathing difficulties.

Lhasa Apso

Known for its independent and sometimes aloof personality.
The Lhasa Apso enjoyed its alone time, lounging in the sun.

Shih Tzu

A toy dog breed originating from China, with a short snout and long, silky coat.
The Shih Tzu's coat shimmered as it basked in the afternoon sun.

Shih Tzu

A Chinese breed of small dog similar to a Pekingese


What is the main difference between a Lhasa Apso and a Shih Tzu?

The Lhasa Apso is a small, hardy breed from Tibet with a long, flowing coat, used as a sentinel, whereas the Shih Tzu, originating from China, is known for its affectionate nature and luxurious, shorter coat.

Where did the Lhasa Apso breed originate?

The Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet.

Are Lhasa Apsos good with children?

Lhasa Apsos can be good with children if socialized properly, but they may prefer a quieter environment.

What was the historical role of the Shih Tzu?

The Shih Tzu was historically a royal lapdog in China.

What health issues are common in Lhasa Apsos?

Lhasa Apsos are generally robust, but can be prone to eye and skin issues.

Can Shih Tzus live in apartments?

Yes, Shih Tzus are well-suited to apartment living due to their small size and moderate exercise needs.

Do Shih Tzus require a lot of grooming?

Yes, Shih Tzus require regular grooming due to their long, luxurious coat.

Are Shih Tzus easy to train?

Shih Tzus can be stubborn but respond well to positive reinforcement training methods.

How does the temperament of a Lhasa Apso differ from a Shih Tzu?

Lhasa Apsos are more independent and alert, while Shih Tzus are affectionate and outgoing.

Is the Lhasa Apso a good choice for first-time dog owners?

Lhasa Apsos can be challenging for first-time owners due to their independent nature.

Can Shih Tzus tolerate cold weather?

Shih Tzus can tolerate mild cold but should be protected from extreme temperatures.

How long do Lhasa Apsos typically live?

Lhasa Apsos generally have a lifespan of 12-15 years.

Do Lhasa Apsos shed a lot?

Lhasa Apsos do shed, but their long coat can trap hair, reducing visible shedding.

What is the ideal diet for a Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzus thrive on a balanced diet with appropriate portions to prevent obesity.

How much exercise does a Shih Tzu need?

Shih Tzus require moderate daily exercise, like short walks or play sessions.

Are Lhasa Apsos good with other pets?

Lhasa Apsos can coexist with other pets if introduced properly and socialized early.

Do Shih Tzus bark a lot?

Shih Tzus may bark to alert their owners but are not excessively noisy.

What is the average size of a Lhasa Apso?

Lhasa Apsos typically weigh 12-18 pounds and stand about 10-11 inches tall at the shoulder.

Are Lhasa Apsos good watchdogs?

Yes, Lhasa Apsos are alert and can be good watchdogs.

How often should a Shih Tzu be groomed?

Shih Tzus should be groomed regularly, ideally every 6-8 weeks, to maintain their coat's health.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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