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Can You Tell The Difference?

The Lhasa Apso vs. The Shih Tzu

By: Rose Frosek

Last Updated:


The Shih Tzu is one of the most popular toy dogs of all time, and with good reason—this merry charmer is renowned as one of the most affectionate, family-friendly breeds. But what about the Shih Tzu’s lesser known cousin, the Lhasa Apso?

With their long hair and small stature—under twenty pounds and standing less than 12 inches high at the shoulder—Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus can look very similar, particularly when they have similar haircuts and colouring. Of the two, the Lhasa Apso is slightly bigger (12 to 18 pounds versus nine to 16), though both are surprisingly solid for their size and come in an array of colours.

Both dogs have aristocratic lineage. The Lhasa Apso is a thousand-year-old breed that served as sentinels at palaces and Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayan Mountains. Shih Tzus (meaning “lion dog”) were bred as lap dogs by Chinese royalty. 

The two breeds look similar for good reason—Imperial breeders in the palace of the Chinese emperor developed the Shih Tzu centuries ago from Tibetan breeding stock, mostly likely the product of two even older Sino-Tibetan breeds—the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese, notes the AKC. 

Playful, outgoing, and charming, the Shih Tzu is known to be especially affectionate with children. Lhasa Apsos tend to be more reserved around unfamiliar people. Smart, confident, and complex, Lhasas are known by their families to be comical, but are aristocratically aloof with strangers.

Exercise Requirements

Shih Tzus are particularly great apartment dogs/couch-cuddlers. Having been bred to lounge inside royal palaces, their exercise needs are on the low end. The Lhasa Apso is no couch potato but will race around your living room or drag you out for a walk.

Did You Know?

In the West, Shih Tzu is pronounced as “sheed-zoo” or “sheet-su,” while the Chinese say “sher-zer”.

The Lhasa Look

The Lhasa Apso is famous for a floor-length, flat-hanging coat, parted in the middle and draping each side of the body, notes the AKC. A feathery tail curls over the back in the distinct manner of Tibetan breeds. The breed’s fans say the dark, oval-shaped eyes—peeping through lavish facial hair—are the windows of a Lhasa’s merry soul. 

Read Your Breed

For more info on the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, go to


Last Updated:

By: Rose Frosek
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