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Shih Tzu VS Lhasa Apso Dog Breeds: Differences and Similarities

Shih Tzu VS Lhasa Apso Dog Breeds: Differences and Similarities

They are so cute! Small, sturdy, check out that coat, absolutely gorgeous! But do you know which breed you just spent at least more than a minute cooing and gushing over?  Is it a Shih Tzu or a Lhasa Apso? Distinguishing these dog breeds can be very difficult, especially if the dog in question has a full coat.

So, what makes these breeds similar, and what distinguished one from the other? Read on to find out these differences and similarities.

Similarities Between Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso

The following are the common things which these dog breeds have in common…

1. Appearance

Both Shih Tzu and apso lapsa have rectangular bodies and beautiful, long double coats. The similarities in their appearance are so much that the first Shih Tzu brought to the United States in the 1940s was registered as Lhasa.

The general public often gets confused as they do not have the trained eyes to spot the differences in these breeds’ appearance. The size of these breeds is also almost the same. Lhasas are slightly larger as they can grow to 10 to 11 inches. However, the difference in size is not so noticeable since Shih Tzu also grows between 8 to 11 inches.

They also both have sturdy bodies that give them the right substance suitable for their sizes without looking exaggerated. Finally, both breeds have a tail that goes over to the back and curls at the end.

2. Connected Heritage

The main reason for the obvious similarity between these dog breeds is that Shih Tzu originally was created from Lhasa Apso. A major theory for the history of the Shih Tzu is that it was formed as a crossing between Lhasa Apso and Pekingese. You can visit to learn the pros and cons of cross-breeding.

Also, Lhasa Apsos is an old dog breed that was cherished and very priced among the Tibetans. They were used as companions by the monks in Tibet monasteries and so they were considered sacred.

It was even believed that the spirit of the owner of the Lhasa passes down to the dog upon the death of the said owner. Due to this, this breed hardly left Tibet except on rare occasions when they were used as gifts. It was in fact through this act of gifting that that Apsos first came into the United States.

Similarly, Shih Tzu was much priced and Chinese royals had them as favorites. Therefore, for a very long time, they were restricted to China and were not traded, sold, or even given out.

Differences Between Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso

The following are the major differences between these dog breeds…

1. Grouping

This is not a difference that will help you distinguish both breeds on sight. However, it helps to boost your knowledge about these wonderful dog breeds.

The American Kennel Club groups Shih Tzu under the Toy Group. Apsos on the other hand are grouped under the Non-Sporting Group.

2. Heritage

We have already established the connection between both breeds as regards their heritage. However, despite this, their heritage is also different. Shih Tzu’s origin has been a basis of political and historical debate for a while.

And due to this, whether this dog breed should be described as Chinese or Tibetan is still a source of contention. Some say that Shih Tzu originated in Tibet and was then move to and developed in China. You can click here to find more dog breeds of Chinese origin. However, the name of the dog is a Chinese word that means “lion”.

Lhasas on the other hand do not pose any debate as regards their origin. They are fully Tibetan.

3. Appearance

Although telling these dogs apart merely by looking at them may be difficult since they look so alike, some things are different about their appearance. One major difference in their physical looks happens to be their coats.

Granted, they both have dense and long double coats, but when placed in comparison, Lhasa’s is straight and heavy. Shih Tzu’s coat on the other hand is wavy, flowing, and more luxurious.

Also, since they do not share the same heritage, they have different features which helped them adapt to their original environment. For instance, Lhasas have a very good lung capacity, a narrower body, and a longer and less square nose that helped to keep them warm in the cold Tibetan air.

They also have short legs that are well featured and a thicker double coat that helped them stay protected from the Tibetan varying temperature.

Finally, Shih Tzu has a very obvious underbite while Apsos on the other hand have none or very slightly noticeable ones.

3. Personality

Shih Tzu was originally bred as a pet dog and so they are outgoing, happy, trusting, affectionate, and friendly. Apsos were bred to be guard dogs and so they have a temperament that is assertive and happy yet watchful and careful of strangers.

Apsos are very mindful and keen about their environment. However, if you have kids, you may have an issue with leaving the dog with your kids. This is because they tend to get nippy when children are up in their spaces. Therefore, Shih Tzu’s a better option for a family with kids as they are more children friendly.


Distinguishing a Shih Tzu from a Lhasa Apso can be quite hard. But it wouldn’t be if you know all the things which are discussed in this article.