Lhasa Apso vs. Shih Tzu: 10 Differences

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 01/04/21 •  10 min read
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Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus are two of the cutest dog breeds around; however, it can be difficult to tell them apart as they look very similar. In this article, we’re going to take a look at these differences between these two breeds and how to tell them apart.

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Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu Comparison

Both of these dogs look very similar and they both come from Tibet and both have long, silky hair. They both need lots of grooming to avoid mats and snarls in their beautiful hair. These dogs are usually categorized as hypoallergenic; both dogs do shed, but not as much as other breeds. Each of these dogs tends to be smaller than other breeds and are quite cute and lovable. The Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu are both categorized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as toy in size. With all of these similarities, there are some huge differences between these adorable small dogs! Let’s take a look!

What is the Difference Between Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu?

We took a look at some of the similarities between these cute dog breeds, but what are the differences between them? How to tell the difference between lLasa Apso and Shih Tzu?

Temperament: the Lhasa Apso was originally bred as guard dogs, making them very loyal to their family and protective of their home. They’re also known to be highly intelligent and can also be quite snobby or aloof with strangers. These dogs are known for being somewhat stubborn and independent, which can make them difficult for pet parents to handle. The Lhasa Apso may not make a good dog to have around young children, as they have been known to bite.

They also tend to be jealous of their favorite people and toys, and will keep others away. These are tough little dogs who can be a bit difficult to handle and train.

On the other hand, Shih Tzus are very playful, energetic and affectionate. They know how to use their cuteness to get you to do/give them what they want. Be warned! They love to be lap dogs and stay close to their pet parents and loved ones. They’re generally not aggressive towards strangers and tend to be good with kids. The Shih Tzu is a cuddly, cute mite of a dog who will just love you and enjoy spending time in your presence. They’re also easier to train.

While their temperaments can be a little different, it’s important that both of these breeds have enough socialization in order to be around other people and animals. Any dog that’s not properly socialized can bite, attack, etc. other people or dogs he’s not familiar with. It’s also a good idea to train these little fellas as any dog can have a stubborn streak and benefit from proper behavioral training.

Health Issues: both of these breeds have a tendency to hereditary health problems. While both breeds have short snouts, the Shih Tzu’s muzzle is a bit shorter and can cause these dogs to have breathing problems. In fact, some airline will not allow these dogs to fly because they can develop a problem called brachycephalic airway syndrome. This is not a disease, but is a medical condition caused from breeding practices that put a preference on those cute, short noses on Shih Tzus. The short muzzle can lead to breathing difficulties in certain instances such as with a respiratory illness, flying at high altitudes (where oxygen is lower), etc. This condition can be fatal in some dogs.

Both breeds can suffer from intervertebral disc disease, which is caused when a disc shifts into the spinal column. The result can be pain, nerve damage or even paralysis. Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos are both susceptible to bladder stones, too. When it comes to health, both dog breeds have similar problems, so neither breed is healthier than the other. If you’re interested in either breed and are concerned about possible health issues, it’s always a good idea to talk with the breeder. You can ask for written proof that both of the pup’s parents were tested and cleared of any known genetic health issues. If you’re dealing with a rescue dog, then it might be a good idea to have him checked out by your vet to make sure the dog is healthy before you adopt.

Size: while these dogs are similar in size, the Lhasa Aspo is a little bit bigger than the Shih Tzu. A Lhasa Apso typically weighs between 11-18 lbs, while a Shiz Tzu can weigh from 8-16 lbs.

Lifespan: when it comes to lifespan, there’s a slight difference between these two breeds. The average lifespan for a Lhasa Apso is between 12-15 years, while the average lifespan for a Shih Tzu is between 10-15 years.  

Coat: as noted earlier, both breeds have long hair and don’t shed as much as other breeds; however, the coat of a Lhasa Apso is heavier and more dense, while the Shiz Tzu has a lovely double coat that flows. Between the two, the Shih Tzu is a little easier to groom, but both need regular grooming in order to keep their coats free of tangles and mats.

Coloring: a Shih Tzu’s coat can come in many colors: gold & white, red & white, and more. On the other hand, Lhasa Apsos are usually gold and white, black, black and tan, red, cream and white.

Head & face: each breed’s head and face has some similarities, but have more differences. The muzzle of the Lhasa Apso is lower, while the Shih Tzu’s is longer and sits higher on the face. The skull of the Shih Tzu is round, broad and domed, while the Lhasa Apso’s skull is narrow and not domed.

Activity levels: here, the two breeds differ quite a bit as adults. The Lhasa Apso has a job to do—guard his family and home from danger. These dogs are considered to be highly athletic dogs with lots of energy. They need a place to run, jump, play and will need regular walks to help tame their energy. On the other hand, Shih Tzus are more laid back and don’t require as much exercise or activity. They’re favorite thing to do is simply sit on a lap and be loved. While they will require regular exercise to stay healthy (something like a daily walk will be great), they don’t require as much exercise as a Lhasa Apso.

Living environment: both dog breeds need to be indoor dogs. Lhasa Apsos can tolerate temperatures down to 25 F or as high as 85 F, but they still need to live indoors. Shih Tzus are definitely indoor pups, with a temperature tolerance that goes from 55 F on the low end to about 80 F on the high end.

Barking: another difference you’ll find between the Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu is the amount of barker they do or don’t do. The Lhasa Apso tends to be a dog that barks and howls quite often. Remember, they were bred to be protective guardians, with a need to sound the alarm when intruders were about. On the other hand, Shih Tzus tend to be a little more on the quiet side.  As you can see, while these adorable pups have many similarities, they also many differences.

Cross Between Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu

What about a mix of the Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu? Is that even possible? Yes, it is and this mix of breeds  even has a name! You may hear them called a Shih Apso or a Lhasa Tzu. So, what happens when you cross these two breeds? When these two dog breeds are bred together, you’ll get a pretty, small lap dog that may have a combination of a sweet nature mixed in with a little bit of independence. They may also be friendly, but make a good guard dog, too.

This mix breed is usually very devoted to their pet parents and families, very loyal and are able to occupy their time when alone (but don’t leave them alone for too long). They’re wonderful companions and socialize well with other humans and dogs, but make sure to begin socializing them at a young age. The Lhasa Tzu, or Shih Apso, can also be good companions for kids, as long as the kids are well behaved and understand how to treat a dog.

These dogs are also great for anyone living in an apartment or a small home, though they are also adaptable to larger spaces.

The main issues you may face with this mixed breed pup are:

The mix between the Shih Tzu and the Lhasa Apso can be a wonderful combination; however, be aware of some of the issues you may face with a mixed breed dog of this type. It’s a good idea to talk with your vet and the breeder to have a better understanding of what you’ll be dealing with in this lovely mixed breed pet.

Lhasa Apso or Shih Tzu Which is Better

So, which is better—a Shih Tzu or a Lhasa Apso? Well, either dog or a mix between the two can make a wonderful canine companion for you and your family. It depends on what you need and/or want in a dog. Lhasa Apsos are more independent and will guard you and your home—you can count on that! If you need a more aloof little pet, who will also be protective, then the Lhasa Apso may be the right dog for you. However, if you’re looking for a small dog who will do nothing but love you and bask in your presence, then the Shih Tzu may be the best choice. Or maybe you’d like a combination of these two—with a mix of their characteristics, in which case the Shih Apso, also called the Lhasa Tzu, may be the best choice. One thing we can guarantee—both of these dog breeds are adorable and will grab your heart!

We hope this guide has helped show you the similarities and differences between these two beautiful breeds. And we wish you all the best in finding your fur baby—perhaps one of these little angels will become your fur baby!

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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.

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