From the November 2019 issue of ShowSight, The Dog Show Magazine. Click to subscribe. Above photo from the article “Judging The Lhasa Apso by Barbara Schwartz & Jan Bruton. ShowSight Magazine, March 2014 Edition.
- Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs?
- In popularity, Lhasa’s currently rank #71 out of 192. This doesn’t classify him as “rare,” but does the average person on the street recognize the breed? Why do you think this is?
- Is this popularity good or bad? Is it difficult to find breeding stock? Placing puppies?
- We hear Lhasas have an independent streak and are often only loyal to one or two humans. Is this true? How does this make him a great companion? Any drawback to living with this stunning-looking canine?
- What about his personality serves him well in the living room? In the show ring?
- At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthiness (or lack thereof)?
- The breed requires a lot of grooming, and showing dogs is definitely not for the faint of heart. What is it that makes it all worthwhile?
- What is the most important thing about the breed for a novice to keep in mind when judging?
- What is your ultimate goal for the breed?
- What is your favorite dog show memory?
- Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.
I’ve been showing and breeding Lhasa Apsos since 1973, is an ROM 1984 breeder has had multiple National Specialty Winners, multiple BIS winners, multiple BISS winners and multiple Register of Merit dogs, and has had multiple #1 dogs over the years.
I live just outside of Richmond, Virginia. In the few moments I’m not at a dog show I like reading, movies, traveling, gardening and running two businesses that sell dog products. PawMarks—just about everything you need for your long-coated show dog or pet. And Russo Pet Products—show leads, kindness leads, Daffy chalk and Daffy enhancer, etc.
Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? They aren’t “rare” but they are now a low entry breed. Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, they were in the 11-12 in the popularity range. And it took around 25 for a five point major at a show. Now it only takes six. And at the shows I’m often asked what breed I’m showing.
I think in general new people are not into the amount of work a Lhasa represents in keeping up the coat. And the number of people showing and breeding has diminished as more and more people are aging out.
Is the breed’s popularity good or bad? I definitely think it is bad. This is a wonderful breed that I think people would really enjoy if they had the opportunity to get to know them. As more and more people are aging out, fewer and fewer dogs are available at stud, fewer and fewer puppies are available for sale. Placing puppies is often hit or miss. You have the people that can’t find a Lhasa to purchase. And you have the people that don’t know that Lhasas are one of the healthiest breeds and end up getting something like a Havanese that requires all kind of health testing by the parent club.
Do I believe Lhasas have an independent streak? Lhasas are quite intelligent and can be a bit stubborn. It is important to have a Lhasa think what you are asking them to do is their idea. If you can do that you are “in like Flynn”.
Some Lhasas can tend to be single person dogs but in general they are a great family dog. They usually “Love the One they’re with”. They can make you think you are the most important until you see them in the lap or at the feet of another person in the room two minutes later. One of the things l like about the breed as well is that they are NOT “needy”, “velcro” dogs. They are happy to be with you but they don’t have to be in your lap consistently.
What about the breed’s personality serves them well in the living room and in the show ring? The Lhasa temperament is unique. They are rather calm and deliberate. Great guard dogs and are reluctant with strangers. They can be silly and clown like but they are never the fool.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? You can start really seeing poses and outgoing attitude at three and four months. I do puppy evaluations for conformation at 12 weeks of age but wait until six months when bites have come in totally to determine who will be the show puppy and who won’t.
What is it that makes showing dogs all worthwhile? I love that you get to create a picture of a beautiful creature through bathing, drying and grooming. It is quite a sense of accomplishment to have a Lhasa in full coat all groomed for the show and looking great. The fabulous hair is also something that stops the public when walking through a dog show. They are almost always enamored with a Lhasa with a beautiful coat. However, I often get the comment “I bet that takes a lot of work to keep that coat up”. The truth is a good textured coat is actually easy to keep up.
The other thing about showing dogs that is great is the many friendships you develop with people from all parts of the world and walks of life.
What is the most important thing about the breed for a novice to keep in mind when judging? The Lhasa is a breed of moderation and elegance. It is also a breed of thirds, 1/3 muzzle to 2/3 head. The head and neck are about 1/3, the body about a third and the legs to ground are about a third. And they are about a third longer (point of shoulder to point of buttocks) than tall (at the withers). If you keep that in mind you have the basic picture.
My goal as a breeder is to consistently breed healthy, well-tempered dogs, while trying to improve with each generation without losing the basic concept of what a Lhasa is supposed to look like. The style Lhasa that I like is a somewhat compact, energetic dog with a narrow head, reverse scissors bite, good length of neck, clean shoulders, straight front legs, level topline and a good strong rear. And of course a beautiful flowing coat.
And I would like to engage and mentor younger people. The longevity of this breed requires that we do that.
My favorite dog show memory? There are many great moments in showing dogs but maybe the best was winning the National Specialty with an 11 year old Veteran, who showed his heart out. And then with the same 11 year old winning his third Best of Breed at Westminster. His daughter later was only the 4th Lhasa to ever place in the group at the Garden.
Lhasas are also very versatile. There are many Lhasas that perform in Conformation, Obedience, Rally, Agility, Scent Work, Barn Hunt, Herding, Trick Dogs and Fast Cat and I’m sure a few other things I’ve missed. And many have multiple titles in front and behind their names. Their intelligence lends them to be able to learn just about anything you want to do with them.
Lhasas were originally breed by the monks as guard dogs in the Tibetan monasteries. Their job was to alert to strangers and dangers that would alert the Tibetan Mastiff that was outside the monastery walls to handle the problem. To this day that characteristic is still part of their DNA. They will bark to alert you to someone approaching the house. And their bark is usually different depending on if it is friend or foe.