The Lhasa Apso's long, lush, double coat of hair presents a regal appearance that recalls the breed's sentry dog ancestors in Tibet. The hair, an identifying characteristic of the breed, requires daily brushing and monthly bathing to keep it in good condition. If you have no plans to show your dog, you can have the hair clipped for easier care, but show dogs require special care to maintain their gorgeous locks.
Brush your Lhasa Apso daily with a coated metal pin brush to remove any tangles or mats from the coat. Once a week, have a longer, more thorough brushing session. Place your dog on a grooming table, and separate the hair into layers, lifting the outer coat to get to the hair below. Brush through each layer separately to get to both the undercoat and outer coat.
Prior to brushing the coat, spray it down with a detangling spray to make brushing through the dense fur easier. These sprays also help with removal of mats in the coat. In extreme cases, remove mats by clipping them out, using a blunt-tipped scissors over a comb to protect the dog's skin, or with a mat-breaker brush. These special brushes cut through the mats for quick removal without irritating your dog's skin.
When brushing, part your Lhasa Apso's coat down the middle on both the head and body, using a metal comb. For show purposes, the hair must be parted down the middle, from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. Set the coat by spritzing it with a leave-in conditioning spray along the part to keep the fur in place.
Every four to six weeks, your dog will need a bath to maintain the coat, keeping it silky and clean. Place your Lhasa Apso in a kitchen sink. These dogs range between 12 and 18 pounds in size, so the sink is an adequate and convenient place to bathe your little pet. Wet the coat completely with warm water, and lather it by pulling and squeezing the soap down through the coat with your fingers. Avoid rubbing the coat or massaging the soap in a circular motion, because such actions will form mats in the long, dense coat. After soaping the dog, rinse the coat thoroughly; apply conditioner, combing it through the coat in a downward motion with a wide-tooth comb. Rinse the coat, and pat the dog dry with a towel. Don't rub the coat, as it will tangle. Blow dry the coat on a low setting in sections separated with a comb, starting with the undercoat and working to the outer coat. Brush through the coat to smooth and straighten it during the drying process and after it dries.
Take care not to get soap in your Lhasa Apso's eyes, ears, nose or mouth when lathering the fall of fur above the eyes and the substantial beard. Wipe these sensitive areas instead with a damp washcloth to clean them.
Ears and Eyes
Lhasa Apsos can develop ear infections if the dense hair in their ears isn't removed. Sprinkle the insides of the ears with ear-grooming powder to dry the hair. Remove the hair by plucking it out with your fingers or a hemostat. Clean out the ears with cotton balls moistened with a dog ear cleaning solution. Check your Lhasa Apso's ears weekly to remove stray hairs and clean them to prevent infections from forming.
Wipe the area around your dog's eyes with a damp washcloth, and clip away any stray hairs with a blunt-tipped scissors. Stains from tearing can be cleaned away with special eye wash or pre-moistened eye wipes, found in the pet grooming section of your pet supply store.
Lhasa Apsos have a large amount of long hair, called the fall, on the tops of their heads. This hair easily gets into your dog's eyes. For show purposes, this hair must be parted down the middle and combed behind the eyes. This may not be practical for everyday styling. For everyday purposes and non-show dogs, a topknot can be made, using a single barrette or elastic to secure the knot in place. The hair also can be parted, as for show, and secured behind the eyes with a barrette holding it back on either side.
If you don't plan on showing your Lhasa Apso, there are clips you can give your dog to reduce the amount of grooming necessary for this breed. The pet or puppy clip trims the hair all over the body to one or two inches in length, making bathing and brushing much easier for both you and your dog. Modified versions of the Schnauzer cut, West Highland White Terrier cut, or Chinese crested cuts can also be used. The long fur gives you lots of options to get creative with your little Lhasa Apso.
For show dogs, the bottom of the coat can be trimmed for neatness and to prevent your Lhasa Apso from tripping over the hair. The hair on the bottoms of the feet can be trimmed with an electric clipper to prevent mats. The hair on the top of the feet can be trimmed into a rounded shape to prevent the feet from looking messy.
The Lhasa Apso and other show dogs with long hair can be hard to keep free of dirt, debris, and knots, despite daily grooming. To alleviate the burden on both you and your dog, the hair can be wrapped. The long hair is sectioned and coated with a special dog grooming oil that is designed to prevent mats. These sections are then wrapped in rice paper and folded up into little packs secured with rubber bands. Unwrap your dog every week to check for mats, brush them out, and re-wrap the coat.
Prior to a show or to get your pet a great clip, you may want to visit a professional groomer. Obtain a recommendation from your local city's Lhasa Apso club, regional chapter of the American Lhasa Apso Club, or veterinarian. When you visit the groomer's place of business, take along a picture of the look you want for your dog's clip. If you intend to show your dog, ask whether the groomer has worked with the breed before. Ask for contact information for another client with a Lhasa Apso. Observe the first grooming session to ensure that the groomer behaves professionally with your dog. Do not use a groomer who refuses to let you tour the facility or stay during the grooming session.
Lhasa Apsos are prone to atopic dermatitis, a skin condition caused by food, environmental, or contact allergies. Grooming not only gives you a good opportunity to check your dog's skin for signs of irritation, redness, and dryness, but it can also remove potential allergens from the dog's coat. Use hypoallergenic, scent-free shampoos, conditioners and conditioning sprays on your Lhasa Apso to prevent a possible allergic reaction to these products. Consult with a veterinarian if you notice signs of skin irritation.