Lhasa apsos were originally bred as sentinels in Tibetan monasteries. The Lhasa's natural suspicion of strangers makes him the perfect watchdog, while his loyalty to his family makes him an ideal companion. A long, flowing coat covers a show-ring Lhasa apso essentially from nose tip to tail tip and from topline to floor. The hair is left long on show dogs to conform to the American Kennel Club breed standard. Dedicated attention and frequent grooming is required to prevent mats and tangles from quickly marring the beauty of the coat. If a Lhasa apso is a pet, the coat often is trimmed short for easy manageability. What emerges from under all that hair is a bright-eyed, loyal little dog with a perpetual puppy-like appearance.
Brush the coat regularly. The Lhasa's long, straight hair is impressive in the show ring, but it quickly gets tangled and matted during play. Frequency of grooming will depend on the length of the coat, with shorter-haired Lhasas requiring brushing only a few times a week while long coats need daily care. Use a spray conditioner or detangler to wet the hair before brushing to prevent breakage and static. Put your dog on his side, and brush one side completely before flipping him over and repeating on the other side. Work the hair in layers, starting with the undercoat. Brush the stomach, then move to the legs before moving up to the side. Leave the head and face for last.
Remove hair mats. Short-haired Lhasas offer the simple solution of cutting the mat off with little aesthetic problem, but mats on long-haired Lhasas require work. Patience on your part and on the part of the dog is needed when you are working on a mat. Use spray conditioner or detangler to wet the mat thoroughly, then separate the hairs as much as you can with your fingers. Use a comb to gradually work through the hairs as they loosen. Reapply the spray as you continue to reduce the tangle. Work slowly and methodically, taking breaks from the work if necessary.
Bathe your Lhasa. Short-haired Lhasas generally need a bath only every few weeks unless they get extra dirty playing outside. Long-haired Lhasas must have more frequent bathing, typically every week or two.
Wet your Lhasa's coat completely, and apply the shampoo. Short-haired Lhasa apsos are bathed like most other short-haired dogs: Simply massage the shampoo into the coat, then rinse thoroughly. Lhasas with long hair may easily tangle with that “squirt and scrub” style of bathing, so the approach must be different. Apply shampoo in a downward motion by essentially pushing or squeezing the shampoo into the hair as you work from your Lhasa's back down to the hair tips. Rinse thoroughly. Avoid getting shampoo into your dog's eyes. Squeeze excess water from the Lhasa's hair before blotting it dry with a towel -- do not rub with the towel. Use a hair dryer set at a comfortable temperature, and dry the coat in layers as your dog lies on his side. Brush as you dry, to prevent tangles.
Give attention to your dog's feet. Even if you prefer to keep your Lhasa apso's hair long, the hair on his feet and between his pads must be trimmed to prevent matting and to keep him looking clean. Trim the hair that grows between your dog's pads on the bottom of his paws regularly. If this hair is left too long, it will mat and force the pads apart.
Round the hair on top of the paw for a cleaner appearance by trimming the hair in layers. Comb the hair over the foot, and cut it close to the outline of the foot. Cut each layer a bit longer to achieve the rounded look.
Nails must be trimmed as needed. Dog toenails have blood vessels inside called the quick. Accidentally nipping them with nail clippers will cause pain and bleeding and can introduce infection. It also will cause your dog to distrust your handling of his feet and strongly resist future nail clipping. Your veterinarian or an experienced groomer should trim your dog's nails unless you are expert in proper dog toenail trimming.
Clean the ears. The inside of a Lhasa's ears grows a thick layer of hair, which must be removed regularly to prevent ear infections. Use dog ear powder to dry the hair, then use your fingers or tweezers to pluck a few hairs at a time. Contact your veterinarian or an experienced groomer to do this if you are uncomfortable doing it.