If you can't tell whether that doggie in the pet shop window is a shih tzu or a Lhasa apso, don't feel bad. These canine cousins are similar in appearance, especially if not groomed for the show ring. The shih tzu descends from the Lhasa apso, with some Pekingese blood.
According to American Kennel Club standards, the mature Lhasa apso ranges in height from 10 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder. Weigh ranges between 12 and 18 pounds, with males larger than females. The AKC shih tzu standards are slightly smaller, ranging in height from 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing between 9 and 16 pounds. If playing "Guess the Breed," bet on the smaller canine as the shih tzu.
The Lhasa's coat parts down the middle from head to tail. While the breed comes in a range of colors, many also have black tips on the ears and muzzle. While the shih tzu has a similar coat, slight waving of the hair is permitted in the breed standard, while the Lhasa's hair must be straight. The shih tzu possesses a double coat consisting of an outer and undercoat. This breed also comes in many colors. Although both breeds require regular grooming, because of the double coat the shih tzu is even higher maintenance in this respect.
Although temperament varies according to the individual dog, in general the shih tzu is a friendlier, more affectionate breed. The Lhasa, more independent, is usually not good with strangers. The shih tzu, on the other hand, loves everyone equally. If you're looking for a small watchdog who will let you know when someone approaches the premises, the Lhasa is the better bet. If looking for a family dog, the shih tzu is the better option.
If you can get up close and personal to the dog (without getting bitten -- but then you know it's likely a Lhasa) subtle differences in conformation can give away the breed. The hair on the nose of the shih tzu grows upward, looking like a chrysanthemum, a nickname for the breed. The Lhasa's muzzle is longer than the shih tzu's, along with hairier ears.
- shih tzu dans la neige image by Jeff LEONARD from Fotolia.com