Originally used as watch dogs for Tibetan temples, Lhasa apsos now serve as well-loved pets. This adorably cute pocket dog comes in many coat colors and patterns, and the official breed standard allows all of them.
The standard colors in Lhasa apsos include black, white, black and tan, grizzle and variations of brown from a very light cream to a deep, rich Irish Setter red. "Grizzle" simply describes a mixture of black and some other color. For example, red grizzle is a mixture of black and red hairs and black grizzle is a mixture of black and white hairs. The variations of brown are described as golden, cream, red gold and red.
The alternate Lhasa apso colors are gray, silver, liver, charcoal and blue. Some of the five alternate colors are softer or diluted standard colors while others are rarer types of grizzle. For example, one of the most common alternate colors, blue, is a washed-out black, while silver, a type of grizzle, is a mixture of cream and black or blue hairs. Many of the alternate-colored Lhasa apsos are very striking in appearance.
The markings of a Lhasa apso contribute greatly to the dog's mature appearance. The American Kennel Club offers six coat patterns or markings, each of which can vary greatly from dog to dog.
Brindle causes a striping effect and is simply a mixture of lighter and darker bands of color. While not as striking as a tiger's stripes, the bands of alternating colors create a very similar effect. Common colors seen in brindling are blue and cream, black and brown, and black and silver.
Parti-color and white markings both cause splotches of white throughout the dog's head and body, but in various amounts. Some dogs may have white on their chest and toes, while others may have entire sections of their torso, belly and legs drizzled in it!
Black tipping and sable causes a lighter-colored hair to be dark at the end, leading to a bit of a grizzled effect without the mix of two different coat colors. These patterns cause a kind of "ripple" effect in the dog's coat as it moves.
The final pattern is a black mask with tipping. It describes a Lhaso apso that has a black beard and tipping elsewhere on the body. The black on your pup's face may extend from their beard all the way to their eyebrows or it may be quite minimal.
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Lhasa apso puppies are surprises waiting to happen. As a Lhasa apso matures, his coat may go through several changes of texture, length and color. It can be difficult to determine the true color of a Lhasa apso until he is mature. Breeders do offer one clue, though: Examine your puppy's coat close to the roots to see if the color is different. If so, your puppy may be going to change color as he matures.
Since 2001, Kea Grace has published in "Dog Fancy," "Clean Run," "Front and Finish" and an international Czechoslovakian agility enthusiast magazine. Grace is the head trainer for Gimme Grace Dog Training and holds her CPDT-KA and CTDI certifications. She is a member of the APDT and is a recognized CLASS instructor. She's seeking German certification from the Goethe Institut.