Because of its breeding and its nature as a sentinel, the Lhasa Apso is alert, intelligent, and highly independent. All of these characteristics can negatively impact your life with an Lhasa Apso, but - forewarned is forearmed: the better you know and understand your Lhasa Apso, the more successful you'll be in integrating the Lhasa Apso into your family life.
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First, while the Lhasa Apso is an independent breed, it is definitely not an anti-social animal: it will seek you out for company, for petting, and for grooming - all of the activities both you and your Lhasa Apso will greatly enjoy. Remember, however, that the Lhasa Apso's goal in life is not to please you, as it is for most dogs. It is bred and driven to be a watchdog and guardian, and this is how it will act.
Being more independent than other dogs, it will also be less obedient. Being so alert and attentive will compound your training challenge because the Lhasa Apso will experience ANY attention from you as a reward. Specifically, most new owners will give the Lhasa Apso negative attention when it does something they do not like, i.e., scolding or punishing. They do not realize that to the Apso, ANY attention is better than no attention, and so new owners will accidentally reward and reinforce the very behavior problem they are trying to eliminate. This is the primary reason why most owners do not have well behaved Lhasa Apsos. The basic rule is to focus on what you DO want, NOT on what your DON'T. Amy Sutherland (author of "Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers" (Viking, June 2006)) puts it another way: reward the behavior you like - ignore the behavior you don't.
Of course, what makes the Lhasa Apso so independent is its high intelligence - which it needs if it is to be a great watchdog. This leads the Lhasa Apso to have a strong temperament. New owners report that they can be manipulative, willful, obstinate, and dominant. The good news is that the Lhasa Apso will respond to positive, loving, and firm obedience training, but you will need to be consistent and always, ALWAYS - mean what you say: if you do not establish yourself as the "leader of the pack," then it is almost guaranteed that the Lhasa Apso will. It takes effort and work to train the Apso successfully, but the results are well worth it.
Finally, breeders and owners do not recommend Lhasa Apsos for small children. Because of their intelligent, dominate natures, many Lhasas, while usually calm and steady, are definitely not "easy going," and will not interact well with small children because they will not tolerate the normal teasing and clumsiness that comes with small children (squeezing their ears, pulling their hair or tail, or accidentally stepping on their paw). If you have children, however, you shouldn't be discouraged from owning a Lhasa Apsos. Instead, include them in the training so that they get to both know and understand the Lhasa Apso. The result will be a fun and enjoyable pet for the entire family.
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