How to grow and maintain a beautiful show coat of a Lhasa Apso or Tibetan Terrier part 1: Basics


Growing a beautiful long coat for a Lhasa Apso or Tibetan Terrier is not rocket science. Of course it does take some effort but with a few basic rules, good equipment and a little dedication, it is not overwhelming.
 The coat quality should be hard and like human hair.  That makes the coat a lot easier to take care of compared to those silky or cotton like coats of maltese, havanese or coton de tulear. But I will write you more about the coat quality a little bit later in this series. Because there is something more important where to start from. If you don’t get this right, it doesn’t matter what kind of coat quality your dog has, the coat care will be a nightmare for both you and your dog and you will more likely to skip the whole grooming and head to the nearest professional groomer to shave the poor panicking dog.

The two most important rules of any coat care is 1. Do it in a regular basis and 2. Teach your dog to lie down, sit and stand still while grooming.
Then there is also some other very important things to remember, like proper equipment and the correct technique. But if you don’t have the first two rules in order, it does not matter what kind of brushes or techniques you are using because it will  be a pain for you and your dog and you won’t do it as often as you should to be able to maintain the coat. Grooming will be the last thing you want to do as all you are doing is fighting against mats and tangles with a very challenging dog who is feeling very insecure as he doesn’t understand what you are doing.


So, first thing you have to do is to make a scedule. Usually bathing, drying and combing all over is best to do once a week with puppies and youngsters. Puppies won’t usually get dirty in a week, but it’s important training for both the puppy and the owner. Youngsters will go through the coat change and it’s very important to groom them quite often as they can get very matted when the soft puppy wool is getting off but it won’t drop on the floor (0r on the sofa) like with shorter coated dogs. It has to be brushed off.
The headfall has to be banded at first more often, even every day but soon the bands will hold longer. Of course if it’s very muddy outside, you have to wash the feet and under belly more frequently. And boys often have to be cleaned a bit more under belly as they will get more dirty when they are lifting their leg.

Teaching the dog

It’s important that you start training your puppy as early as possible for grooming. We at Yarmilan kennel usually start bathing the puppies at 3 – 4 weeks of age. Their nails are cut weekly from the first or second week. We also learn them how to lie down and relax when we are holding them.
This is something that the puppies will forget quite soon if their new owners do not continue the training. These Tibetan dogs have the mind of their own.

The most important thing is to teach the puppy (or adult dog) to lie down on their side. That way you are able to work on the inside of the feet and under the tummy. When you get this right, standing and sitting still will sort out automatically.

My method is positive reinforcement and old-fashioned forcing combined. My opinion is that even though I’m a huge fan of positive training methods, there are still some areas in life where a dog has to learn to tolerate physical forcing. Grooming is one of those and another area is at a vet. But it is a huge difference if a dog is taught to be handled this way or not. When the dog knows what will happen, he/she will be calm and the operation will go faster and smoothly.

I usually start by taking the dogs opposite legs in my hands and I will turn the dog on his side on the table.*And notice! A Table is a very important because the dog understands that he/she will always have to behave on a table. It’s much harder to try it on the floor.
And it will save your back when you invest in a proper table and maybe even a chair too. It will be so much better to make yourself comfortable. That way the dog can relax too.
But back to the teaching dog to lie down! When you have put the dog/puppy on his side, first you will hold him down as long as he will fight back. When he relaxes as long as 1/100 second, you will release him. And praise him for being good boy/girl! You can also give treats. Then you will do it again and again until you are able to increase the time your dog has to lie down. First you increase to 1 second and repeat that. Soon after that you will increase the time for 2 seconds etc. If you practise this for several times each day, it won’t take many days until your dog will lie down and enjoys it.

Then you can start introducing the brushes, nailclippers, etc. When you are brushing the dog and he will eventually at some point try to stand up, you just put him back on his side and talk to him so that he calms down.

I intend to take some pictures and/or video how I do this training, but for now, I found a youtube-video that is quite close to what I’m trying to teach. This groomer only has her own style of turning the dog by holding on shoulder and hip area, I do that by holding on the legs (front and hind legs, opposite for me).

Some puppies have to be trained for table too. The best ways are to make it step-by-step either so that you take the puppy on the table, praise and give treats and then put him right away back on the ground. Step by step you will increase the time on the table.
Another method is to have a very low “table” where a puppy is able to jump by himself. I usually have a step-up board that I can adjust. When the puppies are used to that, they will be more comfortable when you gradually start raising the “table” higher and higher. Remember always that puppy/adult dog has to enjoy the training and it should be fun for both of you.

>> Part 1: Basics
Part 2: Brushing
Part 3: Bathing
Part 4: Blowdrying
Part 5: Everyday care