“Lhasas twirl in the rear when they move.” Unfortunately, the presenter of a judges’ seminar for a different Asian breed made this statement during the presentation. Fortunately, a Lhasa Apso breeder-judge in attendance spoke up, stating that while many might do this, it is incorrect.

This raises the question why such a misconception would be considered fact. Could it be that so many specimens in the show ring move with rears resembling hairy eggbeaters that judges short on proper mentoring consider them normal?

Efficient movement is not optional in this breed. Lhasas were not the pampered pets of emperors and their consorts. They were the companions of Tibetan families, Buddhist monks and the Dalai Lama. They lived the same ascetic lifestyle as their masters, which included walking for miles alongside yak-driven carts in the rough terrain and climate of their native mountain home.

In Great Britain and the United States, Lhasa Apsos were considered a terrier from the late 19th through several decades of the 20th century, and were treated as such. The AKC eventually moved this tough little breed from the terrier group to the non-sporting group, not the toy group.

Early standards from both England and the AKC state that the rear should have “well developed quarters and thighs”, in other words, a purposeful rear with strong muscle. Good muscle and sound joints collaborate to provide the efficient movement that would have been vital in the breed’s native Tibet and to meet the lifestyle of its inhabitants.

For years, a major shortcoming of the Lhasa Apso standard was not its brevity, but that it was written making assumptions – assumptions that those reading the standard would have a sound working knowledge of normal canine structure and movement. It further assumed they would understand that anything undefined or unstated should default to what is normal for a canine. Assumptions, as we know, can and do create mischief despite the best of intentions.

As the Lhasa Apso has now been listed as a low-entry breed, at the AKC’s request the standard is being amplified to make it easier for judges to understand this sturdy little mountain dog. While not yet approved by the parent club membership, as currently proposed, the standard will describe motion as follows:

Gait: The Lhasa Apso gait is smooth and effortless with good front reach and equally strong rear drive without any hint of wasted action. There is no tendency towards hackney, exaggerated lift or rolling. The rear legs reach under the body and push out well behind, carrying the body forward in balance with the front. Going away, the pads of the rear feet give evidence of good follow through, without exaggerated kickup. The legs move parallel coming and going with a tendency to converge to a center line as the dog increases speed. The topline is level and the tail is carried well over the back and may drape to the side. A Lhasa is shown at its own natural speed, neither raced nor strung-up. It is unacceptable to reward a Lhasa that consistently moves with its tail down.

There appears to be widespread agreement on this clear description and it likely will be approved with no or minor modifications. Hopefully, when approved, this important addition to the standard will prompt judges to recognize proper movement.

Cassandra de la Rosa, The American Lhasa Apso Club, E-mail: dlrcas@msn.com