"Now that," I thought to myself as I hung up the phone, "is one smart lady."
The caller had phoned me to inquire about Lhasa Apsos, not about a puppy per se, but about the breed in general. It seemed she had recently had lost her small mixed-breed dog and happened to see a Lhasa puppy in a pet shop. Like most people who see their first Lhasa puppy, she was charmed. Unlike many, she resisted buying an adorable ball of fluff on impulse.
Instead, the caller decided to do a little research about this breed that intrigued her. She asked me questions to help her decide if the Lhasa Apso was the breed for her:How large do Lhasas grow? I explained that the standard called for the breed to be 10 1/2 to 11", but that it was common to find some Lhasas 11 1/2" tall. Although the standard does not give guidelines for weight, Lhasas average about 16 - 18 lbs., more or less, depending on whether they are heavy boned or not.
What are their personalities like? I told the caller that, although temperament varied with the individual animal, most Lhasas tend to be very loving and loyal, although poor breeding practices have produced some that can be labeled "vicious." The Lhasa often holds himself aloof from strangers, waiting to size someone up before making friendly overtures. There is also a tendency to be slightly stubborn and independent. Most love to sit near you rather than on you.
Do they bark a lot? They certainly are not yappy dogs, but they do bark. Their original purpose was to bark a warning if they heard an intruder, so their hearing tends to be keen and they bark if they hear unusual noises. Again, the amount of barking varies with the individual and runs the gamut from a deep-throated grumble or one or two short "ruffs" to a full-fledged baying that reminds you of a hound on the trail.
Do they shed much? I pointed out that while a Lhasa did not shed like a short-haired breed, a small amount of shedding was inevitable; however, rather than lots of individual hairs all over the house, it's more common to find a small "clump" of hair here and there. Then I went on to say that the major drawback to the breed was the grooming and that some people are unwilling to spend time grooming their dogs on a regular basis, which often causes problems for the dogs. (e.g. mats, hots spots, stuck stools, eye infections.)
As soon as I mentioned regular grooming--at least once or twice a week--the caller said she knew then that the Lhasa was not for her. She didn't want to devote time to taking care of a coated dog. Nor did she care to have a Lhasa that was clipped down.
As I said before, that was a smart caller. Not only did she investigate a breed she was interested in before she made a purchase, she knew her limits. Whether she did not have the time to spend learning how to maintain a Lhasa coat or whether she just wasn't interested in a breed that required regular coat maintenance is beside the point. She knew that Lhasa was not the breed for her.
I would be the last person to tell you that the Lhasa Apso is a breed for everyone. I admire the woman who called me for information and think that if more buyers investigated prior to buying, more would be happier with their decisions and more dogs -- Lhasas as well as other breeds -- would wind up in homes where their individual breed attributes were appreciated.
Impulse buying can be fun--when it's for new clothing or new living room furniture. It can be tragic when it involves a living being that will rely on you for love and care the rest of its life. If you want to buy something fluffy and furry on impulse, please don't buy a Lhasa! Head to the toy store and pick out a furry stuffed toy instead.