Smooth Lhasa Apsos Part 2
By Cassandra de la Rosa, Suntory Lhasa Apsos


"This dog was sold to us, with AKC papers, as a purebred Lhasa Apso. Someone told us it's not purebred. What do you think?" the young couple at a recent show asked. A black and tan puppy -- resembling a Tibetan Spaniel -- nestled in his arms, its head on his shoulder.

They said the puppy came from a community I know has no serious Lhasa breeders, and is notorious for several fully-operating backyard operations. Lhasa Apsos are regularly advertised in local papers from a single phone number.

"The breeder gave us an article about something called a "prapso," which didn't mean anything to us. Is this a purebred?"

That's how I got to break the news that their puppy is, in all likelihood, a smooth Lhasa Apso; he will never look like the ball of fluff they thought they were buying. I gently explained what a smooth is, and a little history of why. By then a few other exhibitors gathered to agree or to see what one looks like.

Recognizing smooth puppies early, and what to do with them are subjects of this second installment on the topic. My February 1995, column dealt with likely origins of smooths in the breed, should you have missed it.

The experienced eye -- and one experience is all it takes -- easily confirms a smooth puppy early. By six weeks there is no question. However, most serious breeders would prefer to identify them long before hope runs high over a puppy's potential.

Coat is the first and most obvious signal. A newborn Lhasa puppy has very short HAIR, that lays flat against the body. Hold the dry newborn in one hand and run the forefinger of the opposite hand along the back, AGAINST the direction the hair grows. The normal coat consists entirely of individual hairs, that can be seen as they lift and fall back in place behind your finger.

By contrast, the coat of a smooth puppy will appear PLUSH, like FUR. Individual guard hairs are interspersed among the fuzzy coat, as opposed to the normal coat's thousands of separate hairs. As the puppy grows, the longer
guard hairs noticeably stand out from the short, dense, "furry" undercoat, creating an obvious double-layered look. "Normal" Lhasas have undercoat, but it consists of fine hairs that grow in length and intermingle completely within the coat as a single unit. Guard hairs do not stand out from it.

As the smooth puppy grows, facial hair remains short, and facial whiskers become pronounced. Likewise, leg hair remains short, except for true feathering on backs of legs and feet.

Smooth puppies may have other characteristics. While they come in all colors, they frequently are associated with deep red. In particular, Lhasas with very hard, red coats are known to have produced intensely red smooths, and have given false excitement to more than one breeder.

Smooths appear to be developmentally quicker than their coated littermates. Their eyes open an ten days; they walk earlier; and, they have a full set of teeth by 21 days. They dominate their slower siblings, probably because of their developmental edge. They tend to be very bright, and make delightful pets. The owner of one smooth calls regularly to ask if I will have another "short hair" soon!

As purebred Lhasas, smooth puppies may be registered, although we personally do not. Since smooth puppies are totally lacking in true breed type (Do they look like Lhasa Apsos?) they should never be bred. The puppy mentioned in this article was sold with AKC papers, but WITHOUT limited registration, or a neuter contract. Fortunately, his owners already had him neutered.

Does one charge a "normal" pet price for a smooth? We do not, but there is nothing unethical about charging a partial or full price for a smooth puppy, provided the new owners know and understand what they are buying. To avoid confusion, there should be a signed agreement clearly defining the unusual nature of the puppy, and neutering terms.

The owners of the smooth puppy were seeking advice so they could complain to AKC about impure breeding. The breeder (Yes, we all are called by the same name.), reportedly had offered to refund all or part of their $300 purchase price. I explained my position on this issue, adding that if they believed themselves to have been
misinformed or uninformed in this purchase, they should consider the breeder’s offer and make a decision they believe to be fair. Since the puppy was, in all likelihood a purebred Lhasa Apso, this was their only recourse.

The incidence of smooth Lhasa Apsos is something over which breeders have limited control. We can control our ability to recognize smooth babies, to ensure that smooths are neutered, and, to inform purchasers fully of the unusual nature of their puppy.

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