the Maltese Shih Tzu

When it comes to designer dogs, the Maltese Shih Tzu is one of the most popular cross-breeds of recent years. Also going by the name ‘Mal-Shi’, ‘Malti Zu’ and ‘Malt Tzu’, the literal translation means “lion dog” from its Pekingese origins.

Friendly and loving, this is also a pretty smart breed, since it combines the gentle character of a Maltese, with the fun and somewhat stubborn traits of the Shih Tzu. These combine to create an affable character that enjoys being a lap-dog, as well as bouts of active play.

Brief History

Still relatively new, the first Maltese Shih Tzu was bred in 1990 in Australia.

Its appearance, good-natured temperament and low shedding coat, quickly made it popular amongst the designer dog community. This later expanded globally, including its arrival in to America.

It can trace its Maltese heritage back to 500BCE, originating from Asia. This combined with its Tibetan Shih Tzu roots create a diminutive dog with a docile personality and sharp wit. Light enough to carry on-the-go, they are popular and well adapted for apartment living.

As with many cross-breed, it is not recognized by the main kennel clubs.

Physical Features

The Maltese Shih Tzu is a small but stable toy dog. Its short muzzle and small round head feature rounded black eyes, hanging ears and a dark triangular nose.

Its most outstanding feature is its coat of long, soft and silky fur. It can be straight or assume some wave, and is almost always white. Occasionally though, some have tan, black or brown markings on their ears and body.

Extremely light, they are easy to carry around.

Average Height:

10 inches

Average Weight:

6-12 pounds

Life Expectancy:

12-14 years


Its calm disposition and need for constant company make the Maltese Shih Tzu a wonderful companion dog. Always alert, dedicated and loyal, they are known to be highly affectionate dogs, that crave your love!

Fiercely protective of their owners, they also make watchful dogs with an alert bark, instantly informing you if they sense strangers or unfamiliarity.

But, if left alone for too long, the Maltese Shih Tzu can suffer from separation anxiety. However, many grow to be friendly and loving, and as such make excellent therapy dogs.

Their genetic heritage also adds a touch of fearlessness to their personality, although some owners often translate this as stubbornness. Either way, this trait can make them somewhat tricky to train, and early obedience classes and socialization are recommended.

Despite this, the Maltese Shih Tzu is an intelligent dog that can learn fast. It will enjoy new tricks, such as jumping through hoops and rolling over, but some persistence is required.

Special Needs

To curb unwanted behaviors, early training is recommended for this breed.

Training should be adopted as young as possible, since this is a breed that can take some time to be housetrained.

Possible Health Concerns

Despite being a generally healthy dog, the Maltese Shih Tzu can suffer from a variety of diseases which are common with its heritage. They include: Patella Luxation – a kneecap disorder, White Shaker Syndrome – a shaking resulting in difficulties walking, often seen in older breeds – and respiratory problems. Heat and humidity will not help them and air-conditioned homes are advised.

Most notable is tear staining, although this is less obvious owing to their coloring.

It’s worth adding that since this breed is not recognized by kennel clubs and bodies, there is no official breed standard. This means that appearances and behaviors are unpredictable. The best way to avoid this is by going to a professional and approved breeder, who can show you their ancestry history.


This small bundle of joy is easy to pick up and walk around with, but try and resist the temptation to do so, since it benefits from and enjoys moderate exercise. At least 15 minutes of walking a day is recommended and if possible a yard is a bonus since they love being outdoors.

Ever playful, they also enjoy easy-games, such as catch.


Similar to all other small dog breeds, the Maltese Shih Tzu has a high basal metabolic rate (BMR). This means that they need to eat high amounts of calories – roughly ¼ and ½ cups of kibble every day, often served as two meals with plenty of water.


The Maltese Shih Tzu requires ample and dedicated daily grooming. This is necessary due to its long coat. Daily brushing is required to keep the dog’s fur free of tangles and mats, with regular trims unless you prefer it long and luscious – every six to eight weeks is recommended. Shorter coats tend to be easier to maintain though. Bathing can be restricted to monthly, or as and when needed.

Regular ear-cleaning and teeth brushing are also advised, and nail clipping needs to be undertaken once or twice a month.

Due to it being prone to tear stain, it’s important to pay special attention to its eyes, that can easily become infected. This is easy to avoid with regularly weekly cleaning.

The Maltese Shih Tzu is a lively, dedicated, loyal and affectionate dog that loves the company of others. It makes a great companion and family pet, equally as suited to large spaces, as it is to the confines of apartment living.

Gentle by nature, this is a lap dog with a lot of love to give! In return though, it demands your complete attention and doesn’t do well on its own for lengths of time.

A tad stubborn, and alert to strangers it makes an unlikely watchdog with a confident bark; but overall this is a marvelous dog that brings a whole lot of love in a small package!

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