Welcome to our article on the Maltese Shih Tzu!
Thanks to its toy-like appearance, miniature size and perky personality, many feel this pocket rocket cross breed would be the perfect little companion – especially if they are short on time and/or space.
But what are Maltese Shih Tzus really like? And what kind of a home environment do they need in order to thrive?
Let’s get to know this popular pup a little better and find out who would make a good fit for his family.
Where Does the Maltese Shih Tzu Come From?
The Maltese x Shih Tzu, or Malshi, is a designer dog that has only been around since the 1990s.
In contrast, the parent breeds of the Malshi both have very long histories.
Shih Tzu History
The Shih Tzu can be traced back about 1000 years to Tibet, where these little dogs were companions to humans, and worked along with larger guard dogs to warn of approaching strangers.
It is thought they made their way into China as gifts and tributes to the emperors.
Eventually, these little fellows were bred and crossed with Chinese breeds to create the Shih Tzu we know today.
The original dogs that came from Tibet are now known as the Lhasa Apso.
In the late 1920’s, a pair of Shih Tzus were brought to England. From there, the dogs were introduced to Europe. From this point on, their popularity around the world started to grow.
The Maltese is widely recognized as one of the oldest dog breeds. This breed is mentioned by poets and artists from pre-Christian times.
Exactly where the dog originated is a matter of debate, as is the question of when and how they started being referred to by the name they bear now.
However, it most likely has a lot to do with the fact that these dogs are widely thought to have originated from the island of Malta. Additionally, they were beloved pets of one of the Roman governors of Malta.
It seems that Emperor Claudius was responsible for bringing the Maltese to Britain. Since then, the breed has been a favorite of royals and nobles for many centuries.
Designer Dogs – The Maltese Shih Tzu
As a designer dog, the Malshi is inadvertently embroiled in a debate that has been raging in the dog breeding world since designer dogs started becoming popular.
Advocates of purebred dogs maintain that their lineage can be traced back for generations. Therefore, the size, temperament, and health of a purebred can be reliably predicted.
In turn, this ensures the characteristics and abilities inherent in purebreds can be improved and preserved for generations to come.
Advocates of mixed breeds claim that the inbreeding of purebreds often results in serious health problems.
Indeed, some scientific studies indicate that dogs with a genetically diverse background are healthier than purebreds.
It is true that certain breeds suffer from breathing difficulties due to flattened faces, back and joint problems due to short legs and elongated backs, and difficulty giving birth due to their size.
Either way, a truly responsible breeder will encourage traits that make the dog healthier and happier, even if that means the dog strays from the expected standards of the breed.
Fun Facts About the Maltese Shih Tzu
While many famous faces own both Maltese and Shih Tzus, one Maltese in particular enjoyed special star treatment.
Trouble, the beloved Maltese that belonged to Leona Helmsley, inherited $12 million when the wealthy hotel heir left a substantial chunk of her wealth to the dog. Indeed, Trouble inherited more than most of her human family members.
While a judge did cut Trouble’s inheritance back to $2 million, the dog was pampered right up until its death in 2010, with a dedicated caretaker who spent around $100,000 a year on the dog’s care.
Perhaps its their status as teddy bear dogs that earned the Malshi such popularity!
Maltese Shih Tzu Appearance
As with any mix breed, a Malshi will inherit a combination of traits from both parents.
This means that we can get a fair idea of how they may look by familiarizing ourselves with the parents.
The Maltese stands between seven to nine inches, and weighs under seven pounds.
They have silky, pure white hair which can be trimmed or left to grow long and flowing, depending on how much upkeep the owner is prepared for.
The Maltese is compact and balanced, and its big dark eyes and black dot for a nose make up a sweet, well-balanced face.
Shih Tzu Appearance
The Shih Tzu is also small, standing from nine to ten and a half inches and weighing from nine to sixteen pounds. They are compact and solid, and carry themselves with an air of arrogance.
They have a double coat, which grows long and luxurious when looked after properly.
Their coat comes in a few color variations and markings, ranging from black, to liver, to red, to silver and quite a few shades in between.
The Shih Tzu has a short muzzle, so there is a risk they could suffer breathing difficulties.
Safe to say, a Malshi will be small, and will have a long, luxurious coat. There is a chance they will have some of the colors and markings of the Shih Tzu.
The longer nose of the Maltese may negate some of the breathing issues that a pure Shih Tzu will experience.
Maltese Shih Tzu Temperament
Both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu are bred to be companion dogs. As such, a mix is likely to produce a dog that bears the qualities of companion dogs. They will probably be friendly, loyal and outgoing.
Neither of these dogs have the tendency to be aggressive. They are both known to be most interested in spending time with their human companion.
Both breeds are playful, so you will have to keep them occupied with appropriate toys and games. Otherwise you could find some (very small) holes in your backyard, or some puddles in the living room.
As they are so cute and playful, you may also need to keep an eye on children or other dogs during playtime. Being small, they stand the risk of getting injured if play gets rough.
Training Your Maltese Shih Tzu
While both these dogs are eager to please their human family, the Shih Tzu is known to be a bit willful.
So, while their size could lead you to believe training will be a breeze, you may need patience and persistence to train a Malshi.
As with any breed, it is important to train your dog using positive reinforcement. If you are not familiar with this term, you can read more about it here.
It is equally important that you socialize your dog as soon as possible. Socialization means exposing your dog to new people, dogs, environments, and situations, ideally from an early age.
When done is a safe and positive environment, your pup learns that new or unfamiliar situations are nothing to be afraid of and learns to enjoy them.
If you would like some more tips on how to socialize your puppy, you can read more about it here.
Issues With Brachycephaly
Because the Shih Tzu is brachycephalic, care will need to be taken with exercise and temperature control if your Malshi has inherited this trait.
Brachycephalic dogs cannot tolerate much exercise and take longer to recover after physical exertion.
They also aren’t strong swimmers and should never be left unattended near water.
They will also overheat quickly as their restricted airways mean they are not able to effectively cool their bodies down.
These factors will need to be taken into consideration when considering the best way to train and exercise a Maltese Shih Tzu.
Maltese Shih Tzu Health
Aside from the problems associated with brachycephaly in the Shih Tzu as discussed above, they are a healthy and long-lived breed. You can expect a Shih Tzu to live from ten to eighteen years of age.
The Maltese also experiences generally good health and does not have breathing issues as it is not brachycephalic.
You can expect a Maltese to live from 12 to 15 years.
Splitting the difference, you can expect that a Malshi will have a long life.
Be prepared to spend a little bit of time or money grooming a Malshi, as their coat will grow long if left untrimmed.
There is always the chance of foreign objects getting stuck in the fur if it is left untrimmed, which can lead to discomfort or infections.
Be careful not to let your Malshi grow too fat. Being companion dogs, they can become accustomed to being couch potatoes.
Also, if your dog is brachycephalic, it is even more important that they do not become overweight, as this exacerbates the issue.
Do Maltese Shih Tzus Make Good Family Dogs?
Temperament-wise, these dogs make great family pets, especially if you don’t have much room.
Bear in mind that you will have to be watchful if you have children or other dogs. If they play rough, a dog of such small size could get injured.
If your Malshi has a flat face, this will also limit how much physical exertion they can safely handle.
While their coat is not completely low-maintenance, a regular trim may be the easiest option.
Rescuing A Maltese Shih Tzu
If you like these little dogs, you might consider rescuing one.
There are plenty of places you can go to rescue a dog. Your local animal shelter or veterinary clinic is often a good place to start.
Some breed clubs may also take mix breeds into their rescue programs.
Be prepared that while rescue dogs are eternally grateful for their forever homes, sometimes they will need a little extra TLC to overcome bad experiences they have had in the past.
They may also require some extra medical attention if they are suffering with a condition.
Finding A Maltese Shih Tzu Puppy
When looking for a mixed breed pup, please don’t support puppy farms. Sadly, those cute puppies you see in the pet shop window often come from puppy mills.
The dogs in these establishments are housed in unacceptable conditions and often suffer untreated injuries and health problems.
Physically, emotionally, and mentally, these dogs are terribly deprived.
If you would like to know how to avoid getting a puppy from a puppy mill, check out this article, which has plenty of resources to help you find a puppy that has been raised in conditions that are happy and healthy.
Raising A Maltese Shih Tzu Puppy
For great tips on how to raise a puppy, check out our guides.
This article on puppy care has a great list of resources for just about any question you may have when you bring your pup home.
If you are interested in how best to train your puppy, have a look at this article.
Pros and Cons of Getting A Maltese Shih Tzu
- Possible issues associated with brachycephaly if this trait is inherited
- Grooming is required to keep the coat in good shape
- Care needs to be taken when playing with children or bigger dogs
- Great for those with limited space
- Loyal and companionable, both breeds are keen to please
- While care should be taken not to let them become overweight, they don’t require huge amounts of exercise.
Similar Maltese Shih Tzu Breeds
Care needs to be taken when recommending this mix, as there is a chance a Malshi could suffer the effects of brachycephaly.
If this is a concern for you, here are a list of breeds you might like to consider as alternatives.
Maltese Shih Tzu Rescues
If you are interested in rescuing a Malshi, these organizations might be a good place to start.
If you know of any other great rescue organizations close to your area, let us know in the comments section below.
- American Maltese Association Rescue (US)
- Seniors and Silkies (Australia)
- Southern Shih Tzu Rescue (UK)
- Happy Tails Rescue (Canada)
Is A Maltese Shih Tzu Right For Me?
A Malshi can make a great companion dog for those with limited space, or those who like smaller companion dogs.
Just beware that if you have young children, you will have to make sure they are gentle with such a small pup.
Also be aware that there is a chance that a Malshi may experience problems associated with flat faced breeds if they take after their Shih Tzu parent.
Do you have a Maltese Shih Tzu mix? Let us know about them in the comments!
References and Resources
- American Kennel Club
- Owen, R. “Malshis” The Rosen Publishing Group, 2014
- Shih Tzu Club UK
- The Maltese Club UK
- Universities Federation for Animal Welfare
- Donaldson James, S., “Leona Helmsley’s Little Rich Dog Trouble Dies In Luxury” ABC News, 2011 (accessed March 2019)
- Beuchat, C., “The Myth of Hybrid Vigor in Dogs… Is a Myth” The Institute of Canine Biology, accessed March 2019
- Roedler, F.S., Pohl, S., Oechtering, G.U., “How does severe brachycephaly affect dog’s lives? Results of a structured preoperative owner questionnaire” The Veterinary Journal, 2013