Havanese vs Shih Tzu: A Comprehensive Comparison


Welcome to our comprehensive comparison of the Havanese vs Shih Tzu, two beloved small dog breeds that capture hearts worldwide. These charming companions, with their silky coats and affectionate natures, are favored by dog lovers for their unique traits and characteristics.

The Havanese, a Cuban native with a rich history and the national dog of Cuba, is renowned for its vibrant energy and friendly disposition. On the other hand, the Shih Tzu, an ancient breed from China, is adored for its regal appearance and lap dog demeanor.

In this blog, we aim to provide an in-depth comparison of these two breeds. We’ll delve into their histories, physical attributes, temperaments, health conditions, and maintenance needs. We’ll also examine their suitability for different lifestyles and households.

Whether you’re trying to decide which breed to welcome into your home or simply looking to learn more about these endearing pets, our guide will equip you with the knowledge you need. Let’s dive in!

Breed Overview

Understanding the background and history of each breed provides insight into their unique attributes and behaviors. By studying where they come from and how they’ve evolved, we can appreciate the intrinsic qualities of these breeds and their suitability for various households.

History and Origin of Havanese

The Havanese, a descendent of the Bichon Frise and Maltese dogs, has a fascinating history that starts in Cuba. Brought by the Spanish settlers, these dogs were further developed in Cuba and finally recognized as a distinct breed known as the Havanese. It was here that the Blanquito de la Habana, the Havanese’s direct ancestor, was bred to adapt to the Cuban climate and lifestyle.

Its charming personality and elegant looks quickly made it a popular choice among Cuban high society. The breed suffered a significant population decrease during the Cuban Revolution but managed to survive and thrive, eventually becoming the National dog of Cuba.

History and Origin of Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu, also known as the Lion dog, boasts an ancient lineage that dates back thousands of years in China. Bred and cherished by Chinese royals, these dogs were kept secret from the outside world for many centuries. Over time, the Shih Tzu we know and love today was created by crossing the original dogs with breeds like the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso.

This breed was finally introduced to the West in the 1930s and has since become a treasured pet in many homes around the world, embodying the splendor and mystique of its modern-day Shih Tzu lineage.

shih tzu vs havanese

Physical Attributes and Breed Standards

Understanding the physical attributes of both breeds will help you identify their individual characteristics and better cater to their needs. From their small size to their long coats, these dogs may look similar, but they each have unique physical traits that define them.

Havanese Physical Attributes

The Havanese, being a small dog breed, stands typically 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 10 to 16 pounds. Its most defining feature is its soft and wavy to curly silky coat that drapes over its small body. The coat is double-layered, providing protection from the sun and insulation from the heat. While they can come in many colors, white Havanese dogs are quite popular.

Shih Tzu Physical Attributes

The Shih Tzu is also a small size dog, typically weighing between 9 and 16 pounds and standing about 8 to 11 inches high. Its breed standard calls for a dense, long, and flowing double coat that is often styled in various ways by owners. This breed is known for its short legs and cute round face adorned by a button nose and dark, expressive eyes. Just like the Havanese, Shih Tzus can sport a variety of coat colors, with white Shih Tzu dogs being quite commonly seen.


Temperament and Personality

A deeper understanding of each breed’s temperament and personality can guide you in managing their behavior and nurturing their well-being. The Havanese and Shih Tzu are known for their affectionate nature and status as great companions, but their individual personalities present a unique blend of traits.

Havanese Temperament

The Havanese is celebrated for their outgoing and friendly temperament. Known to be intelligent and eager to please, these dogs are fairly easy to train. Their heightened alertness makes them good watchdogs as they tend to bark to alert their owners of any unfamiliar presence.

However, some Havanese dogs can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. They tend to have a higher energy level than Shih Tzus and require regular physical and mental stimulation.

Shih Tzu Temperament

Shih Tzus, in contrast, are known to be calm and gentle dogs. They bask in attention and are often described as the quintessential lap dog. Their affectionate nature makes them great companions for all family types. They are less energetic than the Havanese but are no less playful and enjoy their playtime.

However, their royal lineage may sometimes show as they can be a tad stubborn during training sessions. Their bark is typically less frequent, making them less prone to being watchdogs.

Health Conditions and Life Expectancy

Each breed comes with its own potential health issues and expected life expectancy, and it’s crucial to understand these aspects to provide the best care for your pet. Regular veterinary check-ups and a healthy lifestyle can help manage these health conditions and prolong their lives.

Havanese Health Conditions

The Havanese is generally a healthy breed but, like all breeds, can be prone to certain health conditions. Hip dysplasia and patellar luxation are among the most common health problems seen in Havanese dogs. However, these issues are typically manageable with early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify any health issues early, ensuring that your Havanese leads a healthy life. The average life expectancy for a Havanese is between 14 to 16 years.

Shih Tzu Health Conditions

Shih Tzus are also generally healthy dogs but are known to be prone to certain specific conditions. Kidney problems and heart murmurs are some of the health concerns observed in Shih Tzus. Also, due to their distinct facial structure, they may sometimes suffer from breathing difficulties.

Early detection and proper medical attention can help manage these conditions effectively. On the brighter side, the Shih Tzu breed has a good life expectancy range of 10 to 16 years. Regular vet check-ups are always recommended to maintain their overall health.

shih tzu pup

Care and Maintenance

Proper care and maintenance are paramount to ensure your small dogs enjoy a happy and healthy life. With the right approach, you can help them thrive. From their long hair to their playful personalities, the Havanese breed and the Shih Tzu require specific care routines.

Caring for a Havanese

Havanese, recognized by the American Kennel Club as a popular breed in the United States, require regular grooming due to their long coat. Their silky hair is prone to matting and tangling. Hence, daily brushing is essential to keep their coat healthy and shiny. Exercise is also a crucial part of their daily routine. A daily walk and some playtime can cater to their energetic nature.

As for training, the best way to approach this intelligent breed is through positive reinforcement methods. Treats, praises, and petting can encourage good behavior and make training sessions fun and effective.

Caring for a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus, also known as ‘lion dogs’ or ‘chrysanthemum-faced dogs,’ are adorable little dogs that love to be pampered. They are considered designer dogs due to their regal appearance and flowing coats. Caring for their long hair requires regular brushing to avoid mats and keep the coat shiny. Depending on your preference and the dog’s activity level, you may choose to keep their hair long or opt for a shorter ‘puppy cut.’

They do not require rigorous exercise but do enjoy a short walk or play session. Training can sometimes be a challenge due to their stubborn streak, but positive reinforcement and consistency can achieve good results. Regular vet check-ups and a balanced diet are also essential to maintain their overall health.

havanese versus shih tzu

Suitability for Different Households

The biggest difference between the Havanese and the Shih Tzu often comes down to their suitability for different lifestyles and households. Whether you have small children, live alone, or have other pets, understanding each breed’s adaptability can help you make an informed decision.

Havanese for Different Households

Havanese dogs are incredibly adaptable, making them suitable for a variety of homes. They are social animals and enjoy being part of a family’s day-to-day activities. Their active nature and playful demeanor make them a good fit for families with children, including small children, as they are sturdy enough to handle the playful antics.

Havanese are also known to get along well with other pets, making them a great choice for multi-pet households. However, it’s crucial to remember that their need for companionship means they may not be the best fit for households where they would be left alone for long periods.

Shih Tzus for Different Households

Shih Tzus, with their calm and affectionate temperament, are excellent companions for a variety of households. They are patient and generally do well with children, though they might be better suited to families with older kids who understand how to handle small dogs gently. Their laid-back nature also makes them a good fit for seniors or individuals who spend a lot of time at home.

Shih Tzus usually get along with other pets, but early socialization is beneficial to foster positive interactions. Their adaptable nature, coupled with their love for lap time, makes them an excellent choice for both city apartments and spacious suburban homes.

Final Considerations: Choosing Between Havanese and Shih Tzu

Choosing between a Havanese and a Shih Tzu can be challenging, as both breeds make wonderful pets. However, certain aspects of each breed may align more closely with your lifestyle, preferences, and the environment you can provide.

Choosing a Havanese

The Havanese may be a better choice for active families or individuals who can provide regular exercise and mental stimulation. Their sociable and energetic nature requires engagement and companionship. If you’re prepared to commit to their grooming needs and want a small, spirited dog that’s eager to participate in your daily activities, the Havanese might be the breed for you.

Choosing a Shih Tzu

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a calm, dignified companion who’s content to spend the day lounging by your side, a Shih Tzu may be a more suitable choice. Their lower energy levels and easygoing nature make them great pets for those with a more relaxed lifestyle. Bear in mind that their beautiful coats also require regular grooming, and they appreciate a peaceful and comfortable environment.

In the end, the decision should be based on a careful assessment of your lifestyle, living situation, and personal preferences. Both breeds are known for their companionship and affection, making them both excellent choices for a family pet.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We often receive a lot of questions from our readers regarding the Havanese vs Shih Tzu breeds. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions and provided answers to help you further understand these adorable dogs.

What’s the Main Difference Between a Havanese and a Shih Tzu?

The main difference between these two breeds is primarily their energy levels and activity needs. Havanese are more active and require regular exercise, while Shih Tzus are more laid-back and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.

Are Havanese and Shih Tzus Hypoallergenic?

Yes, both Havanese and Shih Tzus are considered hypoallergenic. While no breed is 100% hypoallergenic, these breeds are a good fit for individuals with allergies, as they shed less and produce fewer allergens compared to other breeds.

Which Breed Requires More Grooming, Havanese or Shih Tzu?

Both breeds have long, silky coats that require regular grooming. The Havanese has a wavy to curly coat that needs daily brushing, while the Shih Tzu’s coat is straight and also requires daily care.

Can Havanese and Shih Tzus Live in Apartments?

Yes, both breeds are adaptable and can thrive in apartment living as long as their physical and emotional needs are met. Regular exercise, mental stimulation, and companionship are key to their well-being.

Are Havanese and Shih Tzus Good With Children?

Both breeds are generally good with children. Havanese are energetic and sturdy, suitable for families with small children. Shih Tzus are gentle and patient, making them more suitable for families with older children who understand how to handle small dogs gently. As always, it’s crucial to teach children how to interact safely and respectfully with dogs.

Which Breed Is More Trainable, Havanese or Shih Tzu?

Both breeds are intelligent and capable of learning. However, the Havanese might be slightly easier to train due to their eagerness to please their owners. Shih Tzus can sometimes exhibit a stubborn streak, but with consistency and positive reinforcement, they can be effectively trained.

Remember, no matter the breed, it’s essential to provide your pet with a loving, secure, and nurturing environment to bring out their best attributes.

Can You Breed a Havanese and a Shih Tzu Together?

Yes, you can breed a Havanese and a Shih Tzu together. The offspring of a Havanese and a Shih Tzu is commonly referred to as a “Havashu.” Havashus combine traits from both their parent breeds, resulting in a unique mix of characteristics.

However, it’s important to remember that crossbreeding should always be done responsibly, prioritizing the health and well-being of the parent dogs and puppies. Always work with a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health, temperament, and breed standards of the parent breeds.

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