Maltese vs Shih Tzu: The Showdown!

Maltese vs. Shih Tzu

Welcome to our comprehensive guide comparing two of the most beloved toy breeds in the United States: the Maltese vs Shih Tzu. Both of these breeds are popular choices among dog lovers for their adorable looks, manageable size, and affectionate nature. But how do they stack up against each other? In this blog, we will dive into the world of Maltese dogs and Shih Tzu breeds, examining their physical characteristics, temperament, health issues, grooming needs, and exercise requirements.

Whether you’re a first-time dog owner, have a family with young or older children, or you’re looking for a companion in your golden years, understanding the nuances of these breeds will help you determine which is the best fit for your lifestyle. You might just discover that these two small dogs have more in common than meets the eye.

Read on to learn more about the Maltese vs. Shih Tzu debate and to help you make an informed decision about which of these adorable little companions could be the right new addition to your family.

A Look at Maltese and Shih Tzu Breeds: At a First Glance

Before we delve into the detailed comparison, let’s first introduce these two amazing breeds. Despite being small in size, both the Maltese and Shih Tzu have a long and illustrious history. Their adorable appearance and charming personalities have earned them a place in the hearts of dog lovers around the world.

Maltese Breed: An Ancient Breed

The Maltese breed, known for their flowing, pure white coat, are among the oldest of the toy breeds. They are famed for their graceful demeanor and striking appearance. Recognized for their small size and affectionate nature, Maltese dogs have been favored by nobility throughout history.

The modern Maltese dog has a long coat that, with proper grooming, lends an almost regal air to these tiny dogs. The Maltese male weight usually ranges between 4 to 7 pounds, while the Maltese male height averages between 8 to 10 inches.

Shih Tzu Breed: The Little Lion

On the other hand, the Shih Tzu, often referred to as the “little lion,” is another ancient breed originating from China. They boast a long history of being cherished by Chinese royals, and their majestic double coat and unique facial features reflect their noble lineage. Shih Tzus are known for their friendly and outgoing personality, making them an excellent choice for many families.

Shih Tzus stand a little taller and heavier than Maltese dogs. With their short legs and slightly larger build, adult Shih Tzus typically weigh between 9 to 16 pounds and stand about 9 to 10.5 inches tall. They come in many different colors, making each Shih Tzu uniquely beautiful.

Both breeds offer an abundance of charm and love in a small package, but each has distinct traits that may make one a better fit for your lifestyle than the other.

Maltese and Shih Tzu


Maltese VS. Shih Tzu: Size, Lifespan, and Health

When choosing between these two breeds, it’s important to consider the physical traits and overall health of each. Size and lifespan may significantly impact your lifestyle and long-term commitment, while the health issues common in each breed can influence veterinary costs and care routines.

Size Comparison: Tiny Dog vs Small Dog

Firstly, let’s delve into the size differences between these breeds. Both Maltese and Shih Tzu belong to the small dog breeds category. However, there’s a clear distinction when it comes to their actual dimensions.

The Maltese breed, often referred to as a tiny dog, typically weighs less than 7 pounds and stands about 8 to 10 inches tall. Their petite size makes them perfect for those living in smaller spaces or looking for a lap dog.

Shih Tzus, while still small, are slightly larger. They generally weigh between 9 to 16 pounds and stand about 9 to 10.5 inches at the shoulder. While still suitable for apartments or small homes, Shih Tzus might be a better option for families with small children who might be too rough with a tinier Maltese.

Lifespan and Health Issues

In terms of lifespan, both Maltese and Shih Tzus have a long life expectancy. With proper care, Maltese dogs can live between 12 to 15 years, and Shih Tzus can live up to 10 to 16 years. This means both breeds can be a long-term companion for your family.

However, like all breeds, both Maltese and Shih Tzus are prone to certain health problems. Both breeds might develop issues like patellar luxation and eye problems. However, Maltese dogs are especially prone to progressive retinal atrophy, while Shih Tzus are more likely to suffer from hip dysplasia.

It’s also important to note that purchasing a dog from responsible breeders can help ensure that your future pet has been tested for certain genetic conditions, thereby potentially reducing future health issues. The health of these small breeds should always be a top priority, so regular vet visits and good care are essential.

Maltese dog breed

The Personality and Temperament of Maltese VS. Shih Tzu

Beyond physical characteristics and health concerns, the personality and temperament of your potential pet are paramount to ensuring a good match for your lifestyle and environment.

Maltese: The Social Lap Dog

Maltese dogs are well-known for their affectionate and sociable nature. They are very attached to their human companions, and this strong bond often leads them to develop separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. Their friendly and playful demeanor makes them a joy to be around, and their intelligence means they can pick up new tricks and commands quickly with the right positive reinforcement training methods.

While Maltese dogs are friendly, they can be quite alert and are often wary of strangers. With a strong sense of loyalty, they can also be surprisingly courageous for their size. Maltese dogs are suitable for a first-time owner, as long as they are able to spend a lot of time with their pet and provide them with the attention they crave.

Shih Tzu: The Adaptable Companion

Shih Tzus, on the other hand, are outgoing and love to meet new people. They are friendly dogs, and they get along well with both humans and other pets. Thanks to their adaptable nature, Shih Tzus can be a great companion for a wide range of households, whether it’s a single owner, a family with young children or older children, or elderly people.

Despite their laid-back personality, Shih Tzus do have a playful side and are known to enjoy a good romp around the house or yard. They have a higher energy level than Maltese dogs but are also quite content to snuggle up for a good cuddle. Their desire to please their owner means they respond well to training and can learn basic commands with ease. This makes them not only a great pet but also a suitable candidate for a therapy dog.

Understanding the distinct personality traits of each breed will help you decide which dog could be a more suitable match for your lifestyle, ensuring a harmonious and happy bond.

Shih Tzu dog breed

Grooming and Maintenance of Maltese VS. Shih Tzu

Both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu have glamorous coats that require consistent grooming to keep them looking their best. However, grooming needs and maintenance requirements differ for each breed.

Grooming a Maltese: High Maintenance but Worth It

The Maltese are famous for their striking, long hair that, when properly groomed, flows to the floor, giving them a unique, elegant appearance. This floor-length coat is very similar to human hair, meaning it continuously grows and does not shed much. Because of this, the Maltese require daily brushing to prevent tangles and matting.

Although it’s high maintenance, the result is certainly worth it. It’s also worth noting that you can opt for a “puppy cut” or a shorter haircut to make grooming more manageable. Regular baths are necessary to keep their pure white coat in good condition, and regular checks of their ears and teeth are also part of the maintenance routine for Maltese dogs.

Grooming a Shih Tzu: Keep That Silky Coat Shining

Shih Tzus, known for their double coat, also require regular grooming. Their coat is dense and long, with a woolly undercoat and a silky outer coat. Regular brushing is needed to keep their coat tangle-free.

While Shih Tzus do not shed as much as some breeds, they still lose hair, so consistent grooming is important. Also, the variety of different colors in Shih Tzus often requires special attention to keep their coat vibrant and healthy.

To maintain their health and the quality of their coat, feeding your Shih Tzu a high-quality dog food is recommended. It’s important to know that the grooming requirements of a Shih Tzu are quite high, but as with the Maltese, a shorter haircut can reduce the amount of maintenance required.

While both breeds require considerable grooming, the results are rewarding. If you are prepared to invest time (or hire a professional groomer) and understand the responsibility, both Maltese and Shih Tzus can remain both healthy and dazzling.


Exercise Needs of Maltese VS. Shih Tzu

When it comes to exercise, both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu have different requirements due to their individual energy levels and breed characteristics. Let’s delve into what to expect from these adorable small breeds.

Maltese Exercise: Less Is More

The Maltese, while playful and active, do not require an extensive amount of exercise. A few short walks and some playtime each day will typically suffice. About 20-30 minutes of exercise daily can keep them happy and healthy.

Despite their small size, Maltese dogs enjoy interactive games and mental stimulation. However, remember that they are still a tiny dog breed, so exercise should be gentle to avoid any physical strain.

Shih Tzu Exercise: A Bit More Energy to Burn

Shih Tzus, on the other hand, have slightly more energy to expend. They enjoy daily walks and regular playtime, with about 30-60 minutes of exercise being ideal. Despite their small stature, they are relatively agile and can enjoy more active games.

However, Shih Tzus can easily overheat and are susceptible to breathing issues due to their flat faces. So, always ensure playtime and walks are during cooler parts of the day and not too strenuous.

Both breeds require consistent exercise to maintain a healthy weight and good overall health. Even though their needs differ, regular physical activity and mental stimulation are crucial for their well-being. Always remember to keep exercise sessions appropriate for their size and breed characteristics.


Choosing between a Maltese and a Shih Tzu can be challenging, as both breeds have their unique charm and appeal. These small dogs are both affectionate, adorable, and make excellent companions. However, their differences in size, temperament, grooming needs, and exercise requirements can help prospective owners determine which breed will fit best into their lifestyle.

The Maltese, with its small size and regal appearance, is a sociable and affectionate breed that craves human companionship. However, their need for constant companionship and high grooming needs might be challenging for some potential owners.

On the other hand, Shih Tzus are outgoing and adaptable, making them a good choice for families or individuals who can provide them with a moderate amount of exercise and care for their luscious coats.

Ultimately, the biggest difference between the two lies in your lifestyle, your living situation, and the amount of time you can dedicate to grooming and companionship. Both breeds can be great companion dogs, and both will shower you with affection and loyalty, making any effort worthwhile.

maltese-vs-shih-tzu dogs

Frequently Asked Questions of Maltese VS. Shih Tzu

To wrap up this comprehensive guide, we’ll address some of the most common questions about the Maltese and Shih Tzu breeds. From questions about their diet and exercise to their temperament and grooming needs, this FAQ section aims to clarify any remaining doubts you may have.

Can Maltese and Shih Tzus Live Together?

Yes, both Maltese and Shih Tzus are friendly and sociable breeds that generally get along well with other dogs. However, each dog’s temperament can vary, so it’s important to ensure they are properly introduced and supervised until you’re sure they get along well.

What Is a Maltese Shih Tzu Mix?

A Maltese Shih Tzu mix, often known as a Malshi, is a designer breed resulting from crossing a purebred Maltese with a purebred Shih Tzu. This breed inherits characteristics from both parent breeds and is known for its friendly nature and adorable appearance.

Are These Breeds Hypoallergenic?

While no breed is entirely hypoallergenic, both the Maltese and Shih Tzu are often better suited for individuals with allergies because they shed less compared to other breeds. However, individuals with severe allergies should spend time with a dog of the breed they are considering before making a commitment.

Are These Breeds Good for Elderly People?

Yes, both the Maltese and Shih Tzu can make great companions for elderly people. They are small, not overly energetic, and enjoy spending time with their human companions. However, the high grooming needs of these breeds should be considered.

Are Maltese and Shih Tzus Good with Kids?

Yes, both breeds are known to be good with kids. However, due to the small size of the Maltese, they might be better suited for families with older children who understand how to handle them gently. Shih Tzus are slightly larger and often do well with children of all ages.

How Much Exercise Does Each Breed Need?

Maltese dogs generally require less exercise than Shih Tzus. About 20-30 minutes of daily exercise is typically enough for a Maltese, while Shih Tzus will benefit from 30-60 minutes.

What Are Some Common Health Issues for Each Breed?

Some common health issues for Maltese dogs include progressive retinal atrophy, patent ductus arteriosus, and patellar luxation. Shih Tzus, on the other hand, are prone to hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, and portosystemic liver shunts. Both breeds can also suffer from dental issues due to their small mouth size.

How Much Time Should I Dedicate to Grooming Each Breed?

Both breeds require regular grooming to keep their coats in good condition. The Maltese’s long, silky coat requires daily brushing, while the Shih Tzu’s double coat will benefit from brushing every couple of days. Both breeds will need regular trips to the groomer for trims.

These answers should provide some additional insights into the Maltese and Shih Tzu breeds. However, always remember that each dog is an individual and can vary from the typical breed characteristics. It’s crucial to spend time with a potential new pet before making a final decision.

Back to Dog Breed Comparison