Maltese Shih Tzu

Canis lupus

Last updated: March 17, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Ashley Swanson/

Both parent breeds, the Maltese and Shih Tzu, once entertained royalty!


Maltese Shih Tzu Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Maltese Shih Tzu Conservation Status

Maltese Shih Tzu Locations

Maltese Shih Tzu Locations

Maltese Shih Tzu Facts

Fun Fact
Both parent breeds, the Maltese and Shih Tzu, once entertained royalty!
Other Name(s)
Adaptable, intelligent, and active
Litter Size
6-8 puppies
  • Pack

Maltese Shih Tzu Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
Skin Type
12-14 years
6-15 lbs

Maltese Shih Tzu as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
$400 to $2,500
Dog group
Male weight
6-15 lbs
Female weight
6-15 lbs

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The origins of the Maltese Shih Tzu date back to the 1990s. Most of these dogs are the result of first-generation crosses, but there are second and third-generation crosses as well.

The Maltese Shih Tzu (also known as the Mal-shi) is a mix of two popular toy breeds: the Maltese and the Shih Tzu. Together these two breeds synergize well with each other, creating a unique composite dog. This interesting fusion is also reflected in its physical characteristics. The hybrid breed is characterized by rounded eyes, drooping ears, a triangle nose, curled tail, and a very thin frame. It has a long, straight, silky white coat, sometimes punctuated with tan, black, or brown markings. The coat is often described as very pleasant to the touch. Because of their small size and excellent manners, they are considered to be exceptional companions for the entire family.

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3 Pros and Cons of Owning a Maltese Shih Tzu

Calm and Friendly: An excellent family dog for just about any living situation.Fragile: The Maltese Shih Tzu has a tiny, fragile body and should be treated with care.
Light Shedder: Despite its long coat of hair, this crossbreed dog doesn’t shed very much.Poor Strength and Endurance: If you desire a strong exercise companion or work dog, this probably isn’t the right breed for you.
Easy to Train: This breed is very eager to please its owner.Coat Care: Owners should expect to spend a lot of time grooming their luxurious coats.
Mal Shi

The Maltese Shih Tzu is an adorable breed that is eager to please.


Evolution and History

The Maltese Shih Tzu was introduced in the 1990s by breeders motivated to develop a toy dog that did not shed too much, had a friendly temperament, and would make a good companion. The Maltese and Shih Tzu were suitable choices as parent breeds because both are the same small size and therefore which breed was the sire or the dam was not an issue.

The Maltese is a graceful long-haired breed whose origins are date back thousands of years to the ancient world. While some believe that these dogs could have originally been from Sicily, southern Europe, or Egypt, many consider Malta to be where they were first developed. It’s thought that they could have been present following the colonization of Malta by the Phoenicians circa 1,000 BCE, and used to assist in keeping food on Phoenician ships free of rodents or even traded, while Maltese women used the dogs as companions or “comforters.” By the mid-1800s, the breed was popular as a pet in the U.K and U.S. and a frequent competitor at dog shows.

Originating in Tibet and revered by Buddhists, the Shih Tzu’s lineage can be traced at least 1,000 years. It is thought to have been developed from breeding the Pekingese with the Lhasa Apso, and was once exclusively owned by Chinese royalty, who prized them as pets and to warm their beds and feet. Anyone caught with one outside of the royal courts during the Ming and Manchu dynasties could have been sentenced to death. Shih Tzu means “little lion” in Mandarin and it was also referred to as the “chrysanthemum dog” after being brought to England in the 1930s. These dogs came to the U.S. after World War II ended, when U.S. soldiers returned home with them from Europe and Asia.

Health and Entertainment for your Maltese Shih Tzu

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Emotional Support Animals

The Maltese, parent breed of the Maltese Shih Tzu, is graceful and long-haired.

©Dora Zett/

Size and Weight

The Maltese Shih Tzu is a small toy dog with a very thin frame. Some of them are so small that they almost qualify for teacup status (literally a dog that can fit inside of a teacup). Males and females weigh about the same.

Height (Male):8 to 14 inches
Height (Female):8 to 14 inches
Weight (Male):6 to 15 pounds
Weight (Female):6 to 15 pounds
Maltese Shih Tsu mix

Maltese Shih Tsu dogs have a thin frame and weigh only 15 pounds at most.

©Ashley Swanson/

Common Health Issues

This breed may be at risk of inheriting the most common health conditions from its parent breeds, including hypothyroidism, glaucoma, and other eye disorders, white shaker syndrome (which results in episodes of uncontrollable shaking), and patellar luxation (in which the kneecap occasionally slips out of place). Cancer may also be a leading cause of death in this hybrid. Fortunately, it has a healthy lifespan of around 12 to 14 years.

Good breeders should ideally screen their dogs for common health issues, including bone/joint disorders and eye problems. If you ask your breeder for proof, they will normally provide certification of a negative test. In summation, these are the most common health issues of the Maltese Shih Tzu:

  • Eye disorders
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Bone and joint disorders.
Maltese Shih Tzu - Isolated

Health issues that the Maltese Shih Tzu can suffer from include hypothyroidism, glaucoma, and other eye disorders.

©Roger Bishop/


The Maltese Shih Tzu is the very definition of a lap dog. With its sweet, calm, and trusting personality, this dog follows its owner almost everywhere and enjoys being handled by people. These are also adaptable dogs that can grow accustomed to almost any living arrangement. Because they easily suffer from separation anxiety, however, they will probably need regular companionship throughout the day, or else they might engage in some anxious and destructive behavior. Ideally, a family member should be present to keep the dog company. If you need to leave the dog alone for hours at a time, then it’s a good idea to have a neighbor, friend, or extended family member check in on the dog.

The Maltese Shih Tzu has a sweet, calm, and trusting personality.

©Tim Belyk/

How to Take Care of the Maltese Shih Tzu

This breed is an excellent choice for owners with almost any kind of experience level, from first-time owners to veterans. While the coat maintenance involves quite a bit of time and effort, just about everything else should be a relative breeze. If you need personal help with dog care, then you should consult a professional.

The Best Dog Food for Maltese Shih Tzus

A full-grown Maltese Shih Tzu needs about a quarter to half a cup of high-quality dry food per day, preferably divided into about two meals. The exact amount of food will depend on the size, age, and activity level of your dog. In order to prevent weight gain, owners should limit the number of treats the dog receives.

Because of the prevalence of eye problems like glaucoma in addition to bone and joint disorders, Maltese Shih Tzu owners should look for dog food that caters to those health needs.

Considering their unique set of needs, the best dog food for Maltese Shih Tzus is Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food.

Yes, this is marketed as senior dog food, but we prefer this dog food for Maltese Shih Tzus due to its targeted nutrition. It includes chondroitin and glucosamine aimed at sustaining strong bones, joints, and beta carotene for eyes and vision.

Order your Maltese Shih Tzu some Nutro Ultra Senior Dog Food on Chewy and Amazon.

Best for Seniors
Nutro Ultra Senior Dry Dog Food
  • Chicken, lamb, and Salmon recipe suited for senior dogs
  • 15 superfoods like coconut, chia, kale, blueberries, and more to support healthy digestion
  • No chicken by-product meal, corn, soy, or wheat, and no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
Check Chewy Check Amazon

Maintenance and Grooming

In order to keep the coat clean and nice-looking, the Maltese Shih Tzu has many special grooming requirements. Brushing will need to take place almost daily with the combination of a simple pin brush and a slicker brush, followed by a comb. Clipping should occur every six to nine weeks, while bathing is also necessary at regular intervals to maintain the natural softness and silkiness of the coat.

Another important aspect of grooming is ear care. The ears should be checked about once a week for signs of an infection. Clean the outer ear with a cotton ball and cleaner to prevent infection. Owners will also need to trim the nails once or twice a month; if the nails are clicking loudly on the floor, then they need to be trimmed immediately. The teeth should be cleaned a few times a week with vet-approved toothpaste.

Close-up of a Maltese Shih Tzu

A Maltese Shih Tzu’s ears should be checked once a week to avoid infections.



The Maltese Shih Tzu should make training relatively easy. These cheerful, intelligent crossbreed dogs are eager to please and learn human commands relatively quickly. They should respond very well to positive reinforcement methods but otherwise needs few other inducements. If you want to save time and effort, then you can take your dog to a professional trainer.


This type of dog only needs about 10 to 15 minutes of exercise per day. This can come in the form of a leisurely walk or more vigorous games of fetch. Because this particular hybrid can suffer from bouts of respiratory issues in humidity and hot weather, outdoor exercise sessions should be limited in the summer.

Adult Maltese Shih Tzu Mix

The Maltese Shih Tzu only needs around 10-15 minutes of exercise each day.

©Spiky and I/


Because of this dog’s naturally friendly disposition, owners may be tempted to neglect early training and socialization. This is generally not advised. Full-grown dogs will always behave better when they’ve had early training as puppies. Crate training is recommended (but not necessarily required) to offer puppies a safe space and assist with house training. If you plan to have your dog spayed or neutered, then this should be done around the first year of age. Unless you plan to breed your dog, spaying and neutering are usually recommended. It has many health and behavioral benefits.

Maltese Shih Tzu puppies

Maltese Shih Tsu puppies should be socialized from an early age.

©Eric Isselee/

The Maltese Shih Tzu and Children

The Maltese Shih Tzu is an affectionate and trusting friend toward children of all ages. Thanks to its calm demeanor and small size, no child will ever be intimidated by it. With that said, the Maltese Shih Tzu will probably do best with children who are at least old enough to understand how to handle these fragile little dogs. They don’t normally like rough behavior.

Dogs Similar to the Maltese Shih Tzu

If small toy dogs appeal to you, then you should check out one of the following breeds:

  • Havenese: This small outgoing and cheerful dog is the only breed entirely native to Cuba. It is characterized by a curled tail and a long silky coat with a variety of different colors, including chocolate, cream, fawn, red, and brindle.
  • Chinese Crested Dog: Few other breeds are quite as distinctive as the Chinese Crested Dog. It has long hair around the neck and head, furry “boots,” and a feathery tail. The rest of the pink spotted skin is almost completely bare. For owners who want a bit more hair on their dogs, the powderpuff variation has long hair around the body as well.
  • Poodle: The Poodle is perhaps the quintessential small dog. Affectionate, dignified, and intelligent, this breed is a great family companion for almost everyone. The Poodle has a variety of different coat colors to choose from. It also comes in four different sizes: standard, miniature, toy, and teacup.
Standard poodle - poodle teeth

The Maltese Shih Tzu is similar in size to the poodle.


Famous Maltese Shih Tzu Dogs

The Maltese Shih Tzu is a relatively new hybrid and probably not well-known enough to be famous. With that said, both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu are very popular around the world, and there are many famous examples. Queen Elizabeth was given a Shih Tzu named Choo-Choo as a gift earlier in her life, and Frank Sinatra supposedly gave Marilyn Monroe a Maltese in the early 1960s.

If you’re still searching for a good Maltese Shih Tzu name, then you might want to consider one of the following options:

  • Bella
  • Charlie
  • Gizmo
  • Lily
  • Max
  • Lucy
  • Chloe
  • Zoe
  • Abby
  • Riley

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What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

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Should they be Hypoallergenic?

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How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
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About the Author

Catherine Gin has more than 15 years of experience working as an editor for digital, print and social media. She grew up in Australia with an alphabet of interesting animals, from echidnas and funnel-web spiders to kookaburras and quokkas, as well as beautiful native plants including bottlebrushes and gum trees. Being based in the U.S. for a decade has expanded Catherine's knowledge of flora and fauna, and she and her husband hope to have a hobby farm and vegetable garden in future.

Maltese Shih Tzu FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Maltese Shih Tzu good dogs?

The Maltese Shih Tzu is a fusion between two of the friendliest breeds you can find: the Maltese and Shih Tzu. Their sweet and affectionate temperament will endear them to all kinds of owners looking for a simple canine companion. On the other hand, they do not make for good working dogs or exercise buddies, so keep that in mind as you make your decision.

How much is a Maltese Shih Tzu?

The price of a newborn puppy may cost as low as $400 or as high as $2,500, depending on the quality of the breeder and the pedigree as the dog. The price of a full-grown Maltese Shih Tzu will obviously be a lot lower than a puppy, but because of this dog’s relative rarity, it might be hard to find for sale by an owner, a rescue, or other adoption groups. Owners will also need to factor in the price of food, toys, and other important items.

Is a Maltese Shih Tzu hypoallergenic?

While it should be noted that no dog is ever truly hypoallergenic, the Maltese Shih Tzu does come from two breeds known for shedding very little. Despite its very long hair, this hybrid is far less likely to trigger an allergic reaction than your average dog (especially if it’s inherited a coat more like its Maltese parent). With that said, individual reactions will always vary, and it’s impossible to know what your reaction will be until you’re in the same room as the dog.

How big do Maltese Shih Tzus get?

The Maltese Shih Tzu rarely grows much larger than 12 pounds.

How long does a Maltese Shih Tzu live?

The average lifespan is about 12 to 14 years.

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