Maltese Shih Tzu: You need to meet this charming lapdog

Last Updated on April 23, 2023

Sometimes called Malti Zu, Malt-Tzu, Mal-shi, Mal-Shih, Shihtese, Malshi, or Malshih, the Maltese Shih Tzu mix might just be the perfect dog for those who love small breeds!

This fido is smart, eager to please, loyal, and totally adorable! If that description fits your criteria as an ideal pet, then you’re in the right place.

Ready to get to know this sweet, petite pooch? Stay with us!

What do you get when you cross a Maltese and a Shih Tzu?

The Maltese Shih Tzu mix is, as you’ve probably guessed, a crossbreed between two purebreds – the Maltese and the Shih Tzu. The first Mal-Tzu hybrid popped up around the 1990s, and they’ve since become extraordinarily popular in Australia.

There are a lot of designer dogs out there, like Doodles, but the Maltese Shih Tzu is different. It’s one of the few hybrids without any Poodle in its genes.

The Shih Tzu Maltese is also different from some other mixed breeds because they’re mostly first- or second-generation pups. Dogs from the third generation and beyond are rarer to come by. For that reason, you can never be precisely sure what you’ll get from one litter to the next. But isn’t it an exciting surprise to have a designer dog?

We’ll get to understand and know the Malshi better by getting to know its parents.

Meet the playful Maltese

A fully-groomed Maltese dog

Malteses are smart dogs all dressed up in a glossy, long white coat that is sure to draw attention wherever it goes. Originally bred to be lapdogs in royal households, they are affectionate, loyal, and trusting with their owners.

Their silky, pure white hair is low shedding and grows exceptionally long. Out of all that white fur peaks a dark black nose and dark eyes, which gives the dog lots of character.

This small dog weighs under 7 pounds (3 kg) and is about 7 to 9 inches (18 to 23 cm) tall at the shoulder.

Meet the Shih Tzu

A puppy and a full-grown Shih Tzu
Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is an ancient breed that came out of the Lhasa Apso around 1000 BCE, where it was popular with the Chinese nobility. It came across the ocean to the United States after the Second World War.

This pooch is a sweet but aloof people-lover that weighs between 6 to 16 pounds (3 to 8 kg) and is under 10 inches (25 cm) tall.

The Shih Tzu stands out thanks to its short muzzle, dark nose, and dramatic double coat, which can reach to the ground. It comes in black, blue, brindle, gold, liver, red, silver, black and gold, white, and any color combined with white. They can sometimes have an adorable black mask or tan markings.

What does a Maltese Shih Tzu look like?

While they can have a head that resembles the Shih Tzu, with the flat face, you’ll usually see them with a longer nose. Their bulgy eyes look more like the Maltese that can either have an amber or hazel color.

They have dropped ears that are covered in long hair and their tail, which curls over their compact body that is also covered in silky hair.

Take a look at how cute this Maltese Shih Tzu puppy is:

How big does the Maltese Shih Tzu mix get?

Maltese Shih Tzus are small dogs that are closer in size to the Shih Tzu parent. They weigh somewhere between 6 and 12 pounds (3 and 5 kg), and a height that’s usually around 10 inches (25 cm).

Puppies grow quickly at first, with most of their growth happening in the first few months. By a year, they’re usually considered full-grown.

With their size, you’re right to think that the Maltese Shih Tzu cross would do fine in small houses like an apartment. Since they can be quite active, they’re more suitable for homes with a small backyard.

Do Maltese Shih Tzu dogs shed?

Yes, they do, but they’re considered low shedders. In fact, this designer pooch is known for its hair. The Maltese & Shih Tzu mix is known for its hair.

Part of the reason that breeders wanted to combine the Shih Tzu with the Maltese was to take advantage of some of that low-shedding characteristic. Their mixed offspring aren’t entirely shed-free, but they don’t shed much.

Their silky coat keeps growing, and it can get extremely long if you don’t trim it. It’s usually silky, soft and wavy, but should never be curly.

You’ll find this mixed breed in every color that you’d find a Shih Tzu. While you may see a pure-white one or a pure-black, it’s rarer than the other colors. The most common color is white with some tan, brown, and black markings.

Temperament: Are Maltese Shih Tzu good dogs?

A whole body picture of a full-grown Maltese Shih Tzu mix

The answer to that question depends on what you’re looking for. Malshis can be incredibly sweet, eager-to-please, and friendly. But they can also bark too much and get upset when they’re left alone.

Luckily, these problems can be resolved as long as they’re socialized early and get proper training. No worries, since they’re intelligent and want nothing more than to make their owners happy, they’re mostly easy to train.

I like to think of having a Shih-tese as a bit like having a toddler around. They’re curious and outgoing. The Maltese breed can be prone to being high-strung, while the Shih Tzu can be a bit aloof. When you mix the two, you often end up a dog that is a bit more balanced, with an outgoing nature and love to spare.

Although they look cute, do not let these dogs get bossy. They need to be treated as a companion and not like a toddler. You have to resist the cuteness, especially if they’re trying to charm you. You need to set clear boundaries and establish yourself as the leader because they can be willful, and they might just decide to do what they want, whether you like it or not.

One of the best things about these dogs is that they’re totally adaptable. All they want in life is to be with you, so they’ll live with you in a trailer as you travel cross-country or a mansion with a million kids.

On the topic of barking, small dogs sometimes get the reputation as being barkers, and Maltese Shih Tzus are no different. Luckily, they aren’t as yappy as some dogs.

When it comes to being with kids, Maltese Shih Tzus are perfectly happy with a big family, so long as younger kids are taught to be gentle with these somewhat sensitive canines.

Other than that, they have an amiable nature that makes them excellent therapy dogs, and you’ll see them hanging out with seniors at retirement communities. They’re not the kind of dog to turn away from a stranger – most of them love everyone they meet.

Can you leave a Maltese Shih Tzu dog alone?

That’s the downside with these fidos. Since they’re affectionate fur babies, they don’t like to be away from their person for a long time, and that makes them prone to separation anxiety. This can lead to behavior problems like potty accidents, barking, destruction, shivering, and even shaking.

What some owners do is look for other activities to do with their doggo whenever they have time. If you have a swimming pool or you live near a lake, you have to be careful. Both the Shih Tzu and the Maltese aren’t the best breeds if you want a swimming companion.

That doesn’t mean they won’t jump in the pool, but the short muzzle and small legs make it hard to go very far in the water.

On top of that, their heavy coat can make it hard to stay afloat. They can also catch a chill in cold water. If you happen to have a pooch who just can’t stand to stay out of the water, provide them with a small wading pool and only fill it as deep as their chest.

If you do have to leave your Maltese Shih Tzu puppy alone for a few hours, it may be a relief to know that they can get along with cats and other dogs, too. As long as they were raised together and are used to being around each other, there’s no need to be too concerned.

This hybrid may be social canines, but they can be territorial. That’s why socialization is vital.

They also tend to have a high prey drive, so you’ll need to train them to accept small pets like gerbils and hamsters. That also means that they might take off if they aren’t on a leash and they spot a squirrel in the park.

Caring for your Maltese Shih Tzu

These dogs aren’t as high maintenance as some could mention, but they do have some special needs – especially when it comes to that gorgeous coat.

You should also know that crossbreed won’t be able to stand extreme weather. When it’s cold out, you’ll want to protect them with some additional cover like a coat or sweater.

When it’s hot, be sure to provide plenty of water and shade, especially if your dog has a flatter face, because they tend to overheat more rapidly. A home with air conditioning is essential if you live where it gets sweltering in the summers.

Grooming a teddy bear dog like the Maltese Shih Tzu mix

An adult Maltese Shih Tzu getting washed in the bath tub

The downside to their coat is that it takes some care, which is why many owners opt to trim their pet’s hair short. If you go this route, expect to clip them once every 6 to 8 weeks.

Otherwise, plan on brushing them out every day using a pin comb and brush designed for long hair. 

Bathe your pooch every 3 to 4 weeks to maintain that silky coat, and be sure to use a conditioner to help stave off tangles. If your dog has lots of white, use a shampoo formulated for white coats. This will help give their hair a shiny, white luster.

When you wash your dog, you’ll also want to clean their ears with an actual ear cleaner. Finish with a drying powder. Dogs with hairy drop ears are more prone to ear infections, so be sure to check their ears once a week for redness or odd smells.

Nails should be trimmed once or twice a month using a nail grinder or nail clipper. If you can hear the clickety-clack of nails on your floor, you’ve let them grow too long.

Brush your Maltese Shih Tzu’s teeth two or three times a week to keep them healthy. You don’t want them to start losing their teeth as they get older because of poor dental hygiene.

Light or white Maltese Shih Tzus can get eye stains, which is a reddish-brown discoloration under the eyes. It’s best to take a multi-step approach to deal with stains.

Watch this video of Milo and his owner showing us how this pup’s eyes are kept clean:

First, make sure you’re feeding a proper diet as recommended by your vet. Then, make sure to wipe their face after eating or drinking. You can keep a cloth near their bowls as a reminder and to make this chore easier.

Then, once a day, use a quality canine eye wipe formulated to prevent and remove eye stains. Finally, use a tear stain remover when brushing your dog.

Diet: What to feed a Maltese Shih Tzu

Dogs of this size and energy level need about 45 calories per day per pound, which roughly translates to 1/4 to 1/2 cup of food each day. They need high-quality dry kibbles fed over two meals. Don’t leave their food out so that they can self-feed, or your dog is likely going to end up overweight.

The type of dog food and the amount you feed your pet should be based on her age, size, activity level, and health.

You also need to watch the treats – just a few a day will do. And of course, don’t feed your dog human food from the table or you’ll encourage them to beg.

Is the Maltese Shih Tzu dog hyper?

They don’t have a very high energy level, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t need exercise – plan on letting them run around for at least 15 minutes a day. Maltese Shih Tzu’s aren’t the biggest outdoor adventurers, but they’ll appreciate a little time to play in the sun.

Often, a walk around the block is enough to keep your companion happy, but some dogs might want a more significant challenge, like a short hike.

If you want to stay indoors for playtime, try doing something mentally and physically stimulating like hide and seek. I like to tell my dogs to wait in one room while I run and hide in another. Then I have a friend give them the go-ahead and wait for them to find me – and the doggy snacks I’ve got waiting for them.

Health: How long do Maltese Shih Tzu dogs live?

With the right care, your Maltese Shih Tzu can have a good long life with you because they generally have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years

That said, they do have some health issues that you’ll need to keep an eye out for: 

Respiratory problems – Any dog that has a flat face or short-nose is more prone to respiratory issues like brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome.

This disorder makes it difficult for dogs to breathe, resulting in snoring, wheezing, mouth breathing, and can even progress to the point where it can kill your dog. It is a lifelong condition that gets worse with age.

Patellar Luxation – this problem is one that affects lots of different small breeds. What happens is the kneecap gets dislocated from the joint and causes pain or even lameness. Many dogs can live normal lives, while others may need surgery to correct the problem.

White Shaker Syndrome – This disease happens in both Shih Tzus, Malteses, and any crossbreeds of the two. Young or middle-aged dogs will have episodes where they start shaking uncontrollably and may even be unable to walk. The treatment is usually steroids given for a few months, though bad cases may require lifelong doses every other day.

Hypothyroidism – This disorder is when a dog’s thyroid doesn’t produce the right amount of hormones. Your dog may have weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, or may act lethargic. It can generally be managed with medication.

Intervertebral Disk Disease – This disease happens when the disk between the vertebrae in the back gets damaged and can result in pain or even paralysis. Treatment may include steroids and anti-inflammatories, surgery, or a combination.

Hip Dysplasia – This disease impacts many breeds of dogs, and happens when the hip joint does not form properly. It can lead to limping and lameness and may require surgery to correct.

Liver Shunts – A liver shunt is when two veins have an abnormal connection and is usually a birth defect. Your dog might have stunted growth or poor muscle development if they have this disease. It’s more common in small dogs and may require surgery to correct the issue.

Some medications can help, and a soy protein diet fed several times throughout the day is beneficial, as well.

Epilepsy – Shih Tzus and its mixes are prone to epilepsy, which is a condition that causes seizures. It can usually be controlled with medication, though it can take years to find the right balance of dosage and medication types.

Obesity – As we mentioned earlier, Maltese Shih Tzus can get overweight if you’re not careful with the treats and food. This can lead to all sorts of other health issues, so be sure to keep an eye on your dog’s weight. Your vet can tell you the ideal weight for your particular dog.

When in doubt, look down at your dog from above. Does your pooch have an identifiable waist? If you reach down and put your hands on their back ribs, can you feel them (but not see them) without having to really try? If so, your dog is probably around their ideal weight.

Does the American Kennel Club recognize Maltese Shih Tzus?

These dogs are crossbreeds, which means they’re not registered with the AKC as they only recognize purebred dogs. Unfortunately, you can’t register them with this club or show them in any AKC events. That doesn’t make them less lovable, though, and if you really want to be involved in club events, there are several that recognize this breed. 

The American Canine Hybrid Club, the Designer Breed Registry, and the International Designer Canine Registry recognize this dog as the Mal-Shi. They’re also recognized by the Dog Registry of America, and the Designer Dogs Kennel Club as the Malti Tzu

How much does a Maltese Shih Tzu cost?

A tricolored Maltese and Shih Tzu mix puppy

While you can find puppies for under $400, you’ll probably pay closer between $500 to $800. Be cautious if you find a Maltese Shih Tzu mix for cheap, because it could mean they’ve come from a backyard breeder who isn’t concerned with breeding healthy, happy dogs.

But the price of a Maltese & Shih Tzu cross can vary depending on the breeder’s location, the popularity of the kennel, bloodline or pedigree of the purebred parents, as well as the number of pups available in a litter.

Maltese Shih Tzus have litters of about 6 to 8 puppies and, as we mentioned earlier, there’s no telling what you might get from litter to litter in terms of appearance and personality.

A good breeder should give you some sort of health guarantee and be willing to take back the dog should you need to surrender it for some reason. If the breeder refuses these things, or if they want to meet you away from where they’re breeding their dogs, those should be considered red flags. 

If you feel like you’re ready to look for available Maltese Shih Tzu puppies for sale online, we have found some kennels you can check out.

Maltese Shih Tzu breeders

We found marketplaces that offer Maltese Shih Tzu pups like Lancaster Puppies, Greenfield Puppies, and Timbercreek Puppies, but you can also browse these breeder websites:

  • Micheline’s Pups (Ocala, Florida)
  • Princess Puppies (Lena, Louisiana)
  • Texas Teacups (Wylie, Texas)

We also saw this Facebook page of T&J Breeding with Love that focuses on Maltese Shih Tzu mixes.

Don’t forget to do your research before making a deal with a breeder or paying for a puppy.

Maltese Shih Tzu to adopt or rescue

If you’d prefer to foster or adopt your new family member, you’ll have plenty of options. Many shelters have Maltese Shih Tzus up for adoption for a small fee. It usually starts around $300, which is way easier on the pocket compared to buying a pup.

Check national and local rescues specifically for Malteses and Shih Tzus, because they often have their mixes waiting for their new owners.

Why not start looking at these rescue sites?

  • Shih Tzus and Furbabies (Saint Mary’s, Georgia)
  • Shih Tzu Rescue, Inc. (Davie, Florida)
  • Southern Comfort Maltese Rescue (Chattanooga, Tennessee)
  • Maltese and More Rescue (Southern California)

Other Shih Tzu and Maltese Mixes

If you like the idea of a Maltese Shih Tzu mix, but you want a little something different, there are lots of crossbreeds out there! Some of the Shih Tzu mixes and Maltese hybrids that you’ll surely find adorable are:

Maltese and Poodle mix AKA Maltipoo

Maltese and Yorkie mix AKA Morkie

Shih Tzu and Poodle mix AKA Shih Poo

Shih Tzu and Yorkie mix AKA Shorkie

Shih Tzu and Chihuahua mix AKA ShiChi

Some people looking at the Maltese Shih Tzu are also considering the Cavoodle, which is a mix of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle. They have a somewhat similar look and size and are also loving and gentle. 

Pros & Cons: Should you get a Maltese Shih Tzu mix?

There’s a lot to love about the Maltese Shih Tzu, but they aren’t perfect, of course. No pooch is. So you have to weigh in their good and bad qualities to make a final decision.

They’re excellent if you need a dog that will be happy in an apartment. They don’t need a ton of exercise, and they’re most comfortable when they’re hanging out with their people. That’s because both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu were bred to be companions, and that carries on through their offspring.

The bad news is that they can have some health issues, and they can be quite stubborn when they want to be. They’re also prone to separation anxiety, as you’d expect from a dog that’s so focused on its people.

What’s your verdict? If you had or currently have a Maltese Shih Tzu puppy or dog, tell us your story and help dog lovers who are interested in this breed know more about them! Just comment below.

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