Maltese Shih Tzu Dog Breed: Is It A Good House Dog?

Heritage and Registry


The intentional breeding for this designer breed could be traced to the ’90s although it cannot be discounted that it may have existed naturally even before that. The reason why this dog breed was “designed” was to produce a great companion dog that will not trigger allergies with its shedding tendencies – in short, a minimal shedding pooch.

The result was achieved. Even better, a cuddly hybrid dog that inherited the best characteristics of its parent dog breeds was achieved, increasing demand for it only in a short time. It’s no wonder that this dog breed has become an instant celebrity in a country like Australia. Its popularity is still growing in other countries overseas which just proves that this is one of the best dogs around that is worth having.


Being a hybrid dog from two pure breed parents, a Maltese Shih Tzu mix is not being acknowledged by the American Kennel Club. However, it is still being recognized by other clubs such as the following:

  •  American Canine Hybrid Club (ACHC)
  • Designer Dogs Kennel Club (DDKC)
  • Dog Registry of America, Inc. (DRA)
  • International Designer Canine Registry (IDCR)
  • Designer Breed Registry (DBR)



Parentage Maltese

The Maltese parent of a Mal-Shi dog breed can be described as nothing less than elegant and ethereal. This has something to do with its almost hypoallergenic, white as snow coat that makes it seems as if it is gliding rather than just walking.

Its history can be traced to many millennia before. In fact, it is known to have been present as a companion dog to well-known nobles and personalities – even depicted by various artists in their creations as far back as ancient times.

At present, this is among the top choices for household dogs because of its gentle nature. Maltese dogs will be great companions even if you have kids, young or old.

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu parent breed of the Mal-Shi, on the other hand, is also another good house dog. They are companion dogs through and through with their affectionate personality. You will rarely find these dogs not shadowing their favorite person.

The Shih Tzu dog breed also traces its origin to the earlier times being treasured companion dogs as evidenced by unearthed artifacts. There are even mentions of them having graced the Imperial Courts.

Nowadays, this dog breed has still maintained its popularity as among the top choices for apartment dogs given their good temperament and small size.

General Information on a Maltese Shih Tzu

  • Height 10 in tall
  • Weight between 6 to 12 lb.
  • Lifespan 12 to 14 years


Laid-back, Playful, Affectionate, Fearless, Moderately Active

Best match

Families with kids not too young, home with an enclosed backyard, average size apartments

Best match

Pomeranian and Poodle

Physical Appearance

Physical Appearance

The fact that a Maltese Shih Tzu mix is a hybrid makes it difficult to pinpoint what they would look like. While some take after one of their parent breeds only, there are those whose appearance reflects both of their parents.

The appearance of Mal-Shis varies significantly that there are times when you will have a hard time guessing that two Mal-Shi puppies came from the same litter.

Having parents that are not big, it is just right to expect that the Mal-Shi dog breed wouldn’t grow large also. In fact, these dogs are categorized only under the toy dog breeds with their height being around 10 in tall and weight averaging between 6 to 12 lb.

Maltese Shih Tzus have small, slim bodies and short legs. They have circular heads that fit proportionately with their body. They normally have black noses and dark eyes that speak of their curiosity and intelligence. They can be flat-faced to and they have drop ears.

You can expect that a Mal-Shi mix would have a long, wavy coat that is silky to touch. Some Mal-Shis have pure white coats, but there are also those whose coats are a combination of black, white, and brown.

The coat of a Mal-Shi efficiently helps protect its body against different types of weather. But it won’t hurt to buy your pooch some doggy clothes especially during winter.



Grooming Brushing

The type of coat the Maltese Shih Tzu mix has would require at least once a day brushing using a detangling brush. This would keep its coat smooth and without mats and tangles. This would also help remove the dirt and dead hair that got stuck on its coat and help spread evenly the natural oil its coat produces.

Mal-Shis do not shed a lot. However, it is still required to increase brushing them during shedding season. In that way, you can prevent them from being walking balls of tangled furs and you can stop the dead hair from spreading all over the furniture.

It is not unusual for a Mal-Shi to not be receptive to being brushed. To prevent your Mal-Shi from disliking it, you should start getting them used to the task while still young. You can even reward them after you brush them so they would learn to enjoy the routine.


A Mal-Shi would require a more regular bath compared to other dogs. This is to keep its coat clean and soft always.

At least every 2 to 3 weeks bath is necessary for a Mal-Shi. When you bathe it, make sure to use a gentle but good-smelling dog shampoo with detangling properties.

Keep the water from getting into its eyes and ears. Dry it with a soft cloth afterwards. If you have a hairdryer, this is a good tool too. Just make sure that the heat is tolerable for the sensitive skin of your fur baby.

When you bathe your fur baby, take the time also to check its skin for rashes, wounds, or bruising that need to be addressed. Determine if it has any parasites. Doing this routinely would help you address actively any health issues your Mal-Shi may have.

Other Grooming Needs

Other Grooming Needs

The grooming of a Mal-Shi doesn’t end on brushing and bathing alone. Its other body parts would need extra attention as well to ensure that its overall upkeeping is covered.

One thing you shouldn’t overlook is the ear cleaning of a Mal-Shi. Having ears that are hanging down, expect that its ears will be susceptible to the growth of yeast and bacteria due to limited air circulation. Because of this, it is important to clean it at least once a week.

Using cotton balls and an ear cleaner made for dogs, carefully clean the outer part of its ears in a circular motion. Make sure not to put anything on the inner part as this may cause damage.

If you notice that the ears of your Mal-Shi are emitting any foul odor, make sure to address this immediately as this could mean that its ears are infected. Vets normally prescribe eardrops to address such cases.

The nails of a Mal-Shi also require regular trimming. Many fur parents do this every two weeks. You will know that you need to trim its nails already when it starts producing sound against the floor as it walks around.

Dogs in general are very sensitive when it comes to their paws. So make sure that when you trim the nails of your Mal-Shi, you will only trim it up to the ideal length. Going overboard could hurt your fur baby and could make it dread the routine.

You should take time also to brush the teeth of your Mal-Shi. Thrice a week is ideal, but every day brushing is a lot better. This would help prevent the development of dental issues, and keep its teeth white and strong.

Lastly, you will notice that Mal-Shis, especially light-colored ones, could develop tear stains under their eyes. To make sure that the mark wouldn’t be permanent, you can treat the affected area with a remover specifically made for such a problem.

It is possible that your Mal-Shi wouldn’t be as welcoming to the grooming tasks that you need to do regularly. This is normal particularly if it is not used to it.

Thus, it would help if you will introduce them to the task as early as possible. You could also motivate them with treats so that they could associate the task with a good experience.

If you think you cannot fulfill the tasks yourself, that is just fine as well. You could seek assistance from professional groomers near your area. They would help you out with the task in no time.

Further, it would also do well for your pooch to be pampered by professionals from time to time.

Food and Feeding

Food and Feeding

Food will be the number one source of nutrition of a Maltese Shih Tzu mix so it is important that they are only fed a balanced diet. The dog food should also be formulated based on what this pooch would need.

Note that not all dog food available commercially is one size fits all. So you need to identify what would work best with your Mal-Shi considering its small size and activity level. You will also need to determine the dog food that works best depending on their age.

A Mal-Shi puppy would need a different type of food during its puppyhood. Same when it reaches also its full adult state, and when it transitioned to its senior years. You need to consider this when planning for your dog’s food intake.

It’s a good thing that with the availability of many dog food brands in the market, you won’t run out of choices no matter the age and the requirements of your Mal-Shi. You just need to choose smart – select a high-quality dog food that is not made of fillers or other too refined ingredients because these are already stripped of the necessary nutrition your fur baby would need.

A fully adult Mal-Shi would need about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of small size kibbles a day. This should be divided based on their feeding schedule which is normally twice a day.

You can still adjust this if you think your fur baby is not getting enough or is getting overfed. This will be evident based on their shape.

If they are starting to get a bit rounder, then you may need to decrease their food. If their ribs are getting more pronounced, then this is one sign that you need to increase their food intake.

The bottom line is you need to just maintain its ideal weight.

There are fur parents who want to mix the dry food of their fur babies with wet food or cooked food. There is no problem with that as well as long as you can cover their nutritional requirements and it will be a balanced meal.

If you have doubts, your vet will always be someone you could count on to assist you.


Right Training Approach

Training Right Training Approach

First-time fur parents would be happy to know that a Mal-Shi would be an easy pooch to train. It won’t matter even if you are a new fur parent because it would be happy to just learn from you.

It is a very intelligent doggo and it is guaranteed that it will bring its positive outlook to every training session you have.

Despite this, however, it is still important to start training your pooch from puppyhood. This would easily curb its tendency to develop stubbornness at an early age and would prevent bad habits from prospering.

Although Maltese Shih Tzu dogs are extremely trainable, many fur parents refrain from correcting their bad behavior until it is too late. They get hooked on the charm of these doggos which causes them to spoil them instead.

After all, who could resist the power of the puppy eyes and fluffiness of Mal-Shis, right?

But as a fur parent, you need to resist. Do not get overpowered by their charm because this would just lead to many problems in the future. The last thing you’d want is a problematic dog. So take advantage of these dogs’ eagerness to please and teach them young.

Since a Maltese Shih Tzu mix is amenable to learning from you, there is no need to resort to intimidation or negative reinforcement. This would do nothing good to it and would just break its spirit. This could even cause it to act aggressively even if it doesn’t have a natural aggressive bone in its body.

The best approach would still be positive reinforcement. Reward it with treats and praises for every desired behavior so it will be encouraged to repeat it. This would also make training an enjoyable activity for them.

Basic Training

When you start training a Maltese Shih Tzu, it is important to prioritize the basic and the training that would make both of your lives easier every day.

Start with potty training your Mal-Shi. Teach it to determine the right place to do its business so it will not make a mess inside your home.

Creating a schedule would help you out in this endeavor. Bring it out to pee or potty upon waking up, before sleeping, and a few minutes after each feeding.

Following the schedule religiously would help establish a routine in your doggo.

However, you can expect that “accidents” will happen as it learns. Do not raise your voice to your fur baby during this scenario. Instead, encourage it to do better. You’ll see that your encouragement will help it out through its training.

Aside from potty training, you also need to teach your Maltese Shih Tzu obedience training. Learning how to respond to simple commands such as sit, stand, stay, and no will help it keep safe especially during dire circumstances.

Make sure that the command is clear when you do this. Repeat the process consistently until it starts responding to the commands. It would also help if you will keep the training short to maintain its focus on the job at hand.

Normally 10 to 15 minutes of obedience training can do a lot. Don’t hasten through the process. Even if Maltese Shih Tzus are quick learners, pressuring it won’t do you any good. You will achieve more if you follow their pace.

The basic training would help instill discipline in your Maltese Shih Tzu. Thus, if you want it to go through more advanced training later on, it won’t anymore face any difficulties.

Just a heads up – a Maltese Shih Tzu has the making of a therapy dog. This potential may be among the things you want to explore further in the future.



Socialization is another important training for your Maltese Shih Tzu. This would help it be a well-rounded dog.

You don’t need to do much. You only need to ensure that it is exposed to different surroundings, people, and even animals outside its norm.

You can do this by simply walking it every day through different streets. The busier the street, the better. Just make sure that it is on a leash because a pooch this small won’t be easy to find in a crowded place.

Aside from this, you can also introduce it to people during gatherings. Bring it to dog parks so it can mingle with other dogs. It is important though that as your Maltese Shih Tzu goes through this process, it won’t feel overwhelmed or threatened.

You could help guide it through such scenarios.

When you don’t socialize your pooch enough, expect that bringing it to different places could make it feel off-guard and insecure. This would cause it to be defensive and anxious which often leads to aggression.

If you think your Maltese Shih Tzu mix would need more thorough training in socialization, you could also enroll them at a puppy kindergarten.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Exercise and Physical Activity

Mal-Shi doesn’t have a high exercise requirement which will be good for not very active fur parents. It would just be happy being a couch potato all day long with you or adopting any lifestyle you’d choose.

However, like other dogs, no matter how small their exercise need is, it is still important not to neglect this.

Not meeting the daily exercise requirements of your Mal-Shi could cause it to get bored and depressed. It could lead to obesity or even destructive behaviors such as gnawing, digging, and even non-stop barking for no reason.

Exercising a Maltese Shih Tzu wouldn’t be a hard task. A 15 to 20 minutes a day walk around the neighborhood would suffice. Although it would also appreciate a game of catch or some running activities especially with its fur parent.

There are instances when a Maltese Shih Tzu’s behavior would tell you that it has not been exercised enough. For these cases, you can just let your fur baby play on your own. You can let it run in an enclosed backyard, if you have any, or have it chase a ball.

With the size of a Maltese Shih Tzu, it should be noted that it can easily be taken away by strangers or could fall prey to predators. Thus, keep it closely monitored even if it is just in your backyard.

You could also supply a Maltese Shih Tzu with interactive toys to keep it entertained even indoors. Such toys would help stimulate its mind and give your fur baby an additional outlet for its excess energy.

Health Concerns

Health Concerns

The fact that a Maltese Shih Tzu is a hybrid makes it a much healthier breed compared to its purebred parents. However, this doesn’t eliminate the probability that it could still develop hereditary health conditions.

Among the most common health issues Maltese Shih Tzus could develop include the following:

Canine Hip Dysplasia

This is a condition affecting the skeletal part of a Maltese Shih Tzu wherein the ball and socket joints at its hip part do not fit perfectly with each other. Instead of harmoniously moving together, they move against each other which results in extreme pain on the affected part. This also leads to osteoarthritis later on.

A Maltese Shih Tzu suffering from Canine Hip Dysplasia is expected to manifest symptoms such as walking in a bunny hopping motion, lameness on the affected hind leg, decrease in motion, and reduced muscle mass on the hind leg while the chest muscles become more pronounced.

There is no actual cure for this type of disorder but there are medications available to manage the pain.

Patellar Luxation 

This is another type of dislocation affecting the kneecaps of Maltese Shih Tzus. It is when the kneecaps move out of their place which results in the inability of the Mal-Shis to straighten the affected leg.

Patellar Luxation has 4 different grades depending on the severity. If a Mal-Shi is suffering from Grade 4, this means that it has the most severe type which needs surgery.

There is also lameness exhibited on the affected part for Maltese Shih Tzus suffering from this condition. There will be visible limping and swelling. Moreover, mobility will be likewise limited.

White Shaker Syndrome

This is a disorder affecting small dogs that normally are white in color. This happens when there is a swelling on the part of the brain of Maltese Shih Tzus that is in charge of the controlled movements of the muscles.

A Mal-Shi suffering from this would show partial or full-body shakes and involuntary eye movements. This could be triggered by anxiety, stress, and even excitement.

There are medicines available that could help treat this disorder.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

This is a disorder wherein the blood of a Maltese Shih Tzu does not have the protein necessary to clot correctly. This could cause life and death situations even just for minor wounds.

This is hard to diagnose without the appropriate lab testing. Thus, in many scenarios, fur parents are not aware that their Mal-Shis have this until there is non-stop bleeding involved.

There are treatments available to manage this disorder. Among the symptoms include the appearance of bruising with no apparent cause, blood in the urine, and even nose bleeding.

There is no certainty whether or not your Maltese Shih Tzu would suffer from any of the above-mentioned health conditions. But given that these are mostly hereditary diseases, you can lessen the probability of your pooch developing these by getting it only from a licensed Maltese Shih Tzu breeder.

Nevertheless, just in case your fur baby has any of the above, regular health checks with a vet could help detect the symptoms early on and help prevent them from escalating.


The average life expectancy of a Maltese Shih Tzu is around 12 to 14 years. Taking into consideration doggy years, this is a decent number. But of course, the survival of this pooch still depends on the type of care it receives throughout its lifetime.

The healthier the Maltese Shih Tzu, the longer it is expected to live. Thus, it is important to give it a good diet and sufficient exercise. Never hesitate also on giving it access to medical care whenever necessary.

Maltese Shih Tzu Temperament

Maltese Shih Tzu Temperament

A Mal-Shi represents the best traits of both its purebred Maltese and Shih Tzu parents. It is generally a gentle, loving, and affectionate pooch. It is intelligent and fearless. It is active and playful. It is also alert and watchful to what is going on around it.

You will find that it will not have any qualms investigating the things it is curious about. As such, you need to keep it under constant supervision because this could land it into a lot of trouble when left unattended.

A Maltese Shih Tzu can be a bit stubborn especially when it is not trained from an early age. However, you can expect that there is not an aggressive bone in its body. It has a good temperament which makes this designer breed even more lovable to its fur parents. It may be small, but there is no underestimating the joy it brings because of its positive and personable aura.

You will find that a Maltese Shih Tzu is a pretty laid-back pooch. It is content to be just a good companion although you will not find it veering away from fun times outdoor with its favorite human. In fact, it thrives on being with its family no matter the activity.

You will rarely find a Maltese Shih Tzu away from its fur parent. It is like a little shadow that is hard to shake off that it can be prone to separation anxiety when left on its own for a long period. This is also the reason why it is important to keep this pooch indoors.

It should be expected though that even if a Maltese Shih Tzu has a good temperament, it could still develop bad behaviors as it matures if it is not provided with the necessary training and socialization. As a fur parent, you don’t want this to happen so it is crucial to do what is necessary to ensure that it will grow up as a well-behaved dog.

Maltese Shih Tzu As A Family Dog

Given the great temperament of a Maltese Shih Tzu, it has the making of a good companion dog and a family pet. It has the characteristics that would make it a great pet for all types of families.

Like other pets, while a home with a fenced-in yard is still ideal, it would be no trouble for a Maltese Shih Tzu to be an apartment dweller. Its small size means that it won’t need a big space to be happy. Even an average size apartment would already be like a palace to it.

A Maltese Shih Tzu is also not a barker. This means that even if you have nearby neighbors, there will be no concerns about them getting disturbed by the noise.

A Maltese Shih Tzu will also be a good choice for a dog in case you have not too young children and other animals as pets. It is not aggressive especially when socialized early on, and it is extremely friendly and playful. Playtime is guaranteed fun and exciting with a Mal-Shi around.

Very young kids should be taught to be careful in handling a Maltese Shih Tzu. Its size makes it a fragile pooch that could easily be injured during a round of horseplaying.

Young children should be taught not to just lift a Maltese Shih Tzu and carry it around. If they are still at the age wherein said instruction is hard to follow, then close supervision is required.

Non-active parents would celebrate knowing that a Maltese Shih Tzu only needs minimal exercise daily. It would just be happy sitting with you all day long and keeping you company. It could be a good lapdog too.

It could be moderately active but letting it go through strenuous exercises is not ideal. It is not for long walks and hard hikes because it is no athlete.

If you need a pooch that could accompany you for such adventures then you may want to just settle on other bigger and more athletic doggos.

The Cost of Getting a Maltese Shih Tzu Mix

Purchase Price 

The Cost of Getting a Maltese Shih Tzu Mix Purchase Price 

If you are keen on getting a Maltese Shih Tzu, then know that it will cost you anything between USD500 to USD1500.

Anything below that amount should be raising a red flag as this may not be from a licensed and reputable breeder. You may be buying just from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill which you will grow to regret later on.

These types of breeders do not have controls in place to ensure that the puppies they will produce are healthy and with a low risk of developing hereditary conditions. Thus, although you could purchase them at a lower cost, this could just cost you more in the long run.

Buying from a reputable breeder would be a better move for you instead. The parent breeds they cross go through strict vetting to ensure that they do not have pre-existing conditions that they could transfer to their offspring. The parent breeds even have health clearances to back them up.

The puppies also go through a series of health checks upon birth. They are provided the primary they need to go healthy and strong until such time that they are finally released to their new homes.

Reputable breeders do not scrimp on money when it comes to the quality of the Maltese Shih Tzu so you could sleep at night knowing that you have a healthy pup. In short, you are getting your money’s worth.

Considering the Shelters

If you are low on bucks, then you may also want to consider going through the doggy shelters near your area to find a Maltese Shih Tzu.

Unfortunately, even if they are highly sought-after designer breeds, there are still instances when they are abandoned in the shelters. You would make a difference in their lives by giving even one of them a forever home. Plus, without the worry of a high price.

Since Maltese Shih Tzus are extremely adaptable and have amazing temperaments, housetraining them would be easy. They are eager learners and they love pleasing their fur parents which could be to your advantage.

Other Costs for a Maltese Shih Tzu Puppy

Other Costs for a Maltese Shih Tzu Puppy

Before you jump into actually owning a Maltese Shih Tzu, you should consider first if you have what it takes to give it a comfortable life. Owning a Maltese Shih Tzu or any other dog is a big responsibility and you need to be able to provide for their needs throughout their lifetime.

Like any of its human family members, a Maltese Shih Tzu has its own needs also to have a comfortable life. It would need its nutrition through a well-balanced diet and supplements. There is also regular medical care. Not to mention, it would need doggy accessories as well for its daily activities such as a leash, bowl, and toys.

There are also other miscellaneous expenses in owning a pooch. For instance, you need to have your home dog-proofed especially if you are a first-time fur parent. Pampering your fur baby once in a while by a groomer would also do it good. Further, if you want it to go through more advanced training, then there is the cost to be paid for professional trainers.

Unfortunately, most of these are not just one-time expenses. At the very least, you will need to gauge first if these costs are within your budget if you want to bring home a Maltese Shih Tzu.


Other Costs for a Maltese Shih Tzu Puppy

Maltese Shih Tzu is your choice of a companion dog and a house pet if you are looking for one with a gentle personality and low to average exercise requirements. This pooch would not disappoint and it would do everything not just to keep you company, but bring joy to your life with its positive disposition.

Needless to say, before you bring home one, take into consideration first all the costs and the care it would need. If you think you can bring it a comfortable life at the very least, know that this pooch would never hesitate to be loyal and devoted to you in return.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Are Maltese Shih Tzu good dogs?

A: Maltese Shih Tzus are very good dogs. They have an overall positive aura and a gentle temperament that would easily adapt to your lifestyle. It is loyal and devoted. It is brave and fearless. Despite its miniature size, it is guaranteed that it could provide you with loads of love and big doses of affection.

Q: How much does a Maltese Shih Tzu puppy cost?

A: Getting a Shih Tzu Maltese mixed breed would cost you anywhere between USD500 and USD1500. This is the average price to pay if you will get one from a reputable breeder.

Admittedly, backyard breeders and puppy mills could sell them at a lower price. But you need to stop and rethink this decision because this doesn’t mean that you can also get a high-quality pup. This could just cost you more in the long run especially if the puppy you will get is with hereditary diseases. Note that medical care for dogs does not come cheap particularly if they are not insured.

Q: Do Maltese Shih Tzu have health problems?

A: Technically, a Shih Tzu Maltese mix is a healthy dog. But they are susceptible to hereditary conditions especially if their parent breeds have pre-existing health conditions.

You can lessen the likelihood of a Mal-Shi pup getting health issues by choosing to get them only from reputable breeders. These breeders have strict breeding controls in place and they definitely do not cross parent breeds that are not healthy. They even support this with health clearances which would help you have that peace of mind that your pooch is healthy.

Q: How much is a Malshi dog worth?

A: A Mal-Shi is worth around USD500 to USD1500 when you buy it from a reputable breeder. The price will be dependent on the quality and also the pedigree. The higher the quality, expect that the higher the price you will need to pay for it especially if it is from a champion line.

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