Home » Maltese vs Shih Tzu: 8 Key Differences Uncovered!

Maltese vs Shih Tzu: 8 Key Differences Uncovered!

by Tea Cup shih Tzu

Looking for a furry companion that’s small in size but big on personality? Meet the Maltese and the Shih Tzu! These two popular lap dogs have captured the hearts of dog lovers everywhere, providing human companionship and bringing their own unique charm to the table. Responsible breeders ensure that these doodles are well-suited for humans.

Originating from Malta, the Maltese lap dogs are famous for their long, silky white fur that flows like a waterfall. On the other hand, Shih Tzus, with their various coat colors and textures, add a touch of diversity to the mix. But it’s not just about looks – both breeds excel at being loving companions and family pets. Responsible breeders ensure healthy and happy doodles.

So, whether you’re drawn to the elegance of a Maltese or intrigued by the playful nature of a Shih Tzu, each of these dog breeds, including toy breeds and doodles, has something special to offer. Let’s dive into their fascinating characteristics and discover which one, like a white dog, might be your perfect match!

Size Comparison: Maltese vs Shih Tzu

If you’re considering getting a small dog as a pet, the size of the toy breed is an important factor to consider, especially for people living in apartments. Additionally, it’s important to be mindful of their sensitive skin.

Maltese typically weigh between 4 to 7 pounds, making them one of the lightest toy breeds around. On the other hand, Shih Tzus weigh between 9 to 16 pounds, which is significantly heavier compared to Maltese. It’s clear thatShih Tzus are on the larger side.

In addition to weight, Maltese are generally smaller in size compared to Shih Tzus. The height of a fully grown Maltese is usually around 8 to 10 inches, whereas a Shih Tzu can reach up to 11 inches in height. So if you prefer a smaller dog that takes up less space, the Maltese might be the better choice for you.

The compact size of white Maltese dogs makes them suitable for various living situations, including apartments or houses with limited space. They are easy to handle and carry around due to their petite stature. On the other hand, while white Shih Tzus are still considered small dogs, their slightly larger size may require more room for movement and exercise.

Size matters too! If you frequently travel by air and want your white canine companion by your side in-cabin during flights, having a smaller white dog like a Maltese can make it easier as they meet most airline size restrictions for white cabin travel.

It’s important to note that despite their size differences, both Maltese dogs and other breeds have similar lifespans ranging from 12-15 years on average. This means that regardless of which breed you choose, you can expect many years of companionship and joy with your Maltese dog.

Health Problems: Shih Tzu vs Maltese

It’s crucial to be aware of the potential issues they may face. Both the Shih Tzu and Maltese breeds are known to have their fair share of health concerns. Let’s take a closer look at some common problems that can affect these adorable pups.

Dental Issues

One area where both Shih Tzus and Maltese need extra attention is their dental health. These breeds are prone to dental problems such as tooth decay and gum disease. Without proper care, plaque can build up, leading to bad breath, tooth loss, and even systemic infections. Regular brushing of their teeth with dog-friendly toothpaste and providing them with appropriate chew toys can help keep their pearly whites in good shape.

Respiratory Problems

Due to their short snouts, both Shih Tzus and Maltese, two popular dog breeds, may experience respiratory difficulties. In extreme temperatures, these dog breeds might struggle with breathing or develop snoring habits. It’s important to provide Shih Tzus and Maltese with a comfortable environment that is neither too hot nor too cold. Avoid exposing these dog breeds to excessive heat or intense physical activities during hot weather, as this can put additional strain on their respiratory system.

Eye Problems

Another shared vulnerability between these two breeds lies in their eyes. Both the Maltese and Shih Tzu are susceptible to various eye conditions such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Cataracts can cause cloudiness or opacity in the lens of the eye, potentially leading to vision impairment or blindness if left untreated. PRA is a degenerative disease that affects the retina over time, resulting in gradual vision loss. Regular eye examinations by a veterinarian are essential for early detection and appropriate management of these issues.

To ensure optimum well-being for your furry companion, regular veterinary care is vital. Scheduling routine check-ups allows for early detection of any potential health concerns. Your veterinarian can provide guidance on vaccinations, preventive medications, and dietary recommendations specific to your dog’s needs.

Grooming Requirements: Maltese vs Shih Tzu

Grooming is an essential aspect of caring for both Maltese and Shih Tzu dogs. These breeds are known for their beautiful, high-maintenance coats that require regular attention to keep them healthy and looking their best. Before deciding on either breed, it’s crucial to consider your commitment towards grooming.

The Maltese, one of the popular dog breeds, has a long, silky coat that requires daily brushing to prevent matting and tangling. Regular grooming sessions and occasional visits to a professional groomer are vital for maintaining the coat’s good condition. The groomer can also trim the hair around the eyes and ears, providing overall grooming for this breed.

Similarly, the Shih Tzu, a popular dog breed known for its dense double coat, requires frequent brushing to prevent tangles and mats from forming. Regular grooming not only keeps their fur looking neat but also helps maintain their skin health by removing dirt and dead hair. Due to the length and thickness of their coats, occasional visits to a professional groomer are recommended for more extensive grooming needs such as bathing, trimming, and styling. This is especially important for Maltese dogs, another beloved dog breed with similar grooming needs.

There are some differences worth noting between the Maltese and Shih Tzu dog breeds. While both require regular brushing, the Maltese, a long-haired breed, is more prone to tangling. On the other hand, the Shih Tzu’s dense coat may need more frequent attention.

To make your decision easier, here are some key points about grooming requirements for each breed:

Grooming Requirements: Maltese

  • Daily brushing is necessary.
  • Occasional visits to a professional groomer are beneficial.
  • Regular grooming sessions help prevent matting and tangling.
  • The long coat requires extra care.

Grooming Requirements: Shih Tzu

  • Frequent brushing is essential.
  • Professional grooming appointments are recommended.
  • Regular grooming maintains coat health and cleanliness.
  • The dense double coat needs attention.

Both breeds have their unique grooming needs, and it’s important to consider the time and effort you are willing to commit. If you lead a busy lifestyle or prefer a low-maintenance dog, neither breed may be suitable for you. However, if you enjoy spending time grooming your furry companion or are willing to hire a professional groomer regularly, both the Maltese and Shih Tzu can make wonderful pets.

Training and Exercise: Maltese vs Shih Tzu

Maltese are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, which makes them relatively easy to train. These little furballs are quick learners and can pick up commands with consistency and positive reinforcement. Whether it’s basic obedience or more advanced tricks, the Maltese will impress you with their ability to grasp new concepts.

On the other hand, Shih Tzus can be a bit more stubborn. They have an independent streak that may require some extra patience and persistence. Consistency is key when working with a Shih Tzu, along with positive reinforcement techniques such as treats or praise. With time and effort, they can become obedient companions.

Both the Maltese and Shih Tzu are low-maintenance breeds that adapt well to apartment living. They don’t require much exercise compared to larger breeds but still need regular physical activity to keep them happy and healthy.

For these small dogs, short daily walks around the neighborhood are usually sufficient. It gives them a chance to explore their surroundings, get some fresh air, and burn off excess energy. Interactive playtime is also crucial for mental stimulation and bonding with their owners.

Here are some additional tips for exercising your Maltese or Shih Tzu:

  1. Incorporate interactive toys: Puzzle toys or treat-dispensing toys can keep your furry friend entertained while providing mental stimulation.
  2. Indoor games: When outdoor activities aren’t possible due to weather conditions or other circumstances, engaging indoor games like hide-and-seek or gentle tug-of-war can help burn off energy.
  3. Doggy playdates: Socialization is important for both breeds, so arranging playdates with other friendly dogs can provide exercise as well as social interaction.
  4. Training sessions: Turn training into a fun activity by incorporating physical exercises like agility drills or teaching them new tricks that involve movement.
  5. Dog sports: If you’re looking for something more challenging, both Maltese and Shih Tzus can participate in dog sports such as obedience trials or agility competitions. These activities not only provide exercise but also strengthen the bond between you and your furry companion.

Temperament Analysis: Maltese vs Shih Tzu

If you’re considering adding a furry companion to your life, it’s important to choose a breed that matches your lifestyle and preferences. Two popular small dog breeds that often come up in these discussions are the Maltese and the Shih Tzu. Both breeds have their unique traits and personalities, so let’s take a closer look at their temperaments.

Friendly and Affectionate Nature of Maltese

Maltese dogs are known for their friendly and affectionate nature towards their owners. They thrive on human companionship and love nothing more than being by your side. These little white fluff balls have an inherent desire to please, making them loyal and devoted pets.

With their gentle temperament, Maltese dogs can be great companions for families with children. However, it’s important to note that they may not tolerate rough handling or aggressive play. Teaching children how to interact gently with these delicate dogs is crucial to ensure a harmonious relationship.

Outgoing Playfulness of Shih Tzus

On the other hand, Shih Tzus are generally outgoing, playful, and enjoy being the center of attention. These adorable little dogs have an infectious zest for life that can brighten up any room they enter. Their charming personality makes them excellent family pets who love spending time with both adults and children.

Shih Tzus thrive on social interaction and make friends easily. If you’re looking for a dog that will happily accompany you on outings or engage in playtime activities, this breed might be a perfect fit for you. Just like Maltese dogs, they may not appreciate rough handling from young children.

Compatibility With Children

Both the Maltese and Shih Tzu breeds can get along well with children when introduced properly from an early age. It’s essential to teach kids how to approach these small dogs gently and respect their boundaries. Supervision is crucial to ensure that playtime remains safe and enjoyable for everyone involved.

While both breeds can tolerate children, it’s important to note that individual personalities may vary. Some Maltese or Shih Tzus may have a more reserved nature, while others may be more outgoing. It’s always recommended to spend time with the specific dog you’re considering adopting to gauge their temperament and compatibility with your family.

Choosing Between Maltese and Shih Tzu

When deciding between these two adorable companion breeds, it’s essential to consider your lifestyle and preferences. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Activity Level: Maltese dogs are generally energetic but can adapt well to apartment living as long as they receive daily exercise. Shih Tzus also enjoy short walks but tend to have a slightly lower energy level.
  • Grooming Needs: Both breeds have long, luxurious coats that require regular grooming sessions. If you prefer a low-maintenance option, a shorter haircut for either breed can reduce grooming demands.
  • Size: Maltese dogs typically weigh around 4-7 pounds, while Shih Tzus usually range from 9-16 pounds. Consider the size that fits best with your living arrangements and personal preferences.
  • Allergies

Cost Comparison: Maltese vs Shih Tzu

If you are considering adding a furry companion to your family, it’s important to be aware of the financial commitment that comes with owning a dog.

Purebred Puppies

The cost can vary significantly depending on factors such as the breeder’s reputation and bloodline. For prospective Maltese owners, be prepared to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 or even more for a high-quality pup. On the other hand, Shih Tzu puppies typically range in price from $500 to $2,500 based on pedigree and location.

It’s important to note that these prices are just an estimate and can vary depending on various factors such as demand and availability. Reputable breeders may charge higher prices due to their commitment to breeding healthy dogs with desirable traits.

Additional Expenses

While the initial purchase price is a significant consideration, potential pet owners should also take into account additional expenses that come with owning either breed. Grooming is an essential aspect of both Maltese and Shih Tzu care due to their long coats. Regular grooming appointments can cost around $50 per session or more depending on your location.

Vaccinations are another crucial expense for any dog owner. The cost of vaccinations can range from $75 to $100 per year for routine shots such as rabies and distemper. It’s essential not to overlook these recurring costs when budgeting for your new furry friend.

Food is yet another ongoing expense that should be factored into your calculations. Both breeds have specific dietary requirements, especially considering their size and predisposition towards certain health issues. Depending on the brand and quality of food you choose, you can expect to spend around $20 to $40 per month on dog food.

Veterinary care is an essential aspect of responsible pet ownership. Routine check-ups, preventive medications, and emergency visits can add up quickly. While it’s challenging to estimate the exact cost, budgeting around $500 to $1,000 per year for veterinary expenses is a reasonable expectation.

Affordable Adoption Options

For those on a tighter budget or looking for a more affordable option, adopting from a rescue or shelter can be a wonderful choice. Adopting a Maltese or Shih Tzu from a rescue organization typically costs significantly less than purchasing from a breeder. Adoption fees usually range from $100 to $500 and often include vaccinations and spaying/neutering.

By adopting, not only do you potentially save money, but you also provide a loving home for a dog in need. It’s important to note that while these dogs may not come with pedigrees like their purebred counterparts, they can still make fantastic companions.


In conclusion, when choosing between a Maltese and a Shih Tzu, there are several factors to consider.

Firstly, size comparison reveals that the Maltese is generally smaller than the Shih Tzu. If you prefer a compact and lightweight dog, the Maltese might be the better choice for you.

Secondly, health problems differ between the two breeds. While both can be prone to certain issues, such as dental problems and eye conditions, Shih Tzus are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems compared to Maltese dogs.

Thirdly, grooming requirements vary between the two breeds. The Maltese has long and silky hair that requires regular brushing and professional grooming to maintain its beauty. On the other hand, Shih Tzus have a dense double coat that needs daily brushing and occasional trims.

Fourthly, training and exercise needs differ for these breeds. Both Maltese and Shih Tzus are intelligent but may have different levels of stubbornness. The Maltese tends to be easier to train while Shih Tzus may require more patience and consistency in training efforts. Both breeds have different exercise needs; while the Maltese can get sufficient exercise indoors with playtime and short walks, Shih Tzus benefit from longer walks or outdoor play sessions.

Fifthly, temperament analysis shows that both breeds can make excellent companions but have distinct personalities. The Maltese is known for being affectionate and gentle while also having a playful side. On the other hand, Shih Tzus are often described as outgoing and friendly with an independent streak.

Lastly, considering cost comparison is important before making a decision. Factors such as initial purchase price, medical expenses, grooming costs, food expenses should all be taken into account when determining which breed fits your budget better.

In summary, deciding between a Maltese and a Shih Tzu requires careful consideration of their size, health problems, grooming requirements, training and exercise needs, temperament, and cost. Each breed has its own unique characteristics that may align better with your lifestyle and preferences.

If you’re still unsure about which breed to choose, it’s always recommended to spend time with both breeds or consult with reputable breeders or experienced dog owners. They can provide valuable insights based on their personal experiences.

Remember, owning a dog is a long-term commitment that requires love, care, and dedication. Consider all the factors mentioned above before making your decision to ensure a happy and fulfilling relationship with your furry companion.


Are Maltese dogs good for families with children?

Maltese dogs can be great companions for families with children. However, due to their small size and delicate nature, supervision is essential to prevent accidental injuries. It’s important to teach children how to handle small dogs gently and respectfully.

Do Shih Tzus get along well with other pets?

Shih Tzus are generally friendly towards other pets if properly socialized from an early age. However, individual personalities may vary. Introducing them gradually and under supervision is recommended to ensure positive interactions.

How often should I groom a Maltese?

Maltese dogs require regular grooming due to their long hair that tends to mat easily. Daily brushing is recommended to prevent tangles and keep their coat in good condition. Professional grooming sessions every 4-6 weeks are also necessary for proper maintenance.

Can Shih Tzus be left alone for long periods?

Shih Tzus are known for their attachment to their owners and may experience separation anxiety if left alone for extended periods. They thrive in the company of humans and prefer not to be left alone for too long. It’s important to provide them with mental stimulation and companionship.

Are Maltese dogs hypoallergenic?

Yes, Maltese dogs are considered hypoallergenic. Their hair-like coat sheds minimally, reducing the likelihood of triggering allergies in sensitive individuals. However, it’s important to note that no dog breed is completely hypoallergenic, as allergies can vary from person to person.

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