Home » Shih Tzu vs Havanese: A Detailed Comparison

Shih Tzu vs Havanese: A Detailed Comparison

by Tea Cup shih Tzu

Are you torn between getting a Shih Tzu or a Havanese? These two small dogs, the Shih Tzu and the Havanese, are immensely popular among pet owners seeking a furry companion. Each breed boasts its own set of unique characteristics and traits, making the decision between these little dog breeds quite challenging.

Shih Tzus, a popular small breed known for their adorable squished faces and luscious coats, have been charming pet owners for centuries with their playful and affectionate nature. On the other hand, Havanese dogs captivate hearts with their lively personalities and hypoallergenic fur, making them an ideal choice for those prone to allergies. These companion breeds are loved by many.

With such delightful options available, it’s no wonder that choosing between these two lovable companion dogs, the Maltese and the little dog, can leave you perplexed. But fear not! Let’s dive into the world of these delightful small dogs and discover which one might be the perfect fit for your home!

Understanding the Differences: Temperament and Behavior

Shih Tzus and Havanese dogs are both popular breeds known for their adorable appearance and friendly nature. However, there are some notable differences between these two breeds. One key difference is that Shih Tzus are recognized by the Maltese Kennel Club, while Havanese dogs are not. Additionally, Shih Tzus are more prone to excessive barking compared to Havanese dogs. Despite these differences, both breeds possess their own unique traits that make them lovable companions.

Affectionate Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus, a small breed known for their affectionate nature, thrive on human companionship. These Maltese and mixed breed dogs love to shower their owners with love and attention. They have a strong bond with their families and enjoy being lap dogs. Shih Tzus often seek out physical contact, whether it’s cuddling on the couch or snuggling up in bed at night. This is why they are popular among small breed enthusiasts and recognized by the Kennel Club.

Outgoing and Friendly Havanese

On the other hand, Havanese dogs, a breed recognized by the Kennel Club, are often described as outgoing and friendly. They have a natural affinity for people of all ages, including children. If you’re looking for a dog that will happily greet guests at your doorstep or play fetch with your kids in the backyard, then a Havanese, a companion breed, might be the perfect fit for you.

Independence vs Sociability

While both Shih Tzus and Havanese dogs can be great companions, Shih Tzus may be more independent compared to Havanese dogs. Shih Tzus, like Maltese dogs, have a reputation for being confident little dogs who don’t mind spending time alone. They can entertain themselves with toys or simply find a cozy spot to relax in while their owner is busy with other tasks during the day.

In contrast, Havanese dogs, a popular maltese companion breed, thrive on social interaction. They enjoy being part of family activities and tend to become anxious if left alone for long periods. If you lead an active lifestyle or have young children who want constant playmates, the sociable nature of a Havanese, whether purebred or mixed breed, might be better suited to your family dynamic. People who own Havanese often appreciate their friendly and outgoing personalities.

Trainability Differences

Both Maltese and Shih Tzus are intelligent companion dogs, but they may have different learning styles. Maltese dogs are known for being great companions to people and may require more patience and consistent positive reinforcement during training. Shih Tzus, on the other hand, can be a bit more independent and may need additional time to grasp commands and obedience.

On the other hand, Havanese dogs, like Maltese, are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please. They often excel in obedience training and can quickly pick up on new commands. This makes them a great choice for people who want a companion breed that is easy to train and willing to learn new tricks. Additionally, Havanese dogs are also a popular choice for those who prefer mixed breeds.

Size Comparison: Havanese vs Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus and Havanese are both small companion breeds, but there are a few differences worth noting. Shih Tzus, known for their luxurious coats and adorable faces, tend to be smaller in size compared to Havanese dogs. However, both breeds are equally loved as back companions.

On average, a Shih Tzu or Maltese weighs between 9 to 16 pounds. These little mixed breed furballs may be compact, but they have big personalities that make up for their small size. Despite their small stature, Shih Tzus and Maltese are sturdy and well-built dogs that can hold their own.

Maltese dogs, on the other hand, generally weigh between 4 to 7 pounds on average. They share a similar weight range with Havanese but can sometimes be slightly lighter. Although they may not be as tiny as some other small dog breeds, Maltese still fall into the category of small-sized dogs.

When comparing the height of these two breeds, it’s important to note that both Shih Tzus and Havanese, which are both maltese companion dogs, have similar measurements. On average, they stand at around 8 to 11 inches tall. This makes them suitable for apartment living or homes with limited space.

While both Maltese and Shih Tzu breeds have similarities in terms of weight and height range, there may be slight variations within individual Maltese and Shih Tzu dogs due to factors such as genetics and diet. It’s always essential to remember that these figures serve as general guidelines for Maltese and Shih Tzu breeds rather than strict rules.

Key Differences in Health Concerns

Shih Tzus and Havanese, both popular lap dog breeds, may share many similarities. However, they do have some key differences in terms of health issues. It is important for prospective owners of these maltese and mixed breed dogs to be aware of these differences to ensure the well-being of their furry companions.

Shih Tzus: Prone to Respiratory Issues

One notable health concern for Shih Tzus, a popular lap dog breed and companion dog, is their predisposition to respiratory issues. This is primarily due to their flat faces, a characteristic that gives them their adorable appearance but can lead to breathing difficulties. The structure of their short snouts often results in narrow air passages, making it harder for them to breathe properly. As a result, Shih Tzus, like other maltese and mixed breed dogs, are more susceptible to conditions such as brachycephalic airway syndrome.

To mitigate these problems, it’s crucial for Shih Tzu owners, as well as owners of other lap dog breeds like the Maltese, to be mindful of certain precautions. For instance, avoiding excessive exercise during hot or humid weather can help prevent overheating and strain on their respiratory system. Keeping a watchful eye on any signs of labored breathing or wheezing is essential; if such symptoms arise, immediate veterinary attention should be sought.

Havanese: Hip Dysplasia as They Age

While Havanese and Maltese dogs generally enjoy good health throughout their lives, one common issue that may arise as they age is hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when the hip joint does not develop properly, leading to discomfort and mobility problems. Although not all Havanese and Maltese will develop hip dysplasia, it is still worth noting as a potential concern.

To minimize the risk of hip dysplasia in Maltese dogs, responsible breeding practices, including health screenings for breeding pairs, are crucial. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight also contribute positively towards joint health, potentially reducing the chances of hip dysplasia in Maltese dogs.

Regular Veterinary Check-ups for Overall Health

Despite the specific health concerns associated with Shih Tzus and Havanese dog breeds, it is crucial to emphasize that both breeds, including the Maltese, require regular veterinary check-ups to ensure their overall well-being. Routine examinations allow veterinarians to detect any underlying conditions or potential problems early on, increasing the likelihood of successful treatment.

During these check-ups, veterinarians may conduct various tests and screenings tailored to each breed’s specific needs. For Shih Tzus and Maltese, eye problems are often a focus due to their susceptibility to conditions like progressive retinal atrophy. Dental care is also important for both breeds, as small dogs like Maltese tend to be more prone to dental issues such as periodontal disease.

Grooming Needs: Shih Tzu vs Havanese

Shih Tzus, Havanese dogs, and Maltese are all known for their beautiful, long coats. However, there are some differences between these three breeds that potential owners should be aware of.

Shih Tzus: Extensive Grooming Required

Shih Tzus and Maltese dogs have a reputation for their luxurious, flowing coats that make them look like little royalty. However, these stunning coats require extensive grooming to keep them in top shape. Daily brushing is necessary to prevent tangles and matting. Their silky coats can easily become tangled if not properly cared for.

Regular bathing is also important for Shih Tzus and Maltese dogs to keep their coat clean and healthy. Some owners choose to take their Shih Tzus and Maltese dogs to professional groomers for regular trims and haircuts to maintain the desired appearance. These breeds’ grooming needs may require more time and effort compared to other dog breeds.

Havanese: Less Frequent Grooming Needed

Like the Shih Tzu and Maltese, Havanese dogs also boast a long, silky coat that adds to their charm. However, they require less frequent attention compared to Shih Tzus and Maltese. While daily brushing is still recommended for Havanese, missing a day or two won’t result in significant tangling or matting.

Havanese, Maltese, and Shih Tzu dogs have a unique double-coat structure that helps protect them from various weather conditions. This means they shed less than some other breeds with similar hair length. However, regular bathing and trimming are still necessary to maintain cleanliness and prevent excessive hair growth.

Regular Bathing and Trimming

Both Shih Tzus and Havanese dogs benefit from regular bathing as part of their grooming routine. Bathing helps keep their coats clean, free from dirt, debris, and unpleasant odors. It also promotes healthy skin and prevents skin issues that can arise from poor hygiene.

In addition to bathing, both breeds of Tzu dogs require regular trimming to maintain their coats at an appropriate length. Trimming is crucial for preventing excessive hair growth, particularly around sensitive areas like the eyes and ears. It ensures the dogs’ comfort and prevents any discomfort caused by long and unmanageable hair.

Pros and Cons: Owning a Havanese or Shih Tzu

Pros of owning a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are beloved companions for many reasons. One of their standout qualities is their unwavering loyalty. These little dogs form deep bonds with their owners and will go to great lengths to protect and please them. Whether you’re looking for a constant companion or a furry friend to snuggle up with, the Shih Tzu’s loyalty will never waver.

Another advantage of owning a Shih Tzu is their adaptability. These toy dogs can thrive in various living situations, making them suitable for different types of owners. Whether you live in an apartment or have a spacious house, the adaptable nature of the Shih Tzu means they can easily adjust to your living arrangements.

The playful nature of a Havanese

If you’re searching for an energetic and playful dog, the Havanese may be the perfect choice for you. Their lively personality makes them excellent companions, especially for families with children. They love engaging in interactive playtime and are always ready to join in on any fun activities with their Tzu-like energy.

Havanese dogs, also known as Havanese Tzus, are known for their friendly and gentle demeanor towards kids, making them ideal playmates. Their small size also ensures that they can comfortably interact with children without causing any harm unintentionally.

Cons of owning a Shih Tzu

While there are numerous benefits to owning a Shih Tzu, it’s essential to consider some potential drawbacks as well. One common concern is separation anxiety if these dogs are left alone for extended periods. Due to their strong attachment to their owners, they may become anxious when left without company for too long.

To mitigate separation anxiety in Shih Tzu dogs, owners should ensure that their pets receive plenty of mental stimulation and exercise regularly. Gradually training them to spend short periods alone can help reduce separation anxiety over time.

Comparing Shih Tzus and Havanese

When comparing Shih Tzus and Havanese, it’s important to note that both dog breeds have their unique characteristics. While the Shih Tzu offers loyalty and adaptability, the Havanese provides an energetic and playful nature.

The American Kennel Club recognizes both the Shih Tzu and the Lhasa Apso as loving companions. However, potential owners should consider their lifestyle and preferences when choosing between these two delightful toy dogs.

Choosing the Perfect Family Pet: Factors to Consider

There are many factors that need to be considered. Two popular options for families seeking a small companion dog are the Shih Tzu and Havanese breeds. Each breed has its own unique characteristics and requirements, making it essential for potential pet owners to thoroughly research and understand these differences before making a decision.

Lifestyle, Activity Level, and Family Dynamics

When choosing between a Shih Tzu and Havanese, consider your family’s lifestyle and activity level. Both dog breeds require regular exercise, but the amount can vary. If you lead an active lifestyle with outdoor activities, the energetic Havanese may be a better fit. However, if your family prefers relaxed indoor activities, the Shih Tzu’s lower energy level may be more suitable.

Family dynamics also play a crucial role in this decision-making process. If you have young children at home, both breeds can make excellent companions due to their friendly and affectionate nature. However, it is important to note that Shih Tzus are generally more tolerant of rough play compared to Havanese dogs.

Specific Needs and Requirements

Before bringing any pet into your home, it is vital to research their specific needs and requirements. Both Shih Tzus and Havanese dogs have unique grooming needs due to their long coats. Regular brushing is necessary for both breeds to prevent matting and keep their fur healthy.

In terms of dog training, both Shih Tzu and Havanese breeds are intelligent but may have different learning styles. The Shih Tzu dog can sometimes be independent-minded while the Havanese dog tends to be eager-to-please. Consistent dog training methods tailored to each breed’s personality will yield positive results.

Allergies or Sensitivities

Considering allergies or sensitivities within your family should not be overlooked when choosing between a Shih Tzu and Havanese. Both breeds are considered hypoallergenic, which means they produce fewer allergens compared to other dog breeds. However, it is essential to spend time with each breed individually to determine if any family members have adverse reactions.

If allergies to dogs are a concern, here are some additional factors to consider when choosing a Shih Tzu.

  • Shih Tzus have a shorter coat and may shed less than Havanese dogs.
  • The Havanese dog breed produces less dander overall, making them potentially more suitable for individuals with severe allergies to dogs, such as Shih Tzu.

Making the Decision

Ultimately, the decision between a Shih Tzu and Havanese as your family pet depends on various factors such as lifestyle, activity level, family dynamics, specific needs and requirements, allergies or sensitivities, and whether you prefer a dog that is small and low-shedding like the Shih Tzu or a dog that is slightly larger and has a silky coat like the Havanese. To make an informed choice, consider these factors carefully.

  1. Research both dog breeds, including the Shih Tzu, extensively to understand their characteristics and temperament.
  2. Consider your family’s lifestyle and activity level when evaluating which dog breed, such as the Shih Tzu, will thrive in your home.
  3. Take into account the grooming needs of each dog breed, including the Shih Tzu, and ensure you can commit to regular maintenance.
  4. Spend time with both the Shih Tzu and the dog breeds individually to assess any potential allergic reactions within your family.

Remember that selecting a companion dog, such as a Tzu, is not just about finding the perfect fit for your family but also ensuring you provide a loving home for the chosen pet.


In conclusion, when comparing Shih Tzu and Havanese dogs, there are several key differences to consider.

Firstly, their temperament and behavior vary significantly. Shih Tzus tend to be more independent and stubborn, while Havanese dogs are known for being friendly and sociable. Understanding these differences will help you choose the breed that aligns with your lifestyle and preferences.

Secondly, size is another important factor to consider. Havanese dogs are generally smaller than Shih Tzus, making them a suitable choice for individuals or families living in smaller spaces.

Health concerns also differ between the two dog breeds, Shih Tzus and Havanese. While both dogs can be prone to dental problems or respiratory conditions, it is crucial to be aware of the specific health concerns associated with each breed before making a decision.

Grooming needs should also be taken into account. Shih Tzus require regular grooming due to their long hair, while Havanese dogs have a shorter coat that requires less maintenance. Considering your commitment to grooming is essential in selecting the right breed for you.

Owning either a Havanese dog or a Shih Tzu dog comes with its own set of pros and cons. It’s important to weigh these factors against your lifestyle and preferences before making a decision.

Lastly, choosing the perfect family pet, such as a dog, involves considering various factors such as energy levels, exercise needs, compatibility with children or other pets, and overall compatibility with your household dynamics. A Shih Tzu can be a great option for families looking for a small and friendly dog.

To make an informed decision about whether a Shih Tzu or a Havanese dog is the right fit for you, take into account their distinct characteristics in terms of temperament, size comparison, health concerns, grooming needs, pros and cons of dog ownership as well as other relevant factors unique to your situation.

Remember that owning a dog requires responsibility and commitment. Researching thoroughly about both the dog and the Shih Tzu breeds will help you make a well-informed decision and ensure a happy and fulfilling companionship for years to come.


Are Shih Tzus or Havanese more suitable for families with children?

Both Havanese and Shih Tzu breeds can be great with children, but Havanese dogs are generally known for their friendly and sociable nature, making them an excellent choice for families.

Do Shih Tzus or Havanese shed a lot?

Shih Tzus tend to shed more than Havanese dogs. If shedding is a concern, consider the grooming needs of each breed before making your decision.

Are Shih Tzus or Havanese easier to train?

Generally, Havanese dogs, also known as Havanese Tzu, are considered easier to train due to their intelligence and eagerness to please. However, every Havanese Tzu dog is unique, so individual temperament may play a role as well.

Which breed requires more exercise, Shih Tzu or Havanese?

Both breeds have moderate exercise needs. Regular walks and playtime are essential for both Shih Tzus and Havanese dogs to keep them mentally stimulated and physically fit.

Can I leave my Shih Tzu or Havanese alone for long periods?

Neither dog breed, the Shih Tzu or the Lhasa Apso, does well when left alone for extended periods. They thrive on human companionship and may become anxious or develop behavioral issues if left alone frequently. Consider your availability before deciding on either the Shih Tzu or the Lhasa Apso breed.

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