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The one is from Malta, while the other one is from Tibet.

They’re both purebred pups, recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

And, they’re both great companion dogs.

Who will be better as a lap pooch and your new best friend: Maltese vs Shih Tzu?

The struggle is absolutely real. These dogs carry numerous fine traits that could sweep you off your feet. With proper training and socialization, a Maltese and a Shih Tzu could be the best pets ever.

But, are they different at all?

How can I decide which pup to get?

You can’t decide based only on a dog’s appearance. He may be the sweetest thing ever, but his temperament could be rotten. That’s why you need my help and knowledge about these breeds.

Keep on reading and I’ll show you in depth who will turn out to be the better lap dog: Maltese vs Shih Tzu!

How Different Are These Pooches?

The better question would be: What’s not different between a Maltese and a Shih Tzu?

These are two completely different dog breeds, and it would be easier to find their similarities.

But, when choosing the ideal family pet, you definitely need to go in depth and figure out everything about the dog breeds of your choice.

That’s why, today, we’re going to discuss how different Maltese and Shih Tzu dogs are.

We won’t just mention that they’re different since they come from different backgrounds. Nope!

We will show their personality traits, and point out their differences in appearance, upbringing, training, as well as health issues.

Appearance: Maltese Vs Shih Tzu

maltese vs shih tzumaltese vs shih tzu

Photo from: @cocos_thedog

At first glance, both are small lap dogs.

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This undeniable fact is supported by their purebred dog standard, claiming that a Maltese is only 8 to 10 inches tall, while a Shih Tzu can be an inch taller.

The biggest difference in their size is in terms of their weight. Maltese dogs are much lighter. According to the Maltese growth chart, on average, they won’t weigh more than 8 pounds! The Shih Tzu is definitely bigger, weighing up to 16 pounds.

Coat characteristics are what makes these dogs different, too.

For starters, both are low-shedding dogs. In fact, some claim they’re hypoallergenic! But, since there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, we’ll keep things simple: they don’t trigger allergic reactions!

The Maltese has a feathery soft coat. His buddy’s coat is not that fluffy. His double-coat is harsh, coarse, and can get tangled very easily! This makes them more high maintenance than the Maltese. So, prepare for lots of Shih Tzu grooming by either you or a professional groomer.

The Maltese always comes in pure white. But, the Shih Tzu’s long hair comes in lots of colors: silver, black and white, brindle, black, white, liver, etc.

Who Has A Better Temperament?

Personally, I’d say the Shih Tzu has a better temperament since they’re more peaceful than the Maltese.

The problem with the Maltese isn’t that they’re energetic or feisty. Trust me, Shihs are more feisty. It’s just that the Maltese seems to be more timid. They may be huge barkers, but Maltese dogs aren’t especially brave around strangers.

If this is something that could bother you, pick the Shih Tzu.

Other than this issue, both dogs are truly a delight to hang out with. They’re loyal, friendly, sweet, love showing affection, and will keep you in their eyesight all the time like little watchdogs.

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Honestly, I wouldn’t mind having each one of them. Pups that are so friendly are a bit rare. Many of them are kinda reserved and need some time to open up.

Trainability: Who Learns Faster?

Most dog owners aren’t looking for pups who can do flips, tricks, and all sorts of funny poses. That kind of training takes time and effort, and it doesn’t really have a point but to make someone feel entertained.

What dog owners want is an obedient dog that can be taught basic commands, and trained into performing simple tasks like going potty or going inside the crate.

The world’s most intelligent dog breeds are usually working dogs like the German Shepherd. But, even small dogs (often considered lap pups or companion dogs) can be extremely intelligent.

The intelligence isn’t measured by the dog’s size, but by its ability to learn fast and avoid making mistakes.

If you really can’t handle disobedient dogs, then neither of these are dogs for you.

Congrats because you’ve narrowed down your search to two highly smart pooches! I see no reason why either a Maltese or a Shih should fail basic training.

What keeps these guys performing well is positive reinforcement in the form of praises or treats. These dogs are very food motivated. So, if you’re teaching them a tough lesson, make sure your pockets are full of delicious snacks that you can hand out once the dog performs something well.

You two will master that task in no time!

What you need to do is be persistent and find out what makes your dog learn better. Is it a yummy treat or a good old tummy rub? Adapt and learn as you go, and success won’t be far away.

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However, there’s always something…

Sure, they learn, but Shih Tzus only learn when they want to. These dogs are quite stubborn, so keep that in mind. You’re the boss, not them.
Stubborness is a behavior you can control with training before it’s too late and you end up with your dog bossing you around.

Which Pup Is Smarter: Maltese Vs Shih Tzu

As I mentioned just now, both dogs are extremely intelligent.

But, even with intelligent dogs, there are notable differences from puppy to puppy.

I mean, not all people are the same either! Your Maltese may not be the best cookie in the jar, but he’ll still be smart. It may take some time for him to learn something, but he’ll get there. The same goes with the Shih Tzu.

But, what is simple for one dog can be complicated for the other. We can’t generalize and say that all of them are super intelligent or all of them are dummies. Observe your dog. Spend time figuring out how to approach their intelligence and how to stimulate it.

Mental Stimulation

What’s so amazing is that intelligence can be increased and stimulated, but also decreased. This is a bit of a complicated area.

You see, dogs thrive to get attention, and when they don’t, they become bored. Boredom isn’t healthy. It can result in behavioral issues as well as in potential health problems.

I always recommend you buy a bunch of toys for your dog, so he never feels bored, not even when you’re not around. But, I’m not talking about squeaky or chew toys. Those are great, but they are for another purpose.

I’ve seen a bunch of interesting puzzle toys online on Amazon where dogs have to work hard to solve the puzzle and reach the treat. These toys work very well on food-motivated breeds like our two little buddies we have here today.

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Puzzle games are used for mental stimulation, which leads to increased intelligence over time.

But, intelligence can also be decreased as I mentioned before.

If you don’t get these toys for your dog, or even if you don’t spend enough time with him, your pup may turn into a dummy. Those gray cells will become rusty if you don’t use them.

How Are Maltese And Shih Tzus With Kids And Families?

Both dogs were created to be people’s companions. They’re not classified as working or hunting dogs. For example, the Shih Tzu (or the Lhasa Apso) was even used to keep the feet of the royal family warm during winter nights.

But, our buddies have gone through a lot from keeping feet warm to today.

These dogs aren’t guard dogs, but they often have problems with perceiving how small they are. So, don’t be surprised if your Maltese or Shih Tzu wants to defend you from someone unknown, even when there’s no real danger.

This is all because both dog breeds are very loyal to their family.

Shih Tzus and Maltese dogs are even great with kids! Their energy levels are high, and they love playtime. Your little ones will find them very amusing since they’ll be spending lots of fun time together.

Broken Hearts & Broken Bones

But, I do have to warn you about something.

Both these pups can get attached to specific people easily. If you’re not planning to be around all the time, or don’t want to engage in playing with them, don’t get either of these pooches. You’ll only break their little heart because separation anxiety will always be hanging above their head!

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What else can be broken are their bones. Shih Tzus and Maltese are toy dogs. They’re a bit fragile, so keep an eye on your kids when they’re playing rough.

Also, make sure your dog is trained and obedient. Either one of them can be prone to nipping, barking, and biting, which can be dangerous around young children. Nip that behavior in the bud by training them to be obedient and friendly dogs.

Who Has Fewer Health Problems?

Both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu are fairly healthy dogs, with an average lifespan of 11 to 16 years. This life expectancy belongs in the rare group since most dog breeds don’t get the chance to live that long. But, with proper care, high-quality dog food, regular daily brushing, and exercising, it’s possible!

As for their health issues, both dogs are very prone to eye-related problems. You may even notice some dirt under your Maltese’s eyes. Don’t worry… that is natural. It is called tear stains. Keep that area clean in order to prevent infections. Trust me, it comes like that with these two little dogs.

Their small size is also guilty for certain hereditary hip and joint problems. Hip dysplasia isn’t something unknown, and neither is patellar luxation (or the slipping of the kneecap) (the patella).

The Shih Tzu breed has shorter legs than the Maltese. Thus, they’re more prone to the mentioned problems.

On the other hand, the Maltese breed is quite prone to having a liver shunt more than other dog breeds. Also, they have a sort of signature disease called White Dog Shaker Syndrome. Look it up here!

These are only a handful of health issues concerning these two small breeds of dogs. I suggest you have your chosen breeder do some health screening to find what else your future pooch is prone to.

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Should I Buy A Maltese, A Shih Tzu, Or…?

If you can’t really decide whether to get a Maltese vs a Shih Tzu, I suggest you get their crossbreed, the Malshi!

You may wonder: what’s that? Is that another super fancy dog breed I never heard of?

You’re kinda there…

The Malshi is another toy breed that can be a great companion. They’re suitable for apartment living, they’re sweet, and they have the best of both worlds.

Or, maybe some other Maltese mixes or Shih Tzu mixed breed pups will be a better idea!

Whichever you pick, make sure you first pick a good breeder – you know… someone who won’t scam you and just take your money.

As for the Maltese, we have a good article on Maltese breeders for you here. And, for the Shih Tzu, you can find breeders in the States here, and Shih Tzu breeders in Ontario here.

Final Words

Who is a better cuddle buddy: Maltese vs Shih Tzu?

I hope you will manage to answer this question so you can finally adopt or buy your new family pet.

Personally, I find this decision quite difficult to make.

Both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu are good boys and girls. They’re sweet, bouncy balls of fur, and they want you in their life, too!

I can’t make the decision for you. Based on everything you’ve learned today, you should easily pick which dog you want in your life.

Or… did I show you how amazing the Maltese and Shih Tzus have made everything much harder?

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By Andy Marcus

Hello, my name is Andy Marcus, and I am a passionate dog lover and enthusiast. For me, there is nothing quite like the joy and love that a furry friend can bring into our lives. I have spent years studying and learning about dogs, and have made it my mission to share my knowledge and expertise with others through my website. Through my website, I aim to provide comprehensive information and resources for dog owners and enthusiasts. Whether it's training tips, health and nutrition advice, or insights into dog behavior, I strive to create a platform that is accessible and useful to everyone who loves dogs.

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