The Maltese Shih Tzu was developed in the 1990s in an attempt to create a low-shedding companion dog. It’s a bit surprising that he has gained popularity on a name that simply combines those of the two breeds used in the crossbreeding. Unlike many other designer dogs, the use of cute names has not been necessary to promote this hybrid.
The Maltese Shih Tzu is currently one of the most popular hybrids in Australia, although his fame has also grown in North America and other countries.
There are no breed clubs or breed standards for this dog, and many of the litters produced are the result of first-generation breeding between Maltese and Shih Tzus. There has been some second-generation breeding, but so far the Maltese Shih Tzu has not undergone breeding of third and subsequent generations.
Although there is no breed standard for the Maltese Shih Tzu, he’s roughly 10 inches tall and weighs somewhere between 6 and 12 pounds.
The Maltese Shih Tzu is an adaptable, intelligent dog. He’s likely to be active and outgoing, if not downright boisterous, but occasionally you find the laid-back and quiet personality.
For a Maltese Shih Tzu, the most important aspect of life is family: nothing else matters as much as being with you. If he has that, everything else is negotiable. When good breeding stock is used, he has a nice, well-rounded temperament.
He can be curious, which can occasionally get him into trouble. He’s usually happy, however, and always ready for a good play session.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who’s beating up his littermates or the one who’s hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who’s available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you’re comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
The Maltese Shih Tzu needs early socialization and training. Like any dog, he can become timid if he’s not properly socialized when he’s young. Early socialization helps ensure that your puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling your young Maltese Shih Tzu in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, taking your dog to busy parks and stores that allow dogs, and going on leisurely strolls to meet the neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
The notion of hybrid vigor is worth understanding if you’re looking for a Maltese Shih Tzu. Hybrid vigor isn’t necessarily characteristic of mixed breeds; it occurs when new blood is brought in from outside the usual breeding circle — it’s the opposite of inbreeding.
However, there is a general misconception that hybrid vigor automatically applies to mixed breeds. If the genetic pool for the mixed breed remains the same over time, the offspring won’t have hybrid vigor. And if a purebred breeder brings in a dog from a different line, those puppies will have hybrid vigor, even though they’re purebred.
Maltese Shih Tzus are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Not all Maltese Shih Tzus will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.
If you’re buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy’s parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
Before you bring home your Maltese Shih Tzu, find out if he’s from a first-generation or multigenerational breeding (though multigenerational breedings are rare for this mix). If he’s a first-generation dog, research the health concerns that occur in both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu. Regardless of generation, both parents should have applicable health clearances. Some disorders are caused by recessive genes that may not appear for generations.
In Maltese Shih Tzus, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
The Maltese Shih Tzu is an adaptable dog who can change his habits to reflect the home that he lives in. He can be active and outgoing in a high-energy home, but he can also be calm and reserved in a quieter home.
Regardless of personality, the Maltese Shih Tzu requires the same amount of care. He should have a daily exercise, but this can be as simple as a leisurely walk through the neighborhood or a fun game of fetch down a hallway or in the yard. Expect about 10 to 15 minutes of exercise per day.
He can do well in apartments, but the ideal is a home with a small yard. Maltese Shih Tzus love the outdoors and will spend a significant amount of time playing and romping outside. A home with air-conditioning is suggested, since some Maltese Shih Tzus can suffer from respiratory problems that can be made worse in heat and humidity; don’t let him stay outside too long or play too hard when it’s hot and humid.
Training is as important for Maltese Shih Tzus as it is for all dogs, and he can be trained with little difficulty since he’s bright and eager to learn. He makes an excellent dog for first-time owners. Socialization is important, especially since the Maltese Shih Tzu is a social dog and loves to receive visitors or go visiting himself.
He can be noisy and will alert bark when he sees something or someone suspicious; however, he’s not as noisy as some other small dogs, and that includes his parent breeds. (That’s the joy of the hybrid.)
Crate training benefits every dog and is a kind way to ensure that your Maltese Shih Tzu doesn’t have accidents in the house or get into things he shouldn’t. A crate is also a place where he can retreat for a nap. Crate training at a young age will help your dog accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized.
Never stick your Maltese Shih Tzu in a crate all day long, however. It’s not a jail, and he shouldn’t spend more than a few hours at a time in it except when he’s sleeping at night. He’s a people dog, and not meant to spend his life locked up in a crate or kennel.
Recommended daily amount: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl.
Keep your Maltese Shih Tzu in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you’re unsure whether he’s overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, he needs less food and more exercise.
The coat of the Maltese Shih Tzu should be long, and soft and silky in texture. It should have some wave to it, but it should never be curly. Maltese Shih Tzus generally are white or white with tan markings on the body and ears, but they can sport a combination of other colors, such as black, brown, black and white, brown and white, and black and brown.
A fine Maltese Shih Tzu coat requires care and needs daily brushing to keep out tangles and mats. Regular bathing keeps the coat soft and silky. He can be clipped to make grooming a bit easier, but he still needs to be brushed weekly at a minimum, and clipped every six to nine weeks.
Maltese Shih Tzus can have some problems with tearstains under the eyes, like their Maltese parents; these may need to be treated with commercial tearstain removers. Keeping the area around the eye clean helps reduce staining.
Brush your Maltese Shih Tzu’s teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn’t wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they’re too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you’re not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog’s ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don’t insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Maltese Shih Tzu to being brushed and examined when he’s a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you’ll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he’s an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
The Maltese Shih Tzu is a friendly dog who does well with children of all ages. He makes an excellent companion for older, more considerate children, but he also loves the small kids.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
A Maltese Shih Tzu does well in homes with other dogs and pets and can thrive in multipet homes. He’s social enough to want to play with everyone, regardless of species. He won’t view your hamster as fast food, but it’s always best to keep an eye on his interactions with any smaller pet.