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Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu Comparison: 8 Key Differences

Are you trying to decide between a Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu for your next furry companion? As a small dog owner who has dog allergies I fully understand how hard it can be to choose the right dog.

Each breed brings its distinct charm and qualities: the Maltipoo, a newer poodle cross breed, is a delightful mix of Maltese and Poodle, whereas the Shih Tzu boasts an ancient and noble lineage.

While they share some similarities, each breed stands out with its unique blend of personality, appearance, and temperament, offering different experiences for prospective pet owners.

Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or simply looking to expand your canine family, this comparison aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of both small dogs, aiding in your decision-making process.

Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu Quick Comparison

FeatureMaltipooShih Tzu
Breed TypeHybrid (Maltese and Poodle mix)Purebred
SizeToy: 5-10 lbs, 8-10 inchesConsistent: 9-16 lbs, 9-10.5 inches
Mini: 10-20 lbs, 11-14 inches
Coat TypeWavy to curly, soft and fluffyLong, straight, silky
Grooming NeedsBrushing 2 to 3 times a wks, professional grooming 6 to 8 wksDaily brushing, professional grooming 6 to 8 wks
TemperamentPlayful, affectionate, intelligentAffectionate, loyal, independent
12-15 years10-16 years
Health IssuesDental issues, allergies, patellar luxation, Hypoglycemia, PRADental issues, allergies, brachycephalic syndrome, Hip dysplasia, intervertebral disk disease
TrainingEager to please, generally easy to trainIntelligent, can be stubborn, requires a lot of patience
Quick overview of the difference between the Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu
Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu Comparison: 9 Key Differences - title post with picture of a shih tzu and a maltipoo.

Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu – How are they alike?

Let’s start our comparison with the traits both dogs share. Despite their different backgrounds, these breeds have several similarities: 

1. Temperament

Maltipoos and Shih Tzus share several temperament traits, particularly their status as affectionate dogs. Bred as a companion dog, they are known for their loving nature, often forming deep bonds with their owners.

2. Separation Anxiety

Both breeds are prone to separation anxiety, a common trait in companion dogs that thrive on human interaction.

  • Maltipoos, especially, may display destructive behavior if left alone for long periods.
  • Shih Tzus also tend to dislike being alone for extended periods, and they might express their anxiety through whining or chewing.
Maltipoo puppy.

3. Shedding

Both Maltipoos and Shih Tzus are known for their soft, luxurious and hypoallergenic coats. A key similarity is their minimal shedding, which is a boon for people who prefer a cleaner home with less pet hair. Plus their low-shed coats reduce the number of allergens in the air that is often caused by shedding.

4. Suitability

Maltipoos and Shih Tzus are known for their gentle, social and friendly personalities, which suit the varied dynamics of family life, including households with small children, elderly people and other pets.

5. Exercise Needs

Maltipoos and Shih Tzus, with their moderate energy level, are well-suited for owners who prefer a less intensive exercise routine for their pets. Daily exercise and mental stimulation are essential for their well-being, but can be easily met with a short walk, training games or puzzles and some playtime.

6. Adaptability

Maltipoos and Shih Tzus are remarkably adaptable to a range of living environments, from spacious houses with yards to cozy apartments. Their small size and easygoing nature allow them to comfortably fit into various home settings. However, they do require regular interaction and mental stimulation to remain content.

Shih tzu puppy sleeping on floor

7. Lifespan

Maltipoos and Shih Tzus are known for having a fairly long life expectancy. The average lifespan of a Maltipoo is typically around 12 to 15 years, while Shih Tzus often have a lifespan of 10 to 16 years.

These lifespans can be maximized through proper care, which includes regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, and sufficient mental and physical exercise. Choosing puppies from responsible breeders, who focus on health and genetics, plays a crucial role in ensuring a healthy start to life.

8. Common Health Conditions

The Maltipoo and Shih Tzu share many common health issues that affect small breed dogs. Here are just a few of the issues they share:

  • Dental Problems: Their tiny mouths can lead to overcrowded teeth, which increases the risk of periodontal disease.
  • Skin allergies: This can show up as itching and skin irritation, so it’s important to watch out for any signs of discomfort in their skin.
  • Ear Infections: Due to their floppy ears and long hair, both breeds can be prone to ear infections. Regular cleaning and monitoring are important to prevent this.
  • Patellar Luxation: This condition, where the kneecap slips out of place, is common in small breeds.
  • Eye Problems: Both breeds can experience various eye issues, such as dry eyes or tear duct problems.

In addition to these possible health conditions they also have their own unique health conditions which we cover later in this post.

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Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu – Key Differences

1. Breed Origin

The Maltipoo, is considered to be a designer dog, a term often used for deliberately crossbred dogs. As a hybrid breed, Maltipoos are the offspring of a Maltese and a Poodle. Generally, either a mini poodle or toy poodle is used in the breeding.

The hybrid nature of the Maltipoo means that their appearance can vary significantly even within the same litter, as they can inherit different traits from each of their parent breeds. As a poodle mix breed they are not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and they do not have a breed standard.

On the other hand, the Shih Tzu breed boasts a rich and storied history. Originating from China, Shih Tzus are an ancient breed, revered throughout history as royal companions.

Unlike the Maltipoo, the Shih Tzu has a well-established breed standard that is recognized by the AKC. This standard includes specifics about their physical appearance, including their coat, distinct facial features, and overall body structure.

Shih Tzus have been bred for centuries to conform to these standards, resulting in a breed with more predictable physical traits and temperament characteristics compared to the more varied nature of hybrid breeds like the Maltipoo.

2. Size

Both Maltipoos and Shih Tzus fall into the small breed category, making them perfect for apartment living or for those who love the idea of a lap dog that’s easy to handle. Despite their small stature, there’s a noticeable difference in size variability, especially within the Maltipoo breed.

Maltipoos, in particular, come in two distinct sizes: mini and toy. This variation is dependent on whether they are bred from a Miniature Poodle or a Toy Poodle. As such, the size range for an adult Maltipoo can be quite broad.

  • Toy Maltipoo – typically weighs between 5 to 10 pounds and stands about 8 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder.
  • Mini Maltipoo – is generally larger, weighing between 10 to 20 pounds with a height of approximately 11 to 14 inches at the shoulder.

In contrast, Shih Tzus have more consistent sizing due to established breed standards.

  • Shih Tzu – typically weigh between 9 to 16 pounds and stand about 9 to 10.5 inches tall at the shoulder.
Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu Comparison: 9 Key Differences - Appearance -Shih Tzu with long straight hair and Maltipoo with short curly hair.

3. Physical Characteristics

  • Fur Type
    • Maltipoo’s coat is a single layer of soft fur with slightly wavy to curly coats.
    • Shih Tzus have distinct flowing, long coats that are dense and double-layered. Their fur is typically straight and silky.
  • Facial Features:
    • Maltipoos usually have a round face with expressive eyes and a medium-length snout, blending characteristics of both parent breeds.
    • Shih Tzus have a unique, distinctive face with large, round eyes and a short muzzle, typical of brachycephalic breeds. The face is often adorned with a beard and a mustache.
  • Body Type:
    • Maltipoos are generally small and compact but can vary in build, depending on which parent breed they take after more. They often have a slightly athletic build, not too delicate.
    • Shih Tzus have a sturdy, compact body with a solid build. They are slightly longer than they are tall, giving them a distinctive body shape.
  • Overall Appearance:
    • The overall appearance of a Maltipoo can be quite varied, with some looking more like Maltese and others more like Poodles. Whereas the Shih Tzu possesses a standard look.
Black Shih tzu

4: Coat colors and Patterns


Maltipoos, as a poodle mix breed, inherit a diverse range of coat colors and patterns from their parent breeds. Maltese dogs typically have a pure white coat, while Poodles offer a broad palette of colors including black, white, apricot, silver, brown, and more.

This genetic diversity means that Maltipoos can exhibit a wide variety of colors. They can be single-colored or inherit the many patterns available in the Poodle. Maltipoos can also inherit the fading gene from their poodle parent which can cause their fur to change colors as they age.

Shih Tzu:

Shih Tzus, while also offering a range of colors, have more consistency in their coat colors as per the breed standard. The Shih Tzu’s coat can come in colors such as black, white, blue, gold, silver, red, and combinations thereof. However, the patterns and color distributions tend to be more predictable in Shih Tzus.

Maltipoo at groomers

5. Grooming Needs

Both Maltipoos and Shih Tzus require regular grooming, but the Maltipoo’s grooming demands are generally less intensive than those of Shih Tzus.


  • Coat Maintenance: Maltipoos have a coat that can vary from slightly wavy to curly, inheriting traits from their Maltese and Poodle parentage.
  • Frequency of Grooming: They typically need to be brushed a few times a week to keep their coat in good condition and prevent matting. The frequency can increase if their coat is more on the curly side, similar to a Poodle’s.
  • Professional Grooming:  Taking them to a professional groomer every 6 to 8 weeks is recommended to keep their coat trimmed and healthy. This also helps in managing any potential issues with matting and keeping their fur at a manageable length.
  • Bathing: Maltipoos also require regular baths to keep their skin and coat clean and healthy, with the frequency depending on their lifestyle and coat type.

Shih Tzu:

  • Coat Maintenance: Shih Tzus have a long, flowing double coat that requires more intensive grooming. Their straight, silky fur can easily become matted if not cared for properly.
  • Frequency of Grooming: Daily brushing is often necessary to prevent mats and tangles, especially if the coat is kept long.
  • Professional Grooming: Professional grooming every 6-8 weeks is crucial for Shih Tzus. Many Shih Tzu owners opt for a “puppy cut” or shorter hairstyle to reduce the time and effort required for daily grooming.
  • Bathing: Regular baths are important to keep their coats clean.
Maltipoo sleeping

6. Training and Intelligence

Maltipoos, with their Poodle heritage, may exhibit a higher level of intelligence and eagerness to please, which can translate into a more trainable personality. They often respond well to positive reinforcement and can be quite adaptable in learning new commands or tricks.

Shih Tzus, on the other hand, while intelligent, can sometimes display a more independent personality. This can be perceived as stubbornness during training sessions. They tend to respond best to gentle, positive training methods and may require more repetition and encouragement to master new commands or behaviors.

Despite this independent streak, with the right approach in their training and some patience, Shih Tzus can be effectively trained and are capable of learning a range of commands and tasks.

white maltipoo

7. Health Issues

While they have a lot of health problems in common as we laid out above, each breed has its own set of health concerns. 

Maltipoo-Specific Health Concerns:

  • Hypoglycemia: Especially in smaller Maltipoos, low blood sugar can be a concern. This requires careful monitoring and management through diet.

Shih Tzu-Specific Health Concerns:

  • Brachycephalic Syndrome: Due to their short noses and flat faces, Shih Tzus can suffer from respiratory issues.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Although more common in larger breeds, hip dysplasia can also affect Shih Tzus, leading to joint problems.
  • Intervertebral Disk Disease: This condition affects the spinal cord and can be seen in Shih Tzus, often due to their long back and short legs.

Please note this post does not include all health conditions for either breed.

8. Popularity and Availability

Maltipoos have surged in popularity recently, but availability is limited. This demand for Maltipoos can lead to higher prices and longer waiting lists, especially when sourcing from a reputable breeder.

On the other hand, Shih Tzus have maintained a steady popularity over the years as family pets and companions. As a recognized purebred, they are generally more accessible, available through Shih Tzu rescues and reputable breeders.

Which One Is Right For You?

Choosing between a Maltipoo and a Shih Tzu is an important decision that depends on their distinct characteristics and how these align with your lifestyle.

Maltipoos are known for their affectionate nature and playful demeanor. While they are not AKC recognized, they boast a lifespan of 12 to 15 years and are celebrated for their intelligence and ease of training. However, potential owners should consider their tendency towards separation anxiety and varied appearance.

On the other hand, Shih Tzus offer a more consistent profile, meeting AKC standards and revered for their long history as companions. With their predictable size and lifespan of 10 to 16 years, they are a steadfast choice. Their grooming needs are daily due to their long, luxurious coats, and they have specific health considerations related to their facial structure.

To make the best choice for your home, consider which breed’s traits resonate more with your lifestyle and preferences. Whether it’s the adaptable Maltipoo or the loyal Shih Tzu, each breed offers unique qualities that make them wonderful companions.

Tell us which one you would pick?

Maltipoo vs Shih Tzu Resources