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Mal-Shi (Maltese & Shih-Tzu Mix): Info, Pictures, Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

mal-shi laying in grass

Height: 10-20 inches
Weight: 5-15 pounds
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Colors: white, brown, black or any combination of these three colors
Suitable for: Families with children, a couple of even seniors
Temperament: Loving, affectionate and intelligent

The Mal-Shi is a cute and fluffy little designer dog that is a result of crossing a purebred Maltese with a purebred Shi-Tzu. The breed was first developed in the early 1990s in Australia and has since become popular in North America.

Happy and affectionate, these intelligent little dogs are quite easy to train and make excellent therapy dogs or family pets. They are a good choice of dog for an apartment, but will also enjoy having a small yard in which to run about in.

Mal-Shis are hypoallergenic and rarely shed, making them a good choice for people with allergies. However, like its parents, Mal-Shi’s have long luxurious, long, and flowing hair that will require regular grooming or clipping.

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Mal-Shi Puppies



Like all cross-bred dogs, the Mal-Shi inherits a mix of traits from its parent breeds.

In appearance, Mal-Shi’s can inherit the look of either parent breed. However, they usually don’t have the distinctive short snout or budging eyes of the Shi-Tzu.

Nor do they inherit the typical snappy and highly-strung temperament of the Maltese. Instead, when mixed with the more reserved Shi-Tzu, the result is a friendly and outgoing dog that generally enjoys spending time with people.

Mal-Shi puppies require both training and socialization, and despite their ‘toy’ looks need to be treated like a dog. An overly spoilt Mal-Shi that is carried around everywhere, rather than be allowed to walk about by itself, may become bratty or demanding.

Fortunately, though, they are easily trained. With a little effort, you will have a lovely little dog that will make an ideal family pet or companion.

Three Little-Known Facts the About Mal-Shi

1. Many Mal-Shi puppies are first-generation crosses

Many Mal-Shi puppies are F1 Hybrids, meaning that their parents are from two distinct breeds.

The primary reason for this is that the Mal-Shi has not been recognized as an independent breed by any major kennel clubs. As a result, there has been very little interest from dog breeders in developing the breed.

2. Despite being a newer breed, the Mal-Shi has some ancient heritage

The Mal-Shi was first bred in the early 1990s, but its parent breeds have a long and distinguished history.

The Maltese is an ancient breed that dates back until at least the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, who believed that these toy dogs possessed healing powers. While the Shi-Tzu, with its Chinese origins, is an even older breed, having been recorded in Chinese history as far back as 10,000 years ago.

3. The Mal-Shi was initially bred for people with allergies

The breed was initially conceived with the idea of developing a small, well-tempered, and low-shedding dog that would appeal to an increasingly allergic pet-owning population.

In this regard, the breed has been a success, and they are considered to be hypoallergenic because they do not shed.

Having said that, you should remember that all dog breeds produce proteins that can be allergens, which can be found in dog hair, dander, saliva, and urine. Meaning, that even low-shedding breeds like the Mal-Shi can still be problematic for some people with dog allergies.

The parent breeds of Mal-Shi
The parent breeds of Mal-Shi: Left – Shih-Tzu (Eli S, Shutterstock) | Right – Maltese (Archibald Marajas, Pexels)

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Mal-Shi 🧠

These dogs have a happy, outgoing, and friendly personality. They love being around people and other animals and will make friends instantly with just about everybody that they meet.

They love nothing more than spending time with their family, and will just as happily play a short game of fetch as they will curl up on your lap for a snooze so long as it means getting your attention.

Mal-Shi’s are highly intelligent and quick learners but can have a stubborn streak if they don’t want to do something. Conversely, they can also be quite the performer and will readily engage with tricks and silly antics if they can see that this is pleasing to you.

As guard dogs, despite their size and friendly disposition, these dogs are alert and fearless and will bark whenever they are threatened or feel that something isn’t quite right.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Yes, the Mal-Shi’s social nature makes them great family pets. They have a reputation for being highly tolerant of children and will happily play along with them.

Some breeders do not recommend Mal-Shi puppies for families with very young children. However, this is more for the protection of the puppy, which, due to the breed’s small stature could be easily injured by a young child dropping or sitting on it.

Mal-Shis certainly have the energy to spend time running around the yard with kids, and will also enjoy a gentle walk each day. They can also adapt quickly to being house or apartment dogs, and make great companion dogs for the elderly.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Mal-Shi’s love making new friends, and to them, it doesn’t matter whether this is a human or animal friend. They get on well with other dogs and will become your cat’s best (and likely most annoying) buddy. They can also be trusted around smaller animals like hamsters and rabbits.

In fact, having another pet in the house for your Mal-Shi to play with is a fantastic way to keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated. As left alone for long periods, Mal-Shis can suffer from separation anxiety.


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Things to Know When Owning a Mal-Shi:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

All dogs need to have a well-balanced and healthy diet, and the Mal-Shi is no different.  A premium-brand of dry dog food, made with a variety of high-quality ingredients that includes a mix of meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables will be ideal.

When choosing your dog’s food, it is a good idea to select a small-breed formula that has been specially compiled to provide the right nutritional value for a dog of Mal-Shi’s size and activity level. The kibble in these foods will also be the right size and consistency to ensure that your dog can easily chew and digest its food.

Of course, if you have any questions about what to feed your new Mal-Shi the best person to consult is your dog’s vet, who will be able to advise you of the best food for your pet.

The serving size that your dog requires will vary according to the brand you choose. It is also best to feed your dog twice a day. It is then a simple task to give your pet half of its recommended daily serving at each feed. However, you should keep in mind that dogs, like humans, are individuals and the amount of food they will need varies according to their size, age, and lifestyle.

Exercise 🐕

The Mal-Shi requires a moderate amount of daily exercise and will be happy to match its activity levels to you. If you are somebody who likes to get out and walk every day, you’ll find that your Mal-Shi is keen to go with you. However, if you lead a more inactive lifestyle, your pet will be just as happy to stay home and play inside for a while.

Of course, every dog requires some daily exercise, but with a Mal-Shi that could be a short walk or 10-15 minutes of vigorous indoor play a couple of times a day.

shih tese / malshi
Image Credit: Needpx

Training 🦮

The Mal-Shi is a highly intelligent dog that loves to please, and as a result, they are quite easy to train.

Remember to make your training sessions fun. Mal-Shi’s will respond best to training when you make the process a game, rather than a chore. As with all dogs, you should encourage and reward good behavior and not focus on the bad.

Socializing is an essential part of your dog’s training and something that should not be overlooked.  Socializing activities might include attending puppy school to meet other dogs; walking around the neighborhood to see the various sights, sounds, and smells, teaching your pup to walk up and down stairs, or just familiarizing him with the loud and strange household noises that will be part of his new daily life.

Grooming ✂️

Having inherited a long, wavy coat from their parent breeds, the Mal-Shi will require considerable grooming. As well as needing to be brushed daily, their coats require regular bathing to stay soft and silky.

Many Mal-Shi owners prefer to keep their dog’s coats clipped to make grooming easier. If you chose to do this, you will need to brush your pet a least once a week, and you should expect that your pooch will require clipping about every two months.

Indoor dogs that don’t wear their nails down naturally will need to have their nails clipped every few weeks. As a rule of thumb, if you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on your hard flows as they walk, their nails need clipping.

Health and Conditions ❤️

The Mal-Shi is typically a healthy dog, and if well cared for will likely go through life without any serious health complications or issues. That said, there are several conditions that they can be susceptible too and that you should look out for.

Minor Conditions
  • Eye infections
  • Cataracts
  • Skin allergies
  • Ear infections
Serious Conditions
  • Patellar luxation
  • White Shaker Syndrome
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Von Willebrand disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

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Male vs Female

When it comes to choosing your Mal-Shi puppy, there is very little physical difference between male and females pups.  A male Mal-Shi will grow to be a little larger than a female, but in such a small dog, the difference will be hardly noticeable.

In terms of personality, male dogs (particularly those that have not been neutered) tend to be more dominant and high-spirited than females. However, this is not a significant issue with the Mal-Shi given their small stature.

Regardless of whether you wish to own a male or female dog, unless you plan on breeding them, it is a good idea to have them neutered. Spaying or neutering your dog helps reduce the number of unwanted dogs in our societies, can have health benefits for your pet, and can also help alleviate any undesirable aggressive tendencies or bad behavior.

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Final Thoughts

The Mal-Shi is a friendly little dog that loves to please. They make great family pets or therapy dogs and are just at home living in high-rise inner-city apartments as they are in a house with a yard.

They require only a moderate amount of physical activity. But, as they’re not great solitary animals, they need lots of your attention and mental stimulation.

The Mal-Shi remains one of the most popular designer dogs in Australia, where they were initially bred, and are growing in popularity throughout North America.

If you are looking for a small dog that genuinely loves spending time with you, and you have the time to put into its grooming, the Mal-Shi might be the perfect pooch for you.

Featured Image Credit: TerriAnneAllen, Pixabay

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