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"Malshis are small, social, easy-to-care for dogs that are low-shedding and may be better tolerated by people allergic to dogs," says Sarah Wooten, DVM, veterinary expert for Pumpkin Pet Insurance.
While both of the Malshi's parents have ancient roots, this hybrid breed is a relatively new arrival in the dog world. The Malshi originated a few decades ago and has recently been gaining attention—and capturing pet-lovers' hearts. These teeny-tiny dogs are just 6–12 pounds, and while they don't need a ton of exercise, they do require a lot of playtime and daily brushing.
Friendly, doting, playful, and smart, it's easy to see why the Malshi makes for such a wonderful pet in a variety of households, faring well with retirees, children, and other pets—including cats. This is a dog who absolutely believes that home is where the heart is, and he'll want to spend a lot of time with his humans.
Because Malshis are a cross breed, you won't find a standard that determines what they should look like. Even Malshi puppies within the same litter can vary in appearance. But a few universal descriptors do come to mind: Cute. Adorable. Or how about a fluffy, pint-sized pupper who elicits coos as soon as he bounces into a room?
One parent, the Maltese, has a long white coat and a black button nose. The other parent, a shih tzu, has royal heritage and wears a silky double coat like a luxurious robe. When these two dogs are cross-bred, the result is a tiny, affectionate dog that looks like an animated stuffed animal.
Malshi adults tip the scale at 6–12 pounds. That's on the big side for a Maltese, which typically weighs just 4–6 pounds; but on the smaller side for a shih tzu, which weighs anywhere from 9-16 pounds. Full-grown Malshis are just 10 inches in height.
Though there's no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic dog, Malshis tend to be ideal dogs for allergy-sufferers because they don't shed much. They can have a variety of coat colors (thanks to the shih tzu side of the family), including white, brown, gold, black, and even blue. The color combinations are seemingly endless!
Just remember: Like other cross breeds, it's a wild card which traits the Malshi will pick up. Will he have a long-haired plume of a tail that's characteristic of Matlese dogs? How about an endearing underbite that's common in shih tzus? Perhaps both!
If there were a trophy for the very best lapdog, the Malshi would be a solid contender. Both of the Malshi's parents are known cuddlers so, naturally, the Malshi gets an A+ in the affection department. In a word, the Malshi temperament is "sweet."
"As highly trainable and eager-to-please dogs, the Malshi is a great breed for both first-time and experienced dog owners," says Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA, pet lifestyle expert with Rover.
Malshis are diplomatic pets, too—they can get along well with other pets and kids. "They also make great therapy dogs and are perfect for retired people looking for a new addition," Ellis says.
However, Malshis may not be the best fit for families with young children, as toddlers could accidentally hurt the teeny-tiny dog. As with all dogs, parents should teach their children proper "pet-iquette" and how to handle animals with care, and be sure to monitor puppy playtime.
Every dog has their own personality, but, in general, shih tzus tend to be calm and Maltese dogs are more active. Both of the Malshis' parents are intelligent and playful, so bring on the games and puzzle toys, and set aside some time to engage your pup's silly side.
Malshis don't need a sprawling backyard, and (despite both parents descending from high-society lineage) they don't need a grandiose palace, either. But one thing they absolutely do need: Your attention. This dog's love language is most certainly "quality time."
"Due to their love of humans, the Malshi does best with people who are around and available for most parts of the day," Ellis says.
Because Malshis are prone to respiratory problems, Ellis says, they shouldn't spend the day outdoors, and they need to be carefully watched in hot and humid weather. Short play dates in the backyard or at the neighborhood park are much better suited for these pups who typically can't handle long days at the beach or on the hiking trails. But as energetic dogs, Malshis can keep up with you on short, frequent walks.
As compact dogs, Malshis are great pups for apartment living. But, again, they'll do best in a home where their guardians work from home or are retired.
"Malshis do not enjoy being alone for large amounts of the day, can be a little clingy, and are known to suffer from separation anxiety," Wooten says.
Bred to be companions, these short-legged dogs don't require a ton of exercise. But Malshis will benefit from some daily light exercise (think: a short walk and dedicated playtime), Wooten says. Then, after 15 minutes or so of trotting around the block, they'll be ready for their go-to trick: Lap-warming!
As far as grooming goes, it's worth noting that both of the Malshi's parents have coats that require a daily brushing. While Malshis don't tend to wear long draped coats like their parents, you'll still want to plan on brushing them every day to prevent mats and tangles. They'll also need a trip to the groomer every couple months. Malshi haircuts could include the "teddy bear" cut that involves a light trim around the face that's teased out, though they'd look adorable with any popular shih tzu haircut.
In addition to daily brushing, pamper your pooch with a well-rounded care routine that includes daily teeth brushing as well as regular nail trimmings and ear cleanings.
Also, because Malshis are super smart and cherish one-on-one time with their guardians, training them with positive reinforcement is a fun way to bond.
"Being a small dog, they do best when socialized at a young age with dogs of all sizes and lots of people," Ellis says. Have the training treats and head pats at the ready; your Malshi is a star student ready to learn.
Like most small dogs, the Malshi has a long lifespan. These companions can live 12–14 years. He also tends to be a fairly healthy dog, but both parents have some common health problems that he may be prone to as well.
As an example, shih tzus and Maltese both commonly deal with patellar luxation, or a slipped kneecap. Shih tzus may also deal with hip dysplasia and they can also have some eye health problems, including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. However, the Institute of Canine Biology says mixed breed dogs are typically less likely than their purebred parents to have genetic disorders.
Many small breeds can be prone to dental problems. So along with daily brushing, it's a good idea to talk to your vet about how you can keep your dog's pearly whites healthy and clean.
The Malshi is a relatively new hybrid breed that originated sometime around the 1990s and has been gaining popularity in recent decades.
While the Malshi is a new pup on the block, her parents are among some of the oldest-known breeds and have storied pasts.
The Maltese may have originated as far back as 2,800 years ago in Malta, which is an archipelago below Sicily. Aristocrats of the Roman Empire fancied this Mediterreanean dog that became a status symbol for the wealthy and famous, according to The Maltese Club. Aristotle even referred to the dog as "perfect in its small size."
Meanwhile, the shih tzu breed has been around for at least 1,000 years, and these dogs were bred as companion dogs and lived in Tibetan monasteries. According to folklore, shih tzus were dutiful temple dogs and trained to turn the prayer wheels, according to the Shih Tzu Club. Fantastical artistic renderings show shih tzus to resemble little lions.
- In addition to being called Malshis, this cross breed has some other nicknames including "Malti zu" and "Malt-tzu."
- The Malshi isn't recognized by the American Kennel Club, despite his parents being popular breeds that have been around for centuries.
- One of the Malshi's parents, the Maltese, was so beloved that Greek pottery dating back to 5 A.D. is decorated with images resembling the dog.