malshi dog breed profile treatment with pink background

Malshi

Malshis are friendly, loyal, cuddly, and don’t shed much. Learn more about what makes this teeny-tiny dog a fit for most families.
By Brittany Anas
August 13, 2021
Malshi
Breed Group
Dog Size
Other Traits
Temperament

Malshi

height
  • Up to 10 inches
weight
  • 6–12 pounds
life span
  • 12–14 years
breed size
  • small (0-25 lbs.)
good with
  • children
  • families
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • cats
temperament
  • gentle
  • friendly
  • outgoing
  • playful
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • infrequent
exercise needs
  • low
energy level
  • active
barking level
  • frequent
drool amount
  • low
breed group
  • hybrid
coat length/texture
  • long
colors
  • blue
  • brown / chocolate / liver
  • black
  • white
  • gold / yellow
patterns
  • bicolor
other traits
  • hypoallergenic
  • requires lots of grooming
  • apartment-friendly
  • good for first-time pet owners
  • strong loyalty tendencies

One parent, the Maltese, was once a status symbol for ancient Greeks. The other parent, the shih tzu, were beloved companions of Chinese emperors. Cross the two and you've got the Malshi, an adorable and loyal pup who will proudly sit on your lap like it's his very own throne.

"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.

Appearance

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?

Malshi running uphill on dirt
Malshis are a relatively new hybrid breed, but their parents pups, the Maltese and the shih tzu, have ancient histories.
| Credit: Hans Surfer / Getty

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! 

closeup of malshi with head in between his paws sitting outside near palm trees
Credit: PHATCHARADA DUEANDAO / Shutterstock

Temperament

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. 

tan malshi sitting on owner's lap
cute malshi dog looking straight at camera
Left: Malshis are the ultimate lapdogs. They love being near their humans and don't do well when left alone. | Credit: KJG Photography, Kim Guisti / Getty
Right: Smart and eager to please, Malshis respond well to positive reinforcement training. A pocket of treats will help, too! | Credit: Lady A Photography / Shutterstock

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. 

Living Needs

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. 

white malshi running with red ball in her mouth
Because of their little legs and respiratory issues, Malshis don't need a ton of exercise. A few short walks and some park playtime will make him ready for more snuggles.
| Credit: Hans Surfer / Getty

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.

Care

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! 

malshi wearing leather jacket standing on pebbles in a city
There's no standard for what a Malshi puppy will grow to look like. Some inherit the long white locks from their Maltese parent, and others are born with the shih tzu underbite. Some have both!
| Credit: ferrantraite / Getty

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. 

malshi puppy lying floor with stuffed toys
Credit: KJG Photography, Kim Guisti / Getty

Health

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.

closeup of a malshi with his tongue out
Shih tzus are a brachycephalic breed, meaning they have smooshed faces. Their Malshi puppies can inherit their respiratory issues and don't do well in heat.
| Credit: Pedro Helder Pinheiro / Shutterstock

History

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.

Fun Facts

  • 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.