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Havanese vs Shih Tzu: 9 Most Important Factors

Choosing the perfect dog breed for your family can be an exciting yet challenging decision. Among the many breeds to consider are the charming Havanese and the equally endearing Shih Tzu. Both breeds are known for their suitability as family pets and for inexperienced owners, with their affectionate and adaptable nature making them a popular choice for many households.

As you begin to compare the Havanese vs Shih Tzu, you’ll find they have similarities and differences that may influence your decision. For instance, Havanese dogs have an average height of 8.5-11.5 inches and a weight range of 7-13 pounds, whereas Shih Tzus typically stand 8-11 inches tall and weigh 9-16 pounds. Their lifespans also differ, with Havanese averaging about 14 years and Shih Tzus living 10-16 years.

Regarding temperament, both breeds are known for their happy-go-lucky, affectionate, and outgoing demeanor, but some differences may arise in trainability and grooming needs. As you delve further into the characteristics of these lovable breeds, you’ll uncover more details to help decide which one is the best dog for your lifestyle and preferences.

black and white havanese dog outside havanese vs shih tzu

1. Havanese vs Shih Tzu: Origins and History

Havanese History

The Havanese breed originated in Cuba, specifically in Havana, where the name comes from. These small dogs were developed as companion animals for wealthy families in the region. Over time, these companion dogs made their way to Europe, gaining popularity among aristocrats and royalty. The Havanese is part of the ancient Bichon breed, including other well-known dogs such as the Bichon Frise and the Maltese.

Due to historical events such as the Cuban Revolution, some Havanese owners were forced to flee to the United States, bringing their furry friends along. The American Kennel Club only recognized the breed in 1996, along with other breeds like the Anatolian Shepherd, Lowchen, and Canaan Dog.

white havanese dog with orange towel

Shih Tzu History

In contrast, Shih Tzus have a long history in China, stemming from their origins in Tibet. They are part of the Sino-Tibetan lineage, closely related to the Lhaso Apso breed. Originally, Shih Tzus were bred with Pugs and Pekingese dogs to perfect the breed, before becoming beloved palace dogs for Chinese royalty.

These dogs were pampered by Chinese emperors and kept as lap warmers, enjoying a life of luxury. These lap dogs were virtually unseen outside of China until the 1930s when they started gaining popularity in other parts of the world.

ginger european shih tzu

2. Appearance and Size

In this section, we’ll explore the differences in appearance and size between Havanese and Shih Tzu dogs. 

Havanese Features

Regarding Havanese features, their size can range from 8-13 pounds and they typically stand 8-11 inches tall. This small dog breed is known for its long, beautiful coat, which comes in various colors and patterns. Their silky coat can be straight, wavy, or curly, providing you with many different grooming options. 

Some prominent features of Havanese include their plumed tail, which is often held high, and their long, droopy ears. These dogs typically have balanced body proportions and short legs, contributing to their adorable appearance.

white havanese dog with a mess of toilet paper

Shih Tzu Features

As for the Shih Tzu breed, they generally have a similar height range of 8-11 inches and can weigh from 9-16 pounds. Shih Tzus are a brachycephalic breed characterized by their shallow snouts and wide eye sockets. This gives them the adorable, pushed-in face that many people love. 

They also have unique coats with soft and silky hair as well as a feathered texture underneath as the breed standard. Despite their small size, this lion dog requires diligent grooming to prevent tangles and maintain the health of their long hair.

long haired european shih tzu

Regarding other physical features, Shih Tzus have larger eyes than the Havanese, giving them a sweet and innocent appearance. Additionally, their ears are usually longer and floppier, adding charm to their overall look. Like the Havanese, they also have a plumed tail, which usually curls up over the back.

3. Shih Tzu vs Havanese: Temperament and Personality

Havanese Traits

Havanese dogs are known for their cheerful and friendly temperament. They are highly affectionate and tend to form strong bonds with their family members. As a Havanese owner, you’ll appreciate their intelligence, as they are easy to train and eager to please. These dogs are also great with both young children and older children, making them a perfect family pet.

white havanese dog in a towel

Regarding personality, Havanese are often described as “Velcro dogs” because they prefer to stay close to their owners for love and companionship. They are quite social animals, enjoying the company of other dogs and people alike. Here are some Havanese traits that set them apart:

  • Intelligent: Havanese are quick learners and can be easily trained.
  • Playful: They enjoy engaging in fun activities and games with their families.
  • Loyal: Havanese are extremely loyal to their owners, always eager to please.
  • Social: They get along well with other dogs and people, making them excellent companions.

Shih Tzu Traits

Shih Tzu dogs are known for their sweet and loving nature. These toy dogs are highly affectionate and enjoy spending time with their human companions. Regarding training, Shih Tzus can be a bit more independent and stubborn compared to Havanese. However, with patience and consistency, they can learn commands and tricks.

white shih tzu with mouth open

Shih Tzu dogs adapt well to families with children and generally display a friendly demeanor towards other pets. Some key traits of Shih Tzus include:

  • Affectionate: Shih Tzus are loving dogs that crave human attention and companionship.
  • Alert: They are known for their keen senses, and they make great watch dogs.
  • Friendly: Shih Tzus are approachable and enjoy meeting new people and other pets.
  • Hypoallergenic: Their coat is considered hypoallergenic, making them a popular choice for allergy sufferers.

As you get to know your Havanese or Shih Tzu, you’ll quickly discover their unique personalities and loving temperaments. With proper care, training, and attention, both breeds can make wonderful companions and enrich your life.

4. Havanese Dog Breed vs Shih Tzu Dog Breed: Health and Lifespan

Both breeds are generally healthy but may have some breed-specific health conditions you should be aware of.

Havanese Health Issues

Havanese dogs generally live a long life, with some individuals reaching up to 16 years. Despite their longevity, they may suffer from certain health issues. Here are a few common concerns:

  • Cataracts: This eye condition can cause cloudiness and reduced vision.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Common in many breeds, this developmental issue affects the hip joints and can lead to arthritis.
  • Patellar Luxation: Also known as a luxating patella, this condition occurs when the kneecap dislocates or moves out of its proper position.
  • Chondrodysplasia: A genetic condition affecting bone growth and development, leading to shorter and bent limbs.
white havanese dog in the wind

Shih Tzu Health Issues

Shih Tzus also have a long life expectancy, typically 10-18 years. They too can encounter specific health problems, including:

  • Eye Problems: Due to their unique facial structure, Shih Tzus can be prone to eye problems such as dry eye and progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Ear Infections: Their floppy ears can create a moist environment, leading to ear infections if not properly maintained.
  • Deafness: Shih Tzus may experience congenital or age-related deafness, so regular hearing checks are essential.
  • Heart Murmurs: This condition can be mild or severe, depending on the blood flow disturbance in the heart.
  • Patellar Luxation: Like Havanese, Shih Tzus can also suffer from luxating patella.
white european shih tzu

5. Shih Tzu Dog Breed vs Havanese Dog Breed: Grooming and Coat Care

Havanese Grooming Needs

Havanese’s coat type is silky and can be wavy or curly, giving them a unique and fluffy appearance. One aspect of coat care you’ll appreciate is that they’re hypoallergenic, making them a suitable choice for individuals with allergies. However, their coat requires consistent grooming to prevent tangles and matting.

cute havanese dog outside

To maintain your Havanese’s beautiful coat, follow these grooming tips:

  • Brush: Brush their coat at least thrice weekly to prevent tangles and remove loose hair.
  • Bathe: Use a gentle dog shampoo to bathe your Havanese regularly, about once a month.
  • Trimming: Trim their long hair around the ears, eyes, and feet to keep them tidy and prevent discomfort.
  • Professional grooming: If desired, take your Havanese to a professional groomer every 6-8 weeks for a proper trim and tidy-up.

Shih Tzu Grooming Needs

Shih Tzus are known for their luxurious long coat, which is not hypoallergenic and requires diligent grooming. Their coat grows continuously and if left unattended, can become matted and uncomfortable. To keep your Shih Tzu’s coat in top shape, it’s important to establish a regular grooming routine.

Here are some essential grooming tips for Shih Tzus:

  • Brush: Brush their double coat daily, or at least every other day, using a pin brush or a slicker brush to prevent tangles and matting.
  • Bathe: Bathe them every 3-4 weeks using gentle dog shampoo, ensuring you rinse thoroughly to prevent irritation.
  • Haircuts: Regular haircuts are a must for Shih Tzus; you can choose between a shorter “puppy cut” for easier maintenance or keep their hair long if you’re committed to daily brushing.
  • Professional grooming: Visit a professional groomer every 4-6 weeks to keep their coat looking its best and address any grooming needs specific to your dog.
two brown european shih tzus

6. Training and Exercise

Havanese Training and Exercise

Havanese is a breed with moderate to low exercise needs. They’ll enjoy a daily walk or playtime in the garden or backyard. You can even engage them in fun and games inside your home. Remember not to over-exercise a Havanese dog, as the AKC recommends moderation.

Regarding training, Havanese are intelligent and relatively easy to train. They usually pick up on things like house training with little difficulty. Keep in mind that consistency and positive reinforcement are crucial for effective training. Since they’re sociable dogs, they’ll enjoy challenges and learning new tricks.


Shih Tzu Training and Exercise

On the other hand, Shih Tzus have a higher energy level than Havanese, so they require more exercise. Ensure daily walks and playtime outdoors to keep them happy and healthy. If you live in an apartment or have a small yard, find creative ways to engage your Shih Tzu indoors with activities like hide-and-seek or tug-of-war.

Shih Tzus can be difficult to potty train, so patience and consistency will be necessary during their training process. However, they are intelligent and playful dogs, making them excellent candidates for learning new tricks and commands. Just like with Havanese, positive reinforcement will greatly benefit your Shih Tzu during training sessions.

ginger european shih tzu

Remember, Havanese and Shih Tzus adapt to various living conditions, including apartments and small yards. 

7. Compatibility as a Companion Dog

Havanese Compatibility

The Havanese is an excellent companion-sized dog suitable for first-time owners and families. These dogs are known to be loving, gentle, and affectionate, making them great companions for adults and children. They’re considered family-friendly and enjoy spending time with their human families.


Since Havanese are small, they can adapt well to various living environments, including apartments and houses with limited space. While they don’t necessarily require a large yard to roam in, they enjoy daily walks and playtime for physical stimulation. Havanese dogs are not known for being protective but will alert you of any strangers approaching your home.

Shih Tzu Compatibility

Like the Havanese, the Shih Tzu is a fantastic companion dog well-suited for families and first-time owners. They’re adored for their affectionate, friendly, and loyal nature, making them a wonderful addition to a home with children or other pets.

As a small breed, Shih Tzus can comfortably adapt to various living environments, including smaller apartments and homes. However, regular exercise and mental stimulation are essential to keep these dogs happy and healthy. While they’re not mainly known for their protective instincts, they make excellent watchdogs and will alert you to the presence of strangers.

european shih tzu

8. Choosing a Puppy and Price

Havanese Puppies

Havanese puppies are generally priced between $1,400 and $2,000. It’s essential to stay within this price range to avoid potential scams. This toy breed comes in various colors, including black, silver, and chocolate. 

Havanese puppies have some similarities with other toy breeds, such as Bichon Frise and Maltese, in appearance and temperament. When choosing a Havanese, look for a reputable breeder who can answer all your questions and provide you with a healthy, well-socialized puppy.

Some aspects to consider when selecting a Havanese puppy include:

  • Breed traits that suit your lifestyle
  • The puppy’s temperament and personality
  • Health guarantees offered by the breeder
  • The puppy’s parents’ health and temperament

Shih Tzu Puppies

Shih Tzu puppies have an average price range of $1,000 to $2,500, depending on the breeder. As with Havanese, choosing a reputable breeder is essential to ensure a healthy and well-socialized puppy. 

Shih Tzus are available in various colors, including black, white, and gold. Some breeders specialize in producing “Imperial Shih Tzus,” which are smaller, lighter dogs.

Shih Tzus share some similarities with Pekingese and Poodle breeds, both in appearance and temperament. To choose the right Shih Tzu puppy for your family, consider the following:

  • The breeder’s reputation and experience
  • The puppy’s temperament and personality
  • Health guarantees provided by the breeder
  • Parental health and temperament
  • Socialization opportunities for your puppy

9. Diet and Nutrition

Both of these small breeds have unique nutritional requirements that cater to their distinctive physical and behavioral attributes, exercise level, and environmental factors. 

Havanese Diet Requirements

Your Havanese will thrive on a diet of high-quality proteins from meat sources such as chicken, beef, or fish. Their diet should also include good carbohydrate sources like brown rice and oatmeal to provide energy. To give your Havanese a balanced diet, include fruits and vegetables for vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Havanese black

Havanese are also fairly active dogs, so be sure to keep their daily exercise routine in mind when planning their meals. 

Shih Tzu Diet Requirements

Shih Tzus can be a bit more sensitive regarding their diet. Hypoallergenic dog food is generally recommended for Shih Tzus, as some may be prone to food allergies, and hypoallergenic food can help. Like the Havanese, Shih Tzus should have a diet high in quality proteins to maintain their muscle mass and overall health.

american shih tzu face

Carbohydrates are essential for this breed too, with a preference for those with low glycemic indexes like sweet potatoes and barley. Incorporate vegetables and fruits into their meal plan to provide them with essential vitamins and minerals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences in temperament between the Havanese and Shih Tzu?

Havanese are known for their friendly and affectionate nature, while Shih Tzus are happy-go-lucky and outgoing. Both breeds are great companions, but the Havanese tend to be more adaptable to new surroundings and situations.

Which breed has lower grooming needs, Havanese or Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzus have a long, flowing coat that requires regular grooming to keep it looking its best. On the other hand, Havanese have a silkier and more manageable coat that generally requires less maintenance. However, both breeds need regular grooming to avoid tangles and matting, with Havanese typically having lower grooming needs.

What are the main differences in temperament between the Havanese and Shih Tzu?

Havanese are known for their friendly and affectionate nature, while Shih Tzus are happy-go-lucky and outgoing. Both breeds are great companions, but the Havanese tend to be more adaptable to new surroundings and situations.
Which breed has lower grooming needs, Havanese or Shih Tzu?
Shih Tzus have a long, flowing coat that requires regular grooming to keep it looking its best. On the other hand, Havanese have a silkier and more manageable coat that generally requires less maintenance. However, both breeds need regular grooming to avoid tangles and matting, with Havanese typically having lower grooming needs.

Do the Shih Tzu and Havanese dog breeds have similar health concerns?

Both Havanese and Shih Tzus can suffer from similar health concerns, such as hip dysplasia, eye issues, and allergies. However, each breed may have its specific health issues.

Which breed is better for families with kids, Shih Tzu or Havanese?

Both Havanese and Shih Tzus are known to be great family pets, making them suitable for families with kids. They are friendly, loving, and typically gentle with children.

How do the energy levels of the Shih Tzu Dog compare to the Havanese Dog?

Havanese are a bit more energetic than Shih Tzus, requiring regular exercise to stay happy and healthy. On the other hand, Shih Tzus has lower energy levels and may be content with shorter walks and playtime.

What is the typical lifespan for each breed?

Shih Tzus have a lifespan of about 10-16 years, while Havanese typically live between 12-15 years.

In Conclusion, Shih Tzu or Havanese

Ultimately, the choice between a Shih Tzu and a Havanese dog will depend on your lifestyle and what you’re looking for in a dog. Both breeds are lovable, affectionate, and great for families. Shih Tzus might be a better choice for someone looking for a slightly more laid-back, regal companion, while the Havanese might be the choice for those looking for a slightly more active and outgoing family dog.

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Shih Tzu vs Poodle

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American vs European Shih Tzu

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