Shih Tzu vs Havanese – A Detailed Comparison Of Both Dog Breeds!

What are some important things to consider when choosing the between these two very similar breeds? Do you have young kids? Do you have time for training?

Do these breeds have health concerns? Hopefully with the breakdown of these two breeds you will find the perfect puppy for your home!

Overview of the Shih Tzu Breed

A black and white dogThe name Shih Tzu is pronounced “sheed-zoo” or “sheet-su”. This breed is a lively, alert, often times with a long flowy coat.

The coat, which is many different colors ranging from 19 different variation,  is worth every moment you put into it. Few dogs are as beautiful as a well-groomed Shih Tzu.

This breed is one of the oldest breeds, and genetically closely resembles the wolf more than other breeds.

The history of the Shih Tzu goes back for hundreds of years. This breed labeled as the “lion dog” was bred by imperial breeders in the palace of Chinese emperors.

Although the is no exact blood-line for this breed it is most likely that they are a mix between the Sino-Tibetan, Lhaso Apso and the Pekingese breeds.

This breed remained exclusive to the royals, virtually unknown to the outside world until the 1930’s. Often times used as foot warmers at the end of nobel’s beds.

During the British invasion of China the Shih Tzu breed almost lost, there were only 7 known males and 7 known females that remained. Today’ every known breed can be traced back to those 14 Shih Tzu’s.

In 1969 the Shih Tzu was officially entered into the AKC Stud book. Since then, this breed has been one of the most popular toy dogs in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Fun Fact: The Shih Tzu has been owned by celebs like Miley Cyrus and royalty herself – Queen Elizabeth II.

Overview of the Havanese Breed

A small dogThe Havanese is the only dog breed to come from Cuba. With the cheerful pep in their step, and big brown eyes this breed makes these little dogs a very popular breed.

A few very noticeable traits of this dog include a curled tail, and a beautiful silky coat which comes in many colors.

This breed originates from the Bicoh family of little white dogs and shows the Bichon Frise and Maltese as it’s common ancestors.

Today’s breed of Havanese also perhaps contains some crosses of poodle. This Cuban native belonged to many aristocrats, and wealthy planters in the earlier times of civilization.

One common way to differentiate the wealthy from the lower social classes was owning a dog of this breed that was known for being small and not performing useful work.

Similarly, to the Shih Tzu, the Havanese breed can be traced back to 11 ancestors due to the Cuban Revolution forcing some of the owners to flee to the United States with their furry friend in tow.

The Havanese was no recognized by the American Kennel Club until the year 1996 among other breeds like the Anatolian Shepherd, Lowchen and Canaan Dog. Today, the Havanese is recognized as Cuba’s national breed.

Fun Fact: The Havanese has been owned by people from Ernest Hemmingway to Barbara Walters.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: What do They Look Like?

Both of the breeds are beautiful dogs with very distinctive coats. The Shih Tzu is considered Hypoallergenic while the Havanese is not. It is considered a “non-shedder” but does shed, just not as much as other breeds.

The Shih Tzu has a long flowing coat that is soft and silky at the top and feathered underneath that requires a lot of maintaining.

A small white dog

The coat is commonly left long but can also be shown short for less daily maintenance but more trips to the groomer!

The Havanese has a very similar coat with a few differences. Their coat is also silky and long but is a little more on the matted side rather than flowy.

This is to ensure they are protected from the Cuba sunshine. They also require a lot of maintenance with daily brushing and the well-kept eye on the debris they pick up on walks.

Both breeds have ears that drop and fold and short front and back legs, the Havanese however tend to have shorter front legs than back legs.

The Shih Tzu tail is considered “The Perfect Tail” held right over their back never touching it and remains curled over while running or walking. The Havanese is much different with a tail that curls over its back in a fold.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu Size: Which is Bigger?

The Shih Tzu fits great into just about every family. These warm cuddly little lap dogs are wonderful for both families with young kids and the elderly.

A full-grown pure-bred female can weigh anywhere from 8.8 to 16 pounds. A full grown pure-bred male weight varies just the same as the female, from 8.8 and 16 pounds.

The male and female height also go hand and hand in between 7.9 and 11 inches in adulthood.

The Havanese is also a great option for every family. This lap dog has a personality larger than its size. They are very lively, affectionate dog breed bred mainly for companionship.

Small white dog

The average size of both the male and female Havanese is between 9.9 and 16 pounds. Just like the Shih Tzu, the height of the male and female varies between 9.1 and 11 inches.

So in conclusion to which dog is bigger, the answer is almost neither.

While the Havanese can be about an inch taller than the Shih Tzu, and the Shih Tzu can be a pound lighter these toy breed dogs vary from dog to dog and can very easily be the same size!

Shih Tzu vs Havanese: Which is Better for Families?

Like we learned in the last paragraph, both the Havanese and the Shih Tzu are very similar in size.

Making these dogs perfect for apartments, city small home living. Do they make good pets for families with small children though? The short answer is yes.

They are both hyper, loyal loving dogs, however, the Havanese may be a tad easier when it comes to training. Assuming that with kids you are a very busy family.

House training your dog is bound to be something that is very time consuming at first but choosing a dog that tends to be easier is definitely something to consider.

The Shih Tzu is known for being stubborn when it comes to learning house training and new tricks (sometimes needing more than 50 repetitions to nail a trick) while the Havanese on the other hand proves to catch on quicker.

If you are struggling to train your Shih Tzu or Havanese we have created a great article which reviews Brain Training 4 Dogs an amazing programme that can teach your dog amazing tricks!

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Both the Havanese and the Shih Tzu are ideal for families due to their energy level, loyalty and adaptability, I would still always keep an eye on your pup around small children.

With great repetition, patience and time though both of these dogs make a great choice for families.

Shih Tzu vs Havanese: Health Concerns

Small black and white dog

Both the Havanese and the Shih Tzu have very similar body types therefore can suffer the same ailments. However, there are a few things that one breed may be more likely to suffer than the other.

Overall they tend to be pretty healthy dogs. Here are a few things to consider that may pop up in both the Havanese and Shih Tzu breeds:

Hip Dysplasia


Blindness at an older age

While both of these dogs may experience the ailments listed above, the Havanese is more prone to experiencing kidney problems such as kidney stones.

My parents and in-laws both owned a Shih Tzu. My parents Shih Tzu lived to the age of 15, experiencing no ailments throughout her life but living her last few years with no eye sight.

While my in-law’s Shih Tzu is still alive and has suffered from kidney stones a few times in her life with also needing two sets of eye drop per day to prevent/slow down the progression of her eye problems.

Both of these dogs are prone to eye problems. As long as you are regularly getting your pup checkups though this ailment is something you can assist with!

Shih Tzu vs Havanese: What is Their Life Expectancy?

The Shih Tzu tends to outlive the Havanese, but not by much. The average lifespan of a Shih Tzu is 10 – 16 years, while Havanese tend to live only 13 – 15.

This can vary depending on the dog and it’s environment though. My first Shih Tzu lived 14 years, while my cousin’s Havanese only lived to the age of 10.

Thankfully with the right environment, simple diet and enough exercise these dogs can be great pets for younger kids to grown up with.

Shih Tzu vs Havanese: Final Thoughts

Small brown and black dogChoosing the perfect dog for you can be tough. While one characteristic may be more favored over the other no dog is better than the other. The things listed below are just a few things to consider when choosing your new pup.

Both the Shih Tzu and the Havanese are similar in looks. Ranging from a number of colors, weighing and measuring about the same.

If you don’t mind a stubborn learner that requires a few more repetitions, the Shih Tzu might be just the dog for you!

On the contrary, if you need a dog that is a little bit quicker to the command and is bred specifically for companionship the Havanese is the better choice.

Having only owned the Shih Tzu my whole life, I can only speak to one side. I will always shave a Shih Tzu in my life. I do plan on also owning a Havanese as they are very similar in many ways!

I hope this helps you make the best decision for you or your family as I don’t believe you can go wrong with either of these adorable pups!

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