Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
fast facts

About Mal-Shi

6-12 lb
12-14 years
Not Applicable
Best Suited For
Families with children, singles, seniors, apartments, houses with/without yards
Happy, intelligent, playful, outgoing
Comparable Breeds
Maltese, Shih Tzu
Top Breed
10 inches

Mal-Shi Basics

A popular designer dog breed, the Mal-Shi is an adorable little pooch that is ideal for a variety of lifestyles. This is a pup so beloved that it goes by three names. Also known as Malti Tzu, Mal-Tzu, Shih-tese and Shima, this hybrid is easy-to-train and a delight to have around your family. This breed was designed to be a low-shedder, making him a popular companion for those who suffer from allergies. But he’s much more than that; he’s great with the kids and is content to cuddle on your lap at the end of the day. This is a designer doggo who fits in with any family and lights up every room. Anyone would be lucky to bring this pooch home.

Bold and outgoing, he’ll make friends with anyone he comes across, humans and animals. A wonderful family dog, the Mal-Shi can also make an amazing therapy dog, thanks to his naturally good nature. He will grow very attached to his family and want to spend every second around them. Ideal if you want a loyal and loving companion! But like most velcro dogs, there are downsides to this type of canine attachment. You’ll want to be sure that your Mal-Shi has constant companionship.

The many wonderful qualities of this extraordinary animal make it one of the most popular designer dog breeds around. The Mal-Shi’s adorable looks, sweet nature, and adaptable personality are all very appealing to a wide variety of prospective owners. There’s a reason why this breed is growing in popularity all the time. But is the Mal-Shi truly the right dog for your family? Read on to find out.

A popular designer dog, the Mal-Shi is an adorable little dog that is ideal for a variety of lifestyles.


Developed in the 1990s, the Mal-Shi was designed to be a low-shedding, hypoallergenic companion dog. That’s right a dog created to be an ideal companion with minimal mess and no sneezes. Sources indicate that the breed originated in Australia, where the Mal-Shi has been one of the most popular mixed breed dogs in decades. However, this hybrid was not created to only be treasured in the land down under. Nope, these adorable and fluffy dogs have been gaining popularity in North America as well. The lovely character and appearance of the Maltese and Shih Tzu mix will leave no one indifferent. These dogs were practically designed to be loved and it’s only a matter of time before this hybrid becomes a worldwide sensation.


The Mal-Shi is the result of breeding purebred Maltese dogs with purebred Shih Tzus. The resulting mixed breed babies are so-called F1 or first generation hybrids. They inherit 50 percent of Maltese genes and 50 percent of Shih Tzu genes, but one of the parents may be more influential in the mix. It’s hard to predict exactly how things will balance out in a first generation hybrid. For example, a puppy might resemble one breed more more or display some breed-specific traits. This type of crossbreeding, where both parents are different purebreds, is the most “unpredictable” one. You can never know for certain what the litter of puppies will turn out like, both in appearance and behavior. Quite often there will even be different mixes within the same litter. For this reason, breeders try to make a breed more uniform through multigenerational breeding. These things take time, which is why crossbreeds aren’t always officially recognized and classified for many years.

There have been second generation Mal-Shis, which are developed by crossing two unrelated Mal-Shis. However, since this is still a breed-in-the-making, so to speak, these are quite rare to come across. However, in the future there will probably be more multigenerational hybrids. That will be a necessity if the breeders hope to create a breed standard for Mal-Shis and want to get recognition from major canine clubs. So stay tuned…

Food / Diet

Dogs need a well-balanced and healthy diet to thrive. That’s a fact. Usually, premium dry food made from natural and high-grade ingredients meets all of the needs of your canine friend. That’s why the Mal-Shi does best on a diet of high-quality kibble. Choose a brand that offers a formula that suits your dog’s unique needs and make sure that the ingredients used in the kibble are up to standards. Usually, a small breed formula is the optimal choice, as it has the right nutritional value for a dog of Mal-Shi’s size and activity level. Additionally, their kibble should be appropriate for their age- seniors, puppies, and adults have different needs. It’s usually a wise idea to consult a vet about this decision. While it’s possible to guess what your dog will need based on kibble brand standards and ingredients, every pooch is different. Some won’t necessarily match basic kibble age and size standards. Of course, if you are ever in doubt as to what is the best diet for your pet, do not hesitate to get in touch with your veterinarian. They always know what is the ideal food for your pet, especially after a thorough exam.

Serving size depends on the brand, but the average amount would be 1/4 to 1/2 cup of kibble a day, divided into two meals. Don’t overfeed your dog, as this breed is prone to obesity. They gain weight easily and can develop certain health problems if things get out of hand. So, be careful. Experiment with serving sizes and check your dog’s weight while you’re settling into a feeding routine. Eventually, you’ll find the perfect amount that will keep your fur baby happy and healthy.

The Mal-Shi is intelligent and happy, making him a pleasure to train.


Many small breeds have the tendency to be stubborn, but very intelligent. As such, training is only slightly challenging, but entirely possible. In general, the Mal-Shi is considered to be an intelligent and happy pup, making him a pleasure to train. Basic obedience will soon be mastered, so be sure to sign up for advanced training once he’s ready to move to something more challenging. He will also make a wonderful therapy dog, thanks to his loving and social behavior. This combination makes the Mal-Shi an excellent choice for first-time dog owners. Training will be a pleasure, which any multigenerational dog owner can tell you is a rare treat!

But, as we mentioned, your dog may prove to be a bit stubborn, but positive and consistent training will correct this problem. As well, housetraining can be an issue, so introduce crate training early. As long as you start early and lean into positive reinforcement, your pup will be an obedient and well behaved companion in no time at all. Arm yourself with plenty of tasty treats and a lot of confidence and patience, and good results are soon to follow. 

Due to its small size, it’s important for you to treat your Mal-Shi like a dog rather than like a baby. If not, he could turn out to be a bratty monster. Treat him like a real dog – make him walk and don’t carry him everywhere. You need to establish yourself as the master of the house and not some doting parent. It might be tough because Mal-Shi puppies are so adorable. You will want to cradle him and hold him close at all times. But trust us, this will pay off. There will be plenty of lapdog time throughout your Mal-Shi’s life, so don’t waste those early years when training must be established.


A Mal-Shi will stand about 10 inches and weigh anywhere between 6 to 12 pounds. Not exactly a monster, huh? This is more of a pocket pup. And it is thanks to this miniature size that the Mal-Shi does not require all that much space. This makes them a versatile pet, great for a variety of housing choices. Live in a small apartment but want four-legged company that won’t feel cramped sharing a compact flat with you? A Mal-Shi could do well in your humble abode. Just make sure that they are not confined, cooped up, or otherwise neglected and provide plenty of time outdoors.

It’s important to have in mind that this designer breed will be a bit on the active side, as is common with many tiny pooches. Of course, this extra energy will require a bit of extra room “to maneuver” so make sure that there is at least a bit of unobstructed space in your home for these antics. If things are really tiny and confined on your side, a dog might not be an ideal pet after all. Of course, if you have the benefit of a fenced-in yard where they can play and run free, then things are completely different. 

Temperament / Behavior

Affectionate, alert, loving, and devoted to their owner, the Mal-Shi is an absolute joy to be around. Because this is a mixed breed, it inherits the personality characteristics of both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu. That means that you can expect you dog to be gentle and affectionate as well as playful and fearless. The Shih Tzu in this designer breed will be watchful and let you know if something doesn’t seem right (Sure, they won’t exactly be much help if there is danger, but at least they’ll warn you!). A fast learner, you’ll have fun teaching this dog some new tricks. They are capable of learning so many and love showing off.

Amusing and endearing, the Mal-Shi may do better in a household with older children due to his size. Your dog may possess a bit of a stubborn streak, but with early training and consistency, your Mal-Shi will respond well to your commands. It’s all about rewarding the right behavior early. That reward will last for your pup’s lifetime.

He’s also an affectionate companion who loves being with his family. Because he loves his family so much, you don’t want to leave your Mal-Shi alone for long periods at a time, as it can lead to separation anxiety. So, it’s best to crate train early and bring a Mal-Shi into a home that will have a consistent companion.

Common Health Problems

The Mal-Shi can inherit health issues prevalent with its parent breeds. Some common issues include Patellar Luxation and White Shaker Syndrome, which affects young to middle-aged dogs. They can also suffer from respiratory problems, so you should keep your Mal-Shi in an air conditioned home during the summer.

Still, with proper care, plenty of exercise and a balanced diet, a Mal-Shi will generally be a hardy and healthy dog. Regular vet checkups are a must, though – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all.

Life Expectancy

Compared to most other pets, dogs have a reasonable and moderate life span. The Mal-Shi has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years. If we consider that 15 years of life expectancy is the highest bar for most dog breeds, 14 years for a Mal-Shi is quite great, especially if we consider that this is a cross breed. This, of course, means that your furry little friend will get to stay by your side for a good chunk of your life. When companion dogs and true furry friends are considered, Mal-Shi is amongst the perfect choices! They just have so much to offer.

Of course, this lifespan cannot be considered as a guarantee or a given. The dog will require your help and assistance throughout, so make sure to give them the best care possible. This includes regular vet checkups (to prevent any potential illness before it occurs), a healthy and balanced diet (good health comes in through the mouth, as they say), and a lot of exercise (in sound body – sound mind). Remember that a thorough and good care is the cornerstone to longevity, and dogs are no exception to this important rule.

Exercise Requirements

The Mal-Shi has moderate exercise needs and will curb his habits to reflect yours. If you’re active, he will keep up with you. But if you’re more laid-back, he’ll be happy to hang out with you. These dogs like to go with the flow and live like their masters.

However, it goes without saying that your Mal-Shi will need some exercise regardless of your lifestyle. It won’t take too much though. Even just a daily walk or a spirited game of catch should do. A Mal-Shi can leave quite happily in an apartment, as long as he is exercised enough. Now, he does love the outdoors, so it helps if you have a yard for him to play in. Still, he’ll only need about 10 to 15 minutes of exercise per day. That’s not much at all compared to most dogs.

However, you should have in mind that no dog will enjoy being cooped up inside for the whole day. Especially if they live in a small apartment. And even though a Mal-Shi does not require a whole lot of exercise, it is still a crucial part of their daily routine. Why? Because without it, a Mal-Shi can become obese over time, lethargic, and straight out unhappy. Dogs that are not let out of the apartment for days or hours on end are susceptible to separation anxiety. This means that they will get an anxiety attack whenever they are alone for a longer period. This anxiety can cause them to bark excessively – at anything and everything – to tear apart furniture, to become aggressive, and to poop indoors. And those are surprises that no one enjoys!

Affectionate, alert, loving, and devoted to their owner, the Mal-Shi is a joy to be around.

Recognized Clubs

The Mal-Shi is not recognized by the American Kennel Club, as it is considered to be a hybrid breed. However, this breed is recognized by the American Canine Hybrid Club (ACHC), the Designer Dogs Kennel Club (DDKC), Dog Registry of America, Inc. (DRA), International Designer Canine Registry (IDCR) and Designer Breed Registry (DBR).


The Mal-Shi’s coat should be long, soft and silky, with a little wave to it. As for coat colors, Mal-Shis are usually white or white with tan markings on the body and ears, but they can also boast a combination of other colors (black, brown, black and white, brown and white, and black and brown). A lot of it depends on their parentage, and the looks of the parents! Most Mal-Shi breeders can’t tell for sure how the litter would look in terms of size, color, and appearance. So, one can expect a lot of surprises in that regard.

Because of the long coat, you’ll need to brush your Mal-Ski daily to keep tangles and mats at bay. Some owners choose to keep their Mal-Shi’s coat short, for easier maintenance. Amongst neglected dog cases, there were many Mal-Shi’s who were abandoned and their coats matted and tangled to incredible extents. This is one of the major aspects of caring for your Mal-Shi – grooming. Keep their coat regularly brushed and trimmed. To make this chore easier, you might want to take them to a grooming salon on a regular basis. A groomer can find the best style and coat length needed for them, they can trim the delicate hairs on the face and around the snout, and will also help with the tear staining! A Mal-Shi’s lovely coat and looks are their biggest pride – so make sure they are properly maintained!


Mal-Shis are social, even when they are puppies. They’ll love to be the center of the attention and they will definitely melt your heart with their cuteness! But just because they’re insanely adorable doesn’t mean that you should let them get away with everything. Start training as early as possible, as it will ensure your pet grows up to be well-behaved. Socialization is also crucial. So, be sure to take them to the dog park and other new environments so they can meet new people and animals. Those early years are so important in the development of your pup, so don’t take them for granted!

Failing to properly socialize your pup will have effects on their later life and personality. A puppy that wasn’t properly socialized can exhibit a whole range of negative characteristics. For example, they can be wary of other dogs and people, and even be fearful or anxious around them. And dogs that are afraid and anxious will not hesitate to become aggressive. Unsocialized dogs can be nippy, lash out for basic things, and develop apathy. If you notice your dog snarling at everyone, it might be a sign they are not properly socialized. This can especially happen when they are defending their food or toys.

Keep in mind that these puppies are super cute, especially in those first few days in this world. This cuteness will undoubtedly attract many eager eyes and hands, but especially so from kids. This endless cuddling can result in trauma of many sorts, which is why it’s important to keep an eye out. Improperly handled or overwhelmed puppies can be frightened and smothered, and this can leave them traumatized for their entire life. Prevent young and eager kids from handling them, and avoid large crowds in those early days. But as soon as the puppy becomes a bit stronger and more curious, you can start introducing them to other dogs and people, in order to socialize them the right way. Just keep an eye out for danger, and all shall be well! 

Photo credit: Mandarine Koala/Wikimedia Commons; Cody Porche’/Flickr; Sierra/Flickr

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

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