Havanese Vs Shih Tzu: What’s The Difference?

By helloBARK!
Updated on 20 September 2022
Fact Checked

Havanese and Shih Tzu are two companion-sized dogs that make great family pets.

They’ve earned a reputation over the years for being excellent dogs for first-time owners and families.

Havanese are thought to be able to trace their roots back to the Canary Islands off the western coast of Africa.

In the 21st century, they’re perhaps best known as Cuba’s national dog.

Shih Tzu, alternatively, are Chinese dogs that were accustomed to spending their days in royal palaces.

Dubbed the Lion Dog, Shih Tzu are the quintessential lap dog – they love nothing more than to cuddle up next to their dog owners.

In this comparison article, we’re going to look at Havanese vs Shih Tzu, examining their appearance, temperament and health.

What is a Havanese?

Havanese (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Havanese (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Havanese are Cuban dogs that have seen their popularity surge in the United States over the past century or so.

Originally thought to have come from the Spanish island of Tenerife (part of the Canary Islands), these little dogs were brought to the New World by explorers.

Considered ideal companion pets due to their easy going nature and small size, the American Kennel Club describes these dogs as intelligent, outgoing and funny.

Members of their Toy Group, the American Kennel Club rank the Havanese as the 24th most popular breed in the USA.

What is a Shih Tzu?

Shih Tzu (Photo: Adobe)

Shih Tzu (Photo: Adobe)

Shih Tzu can trace their ancestry back over a thousand years, highlighting that these toy dogs really are an ancient breed.

They’re affectionate, playful and outgoing, sharing similar traits with the Havanese breed.

With a beautiful coat that needs to be groomed regularly to maintain top condition, Shih Tzu have achieved worldwide fame as lap dogs.

The American Kennel Club rank the Shih Tzu as the 20th most popular breed in the USA.

Where do Havanese come from?

Havanese Ilo (Photo: @ilo_the_havanese / Instagram)

Havanese Ilo (Photo: @ilo_the_havanese / Instagram)

Havanese are thought to have been from the ancient Bichon family. The AKC considers the Havanese to be common ancestors of the Bichon Frise and Maltese. Some believe they originated from Tenerife like the Bichon Frise.

They were thought to have been dogs of seafarers, explaining how the ended up on ships headed to the New World in the 17th century. Arriving in the Americas, they were lap dogs for Cuba’s aristocrats and wealthy planters. Their names comes from the country’s capital city, Havana.

Originally called the Blanquito de la Habana (Havana Silk Dog), the Havanese were crossed with Poodle mixes over the next couple of centuries as the breed was refined.

They ended up arriving in the USA in their droves in late 1950s and early 1960s as well-to-do Cuban refugees escaped the revolution with their pets in hand.

The Havanese have seen their popularity rise over the past 60 years.

Where do Shih Tzu come from?

Funny Shih Tzu dog resting on the bed in bedroom (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Funny Shih Tzu dog resting on the bed in bedroom (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The AKC write that “when you own a Shih Tzu, you own a little bit of Chinese history”. Imperial breeders are thought to have breed the Shih Tzu from Tibetan breeding stock. The Shih Tzu is thought to be ancestors of Sino-Tibetan, Lhaso Apso and Pekingese dogs.

These toy-sized dogs were in the laps of the royals up until the 1930s when the breed started to emerge from their period of animosity. They were treasured by the Chinese royal family to such an extent that they refused to sell, trade or giveaway their Shih Tzus.

They started to arrive in England in the 1930s where they were originally called Apsos before being categorised as the Shih Tzu in 1935. They spread throughout the USA after World War II.

The Shih Tzu were entered into the AKC Stud Book in 1969. In modern society, these Chinese canines are one of the most popular toy breeds in the world.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: size

Havanese are a toy dogs, so they’re small in size. They grow to a height ranging between 8.5 and 11.5 inches. They’ll usually weigh between 7 and 13 pounds.

Shih Tzu are tiny in stature. They’re average size ranges between 9 and 10.5 inches. They can weigh a little more than the Havanese: they can range from 9 to 16 pounds.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: appearance

Havanese should have a body stature that is long rather than tall. One of their notable features is their long, untrimmed double coat. It should be silky to touch while being soft and light in texture. They’ve got a plummed tail with falls on their back. Their coat can be completed covered in tassel-like cords. Havanese can come in any color with large, dark brown eyes.

Shih Tzu are sturdy dogs that have a long flowing double coat. These Chinese dogs is described as having an “arrogant carriage” with the head held high. Their tail should curl over onto their backs. The Shih Tzu have large, round dark eyes. Like the Havanese, all colors and marking are permissible.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: temperament

Shih Tzu stares at dog supplement (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Shih Tzu stares at dog supplement (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The American Kennel Club describe the Havanese temperament as:

The Havanese is friendly, playful, alert and intelligent with a sweet, nonquarrelsome disposition. Aggression or shyness should be faulted.

The American Kennel Club outline the Shih Tzu temperament as:

As the sole purpose of the Shih Tzu is that of a companion and house pet, it is essential that its temperament be outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly and trusting towards all.

As you’ll have already noted, the Havanese share a lot of the same temperament traits as companion dogs. They like human company, they enjoy showing and receiving love to their pet parents, they’re comfortable in the laps of their owners, and they’re happy, upbeat dogs.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: exercise

Havanese are a dog breed with moderate to low exercise needs. They’ll benefit from a daily walk or some playtime in the garden or backyard. Even some fun and games with their pet parents inside the home can be sufficient. The AKC warn that you shouldn’t over exercise a Havanese dog.

Shih Tzu don’t need a lot of exercise at all. In fact, the American Kennel Club explains that these Chinese dogs require minimal exercise, such as short daily walks with their owner. Alternatively, some playtime inside the home can provide these toy dogs with sufficient exercise.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: hypoallergenic

The Havanese are a hypoallergenic dog breed. The Kennel Club include the Cuban breed in their list of toy breeds suitable for dog lovers who want a canine that won’t shed.

Shih Tzu are also considered hypoallergenic. The Kennel Club in the UK include the Shih Tzu as one of the Utility Group’s hypoallergenic dogs (The British Kennel Club class them in the Utility Group, the AKC list them in the Toy Group).

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: shedding

As we’ve already touched upon, neither the Havanese nor the Shih Tzu shed. So you shouldn’t have to worry about the prospect of your clothes or furniture being covered in hair. That’s not to say there isn’t potential for these dogs to shed a little – just a lot less than other breed.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: grooming

While you won’t have to worry about getting your vacuum out on a daily basis, you’ll have to be prepared for a regimented grooming regime.

The Havanese benefit from a daily grooming to maintain their health and quality of their coats. By doing so, you can remove excess hair, you can prevent their coats from becoming matted or tangled. The AKC suggest a short trim to reduce the amount of grooming required.

Similarly, the Shih Tzu will also require daily grooming to keep their coat in top shape. The AKC suggest a good-quality wire brush with flexible pins. Usually, Shih Tzu will sport a top knot. Like the Havanese, you can opt for a short trim to minimise their grooming requirements.

Both dog breeds will benefit from a bath at least once a month.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: price

The Havanese Club of America outline the average price of Havanese puppies as $1,400 to $2,000. So it’s generally a good idea to stay within that price range to avoid falling for a potential scam.

The Shih Tzu can range from around $1,000 to $2,500 depending on each individual breeder. You could also consider rescuing a Shih Tzu that needs to be rehomed.

We don’t recommend buying an puppy from a pet store, online or third party breeder.

Havanese and Shih Tzu to follow on Instagram

If you want to learn more about Havanese or Shih Tzu, you can always check out some examples of the breed on Instagram.

In our experience, dog owners are more than willing to talk about their pets if you’re looking for more information about a specific breed.

β€’ Dina (@furrytrail)

β€’ Pablo (@havaneser_pablo)

β€’ Potato (@potatotheshihtzu)

β€’ Stan (@thestanantonio)

In conclusion

We’ve reached the end of our Havanese vs Shih Tzu comparison article.

As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between both breed. They make great companion and lap dogs given their affectionate nature. These dogs thrive in the company of humans.

Havanese and Shih Tzu are both hypoallergenic dog breeds, so they don’t shed. Having said that, they will need significant grooming to maintain the health of their coats.

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