Havanese vs Shih Tzu: Which Is Better?

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: Which Is Better?

For first-time pet owners, choosing a breed of dog which is well-suited to your lifestyle can be a challenge.

Havanese and Shih Tzu are small companion breeds that share many similarities. They are well-suited to families who can devote plenty of time to them. Potential owners for either of these two breeds need to be aware of the extensive grooming needs of these dogs.

Both the Havanese and Shih Tzu are playful, affectionate, and loyal family pets who love to be doted on. Despite their resemblance, there are also some differences that you should be aware of.

Havanese vs. Shih Tzu: which companion dog is better?

With regards to which breed is better, there really isn’t a simple answer. Read on to learn which one may be a better fit for you.


The Havanese, a breed of Bichon type, is the national dog of Cuba, developed from the now extinct Blanquito de la Habana ("little white dog of Havana"). The Blanquito descended from the also now extinct Bichon Tenerife. It is believed that the Blanquito was eventually cross-bred with other Bichon types, including the Poodle, to create what is now known as the Havanese. Sometimes referred to as "Havana Silk Dogs", this was originally another name for the Blanquito de la Habana.

Havanese Pros

  • They shed little, considering they have long fur – Even if there will be some shedding at one point, it will not be an issue in your home. It is also easy to manage their long coat since you can clip it, braid it, or just tie it up. Keeping their coat just hanging freely is alright as long as you brush it now and then.
  • They are friendly – They do not show aggression towards other people unless they feel that their pet parents are threatened. They will create a lot of noise to get their parent’s attention, but mostly when you have visitors, they will stay calm just being their friendly self. It is ideal to have them trained early on so they will have no issues with people visiting your home.
  • They do not require a lot of exercises to stay fit – Since they are toy breeds, they don’t need too much of the daily exercise compared to other larger breeds. They usually do some zooms around the house to exercise by themselves, and some minimal walks around the block will do for this breed.
  • They are easy to train – As long as you have treats, you will have their attention. Make sure that you have something ready for them when you are training this breed. They are highly agile, obedient, and because of their intelligence, they easily pick up what is being taught.

Havanese Cons

  • They love to bark – Just because they love to hear their barking, they will surely get your attention often by doing so. They will also bark when there are strangers around making sure that they get your attention.
  • Housebreaking them may take a while – Their parents will need to have patience when housebreaking them, as they are stubborn and wouldn’t like to go out to do their thing. Sometimes you even think that they are trying to hold it in, so it is best to be ready when you need to train them.
  • They sometimes face anxiety issues – When they don’t see their pet parents as much, they act out by chewing on things or scratching on the furniture to soothe themselves.

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Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is a breed of small companion dog of very ancient dog type, with long silky fur. It is a friendly lap dog that at one time was bred to be a companion dog for Chinese royalty. The dog may also be called the Tibetan Lion Dog, but whether or not the breed should be referred to as a Tibetan or Chinese breed is a source of argument, the absolute answer to which "may never be known".

Shih Tzu Pros

  • They are excellent companions – This dog breed is very affectionate and will always love to snuggle with their parent. There are no boring times because of their playfulness and happy characteristic.
  • They do not need too much exercise – Just a few minutes of a walk is enough for them, or playing with them inside the house will surely lessen their energy.
  • They can live peacefully with other dog breeds – You can mingle them with other dog breeds because they will just mind their own business instead of fighting with them. As long as they have you around, they don't mind anything else.

Shih Tzu Cons

  • They need frequent grooming – Because of their long coat, they need extra attention to it. Frequent brushing and making sure that there is no matting of their coat is a must. You should also make sure their eyesight is not covered with long fur.
  • They are stubborn at times – When you are house-training them, you must be persistent and let them know which areas they can only use. It may take longer, but it is to your advantage as well. It ranks 70th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, considered one of the lowest degrees of working/obedience intelligence (trainability).
  • They can be very noisy – This dog breed also wants to hear their voice, so they will bark as much. They will also not stop barking if their owner will not pay attention to them.

How to Choose

What is the difference?

Both are very loyal to their owners and are happy when they are spending time with them. They may have a slight difference but mostly have the same temperament.

Shih Tzu may be more stubborn with house-training compared to the Havanese and will require more patience from their owner.

In addition, Havanese may require average grooming while Shih Tzu needs more attention with their fur, although they both have a long coat that does not shed that much.

Which makes a better family pet?

Both are very affectionate and are loyal to their owner, however, if you don’t want a very vocal dog, it is ideal to get a Havanese as they are not as vocal as Shih Tzus.

But when you are after loyalty, gentleness, and playfulness, these dog breeds win hands down.

*Tip: Companion breeds such as Havanese and Shih Tzu aren't suitable for busy working families that don't have much time to spend with the family pet. Havanese and Shih Tzu are happiest with owners who have plenty of time to dedicate to the small dog.

Final Verdict

Overall, most families would do better with a Havanese.

If you have little time to spend with grooming, then Havanese should be your choice.

The Shih Tzu, because of their long coat and fast-growing hair, more frequent grooming is necessary, which may be costly and should be considered when looking at this breed.


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