Havanese vs Shih Tzu: What’s the Difference?


Key Points

  • The Havanese and the Shih Tzu are almost identical in size, coat, appearance, and temperament.
  • Though they were bred for the same purpose, they come from two totally different parts of the world.
  • Shih Tzus originate centuries ago in Tibet, while Havanese are from Cuba.

When it comes to comparing toy dog breeds, what are all the differences and similarities between a Havanese vs Shih Tzu? Both of these dogs have a lot to offer in terms of their companionship and playful personalities, but what brings these two dogs together and what separates them from each other? 

In this article, we will compare the Shih Tzu with the Havanese so that you can understand both breeds fully. We will go over their sizes, appearances, as well as their ancestries and life spans. Finally, we will address their behavioral differences in case you’re interested in adopting either of these two breeds. Let’s get started now! 

Comparing Havanese vs Shih Tzu

Havanese vs Shih Tzu
The average Shih Tzu weighs more than the average Havanese despite them both being of similar height.

A-Z-Animals.com

HavaneseShih Tzu
Size8-11 inches tall; 7-13 pounds8-11 inches tall; 9-16 pounds
AppearanceLong and beautiful fur in a variety of colors and patterns; hair can be straight, wavy, or curly. Tail is plumed and elegant, and their ears are very longLong and luxurious double coat found in a variety of colors. Hair can be straight, wavy, or curly, and their tail is average sized. Long, floppy ears.
AncestryOriginated in Cuba during the 1500s; primarily bred as a lap dog and companion animal for all of its lifeOriginated in Tibet centuries ago, and was prized by Chinese royalty as a lap dog or companion animal
BehaviorShy and prone to bouts of anxiety and barking; loves their family and extremely easy to train, making them entertaining and fun. Easily bonds with people of all ages, once they are comfortableEasy going and sweet, well-suited to a variety of families and other animals. Needs slow introductions to strangers, but generally loves companionship. Anxious and needy at times
Lifespan12-15 years13-16 years

Key Differences Between Havanese vs Shih Tzu

Havanese vs Shih Tzu
The Havanese lives a slightly shorter life span compared to the average Shih Tzu.

Dorottya Mathe/W3schools

There are many key differences between the Shih Tzu and the Havanese. The average Shih Tzu weighs more than the average Havanese despite them both being of similar height. Additionally, the Havanese originated in Cuba, while the Shih Tzu originated in Tibet. Finally, the Havanese lives a slightly shorter life span compared to the average Shih Tzu.

Let’s take a look at all of these differences in more detail now. 

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: Size

Havanese vs Shih Tzu
The average Shih Tzu reaches 8-11 inches tall, which is also true of the Havanese.

Angel LeBlanc/W3schools

While it may not look like it upon first glance, the Shih Tzu is slightly larger than the Havanese. It can be difficult to tell, given the thick coats of both of these breeds, and their sizes do overlap, depending on gender. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers regardless.

The average Shih Tzu reaches 8-11 inches tall, which is also true of the Havanese. When it comes to weight, The Shih Tzu weighs 9-16 pounds, while the Havanese weighs 7-13 pounds, depending on gender. This is an extremely subtle difference, and both of these dogs are still considered toy breeds!

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: Appearance

Havanese vs Shih Tzu
Given the history of their breeds, one could argue that the coat of the Shih Tzu is thicker than the coat of the Havanese, but you can’t tell this just by looking at them.

Dorottya Mathe/W3schools

It is nearly impossible to tell the difference between a Shih Tzu and a Havanese just by looking at them. They both have extremely long and beautiful coats, adapted for both hot and cold climates. Given the history of their breeds, one could argue that the coat of the Shih Tzu is thicker than the coat of the Havanese, but you can’t tell this just by looking at them.

These dogs are adorable when given haircuts or hairstyles, and they both have long, drooping ears covered in fur. The tail of the Shih Tzu tends to be shorter than the tail of the Havanese, but again, this difference is so subtle you likely won’t notice!

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: Ancestry and Breeding

Havanese vs Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu originated centuries ago in Tibet, while the Havanese originated in Cuba, likely Havana.

rebeccaashworth/W3schools

One of the primary differences between the Havanese and the Shih Tzu has to do with their ancestry and original reasons they were bred. For example, the Shih Tzu originated centuries ago in Tibet, while the Havanese originated in Cuba, likely Havana. Both of these dog breeds are very old, though the Shih Tzu is likely an older breed compared to the Havanese.

The Havanese and the Shih Tzu look extremely similar, and they were also originally bred for the same purpose: companionship. Both of these breeds are prized for their loyalty and lap dog qualities, and it has had a lasting effect on their personalities! Let’s take a closer look at the behavioral differences of these two dog breeds now.

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: Behavior and Temperament

Havanese vs Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu enjoys being spoiled more than the average Havanese, though both of these breeds deserve all of the love and attention you can give them!

Dorottya Mathe/W3schools

Both the Havanese and the Shih Tzu love people. They crave companionship and a lap to sleep in, likely due to their companion animal breeding and history. When it comes to training, however, the Havanese exhibits less stubbornness compared to the Shih Tzu. Additionally, the Shih Tzu enjoys being spoiled more than the average Havanese, though both of these breeds deserve all of the love and attention you can give them!

The Havanese is a bit smarter and more trainable, with roughly the same energy level as the Shih Tzu. Both are generally family-friendly and do alright with children. They both get so attached, that they often get separation anxiety. The Havanese may be wary of strangers and bark at them as a warning, and Shih Tzus, who are also vocal, similarly need some gradual exposure to get used to strangers.

Many pet owners enjoy the showmanship of the Shih Tzu, often using them in dog show competitions, while Havanese are less utilized. However, both breeds are beautiful and aloof, likely making them ideal competitors!

Havanese vs Shih Tzu: Lifespan

Havanese vs Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu lives a slightly longer life compared to the average Havanese.

Daz Stock/W3schools

A final difference between the Shih Tzu and the Havanese is their lifespans. The Shih Tzu lives a slightly longer life compared to the average Havanese. However, it depends on the individual health and care that your dog receives in order for it to live a long and happy life!

When taking a closer look, the Shih Tzu lives an average of 13-16 years while the Havanese lives 12-15 years. You can see how often these lifespans overlap, and both breeds are fairly long-lived overall!

Up Next…

We bet you’re still curious about these two breeds and some of the other doppelganger breeds. So keep on reading!

Shih Tzu Dog Breed Guide– Could this breed have come about as a result of a Pekingese or Pug crossed with a Llasa Apso?

Havanese Dog Breed Guide– Everything you need to know.

Boston Terrier vs French Bulldog: 8 Main Differences Explained– The adorable ears and snouts are almost identical, but these two dogs are actually quite different.

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