If you're looking for a small companion dog, the Maltese and the Shih Tzu make good choices. Neither breed requires much exercise, making them suitable for apartment nesting. Both live to love their person. If you want a tiny dog, pick the Maltese. A little larger, go for the Shih-Tzu.
Originally from China, the Shih Tzu counts the Lhasa apso among its ancestors. Adult Shih Tzus weigh between 9 and 16 pounds and range in height from 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder. The American Kennel Club Shih Tzu standard allows any colors in registered dogs. The Shih Tzu is a sweet little guy but he's brave. He's good with children and very playful. Shih Tzus can be tough to housebreak, but that's also true of the Maltese.
One of the oldest known dog breeds, the modern Maltese is the same size as its ancient forbear. This pure white dog weighs between 4 and 7 pounds at maturity, with a height between 9 and 10 inches at the shoulder. She's a bright, cuddly little dog, but she's too small and delicate for kids to play with. While the Shih Tzu may be wary of strangers, no one is a stranger to the Maltese. Of the two breeds, the Maltese may be more of a barker. While both breeds get along with cats, the Maltese may be aggressive with other dogs.
The Maltese and the Shih Tzu require extensive grooming. Daily brushing and regular trips to the groomer keep both breeds in tip-top shape. The Maltese is even more labor-intensive because of her snow-white coat. Without frequent bathing and removal of tear and food stains from her face, she can look dingy pretty quickly. If grooming isn't your thing, find a short-haired breed. Without regular grooming, the coats of both breeds easily become matted, leading to possible dermatological infections.
Small dogs come with their own sets of health issues, and there are hereditary problems associated with individual breeds. Both the Maltese and the Shih Tzu prone to slipped kneecaps, or luxating patellas. With either breed, use a harness when going for walks rather than attaching the leash to a collar, as a sharp tug may injure your little dog's trachea. Maltese may exhibit shaker dog syndrome, or uncontrollable trembling. Medication can ease symptoms. Shih Tzu puppies may have malformed kidneys, known as renal dysplasia, leading to kidney failure in adulthood. Shih Tzus suffer from various eye diseases, including cataracts and dry eye. Both breeds may experience progressive retinal atrophy, which eventually leads to complete vision loss.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.