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Havanese Shih Tzu Mix: Is the Havashu Right for You?

Havanese Shih Tzu MixAre you interested in the Havanese Shih Tzu mix?

This mixed breed dog unites the comical Havanese and the playful Shih Tzu.

At first glance, they bear a distinct resemblance to each other.

So is there any real benefit to combining them?

Where Does the Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Come From?

Like many hybrid breeds, there is little known about the actual origins of the Havanese Shih Tzu mix.

It’s more than likely that they came on the scene as part of the designer dog craze that begin in the U.S. in the early 1990s.

To learn more about the Havashu, we’ll investigate the origins of both parent breeds.

But first, we’ll take a look at the controversy surrounding mixed breeding.

What’s All the Fuss About Mixed Breeding?

The ongoing debate that pits purebred purists and mixed breed advocates continues to flourish.

Those on Team Purebred argue that keeping the bloodlines pure ensures that each breed’s consistency.

While Team Mixed Breeds believes that the practice allows for a genetically diverse background, which results in healthier dogs.

Havanese Shih Tzu Mix

Origins of the Havanese

The Havanese is a descendant of the ancient Bichon breed of little white dogs bred as lap dogs.

This breed believed to have been brought to the New World in the 1600s, possibly by the Spaniards who colonized Cuba.

Over hundreds of years, the breed was refined, perhaps with Poodle crosses, to become the Havanese we know today.

Origins of the Shih Tzu

Like the Havanese, the Shih Tzu was born to live in the lap of luxury.

This dog’s history begins centuries ago in the palace of the Chinese Emperor.

Imperial breeders developed them from Tibetan breeding stock.

They’re believed to be a cross between the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese.

Fun Facts About the Havanese Shih Tzu Mix

The Havanese is the national dog of Cuba and its only native breed.

Barbara Walters, Venus Williams, Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway are among their famous devotees.

The agility and trainability of the Havanese led them to be used as trick dogs in European traveling circuses.

The Shih Tzu is nicknamed the “Chrysanthemum-faced dog”.

The hair that grows in all directions around his face resembles the flower.

Famous pet parents include Bill Gates, Jon Stewart, Beyonce and the Dalai Lama.

Shih Tzus almost became extinct during the Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949.

Luckily, the breed was saved when a small number of dogs made it to Britain.

Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Appearance

Mixed breed dogs’ appearances often vary.

In the case of the Havanese Shih Tzu mix, the resemblance of the two breeds makes the outcome a little more predictable.

The Havanese stands from 8.5 to 11.5 inches and weighs from 7 to 13 pounds.

The Shih Tzu is between 9 and 10.5 inches tall and weighs 9 to 16 pounds.

You can expect the Havanese Shih Tzu mix to stand up to 12 inches and weigh under 15 pounds.

His small, sturdy body will sport a double coat that can be long and fine like Shih Tzus or wavy and curly like that of the Havanese.

Popular coat colors include black, white, cream, golden, gray, brown and chocolate.

The front legs can be slightly shorter than the back, giving them a unique stance.

The tail curves over the back.

If this dog has the flat face of the Shih Tzu, he may be considered a brachycephalic breed.

Although very adorable, this short muzzle causes serious health problems.

Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Temperament

As with appearance, mixed breeds can take after one parent more than the other or have a combination of both parents’ personality traits.

The Havanese is known for being intelligent, affectionate and prone to goofy antics.

He thrives on being with his family and will likely follow you from room to room because he hates to be left alone.

This makes him a candidate for separation anxiety.

Like the Havanese, the Shih Tzu was bred as a companion and loves to be lavished with attention.

He also tends to have a bit of a stubborn streak, which might become apparent during training.

Both breeds are usually good with other pets and strangers as long as they have been well-socialized from a young age.

Training Your Havanese Shih Tzu Mix

The Havashu should be moderately easy to train.

Use gentle and positive reinforcement techniques based on rewards and praise because they can be quite sensitive.

While the Havanese is known for being eager to please and easy to train, the Shih Tzu can require more patience.

Potty training should establish an early daily routine for the best results.

You might find using a crate to housetrain helpful.

Exercising Your Havanese Shih Tzu Mix

The Havanese Shih Tzu mix is apt to have moderate exercise needs.

Outside activities should include a brisk daily walk or two, plus some fun playtime with family in the backyard or at a dog park.

This should satisfy an intelligent pooch who needs to burn energy and be mentally stimulated.

If your puppy is panting or struggling to keep up, pick him up and take him home.

Never over-exercise your Havashu at any age, especially if he takes after the Shih Tzu parent in appearance.

A flat face can cause breathing difficulties, particularly in hot, humid weather.

It should also be noted that care needs to be taken around even shallow pools of water, as brachycephalic dogs cannot swim.

Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Health

On a happy note, both parent breeds enjoy fairly long lives.

The life span of the Havanese ranges from 14 to 16 years, while the average for the Shih Tzu is 10 to 18 years.

That being said, these dogs do share some common health problems.

Both breeds are at risk for cataracts and other eye disorders, which can cause blindness.

Patellar luxation, which occurs when the kneecap is dislocated from its normal position, often affects small breeds.

The Havanese and the Shih Tzu are also prone to other health concerns, some due to their conformation.

Havanese Health

Unfortunately, this Cuban cutie can suffer from skeletal defects.

Osteochondrodysplasia in particular affects this breed.

This condition is often characterized by the forelegs being shortened or bowed, and can increase the risk for hip dysplasia and arthritis.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease is also commonly seen in small dogs like the Havanese.

The breed is also predisposed to liver shunts, deafness and heart murmurs.

These health evaluations are recommended:

  • Hip
  • Ophthalmologist
  • BAER
  • Patella

Shih Tzu Health

Although not as severely affected as some breeds, the Shih Tzu is still at risk for brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).

This chronic respiratory condition causes the airways to become blocked due to narrowed nostrils and an overlong soft palette.

Regrettably, this is not the only conformational problem that the Shih Tzu faces.

The combination of an overlong back and short legs puts him at risk for intervertebral disk disease (IVDD).

Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Grooming and Feeding

It probably comes as no surprise that the Havashu will be a dog who needs serious grooming.

His long, silky coat will require daily brushing to keep it free from matting and tangles.

A bath every three to four weeks will keep his coat clean.

The inside of his floppy ears should be cleaned weekly to avoid infection.

To prevent tear-staining, gently clean the corner of his eyes with a damp cloth.

Like all small dogs, he is prone to dental problems. His teeth should be brushed two to three times a week.

Since the Havanese Shih Tzu mix can be susceptible to obesity as well as joint problems, it’s important that he doesn’t become overweight.

Even a pound can make a difference with a small dog.

Your Havashu should be fed a high-quality dog food that’s appropriate for his age and size.

Do Havanese Shih Tzu Mixes Make Good Family Dogs?

The Havanese Shih Tzu Mix is a spirited. smart little dog who would do well in a family where someone is home during the day.

It’s important to be aware of all the health problems that this breed can inherit from his parents.

Choosing a breeder who has health tested the dam and the sire is crucial in minimizing the chances of your puppy getting one of these conditions.

Rescuing a Havanese Shih Tzu Mix

You can also choose to rescue a dog from a shelter.

You may not find a shelter dedicated specifically to the Havashu, but you can check rescue groups dedicated to the parent breeds.

Finding a Havanese Shih Tzu Mix

Never buy a puppy from a pet store, as almost all of their dogs come from puppy mills.

These breeding facilities use less than ethical practices.

The puppies are often the most susceptible to health problems due to being neglected, underfed and kept in appalling living conditions.

Choose a puppy whose face more closely resembles the Havanese to avoid the breeding issues associated with a flat muzzle.

This article offers plenty of information on how to find a puppy that’s right for you.

Raising a Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Puppy

Raising a puppy can be a challenge, especially if this is your first time.

This comprehensive collection of articles will give you detailed information on everything from cleaning your puppy’s ears to socializing him with cats.

Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Products and Accessories

No matter which parent your puppy takes after, he’s sure to have a long, lustrous coat that needs plenty of attention.

This brush is designed to keep his fur looking fabulous.

Tear stain remover will lighten fur and prevent ongoing excessive tear duct activity.

Pros and Cons of Getting a Havanese Shih Tzu Mix


  • Requires a dedicated grooming routine
  • Prone to separation anxiety if left alone too much
  • Both parents have conformational health problems


  • Playful, affectionate and gentle, they make a great companion
  • A small dog who doesn’t bark a lot
  • Well-suited to apartment living
  • Friendly with other pets

Similar Havanese Shih Tzu Mixes and Breeds

If you’re looking for other mixed breeds similar to the Havanese Shih Tzu Mix, here are some dogs to consider:

  • Shih Tzu Bichon Frise Mix
  • Havanese Bichon Frise Mix
  • Cairn Terrier Shih Tzu Mix

Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Rescues

Here’s a list of rescues that specialize in Havanese and Shih Tzus. If you want your organization to be added to this list, please include details in the comments box.

  • Havanese Club of America Inc.
  • The Havanese Fanciers of Canada Rescue
  • Havanese PDSA
  • Australia Havanese Rescue
  • Shih Tzu Rescue
  • Shih Tzu Action Rescue
  • Canada Shih Tzu Rescue
  • New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue

Is a Havanese Shih Tzu Mix Right For Me?

Only you can know for sure.

However, you will need to consider carefully a mix with so many potential health problems.

References and Further Reading:

  • Gelatt, K.N. and MacKay, E.O., 2005. “Prevalence of Primary Breed‐Related Cataracts in the Dog in North America.” Veterinary Ophthalmology.
  • Itoh, H., et al., 2008. “A Retrospective Study of Intervertebral Disc Herniation in Dogs in Japan: 297 Cases,” Journal of Veterinary Medical Science.
  • Packer, R.M.A., et al., 2014. “Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome,” PLOS One.
  • Starr, A.N., et al., 2007. “Hereditary Evaluation of Multiple Developmental Abnormalities in the Havanese Dog Breed,” Journal of Heredity.
  • Tobias, K.M., et al. 2003. “Association of Breed with the Diagnosis of Congenital Portosystemic Shunts in Dogs: 2,400 Cases (1980-2002).” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • Vidoni, B., et al., 2005. “Diagnostic and Genetic Aspects of Patellar Luxation in Small and Miniature Breed Dogs in Austria.” Wiener Tierarztliche Monatsschrift.

Havanese Shih Tzu Mix: Is the Havashu Right for You?

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