It is easy to confuse Shih Tzu with Havanese, since those two breeds look very similar. But there are some important differences between these two breeds.
The Havanese and Shih Tzu look very very similar together. The most distinctive feature of both breeds is the long silky fur. I would say that the Havanese coat is less flowy and more matted. The Shih Tzu coat is also little bit denser. Both breeds are no-low shedding dogs.
One way how you can recognize these two breeds apart is their tail. The Havanese tail curls over their back in a fold, but the Shih Tzu tail held right over their back but never touching the back.
Both breeds have almost identical height between 20-26 cm which is 8-10 inches. Shih Tzus are sometimes little bit larger and heavier. Their weight is bdsousands etween 4-8 kg, which is 9-18 pounds, the Havanese weight is between 3-6 kg, which is 7-14 pounds.
The last difference is their gait. The Shih Tzu gait can be described as smooth and effortless, while the Havanese gait is often times described as springy. It is because the Havanese have little bit shorter front legs than back legs.
So as you can see, the differences in appearance are not very big, but their temperament is not that similar. It is true that both are affectionate, active and loving family companions, but the Shih Tzu is much more independent and stubborn dog. It does not mean that they are better or worse than the Havanese, it is all about personal preferences, but the Havanese is definitely easier to train. Actually, Havanese dogs are pretty easy to train and in the past, they were even used as skilled circus dogs, while Shih Tzu needs a lot of repetition to nail a trick.
On the other hand, thanks to the independence of Shih Tzu, it is easier to leave them home alone and they can even play alone. The Havanese is more needy and they will want your attention all the time. They also suffer more from the separation anxiety. The Havanese is also, lets say, more clownish and mischievous.
When it comes to grooming, both breeds are very high maintance dogs. They need frequent brushing to keep their coat in good condition. The fur also needs to be trimmed and kept out of the eyes. A neglected coat will quickly turn into a disastrous matted mess. The Havanese coat tends to get little bit more matted, so if you are not having a show dog, than it might be little bit easier, but really only a little bit easier to maintain the Shih Tzu coat.
If you are looking for a long living companion, than both Shih Tzu and Havanese are good choices. Both dogs typically live over 13 or 14 years. The Shih Tzu lifespan should be between 10-16 years and the Havanese lifespan between 13-15 years. Sadly, both breeds commonly suffer from some health issues, Shih Tzu is prone to Brachycephalic Syndrome, eye problems and Intervertebral Disc Disease. The Havanese suffers from patellar luxation, Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, heart murmur and Portosystemic Shunt.
These two dog breeds might be similar, but their history is totally different. Both breeds are very old and it is believed that the Shih Tzu history can trace back hundreds of years to Tibetan monks. We are not sure about the certain ancestry, but it is believed that they were developed from Lhasa Apso and Pekingese.
The Havanese originated on the other side of the planet. This breed comes from Cuba and they are part of the Bichon family. Their ancestry can be traced to old Tenerife dog breeds, just like all the Bichons.