The Kyi-Leo is a wonderful small dog breed that has notable physical similarities with the Shih Tzu. Also known as Maltese Lion Dogs, this mixed breed is friendly, playful and hypoallergenic. 


This small dog breed is among the newest and was developed through the accidental mating of a Lhasa Apso and Maltese in the 1950s in California, USA. 

This breed was named by Harriet Linn, a renowned dog breeder. The name Kyi-Leo was formally given to this breed in 1972. Kyi comes from the Tibetan word meaning dog and Leo from the Latin word meaning lion. 

The Kyi-Leo is a designer dog breed (hybrid), which means that he is a result of controlled cross-breeding between one purebred Lhasa Apso and one purebred Maltese. 

Physical Characteristics

The Kyi-Leo is a small beautiful dog with a good muscle tone. His eyes are dark and his nose is black. He has small legs and his forelegs are long and straight. His bushy tail hangs straight on the back. 

This small dog has the same physical attributes as the Shih Tzu – same body size, shape and hair. But the Kyi-Leo has more human set eyes and doesn’t have a short-snout face.

This small dog has a soft coat that is long and luxurious.  Most Kyi-Leos are white dogs with black markings but coat colors can also be:

  • Black
  • Silver
  • White 
  • Yellow 


An adult Kyi-Leo has a height of 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30cm) at the shoulder with a weight of 8 to 14 pounds (4 to 6kg). 

Character & abilities

This small-sized dog is cheerful and devoted to the people in his life. He is social and tolerant. Despite being people-oriented, the Kyi-Leo is patient and does not suffer from separation anxiety. 

The Kyi-Leo is gentle and considerate. He makes a wonderful companion and playmate for children, who can be taught how best to handle this small dog without hurting him. 

Play sessions with younger children can be supervised to make sure their interactions are safe and respectful. 

This friendly dog gets along with just about everybody including other dogs and animals. He enjoys posing for the camera and will provide lots of adorable photos for his human companions to share. 

Trainability & Intelligence

Swift and light on his feet, this small pup is a good listener and responds well to training. His acute hearing makes the Kyi-Leo a good candidate for a reliable watchdog. 

The best training regime for the obedient Kyi-Leo includes rewards-based positive reinforcement. This agile dog can participate and excel in dog sports. 

This dog can be talkative and vocal. Early socialisation will pay off and correct training will help the Kyi-Leo be a well-mannered member of any family.

Exercise Needs & Nutrition

The playful Kyi-Leo needs only one walk a day. He enjoys snuggling on the couch with his family more than outdoor activities like hiking. 

Indoor activities like playing with interactive dog toys can keep this dog occupied and entertained. 

The Kyi-Leo can easily become obese because of overeating. The ideal diet for this dog should be formulated for small dog breeds with high energy. The food should not contain filler ingredients. 

Excess weight gain can result in back problems. Food servings should be monitored and snacks should be provided conservatively. 

As a mixed breed, owners can be unsure about how to cater to this dog’s dietary needs which changed from puppyhood to senior years. A consultation with an animal nutritionist or vet can offer a specific recommendation. 


Even though the coat is long and wavy, this breed has a minimal amount of shedding. Daily brushing can keep the long fur from matting or tangling. Coat grooming sessions are longer than with other breeds and trimming every two months is necessary. A professional dog groomer can provide an alternative to home grooming. 

As part of the grooming routine, the ears, teeth and nails need to be cared for. Any tear stains can be cleaned with a warm cloth to maintain a clean and tidy face. Baths with dog shampoos and conditioners are given when necessary. 

The Kyi-Leo’s ears need to be cleaned and inspected for any redness or inflammation. Only the external part of the ear needs cleaning with cotton or soft cloth with dog ear cleaning solution. 

Regular oral hygiene with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste can prevent the build-up of tartar, plaque and bad breath. Trimming the dog’s nails will ensure the Kyi-Leo nails don’t get caught and ripped. 

Living Conditions & Adaptability

The Kyi-Leo’s Tibetan ancestry and long-haired coat mean he can tolerate cold weather. In warmer weather, walking this dog outside can lead to heat exhaustion. It is better to walk during cooler hours in the summer. 

Naturally easy going and petite, this dog breed adapts well to urban and apartment life. He can also adapt to being left alone for short periods as this breed is less likely to develop separation anxiety. 


The Kyi-Leo has delicate legs and should be placed down carefully, not dropped to the floor. He is also prone to problems with his back. It is crucial to prevent unnecessary weight gain.

It may be necessary to provide dog food supplements that support healthy joints. Using dog ramps and stairs can help to avoid injuries from jumping off high places. 

  • Back and joint injuries
  • Patellar luxation
  • Pancreatitis
  • Obesity 

With scheduled routine wellness visits to the vet, a healthy Kyi-Leo can live for 13 to 15 years. 


The Kyi-Leo is a magnificent small dog. Extremely patient and well behaved, he makes a wonderful companion for indoor living. With a hypoallergenic coat, this dog breed is suitable for people suffering from allergies and asthma. Easy to train and not so demanding, the Kyi-Leo is a perfect breed for new dog parents.

Here at All The Small Dog Breeds, we provide comprehensive small dog breed descriptions to help new and existing dog parents to find the perfect breed that suits their lifestyles. These cute dog breeds make perfect companions and can be adopted from local animal shelters or registered breeders.  


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