Maltese

The pocket-sized Maltese is a tiny dog with a big, delightful personality. They combine many of the best traits of toy breeds. They are small and extremely portable, they live happily in an apartment, and have relatively low exercise requirements. While they're pleased to snuggle up on the couch, they also love to play and can be engaging and exuberant. They also greet everyone they meet with their bold but gentle personality. If that's not enough wonderful trait, you should know that they are also relatively easy to train.

Maltese
Original image by user Hasan Karagülmez on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
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Though they appear to be perfect, the Maltese does have a few (tiny) drawbacks. They are absolutely gorgeous, but the beautiful coat requires a lot of time and maintenance, and most likely, regular appointments with a professional groomer. Additionally, Maltese are tiny toy dogs, and all dogs of this size are delicate and can be easily injured. Extreme care must be taken around children, larger dogs, and even predators. Because they are so people oriented and want to be with their owners at all times, they can develop separation anxiety. Finally, in what or may not be a drawback, Maltese are so loveable that any time you are away from your tiny companion, you are guaranteed to miss them terribly.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Maltese breed is also commonly known by the names Maltese Dog.

Popularity: Popular

Life expectancy: 12 - 15 years

Breed group: Toy Dogs (AKC), Toy Dogs (KC)

Size: Tiny

Male Female
Height 8 - 10 in 8 - 9 in
Weight 2 - 9 lbs 2 - 7 lbs

Coat:

Colors: White

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Not a heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: High

Good with children: Average

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: High

Exercise needs: Low

Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not

Hunting drive: High

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Very sensitive

Good for novice owners: Definitely

Hypoallergenic breed: Yes

Drooling: Very low

Barking: Occasional

General health: Average

Cost to keep: Average

History

The tiny Maltese has a large, rich history and are one of the most ancient toy breeds. They appeared in the early cultures of Greece, Rome, and Egypt, where tombs were even erected for their dogs. Some think that they descended from a Spitz-type dog of Switzerland bred down to a smaller size, though others believe that they originated in Asia and are related to the Tibetan Terrier. Their early history is unclear, but they eventually made their way to Europe, probably by way of the Middle East, traveling with the nomadic tribes. Like many small, ancient breeds, they may have been used for rodent control.

Because the breed is centuries old, it has had a variety of names. Originally called the "Canis Melitaeus" in Latin, it has also been known in English as the "ancient dog of Malta," the "Roman Ladies' Dog," the "Maltese Lion Dog," and "Melita", which is the former name of Malta.

In the 15th century, Maltese could be found in the homes of France and England's aristocracy and by the end of the 16th century, they were a favorite of well-known ladies including Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and Queen Victoria. But, by the 18th century, the breed was almost extinct due to irresponsible breeding - they were bred down to about the size of a squirrel. Maltese were mixed with other small breeds to save the breed.

Maltese made their way the United States in the late 1800s and were entered in the first Westminster Kennel Club shows in the 1870s. The number of Maltese dogs registered with the AKC grew very slowly until the 1950s. Since then, the breed has become quite popular. Maltese are one of the most popular breeds among spectators at dog shows and often the winner of the Toy Group.

Appearance

The adorable Maltese is a gentle, intelligent, and charming companion dog. The first thing you may notice about the Maltese is its gorgeous coat.
Typical characteristics are:


  • A soft, intelligent, and alert expression, dark, round eyes, tapered muzzle, and drop ears.

  • Compact body.

  • A graceful, long-haired tail is carried over the back.

  • Long, silky coat.

  • Color: pure white.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Maltese are generally intelligent, and can quickly grasp basic commands. As with many small dogs, housebreaking can be difficult, so crate training is recommended. Because of their happy, affectionate, and generally easy-going nature, Maltese are very good dogs for novice owners.

As intelligent dogs, Maltese will need an outlet for their intelligence and energy. Playtime and walks will help prevent your dog from acting out in undesirable ways like chewing, barking, etc.

Activity

Maltese are excellent companions and lap dogs and require a low to moderate amount of exercise. A long walk or a good play session daily is enough to keep your Maltese healthy and happy.

Provide daily play sessions, these intelligent dogs need some kind of mental stimulation to be really happy. Learning small tricks or performing in agility or obedience will help keep these little attention seekers happy and content.

Special attention should be given to puppies. Avoid jumping up and down furniture and running up and down the stairs, as their bones and joints are still growing and too much exercise can induce problems later on.

Independence

Maltese were bred as companion animals and they require attention from their owners. They are happiest if they can spend all of their time alongside their family, preferably in your lap. They will not thrive in situations where they must spend long periods of time on their own. They become very attached to their owners and can develop separation anxiety.

Protective

A Maltese will bark at strangers and can be a decent "alert" dog. They will warm up to strangers quite quickly and because of their small size, they are not suitable guard dogs.

Living Conditions

As they don't require a big yard for exercise or a large space to live, Maltese make excellent apartment dogs. However, they will be just as happy in a larger home. Maltese are indoor dogs and need a safe, comfortable inside space where they can be close to their family.

Children and Other Pets

Maltese can be good family dogs but they are not recommended for families with children under eight-years-old, and all children should be taught to correctly and safely handle the dog. Many breeders will not sell a puppy to homes with small children. Due to their small size, care should be taken so that a child does not accidentally injure the dog. Children should never carry the dog, as they could accidentally drop it. They could also fall or step on a tiny Maltese. That said, extra care should be taken, especially with young children (under the age of 6).


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

No dog, regardless of breed, should be left unattended with young children.

Maltese can get along well with other dogs, but proper socialization is extremely important. They are bold dogs, not aware of their small size, and may need protection from larger dogs.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Maltese is between 12 - 15 years. Like all breeds, the Maltese is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Maltese is prone to these diseases:
  • Portosystemic Shunt (PSS) (hereditary)
  • Reverse sneezing (hereditary)
  • Collapsed Trachea (hereditary)
  • Hypoglycemia (hereditary)
  • White Dog Shaker Syndrome (hereditary)
  • Patellar Luxation (hereditary) : Patellar luxation is a very common orthopedic disorder in dogs. A patellar luxation occurs when a dog’s kneecap (patella) is dislocated or slips out of its normal position. More info»
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (hereditary) : Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of inherited degenerative eye disorders, which lead to loss of vision. PRA affects both eyes simultaneously and is not painful More info»

Grooming

Maltese are known for their straight, gorgeous, silky coat. As a bonus, that beautiful coat does not shed much. There is a trade-off, however - that coat does require a lot of grooming. Maltese need daily brushing to prevent tangles and they are close to the ground and get dirty quickly, which means that weekly bathing is necessary. Detangling spray or conditioning oil may be needed to keep your Maltese mat and tangle free. In addition, they are prone to tear stains which can be cleaned with specially designed tear stain products for dogs or just warm water, but they will need to be cleaned daily. Other daily grooming tasks include cleaning their beard after eating.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs. Maltese may not wear their nails down on their own. Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older.

Like many small breeds, Maltese are prone to dental problems. They tend to form a lot of plaque on their teeth. If you don’t brush their teeth regularly, the plaque becomes tartar which can lead to tooth problems, at a very young age. Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and adapted dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.

Feeding

1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Maltese are prone to obesity and you should monitor your dog's weight and diet to ensure that they don't become overweight.

Special attention is needed when feeding puppies. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a burden but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.