Maltese Dogs

A Quick Look at the Maltese Dogs...

Maltese dogs are little all-white dogs that are very gentle-mannered and loving. They are lively, playful and are quite fearless in spite of their small size. Malties learn quickly and excel at obedience and tricks. They are highly affectionate, very devoted to their owner, and are wonderful companions that will happily take part in any activity as long as they are with their family.

A bold and beautiful canine, the Maltese has a silky, long white coat and has graceful movements. He is a natural born lapdog, but also greatly enjoys romping around and doesn’t mind getting dirty to the chagrin of his owners. Maltese are vivacious and lovely dogs, and throughout history have remained popular pets.

Here are some fast facts about the Maltese:

Dog Group:
Toy Group
Recognized By:
Dogs – 6½ -9 lbs. (3-4 kg)
Bitches – 6½ -9 lbs. (3-4 kg)
Dogs - 8 -10 in. (21-25 cm)
Bitches – 8 - 9 in. (20-23 cm)
Average litter size:
2 - 4 puppies per litter
Life expectancy:
14 - 18  years (average of 15 years)
Health problems:
Coat care:
Exercise needs:
Suitable for children:
Pet compatibility:
Barking frequency:

Brief History

The Maltese is an ancient dog that originated in Malta and is where the breed received their name. However, they were once known as "Ye ancient dogge of Malta". It is believed that this breed has miniature spaniel and poodle roots. Throughout history, and for more than 28 centuries, they were a popular pet among royalty around the world. Some think that these little canines were imported to England by Crusaders who were returning from the Mediterranean. The Maltese were a favorite in the famous court of Henry VIII. It is well known that women had a particular fondness for these little snow-white pooches, and would sleep with them in their beds and carry them around in their large sleeves. Today they are still adored and sought after companions.

Unlike many other small breeds that are often bred down from larger sizes, current Maltese are still the same size they were when they originated. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888.

Maltese Breed Appearance and Characteristics

General Appearance - Maltese dogs are a small, hardy canine that has a compact and sturdy body with a deep chest. He has a slightly rounded skull, a tapering - but not pointy - medium length muzzle and a black button nose. He has large, round black eyes that are set moderately apart and are flattered by dark rims. The pendant ears of a Maltese are set low and close to the head, and are abundantly feathered.  His tail is carried gracefully over his back and features a long plume.

The Maltie coat is a single layer, is very silky to the touch, and hangs flat with no curl, wave or knik, almost reaching the floor. The coat is a pure white.

Typical Temperament - Maltese are brave and gentle dogs that are rather fearless for their size. They are feisty, playful and affectionate. They are friendly and highly sociable enjoying the company of humans. This pooch is very dedicated, trusting and fond of his owner. He likes to play with children, but is best suited to older and more responsible children, as he won’t tolerate teasing and can become injured if handled roughly. He gets along well other household pets.

Maltese are bold and alert canines, making them excellent watchdogs; they are quick to bark when they hear a suspicious noise or see strangers approaching. They require early training and socialization to prevent the occurrence of unwanted behaviours when they are adults, such as Small Dog Syndrome. This breed also needs plenty of love and attention from their owner and shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time.

Basic Maltese Care Requirements

Grooming - Daily combing and brushing is necessary to keep the coat silky and free of mats. Owners need to be very gentle when they are caring for the coat as it is quite soft. The coat should be bathed or dry shampooed every few months to keep the hair clean. Dogs used for showing will require more frequent baths. After being bathed, it is imperative that owners make sure the animal is thoroughly dry and warm to prevent the pooch from catching a chill. The hair can be clipped short in a puppy cut, for easier care. For those who wish to keep the coat naturally long, hair on the top of the head should be tied in a topknot to keep it out of the eyes.

The eyes should be cleaned and wiped on a daily basis with a clean damp washcloth to prevent tear stain (reddish-brown stain) from forming. The beard of the dog should also be cleaned after meals and drinking for the same purpose. Ears should be checked and hair in the ear canal should be plucked on a weekly basis to avoid infection. In addition, teeth should be brushed every few days and nails clipped monthly.

Exercise - Maltese have a surprising amount of energy and are active little wonders. Though they can obtain much of the exercise they need through indoor activities, they should still be taken for a daily 15-20 minute walk for both their mental and physical health. They will enjoy the freedom to run off lead whenever they can and love to play outdoors. Maltese maintain their playful and youthful spirit well into the later years of their life.

Approximate Food Cost - A Maltese generally eats 1 cup of dry food every day at an estimated monthly cost of $10 - $15.

General Health Information

Maltese are a long lived breed but are prone to suffering certain health ailments that can shorten their lifespan, such as heart failure, teeth problems and cystinuria (genetic kidney stones). They have sensitive digestive systems and can be difficult to feed. They are heat sensitive and are prone to sunburn, particularly along their hair part. A Maltie may also suffer slipped stifles (dislocated knees), skin issues, eye and respiratory problems, as well as White Dog Shaker Syndrome, which is characterized by shuddering as if the dog is experiencing chills.

Common Illnesses include: Dental problems, white dog shaker syndrome, heart failure.

Are You the Right Maltese Owner?

Living conditions - The Maltie is well suited to apartment life as he is active inside and does not require a yard to obtain his exercise. That said, he should still be taken for a daily walk and given the freedom to run around off lead whenever possible.

Training - This breed needs to be socialized and trained early. It is important that he knows his place in his family’s pack as a puppy to prevent problems in the future. The Maltese responds well to firm but gentle training. He thrives on praise and reward. He is intelligent and is not difficult to teach as long as his lessons are consistent and handlers remain solid in their authority. Although they do not need extensive obedience training, make sure he knows who is in charge. Malties also excel at learning tricks.

Common Problems - The Maltese breed can be difficult to housebreak, but consistency and patience will help control this issue. They can quickly become finicky eaters if they are fed human food. They should be fed proper dog food on a schedule to prevent picky eating. If a Maltese is not treated like a dog, and is made to believe he is the leader of the pack, he will develop Small Dog Syndrome and will exhibit bad behaviors, which may include guarding, possessiveness, snapping at children and strangers, and obsessive barking. Thus, avoid pampering and overprotecting these dogs. Separation anxiety can also be a concern, so they should not be left alone or excluded from daily activities frequently or for long periods of time.

The bottom line...

A small, bright and frisky canine, the Maltese is a little darling that is sure to win the heart of any dog lover. They are brave and gentle dogs when provided with the proper environment in which to develop. Their white, silky coat requires constant care and they need to be given plenty of love and attention to feel happy and appreciated. They are incredibly devoted to their owners and will return their love and affection ten fold.

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