- AKC recognized in 1888
- Lifespan: 12 - 15 years
- Size: Small
- Energy: Medium
- Recommended Crate Size: 22" dog crate*
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Table of Contents
Noble and proud, the exquisite Maltese is also endearingly called “Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta”. He is mentioned by Aristotle over two millennials ago and is said to have been alive as the Holy Bible was being written. The Greeks built tombs for this honorable dog and in Egypt, there are artifacts that closely resemble the breed.
Even with all the historical remnants of his past, the exact origin of the Maltese is not fully certain. What is for sure, however, is that he has become one of the most beloved household pets on the planet and...he should be.
He’s fun, friendly, and fearless - all the good things wrapped up into one elegant package of floor-length silky hair that flows as he gracefully glides. This dog is a show-stopper and a heart-robber in no uncertain terms.
But what surprises do these pampered pets hold in store for their prospective pet parents to behold? Plenty! It’s much like the refreshing feeling you get when someone in a high position, like a person of royalty, shows their down-to-earth side. This fine fellow not only puts on a great show on the pedigree runway, but he’ll also do personal performances for you right in your own living room.
Find out more about this majestically funny character when you read on.
The Maltese dog is a tiny toy breed that originated in the Central Mediterranean Area in the nation of Malta which is south of Sicily.
Records of this gentle breed date back as far back as 500 BC. Prior to this time, the Central Mediterranean Area was a popular gateway for pilgrims to crossover to explore new lands and trade their wares. They came by sea and by land and there were scores of them.
Over time, various empires took turns ruling the coveted land and stamping their influence on the culture as they did so.
Through historical accounts and writings of the times, a certain little pure white dog is mentioned time and time again which gives way to the belief that no matter which given kingdom was in power through those ages, the Maltese was treated like golden royalty and was considered to be one of the treasured commodities by rulers of all nations.
This dog breed has gone by quite a few names throughout the years such as the “Ancient Dog of Malta,” the “Maltese Sleeve Dog”, “Roman Ladies’ Dog”, “Melita” (which was the former name for the country), and “Cokie”. The name was finally set as “Maltese” by The Kennel Club at some point in the 19th century.
While the exact facts of his history are sketchy, this breed is believed to be a direct descendent from Spitz type canines that lived among the Swiss Lake Dweller who were deliberately bred small in stature.
Many think Maltese are akin to Tibetan Terriers and some evidence does hold true to that theory. Never the less, the nomadic migration through the Middle East into Europe was the most likely avenue of this dog’s debut into Europe, perhaps initially being utilized as ratters before finding their way into the lap of luxury.
Mentions of this, or at least a very similar breed, can be found in Greek and Roman literature dating back as far as 500 BC. In 350 BC, a Greek writer named Callimachus wrote of a dog who was a favorite of noble women of the time.
Other manuscripts following also mentioned small white dogs from this region which are believed to be about the breed. It is speculated that in the book of Acts in the Bible, Paul was gratefully presented with a Maltese by the Roman governor, Publius.
Efforts were made in the 17th and 18th centuries to breed its size down even smaller. This action led to its near demise, as did the fall of Rome.
Crossbreeding the remainder of them with such small breeds as miniature Spaniels and Poodles, however, led to a comeback. By the 19th century, there were at least nine variations of the Maltese.
In 1877, the then known Maltese Lion Dog, competed in its first Westminster show, held in New York. Charming and noble in appearance, this fancy dog stole the show and many shows thereafter. The American Kennel Club formally recognized the breed in 1888.
The AKC registered Maltese were quite scarce though, numbering a total of only 6 in 1902 and a mere 50 in the 1950s.
From 1902 until 1913 in England and until 1950 in Australia, both parti-color and solid versions were allowed to show but then it was ruled that white was to be the regulatory color. Non-white dogs could still be obtained from France though.
In 1954 the Malt was welcomed as a recognized member of the patronage of Italy as a FCI breed. The standard currently in effect is from 1989.
White is now the standard color for this dog breed. There are two other colorings that are acceptable though - white with lemon and white with tan.
They are most known for their white silky coats and for their wide range of expressions. They are fun...and funny which may come as a surprise given their sophisticated, elegant appearance.
Loving and loyal, this dog makes the perfect lap companion and don’t think he minds that one bit. He’s perfectly content to be held and petted and rightly so, that’s been his call of duty for hundreds of years.
This perky pup generally weighs in at less than seven pounds with 3 to 6 pounds being the norm. As an adult, stands around 7 to 10 inches tall. He’s a tiny thing but is stout and strong for his pint size.
His compact body has an air of grace and elegance about it as it moves, or glides, across the room. His gait is smooth and as flowing as his hair and while he gives the impression that he is moving quickly, it’s just an illusion given from his hind legs moving in a straight line that looks like a tiny trot. One has to wonder if that was something bred into him.
The Maltese is a striking dog, noted for his white coat which may or may not have a touch of another color in it. Their coat is usually long and silky but can be clipped as well.
The head of the Malt is distinctively round and their muzzle is black. Their black button noses tend to stand out because they’re so cute but are apt to fade over the years. Black paw pads and lips are also the norms for this breed.
Some have a black outline around their already expressive big dark brown or black eyes which are known as “halos”. His ears are shaped like pendants. Their expressions are unique - a mix of sophistication and friendliness.
The Maltese belly is usually light pink but it may darken with age due to genetics or natural sunlight. They may also have brown, black, or grey spots on their belly that may come and go with the seasons - getting darker in the summer and fading out in the winter.
Some pet parents use certain products to keep the spots as light as possible. The spots should never be raised so if they are, be sure to speak to your dog’s veterinarian about the matter.
The toenails of a Malty are usually dark grey or black. They may also be cream or white but that is rare.
The fur of this breed is quite silky and soft to the touch and is usually white, white and lemon, or white and tan. It is, as mentioned before, is singled coated.
The coat may fade or take on a new shade as a Maltese puppy transitions into adulthood. The white on a Malt’s chin may turn yellowish or his white paws may turn tan or brownish.
Some owners opt to take steps to bring the color back to a crisp, bright white but aside from unnatural alterations, it is simply genetics and the changes cannot be stopped.
According to competition standards, the overall appearance is more important than his size. That seems to sum up the Malty. He is a combination package with his elegant looks combined with his adorable size and the very way he carries himself.
Although this adorable little dog looks a lot like a long-haired Teddy bear, he’s not. He’s a real live dog and has all the requirements any dog has, and maybe even more since he’s a toy breed.
Be sure you are ready to give this proud member of the Teddy bear club a lot of love and attention if you are bringing him into your life.
The Maltese enjoy lots of foods including natural, canned, and dry. Premium dry food is a must. Canned food is acceptable as long as it contains balanced nutrients. Both fillers and additives must be minimized or avoided, as these may affect the dog’s health.
Toy breeds can’t hold all that much food so be sure what you do feed him is healthy. For that reason, in between meal snacks and treats should be limited.
Because he can be a little piggy, it’s vital that you stay on top of his caloric intake in comparison to the calories he is burning. Obesity in dogs, like in humans, is dangerous to their health. For toy breeds, it can be even more so.
There’s a slight risk of hypoglycemia if the canned products don’t match the dog’s needs. Some ideal options are chopped vegetables, raw chicken meat, and boiled liver as these raw ingredients preferable for dogs. It is important to consult with your veterinarian to ensure all food choices are suitable for your particular dog.
As with all breeds, be sure that he has fresh, clean water available at all times. Toy breeds can’t hold as much water so be sure to encourage him to drink often. If you feel he isn’t, gently push into his skin.
If it springs right back, he probably has enough hydration but if the skin remains indented, he may be dehydrated and if you cannot get liquids into him immediately, you should speak to his vet.
At first glance, you’d think grooming this breed might be so difficult it would be a deal-breaker for some who don’t have the time or the desire for a lot of fuss. But, that’s yet another pleasant surprise about this breed. He’s not all that hard to maintain.
Some owners choose to have their Malts clipped but others opt for the traditional long silky “Malty-do”. It is entirely up to you which you decide upon. If you leave it long and it tends to hang over his eyes, you can always use a decorative clip to hold it back, especially if you have a female you want to doll up.
The Malty does shed but just a little and owners tend to agree that it’s a small price to pay for such a spectacular looking specimen. Some say he is hypoallergenic and that he doesn’t shed at all but realistically, most Maltese parents admit he does...a little.
His coat is more like hair, silky and smooth, than like fur. Frequent brushing and combing is recommended just like it is for human hair. Spritzing his hair with tepid water just before brushing helps prevent it from dying out and makes the process much more pleasant for you and for him.
With daily combing and/brushing, you’ll be able to stay on top of knotting, matting, and tangling plus, the dead hair will come right off. Every other day is adequate if daily brushing isn’t your cup of tea. If you go much longer than that, you’ll probably regret it.
Bathing is in order every week or two. Any more frequent than that will most likely dry his hair out but given that he is white, you won’t want to go too long between either. Using conditioning, hypoallergenic shampoo is wise with this breed.
This breed seems to be a bit more sensitive to cold water than some breeds so you might want to be sure his bath is lukewarm. The Malty has issues with his coat fading.
If you are concerned with that possibility, using filtered water for his bath may help slow the fading process down or halt it altogether. Plus, filtering out the water’s harsh chemicals and toxins is healthier for any breed.
Malts also tend to get discoloration around their eye areas. Wiping with a little warn water on a cotton ball or soft, clean cloth can help prevent unsightly tear stains. Be sure to dry the area well after cleaning. You can also opt to use a tear stain removing solution.
It’s also important to clean your dog’s ears by gently wiping with cotton buds/pads (not tips!) into their ear canal.
Maltese noses can also fade due to genetics and also to exposure to sunlight and from lack of sunlight. It’s a bit tricky. They also chap in extremely hot, cold, or windy weather. Using a doggie nose balm or nose butter can help soothe if it gets chapped and can also help prevent it from getting chapped in the first place.
Be sure to clip his toenails as needed to keep them fairly short and free of chips, cracks, and splits. This breed is rarely outdoors long enough to wear them down naturally.
Malts are prone to have dental issues so brush his teeth once a week or more. Use a doggie toothbrush and doggie toothpaste to get the best results.
This toy dog has a medium amount of energy - the perfect amount, actually. He’s got enough energy to go for walks of 20 minutes once or twice per day and enough left over for some fun games or maybe even a performance.
Do remember when taking him on walks that his legs are short. When you are walking at a brisk pace, he’s running. Also beware of potentially dangerous situations you may encounter on walks or at the dog park like larger, overly-playful or aggressive dogs or children.
Another warning is not to let him get too hot or too cold. This breed is very sensitive to cold but can be to extremely hot and sultry temperatures as well.
Taking him out during the mildest times of the day when it’s not too hot or too cold is best. Doggie apparel is helpful too in order to keep him warm or shaded from too much sunshine. Plus, he’ll look adorable in a canine outfit.
And yet one more word of caution is to be careful not to pull on his leash and never let him tug either. Toy breeds’ necks are very fragile and it could fracture of break very easily.
Failure to properly exercise this breed may end in disaster. While he’s a normally very well-behaved dog, if he gets too much pent up energy, he’ll act out just as any other dog will.
You are likely to find he’s taken his frustration out on her slippers or the sofa. Keep him healthy and happy by ensuring he has a good dose of exercise every single day.
In between walks, your Malty may entertain himself (and you as well). You can also play games with him like gently tossing a small ball or a toy for him to fetch. He is a smart dog so brain exercises are important to keep him mentally fit as well.
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Pet Crates Direct recommends the 22" dog crate* for most adult Maltese.
* Links for crate sizes will bring you to the most appropriate Amazon page.
This dog has ultra-personality. The Maltese has the reputation of being one of the most loving, gentlest toy breeds on the planet. While he gives the impression he’d be a “stuck up” do, he’s far from it. This guy is indeed a sweet package of royal surprises.
He is very affectionate with his family and even with other pets in the household, especially if he’s been brought up with them. Sure, he loves being seated in the lap of luxury as you stroke his elegant soft fur, but, you’ll find this dog returns your affection right back which is something their pet parents tend to really appreciate.
His independence and individualism can make him a little less welcoming to strangers who come to the house. When out on a walk or when he is the one who’s the visitor, he is more socially accepting, especially when he’s the center of attention.
Even though they aren’t very big in size, this breed is fearless and courageous. They are not aggressive whatsoever but they aren’t likely to back down if challenged which pet parents need to be cautiously aware of.
This dog is a performer by genetics. He was bred to be a companion dog and an entertainer. He makes an excellent lap dog. With a medium energy level, he can make a one dog show last quite a long time. He’s a sucker for attention, by the way.
Talk about alert! It is a great watchdog even though he’s teeny tiny. He is always curiously listening for strange noises and keeps a watchful eye out for the safety of his loved ones.
Don’t think you can leave a Malty at home while you work all day and stop off at a friend’s house after work. Doing such a thing would break his heart. He can easily suffer from separation anxiety so he needs to be in a home where at least one person is there much of the time.
The Maltese is perfect in an apartment if he is trained not to yap a lot. He can fit in just about anywhere and loves to go for car rides, the office, or on vacation with his person or family.
Being a small dog, the Malt must be an indoor pet. He can certainly go out to play when supervised and loves to take walks. He’s too little to be out by himself though, especially since he pays
This dog loves to play. It comes as a surprise to many pet parents given the look of elegance he has about him. But he can spend hours playing with toys, with his human family or even with other pets. He can even keep himself amused for a good long time as long as he knows you are home with him.
If you are looking for a companion who can entertain you and lay in your lap when the show is over, this may be the perfect dog breed for you.
Sometimes stubborn and a might willful, Maltese respond well to rewards-based training and also to plenty of praise. They tend to be quite proud of themselves when they successfully complete a training course or master a new trick.
This breed is smart in no uncertain terms. He’ll pick right up on most everything you ask of him. Getting him to do it is, perhaps, a different story. If you establish your status as the pack leader early in his life and encourage him with praise and treats, he’ll be the best student ever.
Housebreaking is the most difficult of the training in the Maltese. His bladder is tiny and therefore he’ll need to be taken outdoors or to the appropriate potty spot quite frequently.
He’s also very sensitive to the heat and the cold which can pose a problem. You may want to litter train him inside as a back-up or even use an inside artificial potty grass set-up.
One thing that is in your favor is that they are eager to please. If you build on that trait, you’ll be well on your way to training him.
Socializing him is a must. You’ll want to expose him to all different people, animals, places, and situations. Take him to noisy, busy areas so he’ll get used to sounds. He doesn’t much care for thunderstorms so make sure he hears a few of those as a pup too. This is a great opportunity to work with him on his barking tendencies too, during times he yaps.
Obedience is another vital training class. The Maltese does have an independent nature at times but you must be in control - for his safety. He will need to master the basic commands and then can move forward into classes that are more fun.
Crate training is a good idea for this toy breed. Initially, you may think it’s cruel to stick him in a crate but he’s a den animal. Closed in spaces give him security and also keep him safe when you are gone. They also prevent him from tearing up the house.
Oh, the tricks! This is the best part of training your pup. He loves to do tricks, like dance and sing and loves to show his talents off too. Remember to teach him how to do the infamous “Maltese Twist”!
Don’t forget about brain game training. He’s much too intelligent to let his smarts go to waste so grab a book on brain games or check for some online.
Being agile and somewhat energetic, agility training is something you may want to enlist your pup in. You can take him for lessons or build your own course. It’s a good way for him to get some extra energy out and will help him stay physically fit.
The Maltese usually enjoy a life expectancy of 12-15 years which is on the higher side for a toy breed. Getting your dog through a reputable breeder is advisable so you can have the best assurance that he will be as healthy as possible. You can also check local shelters and rescue a Malty.
Regardless of how you acquire yours, there are some medical conditions to keep a watchful eye out for.
As mentioned before, this breed can suffer from nose issues like fading and chaffing. He may also keep a slight nasal drip going a lot of the time too. It is likely due to allergies if so.
When it is said that dog’s should have a wet nose, that doesn’t mean it should be dripping or gushing so speak to his veterinarian if his seems a little too wet or if it’s chapped and peeling.
Respiratory ailments are fairly common. If yours is coughing, wheezing, or sneezing, contact his vet. He may have an infection, blockage, or disease. Asthma is a possibility in this breed as well.
Collapsed Trachea is seen in small breeds more than in larger dogs. It is a genetic-based issue where the cartilage rings which surround the windpipe weaken and eventually collapse. Veterinarian attention is required immediately if you think your Malty may have this problem.
Aberrant Cilia is a condition known to affect this breed in which their eyelashes grow in an abnormal manner in places where they shouldn’t be. Sometimes, treatment is required such as if they are growing inside the eye area or are causing him distress.
Colitis plagues Maltese. It is marked when his colon is swollen and inflamed. Bloody diarrhea is often present. It can be quite painful and can interfere with his daily routines such as eating and drinking. The causes can be many but since he is susceptible to the condition, have him checked if you suspect he may be suffering from it.
White Dog Shaker Syndrome may sound like a racial slur, but it’s not. It is a health condition typically limited to solid white dogs although recently, some other colored dogs are coming down with it as well. The issue seems to be one of an autoimmune nature in which full body tremors are experienced. It’s believed that the shaking is not painful and that it may be spurred by environmental factors.
Regardless of the list of medical woes to watch for, your Malty may never have a single one of them. Knowing what to watch for is helpful though so you can give him the best assurance of a happy and healthy life by taking him in to be examined if you suspect things are not right.
Is a Maltese the Right Dog for Me?
Everyone wants to have a real live Teddy bear, especially one with long, white hair that has a history of gracing the laps of the aristocrats. But, there are some serious things to consider before you go scooping one up.
If you live with a house full of rowdy kids or large, overly active dogs that like to play rough, the Malty may not be a good fit. Although he thinks he’s ten feet tall, the fact is...he’s not. He requires careful handling where potential dangerous situations abound.
Are you, or someone in the household, going to be home much of the time with him? This dog does not tolerate being by himself very well at all. If you do go a lot and don’t mind taking him with you, he’s all about that. You couldn’t ask for a better traveling companion.
Indeed a sweet package of royal surprises, if you have what it takes to bring this eloquent, silky-haired comedian into your dynasty and are willing to do so, your life will be richer than you ever dreamed possible.