Maltese

Table of Contents

maltese dog portrait
Introducing the Maltese: a pint-sized bundle of joy that's equal parts fluff, charm, and charisma! These cloud-like canines are not only showstoppers with their silky white coats, but they've also stolen countless hearts with their affectionate nature and playful antics.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Maltese is an excellent choice for a wide range of people, making them truly versatile companions. Their small size, loving nature, and low-shedding coat make them perfect for apartment dwellers, allergy sufferers, and first-time dog owners alike.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEMaltese
ORIGINMalta, Italy
BREED GROUPToy Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT8-10 inches
WEIGHT4-7 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERHigh
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERHigh
GROOMING NEEDSHigh
EXERCISE NEEDSLow
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYHigh
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELLow
POPULARITY RANK38th
maltese sitting on pedestal in the park
Photo: DevidDO/Getty Images

Appearance

The Maltese is known for its petite size and strikingly beautiful appearance. These small dogs typically stand between 8 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 4 to 7 pounds, making them a perfect lap-sized companion. Despite their small stature, they have a well-proportioned and compact body, giving them an air of elegance and grace.

One of the most notable features of the Maltese is their head, which is slightly rounded with a moderate stop. Their black button-like nose is a charming contrast against their white coat, and their large, round, dark eyes give them an expressive and gentle gaze that is hard to resist.

The Maltese’s ears are pendant-shaped and set high on their head, often adorned with long, silky hair that adds to their sophisticated appearance.

They have a strong, slightly arched neck that flows smoothly into their level topline. Their tail is another distinctive feature, as it curves gracefully over their back and is covered in a plume of long, silky hair. Their legs are lean and straight, with small, round feet that complete their dainty appearance.

Undoubtedly, one of the most eye-catching aspects of the Maltese is their luxurious, silky coat. Their pure white hair is single-layered, meaning they don’t have an undercoat like many other breeds. The coat is typically long and straight, reaching the ground and flowing around the dog like a regal cloak. However, some owners choose to keep their Maltese’s coat shorter for easier maintenance.

The Maltese’s overall expression is one of sweetness, intelligence, and alertness. Their elegant appearance, combined with their loving temperament, has made them a beloved companion for centuries. With their cloud-like coat and gentle gaze, the Maltese is undeniably a captivating breed that continues to charm dog lovers around the world.

maltese dog running on green grass
Photo: kimrawicz/Getty Images

Temperament

Picture a small, fluffy dog with sparkling eyes full of love. This is the Maltese, a breed known for its adorable looks and personality that can melt hearts. But don’t let their size fool you; these little dogs are full of energy and have a zest for life that’s contagious.

The Maltese are social butterflies. They thrive on companionship and attention, and they’re happiest when they’re spending time with their human family. They’re not the type to enjoy solitude; instead, they crave interaction and affection. They’re like that friend who always wants to hang out and hates being left out of any plans.

Despite their petite stature, Maltese dogs have a robust personality. They love to play and entertain, often becoming the life of the party. Picture a tiny comedian, always ready with a new trick or a playful antic to make everyone laugh. That’s a Maltese for you, a bundle of joy wrapped in a cloud of white fur.

But just like us humans, Maltese have their stubborn moments too. Yes, they can be a bit headstrong at times, choosing to follow their own path rather than listen to instructions. But their intelligence and desire to please usually win out, and they’ll soon be back to their charming selves.

One fascinating trait of the Maltese is their alertness. They’re like the neighborhood watch, always aware of what’s going on around them. They might be small, but they’re mighty protective of their loved ones. If they sense anything amiss, they’ll let you know with their barks. But don’t worry, they’re not aggressive; they’re just looking out for their family.

In essence, the Maltese is a warm, loving, and lively breed. Their loyalty is unwavering, their love unconditional, and their spirit unbreakable. They’re not just pets; they’re family. They have a knack for making every day brighter, every moment more enjoyable. Whether it’s a game of fetch or a quiet evening on the couch, the Maltese makes every moment better just by being there.

So if you’re looking for a furry friend who’s full of life, love, and laughter, look no further than the Maltese. These little dogs with big hearts are sure to bring joy, warmth, and lots of cuddles into your life.

maltese dog biting a stick
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Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

The Maltese is highly adaptable and thrives in a variety of environments. Their small size and low exercise requirements make them ideal for apartment living, as they do not need a large yard for physical activity. A few daily walks and indoor play sessions are usually sufficient to keep them happy and healthy.

Climate Adaptability

As for climate adaptability, the Maltese is sensitive to both extreme heat and cold. Their single-layered coat does not provide adequate insulation in cold weather, so it’s important to provide them with warm clothing or blankets during chilly seasons. Limiting their time outdoors when temperatures drop and monitoring them closely for signs of discomfort is essential for their well-being.

In hot climates, the Maltese is prone to overheating, so it’s crucial to provide them with plenty of shade, water, and a cool place to rest during the hottest parts of the day.

Avoid taking them for walks during peak heat hours, opting instead for early mornings or evenings when the temperature is cooler. Keep an eye on them for signs of heat stress, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy, and take prompt action if needed.

Ideal Owner

When it comes to pet parents, the Maltese is an excellent choice for first-time dog owners, seniors, and families with older children. They form strong bonds with their human families and crave companionship, making them perfect for those who enjoy spending quality time with their pets.

While they can be fragile due to their small size, they get along well with gentle children who understand how to handle them carefully. As mentioned earlier, supervision during interactions with young children is crucial to ensure the safety of both the child and the dog.

Other Pets

The Maltese’s friendly nature also allows them to coexist happily with other pets, particularly when introduced gradually and under supervision. They can form close relationships with fellow dogs or even cats, engaging in play and snuggling together. However, it’s essential to monitor interactions with larger or more boisterous pets to prevent accidental injuries.

maltese dog's face up close
Photo: RitaE/Pixabay

Grooming

The Maltese, with its luxurious white coat, requires a consistent grooming routine to keep them looking their best and to maintain their overall health. Caring for their coat, nails, teeth, and ears is essential to ensure a well-groomed and comfortable Maltese.

Coat Care

First and foremost, let’s discuss the Maltese’s beautiful coat. Their silky, single-layered hair is prone to tangles and matting, so regular brushing and combing are crucial.

Ideally, you should brush your Maltese daily using a slicker brush or a pin brush to remove any loose hair and prevent mats from forming. Starting at the head and working your way down the body, make sure to brush gently and thoroughly. For stubborn tangles, use a comb with both wide and narrow teeth to untangle the hair without causing discomfort.

Bathing your Maltese is also an essential part of their grooming routine. Depending on their activity level and the condition of their coat, a bath every 3 to 4 weeks should suffice. Use a gentle, dog-specific shampoo that’s suitable for their coat type. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue, as this can cause skin irritation if left behind.

Many Maltese owners choose to keep their dog’s coat trimmed short, often referred to as a “puppy cut,” for easier maintenance. If you prefer a longer coat, you might want to consider visiting a professional groomer every 6 to 8 weeks for a trim and to maintain the desired length and style.

Dental Care

Dental care is another vital aspect of grooming for the Maltese. These small dogs are prone to dental issues, such as plaque buildup and gum disease. To prevent these problems, it’s essential to brush their teeth daily using dog-specific toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Additionally, providing dental chews and toys can help keep their teeth clean and healthy.

Nail Trimming

Regular nail trimming is also necessary for the Maltese, as overgrown nails can cause discomfort and affect their gait. Ideally, trim their nails every 3 to 4 weeks using a pair of dog nail clippers or a grinder. If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails yourself, a groomer or veterinarian can assist you.

Ear Care

Finally, don’t forget to check and clean your Maltese’s ears regularly. Use a soft, damp cloth or a cotton ball with a dog-specific ear-cleaning solution to gently wipe the outer part of the ear, avoiding the ear canal. Keep an eye out for signs of infection or irritation, such as redness, swelling, or a foul odor, and consult your veterinarian if you notice any issues.

maltese dog getting groomed
Photo: Group4 Studio/Getty Images Signature

Exercise

While the Maltese may be small in size, they still require regular exercise to maintain their physical health and mental well-being. These dogs have a moderate energy level, which means they do not need as much exercise as larger or more active breeds. However, it’s essential to provide them with appropriate physical activity to keep them fit, happy, and engaged.

Exercise Amount & Types

Daily walks are an excellent form of exercise for the Maltese. Aim for two or three walks per day, each lasting around 15 to 20 minutes. This will not only help keep them physically fit but also provide mental stimulation as they explore new sights, sounds, and smells in their environment. Additionally, walking your Maltese on a leash helps reinforce proper manners and obedience.

Aside from walks, engaging in play sessions with your Maltese is a great way to bond and provide them with physical activity. They enjoy playing with toys, such as balls or squeaky toys, and will happily chase after them during a game of fetch. Interactive puzzles or treat-dispensing toys can also help keep them mentally stimulated and entertained.

Dog Sports

Malteses can also excel in various dog sports and competitions, such as agility, obedience, rally, and even canine freestyle (dog dancing). Participating in these activities not only provides physical exercise but also challenges their minds and reinforces the bond between you and your dog.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Maltese, it’s essential to consider factors such as weather conditions and their overall health. In hot climates, avoid exercising during the hottest parts of the day, opting instead for early mornings or evenings when temperatures are cooler. In cold weather, provide them with warm clothing or limit their time outdoors to prevent discomfort.

Always monitor your Maltese for signs of exhaustion or overheating during exercise, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy. If you notice any of these signs, stop the activity and allow them to rest and cool down.

maltese dog running on green grass
Photo: DavidClarine/Getty Images

Training

Training a Maltese can be a rewarding experience, as they are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please their owners. These traits make them relatively easy to train compared to some other breeds. However, it’s essential to approach training with patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement to achieve the best results.

The Maltese is highly responsive to reward-based training methods, which involve using praise, treats, and affection to encourage desired behaviors. This positive approach not only helps build your dog’s confidence but also strengthens the bond between you and your pet.

It’s important to avoid harsh training techniques, as these can lead to fear or anxiety in your Maltese, hindering their progress and potentially causing behavioral issues.

Start training your Maltese from a young age, as early socialization and exposure to various people, environments, and situations will help develop a well-rounded and confident dog. Enrolling in a puppy socialization class can be an excellent way to kick-start their training journey while providing a structured and supportive environment.

Consistency is key when training a Maltese. Establish clear rules and boundaries, ensuring that all family members are on the same page to prevent confusion for your dog. Keep training sessions short and engaging, as this will help maintain your Maltese’s interest and focus.

Despite their intelligence, the Maltese can sometimes display a stubborn streak. If you encounter resistance during training, try changing tactics or introducing new rewards to rekindle their interest and motivation. Patience and persistence are crucial in overcoming any challenges you may face during training.

Some common commands to teach your Maltese include “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” These basic commands provide a strong foundation for more advanced training and can enhance your dog’s safety and overall behavior.

maltese dog getting groomed
Photo: rovsky

Diet & Nutrition 

What to Feed & How Much

When choosing the right food for your Maltese, it’s essential to look for high-quality options that follow the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the food meets the necessary nutritional requirements for your dog’s specific life stage.

There are various types of dog food available, including dry kibble, wet food, and raw food. Each type has its benefits, and the best choice for your Maltese will depend on their individual preferences, dietary needs, and your lifestyle.

Regardless of the type of food you choose, it’s crucial to select a product formulated explicitly for small breeds, as these formulations consider the unique nutritional requirements of smaller dogs.

The amount of food your Maltese needs will depend on factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and metabolism. Generally, adult Maltese dogs require around 1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality dry food per day, divided into two meals.

Puppies, on the other hand, may need to be fed more frequently, with three to four small meals per day. It’s essential to consult your veterinarian for personalized feeding recommendations based on your dog’s specific needs.

Treats

Treats can be an excellent tool for training and bonding; however, they should be given in moderation, as excessive treats can lead to obesity and other health issues. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats specifically designed for small dogs, and always consider the treats as part of your Maltese’s daily caloric intake.

Water

Fresh water should always be available to your Maltese, providing them with a clean and easily accessible source throughout the day. Proper hydration is vital for their overall health, so it’s important to monitor their water intake and ensure they’re drinking enough, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

two maltese dogs at the park
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Health

The Maltese is generally considered a healthy and robust breed, with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. However, like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. Being aware of these potential risks and providing your Maltese with regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, and appropriate exercise can help maintain their overall health and well-being.

Here are common health issues associated with the Maltese breed:

Patellar Luxation: This condition occurs when the kneecap (patella) slips out of its normal position, causing discomfort and potentially affecting the dog’s mobility. While mild cases may not require treatment, severe cases might need surgical intervention. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can help monitor and manage this condition.

Dental Issues: The Maltese breed is prone to dental problems such as plaque buildup, gum disease, and tooth loss due to their small mouths and crowded teeth. Regular dental care, including daily tooth brushing and providing dental chews, can help prevent these issues and maintain good oral health.

Portosystemic Shunt (PSS): PSS is a congenital abnormality in which the blood flow bypasses the liver, leading to a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream. Symptoms can include poor growth, vomiting, and neurological issues. Early diagnosis and treatment, often involving surgery, are crucial in managing this condition.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye disorder that causes the gradual degeneration of the retina, eventually leading to blindness. There is no cure for PRA; however, regular eye exams can help detect the condition early and allow you to make necessary adjustments to accommodate your dog’s changing vision.

Collapsed Trachea: This condition occurs when the rings of cartilage that form the trachea (windpipe) weaken and collapse, causing respiratory issues such as coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. Treatment for a collapsed trachea can range from medication to manage symptoms to surgery in more severe cases.

In addition to these breed-specific health concerns, it’s essential to keep up with regular vaccinations, flea and tick prevention, and routine veterinary check-ups to ensure your Maltese remains in good health.

Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in managing and treating any health issues that may arise during your Maltese’s lifetime. By providing proper care and attention to their health, you can help your Maltese companion enjoy a long, happy, and healthy life.

maltese dog at a park
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History

The Maltese boasts a long and fascinating history that dates back over 2,000 years. This ancient breed is believed to have originated on the island of Malta, which is located in the Mediterranean Sea. The island was a strategic trading hub in antiquity, and it’s thought that the breed’s ancestors were brought there by Phoenician traders.

Throughout its history, the Maltese has been known by various names, such as the “Maltese Lion Dog,” the “Melitaie Dog,” and the “Roman Ladies’ Dog.” The breed has been highly prized throughout history, particularly among the aristocracy and nobility of various cultures.

Ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations all held the Maltese in high regard, with various records and artifacts depicting the breed’s presence in these societies. The philosopher Aristotle even mentioned the Maltese in one of his writings, referring to them as “perfectly proportioned” despite their small size.

During the Roman Empire, the Maltese became especially popular among noblewomen, who often kept them as lapdogs and companions. The breed’s popularity continued throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, where they were favored by European royalty and frequently featured in artwork, literature, and poetry.

In the 19th century, the Maltese became increasingly popular in England, where they were exhibited in the first British dog shows. During this time, breeders began to develop a more standardized appearance for the Maltese, focusing on its distinctive long, silky coat and petite size.

The Maltese was first introduced to the United States in the late 1800s, and its popularity quickly grew. The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1888, making it one of the earliest breeds to be registered with the organization. Today, Maltese is ranked the 38th most popular dog breed in the United States according to AKC registration statistics.

In popular culture, the Maltese has made numerous appearances in film, television, and literature. Their adorable appearance and charming personality have made them a favorite choice for various roles.

Some notable examples include the character “Verdell” in the film “As Good as It Gets,” starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, and “Marilyn” from the TV series “Mad About You.” Additionally, the breed has been owned and adored by many famous individuals throughout history, such as Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and iconic artist Pablo Picasso.

The Maltese’s enduring popularity can be attributed to its elegant appearance, affectionate nature, and adaptability to various lifestyles. These small dogs make excellent companions for individuals and families alike, particularly those living in apartments or urban environments.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Maltese breed in the United States is the American Maltese Association (AMA). Founded in 1958, the AMA is dedicated to promoting and preserving the Maltese breed’s health, welfare, and standard.

The association works closely with breeders, owners, and enthusiasts to provide education, support, and resources related to the Maltese breed. You can visit their website for more information about the American Maltese Association.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Maltese’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

three maltese dogs on a wooden bench
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Acquiring

If you decide to buy, ensure you choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and temperament of their puppies. Alternatively, consider rescuing a Maltese in need of a loving home. The American Kennel Club and the American Maltese Association can assist with this noble endeavor.

Prepare your home with essentials like nutritious food, comfortable bedding, toys for stimulation, and grooming tools to maintain their beautiful coat. Remember, Maltese dogs love companionship, so your time and affection are the most important things you can offer.

Whether you choose to buy or rescue, welcoming a Maltese into your life promises to be an enriching experience filled with love and joy.

FAQs

Why are Maltese expensive?

Maltese can be expensive due to factors such as breeding costs, the size of the litter, and their popularity. Breeding purebred Maltese dogs involves significant investment in quality healthcare, food, and proper living conditions for both the parents and the puppies. Moreover, Maltese litters are generally small, which can contribute to higher prices.

Are Maltese good pets to own?

Yes, Maltese make excellent companions due to their affectionate nature, intelligence, and adaptability. They are well-suited for individuals and families alike, particularly those living in apartments or urban environments. Their small size, low exercise requirements, and minimal shedding make them an attractive choice for many dog owners.

Why are Maltese so popular?

Maltese are popular for their elegant appearance, charming personality, and adaptability to various lifestyles. They have been valued as companions by various civilizations throughout history, and their popularity has continued to grow in modern times. Their small size, hypoallergenic coat, and friendly nature make them a favorite among dog lovers.

Are Maltese calm?

Maltese are generally calm and gentle, though they can be energetic and playful as well. Their temperament largely depends on their individual personality, upbringing, and environment. Proper socialization, training, and regular exercise can help ensure that your Maltese remains well-behaved and content.

Do Maltese get along with other pets?

Maltese typically get along well with other pets, particularly when properly socialized from a young age. They can coexist harmoniously with other dogs, cats, and even smaller animals like rabbits or birds. However, it is essential to supervise interactions between pets, especially during the initial introduction period.

How often do Maltese need grooming?

Maltese require regular grooming to maintain their long, silky coats and prevent matting. Daily brushing is recommended, along with regular baths (every 3-4 weeks) to keep their coat clean and healthy. Professional grooming may be necessary every few months to maintain their appearance and trim the hair around their eyes, ears, and paws.

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