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Maltese

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Toy group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height – 7 to 9 inches
  • Weight – 4 to 7 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Long and silky
  • Coat color – The standard color is white, often with black points around eye rims, paw pads, nose, and lips. They may also be non-standard colors, including white and lemon or white and tan. 
  • Exercise needs – Moderate
  • Intelligence – High intelligence 
  • Barking – Frequent
  • Life span – 12 to 15 years
  • Temperament – Playful, energetic, loving, and kind
  • Hypoallergenic – Yes. While no breed is 100% hypoallergenic, some are better than others for allergy sufferers. 
  • Origin – Island of Malta

Maltese fun facts

  • Agile, talented, and trainable, Maltese are mini athletes. They enjoy and often excel at competitive sports like agility and obedience.
  • A breed with many names: Maltese lion dog, Maltese terrier, Melitaie dog, Roman ladies’ dog, shock dog, and the Spaniel gentle
  • They’re good watchdogs. If Maltese become overprotective, they may bark at and even bite someone they think is dangerous.
Maltese fun facts

Maltese temperament and characteristics

These dogs are happiest in your lap or by your side. Maltese are energetic and playful but don’t need constant exercise to keep them happy. Running around with the kids outside, playing with their favorite toys, or walking around the block is usually enough to keep this breed fit. And due to their calm and loving nature, they often do well with other, similarly-sized pets.

Maltese are generally quite friendly, but they can be very protective. They will likely bark when someone is at the door, but with proper puppy training and socialization, this breed often does well with strangers and is an excellent choice for first-time dog owners who have the time to devote to them. Maltese are prone to separation anxiety and may bark or chew when left alone.

Common Maltese health problems

Maltese are generally healthy and often live well past the age of 10. However, like any breed, they’re prone to certain health conditions of which you should be aware.

  • Heart disease. Heart failure is a common cause of death for older Maltese. Regular vet checkups, proper dental care, and weight control go a long way in preventing heart issues later in life.
  • Dental disease. Maltese are especially prone to health concerns involving teeth. It starts with tartar buildup and eventually becomes an infection in the gums and roots of the teeth. Regular tooth-brushing is extra important to keep those pearly whites clean!
  • Hydrocephalus. Also known as water on the brain , this occurs when fluid builds up inside the skull and puts pressure on the brain. Signs include seizures, difficulty training, circling, or a spastic gait. The condition is manageable with medication, but if you notice any unusual symptoms, contact your vet. 
  • Mats and hot spots. Because this breed has such long fur, they need a lot of brushing and skin care. Mats and tangles can lead to skin infections and painful lesions called hot spots. Brush your pet at least every two to three days, and keep an eye out for any sores on their skin. 
  • Patellar luxation. Maltese and many other toy dogs experience an often inherited congenital condition called a luxating patella , where the kneecap slips side to side, becoming dislocated.

Costs of caring for a Maltese

The Maltese is one of the oldest toy dog breeds and has been beloved by royals for centuries. Being a dog of royalty comes with a high price tag. A Maltese puppy can cost anywhere from $600 to $4,000 from a reputable breeder. Conformation quality puppies destined for the show ring can cost as much as $10,000 and up! And this is just an initial cost. Every year has expenses such as food, a bed, toys, vaccinations, vet checkups, and grooming. Many Maltese owners spend $1,500 to $3,000 for the first year and $1,200 on average for each year after.

Pet insurance is a great way to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Sign your pet up early to reap the most benefits. A pet savings account is also a great option to help you prepare for anything your pup may need.

History of the Maltese

While exact origins remain unclear, the Maltese may have hailed from the island nation of Malta, south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. The island was a meeting place for pilgrims, mariners, and wealthy merchants. It was a clearinghouse for precious items like spices, silks, gemstones, and later, small, white lap dogs (eventually) known as Maltese.

The Greeks, Romans, and countless others were fascinated by the Maltese’s beauty. Its image was displayed on ceramics, paintings, and other works of art. These prestigious pups even became a fashion statement. Roman women weren’t fully dressed without a “Roman ladies’ dog” by their sides.

After the fall of Rome, breeders in China kept the Maltese from extinction during Europe’s Dark Ages. The Chinese crossed the Maltese with their native toy breeds and exported the more “refined” Maltese to Europe. With its charm, good looks, and adorable expression, the Maltese was a crown jewel of dog shows from the beginning. At the first Westminster Kennel Club show in 1877, the breed entered as the Maltese Lion Dog.

Maltese history

Caring for your Maltese

Bringing a new member into the family is no easy task. From your first trip to the vet to puppy-proofing your home and preparing for teething, we can help you through it. Here are the basics of caring for Maltese to get you started. 

Exercise 

Maltese love to play and are full of energy but only need occasional exercise to keep them healthy. Daily walks with their owner or playing with their favorite toys is often enough to keep this breed entertained. They do well in various living spaces as long as they get play time and attention from the people they love. However, these high-energy dogs are prone to separation anxiety and may bark or chew on your favorite shoes when left alone.

Maltese exercise

Grooming 

Maltese are famous for their stunning, floor-length white coats. But to keep their flowing manes clean and tangle-free, they’ll need to be brushed at least every two to three days, if not daily. These dogs also need regular baths and coat conditioning to keep their fur shiny and smooth and tear stain treatments to prevent fur discoloration. Other than these few extra steps to keep your pup in tip-top shape, regular maintenance like brushing their teeth, cleaning their ears, and trimming their nails are all these pups need.

Diet and nutrition 

A high-quality dog food appropriate for your dog’s age is what these pups need to stay healthy. However, because the breed is so small, it’s prone to obesity. Watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level, especially when it comes to treats. Always check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.

Training your Maltese

Over centuries of being a human’s best friend, the clever Maltese learned exactly how to get what it wants. These dogs may be adorable, but stay consistent with their training. While they often learn new things quickly, they can be stubborn and determined. Positive training methods like praise and treats often work best with this breed, and they even do well in dog sports like obedience or agility.

Training maltese

Breeds similar to the Maltese

Not quite sure that a Maltese is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Shih Tzu. The name means little lion, but this breed is affectionate, loyal, and gentle, making it a perfect small dog for families.
  2. Pomeranian. These pups have fluffy coats and bubbly personalities. Pomeranians are known for being incredibly smart, playful, and great with kids. 
  3. Bichon frisé. Quirky, entertaining, and curious, these dogs look like children’s toys (although they don’t like to be treated like one). They love to snuggle, play, and do well with kids who treat them with respect.

Frequently asked questions

What are the pros and cons of a Maltese?

Maltese are some of the sweetest, most loving pups you could have. But they often struggle with separation anxiety, excessive barking, and sometimes potty training

Is Maltese a good family dog?

Maltese are often great with younger children, but like any dog, they may snap or lash out when their fur is pulled, or little fingers go where they aren’t supposed to. As long as they’re treated with respect, a Maltese is one of the most loyal and loving family dogs you could have. 

Do Maltese bark a lot?

Maltese have a bad reputation for being excessive barkers. More often than not, this comes from their separation anxiety — trying to convince you to come back home and cuddle. 

What were Maltese dogs initially bred to do?

On the island of Malta, these dogs were bred to be companions and comforters, later becoming a fashion statement for Roman women.