The Maltese is the quintessential lap dog. It is extremely lovable and playful, and enjoys nothing more than to be pampered and praised by its owner. The breed is easily distinguished by its straight and long white coat, making it appear like it has just stepped out of a doggie hair salon.
Breed Group: Companion Dogs
Height: 8 to 10 inches
Weight: Up to 7 pounds
Lifespan: 12 to 14 years
The Maltese is a toy dog breed that has a compact and square body. It is entirely covered with silky, long, flat and white hair that, if allowed to grow to full length, hangs nearly to the ground. Its expression is both alert and gentle. As a vigorous dog, the Maltese moves with a smooth, lively, and flowing gait; it may even appear as the dog is actually floating on the ground when it is trotting.
Even though the small dog is known for its unusual coat, other features like the facial expression, the body structure, and overall carriage are equally important. The Maltese is a delicate dog with round, black eyes and ears that are dropped. Its tail, meanwhile, is long and carried over the back. The Maltese coat is usually seen in pure white, though there is sometimes a light tan or lemon hue on the ears.
Personality and Temperament
Do not let the innocent appearance of this little dog fool you, it is feisty, bold, and not afraid to challenge larger dogs. Also, do not over-coddle these companion dogs, as it can actually do them more harm than good. Playful and self confident, it also makes a good watchdog, as it barks at strangers and other dogs, and is an intelligent dog.
If the Maltese is allowed to become the pack leader, it may develop behavior disorders and become anxious and stressful. This may also lead to unnecessary barking and snapping at strangers, other dogs and children. Additionally, it is not recommended a good pet for families with younger children. So love a Maltese all you want, just make sure to establish a firm and clear chain of command.
The exercise needs of the Maltese may be met with a romp in the courtyard, a short leash-led walk, or vigorous indoor games. Its coat, which may be clipped for easier maintenance, requires combing on alternate days and needs special grooming attention. The Maltese is generally considered an unsuitable outdoor dog but can fare well in either the city or the country.
The Maltese, which has a lifespan of 12 to 14 years, may suffer from deafness, shaker syndrome, and dental problems. It is also prone to minor health issues like patellar luxation, hydrocephalus, open fontanel, hypoglycemia, distichiasis, entropion, hypothyroidism, and portacaval shunt. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run knee, eye, and thyroid exams on this breed of dog.
History and Background
Reputed as one of the oldest dog breeds and the most ancient European toy breed, the Maltese has a curious history. Phoenician sailors visiting the island of Malta for trading around 1500 B.C. are credited for discovering the first Maltese dogs. From the 5th century onwards, dogs resembling the Maltese were found in Greek art. There is also evidence that the Greeks erected tombs to honor the Maltese.
The Maltese was introduced to England in the early 1300s, where upper-class ladies took a fancy to them for their diminutive size. However, it was not until the 1877 Westminster Kennel Club dog shows that the first Maltese was exhibited in the United States. The American Kennel Club accepted the Maltese for registration in 1888. Since then, the Maltese has steadily grown in popularity and is one of the most coveted toy breeds today.