Maltese: Breed Info, Pictures, Traits & Facts
By Emma Braby
7 – 9 inches
Less than 7 pounds
12 – 15 years
Families with older children, the elderly, moderately active families, those seeking a friendly toy pooch, a family with slight dog allergies
Gentle, playful, charming, well-balanced personality
Maltese are an ancient dog breed who were bred to be a companion dog and to look gloriously pretty, sat on their master’s lap or poking out of their mistress’s bosom. He is part of the toy group, and in 2021 he was ranked by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as the 37th most popular dog in America.
This popular pooch has always been a big hit with families across the world and for good reason. He offers a well-balanced doggy personality who is playful, fun, and calm when he fancies an afternoon snooze. He makes a great little watchdog, but he is also sociable with friends and not overly protective compared to most other toy breeds.
So whether you are here because you want to educate yourself on this little guy, or you are researching whether the Maltese is the right dog for you, you have come to the right place. In this guide, you will learn about his personality, what you can expect from him, and what he expects from you, as well as a few quirky facts.
So, sit back, relax, and let us explain exactly why you need this little guy in your life!
Maltese Puppies – Before You Get One
Firstly, whatever you do, DO NOT fall for the Maltese teacup trap. In recent years it has become fashionable to breed dogs in tiny teacup size, named because he can fit into a teacup. This is not healthy, and no matter how cute he is, dogs who are specifically bred to be so small are usually riddled with health problems. Their parents are either the runts of their litters or they suffered from a growth abnormality, and so, their teacup puppies are usually very sick. Reputable breeders do not sell teacup breeds, and if you find a teacup pooch, walk away immediately. They are not rare; they are not exotic; they are an unwell and unhealthy dog.
Healthy Maltese dogs are still very tiny, so you need to be aware of this when he is around you because he can be a trip hazard for sure. Your yard needs to be secured because he could easily wriggle out from under the fence following his curious nose. Though he is small, he is merry and bold, and always up for an exciting adventure or game of fetch. He is not a typical toy dog in that he will not want to sit around all day, so expect a little bit of canine fun from him.
When he has finished adventuring, he will happily curl up on your lap for a stroke and a cuddle. He is small enough to fit on your lap, so whether you are working from home or Netflix and chilling, he will probably want to join in the fun. He is elegant, graceful, and expects your utmost attention.
The Maltese is a great option for those dog lovers who have slight dog allergies because he is listed as a hypoallergenic dog by the AKC. A hypoallergenic dog’s coat hardly sheds and therefore does not trigger allergies anywhere near as much as most other dogs. Bear in mind that no dog is 100% allergenic, meaning if you have serious doggy allergies, do not count on the Maltese pup to solve all your problems. But dogs on this list are very appealing to families with slight dog allergies.
This is not to say that he has an easy grooming schedule, in fact, the complete opposite is true. His long and silky hair falls to the floor and collects dirt like a little mop. It also tangles easily, and to keep it dirt- and matt-free, you will need to groom it daily. Possibly even more, if your Maltese is a show dog. His grooming schedule is high maintenance, and you must have the time and patience to keep this boy looking his best.
- Consider: Best Puppy for Maltese Puppies
3 Little-Known Facts About the Maltese
1. They date back to 3500 B.C.
The Maltese is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Although it is thought that they originate from Malta, which is why they are called the Maltese, there is also a theory that they are from Italy, Turkey, or Syria. Their origins are not certain, but royalty and emperors alike gave them as gifts, meaning they quickly travel ed the world.
2. The Egyptians believed that the Maltese had mystical powers.
Although this is probably not true (but weirder things have happened) the Egyptians built tombs for their Malteses because it was believed that they had mystical healing powers.
3. Trouble was the richest Maltese in history.
In 2012 a famous celebrity called Leona Hemsley died and left her Maltese dog, called Trouble, $12 million in her will. Despite the judge whittling this final amount down to only $2 million, Trouble lived the rest of her days care, and trouble, free.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Maltese 🧠
The Maltese has fascinated people around the world for millennia. The Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all worshipped the Maltese for his powers and charms, and we are still to this day in love with this pooch. He is a well-balanced dog who offers a little bit of every adored canine trait, and this is possibly why we adore him so much.
He is devoted to his owners and would happily spend 24/7 with them. You are in for a lot of cuddles and doggy kisses with the Maltese around. If you are ever feeling down or need a hot water bottle, he will be the first to sign up for the job. His round puppy dog eyes and cheeky little smile will melt your heart every time, and it will be very hard to resist him. There is a reason why he is thought of as the oldest lapdog in the world – because he is so good at it.
When he has had his cuddle fix, you’ll probably find him running around the yard, looking for a game to play, or finding something to sniff. He is an adventurous lil’ pooch who is happy to adventure out, but he is probably not brave enough to trail off by himself. He is a curious pooch, but only happy to adventure knowing that you are by his side.
The Maltese is an intelligent dog. He is not as stubborn or as independent as most small dogs, which makes him one of the most trainable dogs in the toy group. This does not mean that he will be 100% obedient, and if this is a trait that you are looking for in a dog, you should consider another breed. Thankfully, he is happy to participate in the majority of your training sessions, and with a treat in-hand, you’ll probably persuade him every time.
- Related Read: Maltese vs. Maltipoo: What’s the Difference?
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡
The Maltese is a versatile dog who is suited to most families. However, like all toy breeds, we would suggest that the Maltese is only housed with families who have older children. His small size combined with overzealous children often leads to accidents. Dropping the Maltese from height or squeezing him too hard will result in broken bones, internal injuries, and an expensive trip to the Veterinarian. Older and wiser children only, please!
The Maltese is happy in apartments, large homes, or anything in between. This versatile dog is content just as long as he can spend a lot of time with his family.
Although the Maltese will bark at strangers, he does not do it excessively. Unlike most other toy dogs, he makes an okay watchdog and not a great one, and you’ll more likely find him chilling in the kennel outside, watching strangers approach the house. This is great if you live somewhere with noise restrictions, but if you are seeking a talkative or yappy toy dog, the Maltese is not the best dog for the job.
Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽
A well-socialized Maltese is a pleasant and polite pooch who does well in a multi-dog household. Just as long as he gets his fair share of attention, he is happy with whatever the family dynamics happen to be. He also gets along well with other animals and rarely has a problem with cats. The Maltese makes a great family addition for those that love animals and always have pets around. He is an adaptable dog who is happy to slot himself into the mix.
Things to Know When Owning a Maltese:
Inviting a Maltese pup or older Maltese rescue into your home is exciting, but it is also a serious decision to make. Although the Maltese is a relatively easy dog to care for compared to many others, there are a few things that you need to know about him.
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
Being a toy dog, he has certain nutritional needs that need to be met. Firstly, he needs to be fed more often than the average dog. Smaller dogs are at a heightened risk of suffering from Hyperglycemia and feeding little and often helps to stabilize his blood sugar levels.
Secondly, you will need to feed him a kibble that is specifically designed for toy and small breed puppies, adults, or seniors. They have the optimum nutrients for small breed dogs, as well as being much smaller in size so that he can eat the kibble pieces much easier.
Malteses are known to be fussy when it comes to mealtime. You can try adding a little warm water or chicken broth to his dried kibble to release the aroma or add wet food to the mix. Give him time to get used to his new foods, and do not switch it to fatty human food; otherwise, you risk that he will become overweight and very spoiled.
- Consider: Best Food for Malteses
Although the Maltese likes the comfort of his master’s lap, he also loves a good romp around in the yard. Play lots of games with him and you will have a friend for life. Chew toys and treat-filled puzzles are also a great mental stimulator and will keep him sane for those times when there is no one to play but he needs to let some doggy-steam off.
He would also appreciate a few walks a day, totaling to around 30 minutes outside of his home, for a change of scenery and to meet new canine buddies. It is important to walk any dog no matter how sedentary they are because walking is the best form of mental and physical stimulation for him.
The Maltese does not like to get his silky locks or paws wet, and no matter how much he protests, he needs to be walked, come rain or shine. He is very much a pampered pooch in this respect. There are plenty of great doggy raincoats available, just make sure it is his favorite color!
The Maltese is known to suffer with a condition called a collapsing trachea. For this reason, it is advised that you invest in a sturdy and comfortable harness to attach his leash, too, rather than to his collar. Although he does not pull that much, it is better to be safe than sorry.
The Maltese is a happy-go-lucky pooch who responds best to positive reinforcement training. Although a firm no is needed every now and then, shouting or scolding him will upset the Maltese and make him nervous around you. So, treats, a high squeaky voice, belly rubs, and a ball as a reward is your best bet to train the Maltese. He is a people pleaser so make sure he knows that he is a good boy.
He loves his humans so much that he does not like to be left alone for long periods. It is advised to crate-train any dog who is likely to suffer from separation anxiety, and this is true of the Maltese.
Socialization is important if you want to transform your Maltese pup into the polite Maltese adult that everyone knows and loves. Exposing him to a variety of animals, humans, noises, and experiences will build his confidence, and ensure that he will not be afraid of anything in the future.
Because the Maltese needs daily grooming, it would be wise to familiarize him with this routine as early as possible so that he doesn’t try to avoid it when he is older. Although he is not strong, he can easily wriggle out of yours or his groomer’s hands should he not like being groomed.
The Maltese has a long coat that falls to the floor. His hair is known to grow quite quickly, and you will have to trim it regularly to stop him from tripping over himself. Either invest in a good set of doggy clippers or find yourself a local groomer that you can trust.
A long coat will need daily brushing to remove the dirt and dust that he sweeps up along the way, as well as preventing matting which can be very painful for pups if left too long. If you opt for a shorter teddy cut his hair will need brushing 2 to 3 times a week. Discuss your needs with your groomer, but if he is a show Maltese he will need the full-length coat.
His nails will need clipping regularly because he does not need a great deal of exercise. His nails are often black which can make the clipping process difficult if you are not practiced. If you do not want to clip his nails yourself your groomer can also do this or show you how to.
His small and compact mouth will need brushing at least twice a week with a specially designed doggy toothpaste. His crowded teeth will be a haven for plaque and bacteria, and to prevent periodontal diseases he will need his teeth brushed regularly from a very early age.
Recommended: Best Clippers for Maltese Dogs
Health and Conditions ❤️
The Maltese is a relatively healthy dog breed who enjoys a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. There are a few health concerns that the Maltese breed is prone to, so be sure to research his known conditions and make yourself aware of the symptoms.
- Periodontal diseases
- Luxating patella
- Collapsing trachea
- Shaker syndrome
Male vs Female
Male and female Malteses are not greatly different from one another. The male Malteses are often bigger than the females, but only relatively so.
If you do not wish to spay the female Maltese you should consider her heat phases. You will need to separate her from the other dogs in the house and walk her separately. Typical dog-walking times will also be difficult because all the local males’ will come over to say hello, and so you will probably need to walk her extra early or late. Unless of course, you are planning to breed her then this does not apply.
The Maltese is a proud purebred dog who has been loved for thousands of years, and by now you should understand exactly why he is so popular and adored. He is an adorable toy dog without the intense diva attitude, most of the time.
Not only is he a caring and loving pooch, but he is also calm when you need him to be and playful when you want more energy in your life. He is versatile and adaptable, the only thing you need to consider is his intense grooming regime and that he should not be placed with young children.
Overall, this delightful doggy is a pleasure to have around, and would be content with most families, and equally most families would be happy to have his company.
Featured Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock