The Maltese dog breed (pronounced Mall-teez) is a lively, intelligent and playful breed. It is not as common in the UK as other long haired breeds, such as the shih tzu or the llasa apso, but nonetheless, has grown in popularity since its first introduction to the UK.
It is said that nobody ever ‘owns’ a Maltese, but rather this regal little dog owns the owner. Its pure white coat, when grown to its fullest, adds to its glamorous appearance but even when cut short this little dog retains its regality.
When purchasing a Maltese, it is not uncommon to see breeder’s advertisements stating ‘tiny’ or ‘toy Maltese’, ‘miniature Maltese’ or other such names that may imply a smaller and cuter Maltese but these should be ignored. Like any other breed, there are smaller and larger forms of the breed but they are no different to any other Maltese in any way.
Height: 8 – 10 inches
Weight: 6.5 – 9 lbs (3-4 kg)
Average Litter Size: Around 3 – 5 puppies
Life Expectancy: 11 – 14 years, has been known to live as long as 18 years
Good with Children: Yes if handled with care (see below)
Kennel Club Classification: Toy Group
Colour of a Maltese:
The colour of a Maltese should be pure white, although slightly lemon or ivory markings are often seen.
Grooming a Maltese:
The grooming of a Maltese can be quite considerable and if allowed, the coat of a Maltese will grow to the floor with a centre parting. Daily grooming is essential for this breed if the coat is to be kept long. Like other long-haired breeds, this is the sort of image people will associate with the breed having seen them depicted on Maltese memorabilia like this. If you intend to show your Maltese, then it is essential to let the coat grow and to keep them immaculate.
However, many Maltese owners prefer to have their Maltese cut on a regular basis, usually every 6-8 weeks, as this allows for more play and easier maintenance of the breed. The coat should be silky, soft and straight, rather than woolly.
The long hair growing over the ears means that the hair in the ear canal needs checking regularly and kept dry and clean.
Like other dog breeds, the Maltese has weeping eyes that can stain the face area and look rather unkempt especially because of the pure white fur. Wipe the eyes regularly with special wipes or eye lotion to avoid this.
Maltese Common Ailments/Health issues:
The Maltese is a hardy breed and if looked after, will give years of healthy and relatively problem-free companionship.
As with some other white fur breeds, it seems the Maltese can be prone to skin problems and may need medicated shampoo to keep this at bay. If the coat is allowed to grow long, then sun burn is common along the centre parting on the back.
They can experience discomfort in hot weather and should be protected from the heat or chills, and this can result in upset digestion.
As with all puppies, make sure your Maltese is vet checked when you take him or her home.
Temperament of the Maltese:
The Maltese is generally a good natured dog with a friendly temperament. It is important, as with all small breeds, that they do not develop the ‘small dog syndrome’ and become used to excessive barking, guarding or separation anxiety. This are problems brought on by owners, although small dogs do seem to be more prone to this sort of problem, probably because their owners are tempted to pamper to their needs because of their small and thus cute appearance.
Contrary to the opinion of some Maltese dog profiles, the Maltese can be good with children but does not appreciate rough handling, so as with all toy breeds the child must be taught to be careful with such a delicate sized dog.
Training a Maltese:
The Maltese is certainly an intelligent and lively little character and will be eager to learn and to please their owner. The regal character they so clearly possess may show itself through an apparent stubbornness if the dog does not understand what is being asked of him or her but with the right training, praise and encouragement your Maltese will soon learn what’s what.
Just because the Maltese is such a small dog does not mean they should be patronised in training; they are a sturdy and intelligent dog and respond to proper training in the same way as any other breed.
Exercise for a Maltese:
The Maltese requires only light exercise, although they have been known to enjoy long walks or playing for longer periods with children if this is how they are brought up.
The Maltese is ideal for those living in smaller homes or without a garden. They can be quite active indoors, will often play with toys by themselves if encouraged to do so as a puppy and do not require a great deal of exercise.
History of the Maltese:
To this day, there is some mystery surrounding the history and origin of the Maltese and the process that made the little dog that the Maltese is today, although some believe the dog was bred from poodles and a Spitz type dog to become a smaller version and others believe they originated in Asia and descend from the Tibetan Terrier.
Even the place of origin cannot be certain. Some claim the Maltese comes from the Isle of Malta as the name may suggest and others claim from the Sicilian town of Melita. There is some evidence to support either claim.
The Maltese has been depicted on ancient Roman and Greek works of art that dates back to 500 BC. The Roman governor Publius is said to have had a Maltese by the name of Issa and even had a portrait of her painted. Much poetry was written of Publius’ Issa.
Like with many other breeds, the Royal family is deemed to have been a great influence on the popularity of the breed in the UK. England’s Queen Victoria was said to have the Maltese as her companion. The breed was very popular and women are said to have carried them in their sleeve and let them sleep on their beds.
One story is particularly well known to those with an interest in the history of the Maltese. It is said that a pair of Maltese were purchased from the Philippines in 1841 for an extremely high price by a gentleman known only as ‘Mr Lukey’ for the purposes of presenting to the Queen. During the nine month long return voyage to England, however, the coats of the dogs were neglected and deemed unsuitable for presentation. The pair was bred and it is said that many of the Maltese now living in Britain and also the United States have these two dogs in their ancestry.