Happy Maltese Running in the Grass

Maltese Dog Breed

Other names:
Maltese Lion Dog
Maltese Terrier
Melitae Dog
Roman Ladies Dog
Spaniel Gentle
The Comforter
Ye Ancient Dogge Of Malta

The maltese is a popular toy dog breed known for their elegant looks and their long silky white hair. The breed is a companion breed and desire to be with their owners as much as possible. Their small size makes them great apartment dogs, but it can also makes the maltese a fragile dog.

Maltese are prone to being spoiled and can develop unfavorable temperaments towards other dogs and children if they are overly pampered by their owners. As a companion dog they can develop separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time.

Maltese Breed Details

Below are the characteristics and traits of the maltese dog breed.

12 - 15 yrs.
8 - 10 in.
4 - 9 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Maltese Breed Description

The maltese is one of the smallest toy dog breeds. This combined with the popularity of even smaller versions of toy dogs has made the maltese sought after since they rarely get to 7 pounds and are 8-10 inches tall. Their small size makes them an ideal companion dog for owners who enjoy taking their dog with them with hassle. The only drawback to the breeds size is their fragility as they can easily get injured by rough play whether its from other pets or people.

The maltese is intelligent and has a happy personality. Well rounded maltese are friendly and warmly greet strangers and other pets, however they can be timid towards other dogs and children (especially if the maltese has been spoiled by their owner).

The breed is well known for their long silky coat, which, if cut properly, gives the illusion that the dog is floating across the room rather than walking. The maltese lacks an undercoat so they shed very little and are considered a hypoallergenic dog. However, since the coat is white it can easily get stained and it can tangle easily so the maltese requires frequent grooming.

Maltese Breed History

The history of the Maltese dog dates back thousands of years. Believed to be one of the oldest of all toy breeds, Maltese history starts with the ancient Egyptians; artifacts depicting Maltese-like dogs suggest the little animals were prized by that culture. The Maltese history timeline continues with the Greeks and Romans, who held the Maltese in high regard as well. These early cultures even inspired one of the Maltese's nicknames: people believed the Maltese had healing powers, and these dogs would be put on the pillows of the ill or infirm to cure their sickness. Ever since, the breed has been has known as "The Comforter."

Healing powers or no, exact Maltese origin has been long debated. While a majority of historians believe the origin of Maltese dogs is the island of Malta, an archipelago off the southern coast of Italy--hence the breed name--others maintain that Maltese dogs' origin is actually the Italian mainland. Still others say true Maltese dog origin begins in Asia, where the breed is an ancestor to other toy breeds from that continent. All this to say that the the answer to "Where are Maltese from?" might have numerous answers!

Whatever the case, the Maltese grew in popularity through the centuries. During the expansion of modern Europe, the breed became a favorite lapdog for British and French royalty, and in paintings from the era Maltese dogs were often portrayed accompanying women.

By about 1700, though, Maltese heritage almost came to an end, as breeders tried to reduce the dog's size even more; the breed was almost destroyed as a result. The Maltese was saved only through the efforts of resourceful breeders who crossed the few remaining dogs with other small breeds like the Poodle and various spaniels. The Maltese breed was saved--and this "creative breeding" actually saw the formation of other toy breeds like the Bichon Frise and the Bolognese.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Maltese was popular worldwide. Today, these toy-sized dogs and their flowing white coats are always crowd favorites at dog shows. The Maltese ranks 37th on the American Kennel Club's list of 195 recognized breeds.

Maltese Appearance

The toy-sized Maltese may only stand about eight inches high--but this dog is the very picture of elegance and grace. Its flowing, often floor-length coat provides a Maltese the illusion of "gliding" across the floor.

Exactly what does a Maltese terrier look like? The Maltese head is round, and the Maltese face is fairly flat (as is the Maltese nose); Maltese eye color can be various shades. Maltese eyes are usually brown, but a Maltese with blue eyes is possible as well. The Maltese ears are small and hanging, and are usually covered by long hair. The chest is fairly narrow, the legs are short, and Maltese paws are very small. The Maltese tail is curved, erect, and fairly short, and also has plenty of long hair.

The Maltese coat--the breed's signature feature--is long, silky, and always white.

Maltese Colors

The images below represent the coat colors and patterns associated with Maltese.

Additional Coat Colors
White and Lemon
White and Tan

Maltese Variations

Is a Maltese a toy breed? Of course. As much as any breed of dog, a Maltese fits its size description! As far as different Maltese dog breeds, though: there is only one Maltese breed of dog. And within the breed, there are no real variations in coat, size, or specific physical features.

In regards to the Maltese coat: Maltese hair is always white and long. A Maltese with long hair can, of course, get a haircut--but a long-hair Maltese is standard.

As to size: the Maltese breed standard allows weight of up to seven pounds--and the standard has no minimum. This means every Maltese is simply called a "Maltese"--no size variations exist. Of course, some breeders ignore that and advertise a huge variety of small Maltese for sale. And though the dogs may indeed be tiny, they're still called a Maltese.

Here's just a partial list of breeders' size descriptions:

  • Mini Maltese (or Maltese Mini)
  • Toy Maltese (Maltese Toy)
  • Micro Maltese (Maltese Micro)
  • Miniature Maltese (Maltese Miniature)
  • Maltese Toy Dog (Maltese Dog Toy)

Maltese Temperament

Lively, charming, bold, and often fussy, the temperament of a Maltese is one of activity and affection. The Maltese temperament makes these little dogs friendly to most everyone; the personality of a Maltese can, however, develop Small Dog Syndrome, whereby the dog becomes incredibly bossy and domineering. For this reason, early obedience training and lots of socialization is highly recommended for the temperament of Maltese dogs to be its best.

On the other hand, a Maltese dog's temperament makes the little animal pretty easy to train. The breed is intelligent, and should be able to learn tasks, tricks, and commands rather quickly. Positive, reward-based training methods are best.

The Maltese personality actually makes the breed a pretty good watchdog too. Though they're obviously too small to deal with any potential threats, Maltese personalities will make them curious and vocal around unknown sights and sounds.

Living Requirements

Having a Maltese as a pet can be complicated. These little dogs demand attention, they often bark excessively, and they can get injured easily because of their small size. They're usually loads of fun, too, though--life with Maltese as pets is never boring!

In terms of living accommodations, Maltese are fantastic apartment dogs. Your Maltese, regardless of home size, will need to live inside with its human family members.

And are Maltese hypoallergenic? Indeed they are. The breed's coat doesn't shed much at all, so Maltese dogs' hypoallergenic tendencies are high. This means the hypoallergenic Maltese is great for allergy sufferers.

Maltese Health

Below are health issues and concerns most common in Malteses

Maltese Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Maltese.

Patellar luxation
Collapsed trachea
Progressive retinal atrophy
Portosystemic shunt
Reverse sneezing
Shaker syndrome

Random Details

Some interesting facts about the breed:

  • Greek Maltese tombs: In ancient Greece, this breed was highly prized, and was thought to have healing powers. When a Maltese died, the Greek citizens would place its body in a special tomb built in the dog's honor.
  • Richest dog in history: Leona Helmsley, the revered hotelier, owned a Maltese named Trouble. After her death in 2007, it was revealed that Helmsley left a trust fund of $12 million to cover Trouble's care and comfort.
  • "Ugly Maltese Dogs" Christmas apparel: Multiple clothing lines offer comically hideous "Ugly Maltese" holiday sweaters and T-shirts, with an image of the breed on the front.
  • Maltese noses change color: For unexplained reasons, these dogs' noses lighten or darken depending whether they're in sunlight or shade.

Related Pages

About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:June 18, 2020