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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Breeds > Maltese


Origin: Malta

AKC Group: Toy

Height: 8 inches (Male)

Weight: 4 - 7 pounds (Male)

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Male height: 
8 inches
Male weight: 
4 - 7 pounds
Strait and silky. Tail curls over back; ears hang down.
Solid white, fawn or lemon marks on ears are allowed. Eyes are dark and nose is black.
Special considerations: 
The Maltese is a popular breed that has been exploited, so be careful and buy only from a reputable breeder. There is a "teacup" Maltese; avoid this variety. Teacups are often sick and nasty.

Dogs who fit the description of the Maltese have been known since very early times. The island of Malta, off the southern coast of Italy, was colonized by the Phoenicians about 1000 B.C.E. These small white dogs could have been brought to the area by the Phoenicians and/or spread elsewhere by them as they sailed and traded around the known world. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus described a dog of this type as belonging to the "Melita" breed, an archaic name for the island of Malta. The Maltese dogs were entirely bred as companions and "comforters," and they were especially favored by the ladies who often carried them in their sleeves or held them in their laps when in their carriages "taking air." But they won the hearts of more than the women; the Roman governor of Malta in the 1st century C.E. so adored his Maltese that he requested a portrait painted and poems written about her. The Maltese maintained his status as a companion dog through the centuries. English writers described these small white dogs in the 1500s, and portraits of them appear in the 1700s and 1800s. Maltese were among the first breeds exhibited at early dog shows in the 1860s in the United Kingdom. The breed remained relatively rare in the United States up until the 1950s, when fanciers began to take note of this delightful dog. By the 1970s, Maltese achieved a level of popularity that continues today.

The Maltese is a small dog with a personality! Spirited, intensely affectionate, loyal, mischievous, adorable -- Maltese owners will never be bored or lonely with this breed in the family. They are playful dogs who thrive on positive interactions. Gentle and fearless, they combine the qualities of a lapdog with those of a watchdog. They are sweet, good-natured and sensitive, and they need plenty of human contact to thrive.
At home: 
The Maltese is first and foremost a companion and therefore needs to be with his family. They do not do well left alone for long periods. They make excellent apartment dogs and can also adjust to more rural living as long as they are supervised outside. The Maltese is a natural watchdog, alert to anything suspicious, but he is not prone to excessive barking. His human-like hair does not shed as much as other breeds, which is a bonus for allergy sufferers.
The Maltese is a fun little dog who is perfectly able and willing to walk along with you wherever you go. He enjoys his daily walks -- occasions where he can explore, sniff, meet and greet and exercise. He will gladly play catch or fetch with small toys, inside or out.
Traditionally, Maltese were extremely pampered pets, and this attitude often carries over to the food bowl, where it can be challenging to satisfy the breed with commercial dog food. Feed small amounts of a high-quality food that's age appropriate, and if you must, supplement with very small amounts of things that are good for him, like steamed brown rice or thoroughly cooked lean meats.
Maltese are long lived, and to enjoy them to the fullest, they should be trained and not overly spoiled. Because the Maltese thrives on human interaction, training this intelligent breed to learn the basics is not too difficult, especially if positive, reward-based training methods are used. He can be taught tricks and delights in the response he gets from performing them. One aspect of training that can prove difficult is housetraining -- patience and persistence are the keys to success.
Maltese are happy to cavort with people of all ages and are wonderful companions for children who will not be too rough with them. They love company and do well with other pets, including cats and other dogs.
The average life span of the Maltese is 15 or more years. Health problems of the breed include allergies, collapsing trachea, liver shunts, patellar luxation, sensitivity to temperature extremes, tearing around the eyes and white shaker dog syndrome (WSDS).
Fun fact: 

The plural of Maltese is Maltese, not Malteses.

Grooming blurb: 
Maltese who are show dogs have full, flowing coats that are sparkling white and clean. Keeping up this long coat can be difficult because the silky hair tangles easily if not brushed and combed frequently, and like human hair, can develop broken and split ends. Many pet owners choose to keep the Maltese in a "puppy clip," a style in which the hair is clipped short. This shorter cut still requires combing and brushing but less frequently. Special attention should be paid to the Maltese's face because tearing and staining can occur around his eyes.
This document has been published with the intent to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter within. While every reasonable precaution has been taken in preparation of this document, the author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any errors, omissions, or adverse effects arising from the use or application of the information contained herein. The techniques and suggestions are used at the reader' discreation.