Maltese Dogs By Janice Jones |Updated 04-11-2023
Ancient Dogge of Malta,” Maltese dogs are fearless, friendly,
social-able dogs who are full of energy and always ready to interact
with his favorite human.
As breeds go, the Maltese is an ancient one
possibly dating back to the third century BC.
They may be descended from a Spitz breed or Tibetan terrier, but their
true origin is unknown.
What is known is
that they came from the Mediterranean island of Malta, although the name
Maltese is a 20th century creation.
Maltese dogs make great small pets because they are naturally cuddly and
thrive on your love and attention.
do well with children as long as children are taught how to handle these small
They are very playful, and their
energy level stays high throughout their life span. They are truly a people dog, preferring to be
near them at all times.
Maltese Dog Breed At a Glance
Dog Breed Ratings Got You a Little Confused?
Here’s a little help in understanding them
- Playfulness: Most Playful = 5 Least Playful = 1
- Affection: Most Affectionate = 5 Least Affectionate = 1
- Friendliness Towards Strangers: Most Friendly = 5 Least = 1
- Good With Children: Great= 5 Not Good with Children = 1
- Good With Dogs: Great = 5 Not Good Around Dogs = 1
- Good With First Time Owners: Fine=5 Not Appropriate = 1
- Exercise Required: Extensive Daily Exercise = 1 Minimal = 1
- Ease of Training: Very Easy = 5 Difficult = 1
- Watch Dog: Excellent Watch Dog = 5 Minimal = 1
- Grooming: Time Consuming = 5 Minimal = 1
- Shedding: Heavy Shedder = 5 Minimal = 1
- Cold Tolerance: Well Tolerated = 5 Poor Tolerance = 1
- Heat Tolerance: Well Tolerated = 5 Poor Tolerance = 1
Quick Facts About Maltese Dogs
Other Names Used:
Melitae Dog, Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta, Comforter, Spaniel Gentle, Shock
Dog, Maltese Lion Dog
AKC: Toy, UK: Companion, CKC:
Height: 7 to 9 inches (20–23 cm)
Weight: 4-7 pounds (3–4 kg)
Coat Type: Long,
silky, single coat
Colors: White with
small amount of cream or lemon around ears permissible
Country of Origin:
Good with Children:
Yes, if children are taught to respect their small size
Good with other pets:
History of Maltese Dogs
This ancient breed originated in the Mediterranean island of
Malta, an ancient trading port. They remained isolated on the island for a long
It has been identified as being a
favorite among ladies in Imperial Rome and was dubbed the “Roman Ladies Dog.”
In Greece, the first know written record of
the breed was made by Aristotle in 350 BC.
He attributed the origins of the breed to Malta, but there is some controversy
about its true origins.
that Maltese dogs were one of the original French breeds and they do appear to be
a close relative of the Bichon, Bolognese, Cotton de Tulear and Havanese.
reason for the confusion is that the dog traveled extensively throughout the
old world being used in trade as barter for things such as Chinese silk. When they
arrived in Europe, they became popular with the upper class, allegedly
including Mary, Queen of Scotts, Josephine Bonaparte, and Marie Antoinette.
Maltese was first introduced in America in the 1870’s and recognized by the
American Kennel Club in 1888.
Maltese Dogs Personality
Although the Maltese has been bred for years to be a
companion dog, he is very capable of catching rats like a terrier might, and
they retain that alert, lively, intelligent personality trait.
Even though they might be capable of ratting,
most owners don’t think of their sweet, refined dog as such. The Maltese is equally happy remaining by
your side or enjoying a brisk walk. They are an active breed but do not require
much in the way of exercise.
their needs can be met as they follow you from room to room in the home. They do enjoy a romp in the yard, but most
prefer to explore than run around.
The AKC standard describes the Maltese as
being “gentle mannered and affectionate.”
They make great watch dogs because they never seem to miss a new
While being very affectionate
with his owners, he is also an individualist and may not take to strangers at
He is quite fearless, often to
the point of wanting to protect his owners, but don’t expect him to be a true
guard dog. No small dogs can take on
Health Concerns of Maltese Dogs
The Maltese is a generally healthy dog but there are some
diseases are known to exist in the breed. Many diseases are common to all breeds. The ones below can be found in the Maltese and other small breed dogs.
problem seen in small breed
dogs involves the petalla or kneecap. It occurs when the knee cap
femur and the tibia (leg bones) do not line up properly allowing the
slip in and out of place.
Lameness or an
abnormal gait that looks a lot like a skip or hop occurs. It is
present at birth, but the actual
symptoms do not show up until later.
they slippage occurs over time, it leads to inflammation, arthritis, and
pain. Doctors grade patellar luxation from I to IV where grade I
is the occasional slippage causing
temporary lameness to grade IV where the
vet cannot manually realign the knee.
Maltese rank 117th by the OFA on breeds most affected by cardiac problems. Even with this low rank, heart problems are the number one cause of death in the breed.
Over twenty percent of Maltese deaths are from cardiac problems with mitral valve disease being the primary one.
Mitral Valve Disease
In mitral valve disease there is a backward flow of blood, or blood going in the wrong direction. The type of blood flow prevents the oxygenated blood from flowing to the cells in the body. It is the most common cause of a heart murmur.
The condition usually strikes middle age and older dogs. In the beginning, there are no obvious symptoms. As time progresses, mitral valve disease leads to congestive heart failure as the valve leaks more and more blood. As time progresses, the dog becomes less able to exercise, may develop a cough and fluid begins to pool in the lungs.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus – PDA
This is a serious and sometimes fatal defect of the heart. In the fetus, a shunt or ductus arteriosus in the heart allows blood to bypass the lungs that will not begin to work until the puppy is born.
Once the puppy is born this duct or shunt should close so normal circulation can occur. When this does not occur, blood flow becomes a problem resulting in a heart murmur, cardiac arrhythmia and poorly oxygenated blood. Long term prognosis is poor.
Juvenile Cellulitis aka “Puppy Strangles”
This is a condition of unknown origin occurring several different breeds. It only affects puppies between the ages of three weeks to about four months. Puppy Strangles affects the face, the outer ears and the salivary lympth nodes.
Symptoms occur quickly and include a swollen face, oozing skin, ear infection and lethargy. The lesions become crusted and the skin is tender to touch. Puppies loose their appetite and may have a fever.
If not treated, scaring can occur. Treatment consists of topical ointments, corticosteroids, and even chemotherapy. If a secondary bacterial infection is present, antibiotics will be prescribed. It usually does not reoccur.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an inherited disease seen in almost all types of dogs. The retina is that part of the eye where rods and cones are located and the disease occurs as the rods die. The first symptoms to appear are night blindness followed by total vision loss within a year if the dog does not receive treatment.
For more information on the Maltese Dog, visit the national breed club or the American Kennel Club
Care of Maltese Dogs
The Maltese dog is relatively easy to care for, especially if you enjoy grooming. There are a few things to keep in mind.
Though the Maltese dog looks to be delicate and frail, they are anything but and can be lively and as athletic as you need them to be. They do well in competitive sports and learn quickly.
Housebreaking may be a little harder but consistency is important and a positive approach will go a long way towards making the process faster and more efficient.
They learn easily because they are intelligent but their stubborn streak may emerge from time to time making training them a bit more frustrating. Patience, lots of praise and reinforcements using treats works very well.
Energy and Exercise
Maltese dogs are surprisingly very active and have lots of energy. They don’t require a great deal of exercise, though because they tend to be velcro dogs meaning they will follow you everywhere. As long as you move around they will too, getting most of their energy needs met.
A daily walk and dose of fresh air is always appreciated or a romp in a fenced in area will also fulfill their exercise requirements. Some, but not all will enjoy a game of fetch with their favorite human.
Most of the Maltese’s problem behaviors revolve around their need to be next to their person. Some get severe cases of separation anxiety that can be accompanied with destructive tendencies and barking. Early socialization helps to prevent some of these tendencies.
Maltese owners also report that barking can be a problem as well as nipping at the ankles. Both of these behaviors can be controlled if taught right from the start.
Diet and Nutrition
Adult Maltese dogs should be feed a high quality homemade, raw or commercially available dog food twice a day. Their daily rations should be divided into two to assure they are getting what they need and not much more. Some of these dogs tend towards being overweight especially after they have been fixed.
You will want to factor in treats and training rewards and not overdo it with extra unnecessary calories.
Training treats can be broken down into tiny pieces and supplements can be given as treats. Some fruits and vegetables make good training rewards or stand alone treats. If using supplements, consider ones that can be offered as treats.
Best Owners for Maltese Dogs
The Maltese Dog Breed can be a good choice for virtually anyone wanting a small long haired dog.
Singles, Couples, and Families make good dog owners as well as those that live in apartments or in rural settings. This breed is also an excellent choice for a first time dog owner.
Coat and Grooming
The Maltese Dog’s white coat is his crowning glory, but with it
comes some work to keep the locks flowing and tangle free. Since they do not shed, they are considered
to be a good breed for those with allergies.
The standard allows for some cream or lemon coloring around the
ears. If kept long, brushing is needed
at least every other day and preferable daily.
The coat is considered to be a single one with no undercoat, but because
the Maltese does not shed, hairs that are lost work their way into knots,
tangles, and mats if not brushed out.
Hair on the top of the head is tied up in a top knot which keeps the
hair out of the dog’s eyes. A typical
show topknot consists of two separate strands each holding a bow.
Besides regular brushing, a bath is also
important for a white dog, especially if he goes outdoors frequently and
especially necessary for those who love to roll in the grass.
For best results after a bath, a high quality whitening shampoo is a must. Any areas of the coat that have discolored can sometimes be brought back by leaving the shampoo on for 10-15 minutes before rinsing.
A good brush before the bath is essential to
assure that all mats have been removed. Both pin and slicker type brushes work well with the Maltese coat.
Most owners keep those flowing locks trimmed in a puppy cut of one to
two inches for easier management.
Show coats are stunning but for anyone who thinks they might like to keep their pet in this spectacular style, beware. There is much more that goes into a Maltese Show Coat than simply brushing and letting mother nature do her thing.
Tear stains are also a major issue with
some Maltese dogs and trying to remove them becomes a major headache for their
owners. Just because the Maltese is a white dog does it mean that they are doomed to have tear stains. This is a fixable problem.
Famous Maltese Owners
Italian poet, Ludovico Ariosto memorialized the dog in his poem “Orlando Furioso”.
In Britain, royals such as Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587 ), Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), and Queen Victoria (1819-1901) were all Maltese owners.
Other famous Maltese owners have included Elvis, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Snoop Dogg and Susan Sarandon.
“Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses,” Elizabeth Taylor
She once owned a Maltese named, Sugar.
More Resources to Explore
If you are considering the possibility of adding a Maltese puppy or dog to your family, you will want to check out some of the resources below.
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