Are you considering adding a Maltese to your family? This small, white bundle of white fur is a popular dog for many families in the United States, and it’s easy to see why. This pup is adorable, hypoallergenic, and full of affection and personality.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Maltese dog is the right dog for every person or household, and you may have some questions if this is the right breed for you.
Is the Maltese a good family dog? What about health issues, lifespan, grooming requirements, exercise, and training needs?
Every dog requires some level of work and lots of commitment, and the Maltese is no different. If you’re not sure if a Maltese dog would fit into your life, then you’ve come to the right place.
In today’s article, we are going to cover everything you need to know about the adorable, spirited Maltese dog in the hopes of helping you decide if a Maltese is right for you.
Let’s get started!
What Is A Maltese?
The Maltese is a small, purebred dog belonging to the toy group.
Just what is a Maltese, you ask?
The Maltese is a purebred dog with ancient roots that go way, way back. He is a tiny pup who, when full grown weighs no more than seven pounds, making him one of the smallest of the toy groups.
Known for his affectionate personality, playful nature, and spunky attitude, the Maltese has a gorgeous, white coat that is not only silky soft but also hypoallergenic, which makes him a fabulous companion for those who suffer from allergies.
The Malese dog enjoys other household pets and, due to his small size, is adaptable to a number of different home environments.
And while he is highly intelligent, experts warn that the Maltese can sometimes be stubborn or hardheaded. Still, his courageous nature and his eagerness to please makes him a popular, beloved dog with countless fans across the globe.
But there is more to this tiny dog than just looks and spirit! He is a great athlete and makes a wonderful playmate for older, more respectful children who will handle him gently. The Maltese will also help you wow your friends by quickly learning and then showing off fancy new tricks.
In fact, the Maltese is so agile, intelligent, and athletic that he has become a shining star at agility training and is a champion in show!
Wow. The Maltese sounds pretty amazing right? Well, he is, and it’s no wonder. The Maltese is one of the oldest purebred dogs who has been around for centuries.
But where exactly did this hardy little dog come from and what is his history?
Let’s find out!
Where Does The Maltese Come From?
The Maltese is an ancient dog with a royal history.
The Maltese has a rich history that places him in the laps of royalty as early as 1500 B.C..
The Maltese is named after the island in which he is believed to have been perfected. Malta, an island just south of Sicily, was once a fruitful seaport where seamen and explorers traveling from sea to shining sea would make pit stops.
Historians believe that the Maltese found his way to the island of Malta through the Phoenicians, and was brought as a commodity by noblewomen.
The tiny Maltese was said to be just as charming back then as he is today, so it’s no surprise that this sweet white dog caught the eye of the Greeks, who called him the “Melitaie Dog”.
The Maltese was, in fact, so treasured by the Greeks that his likeness has been found on ancient Golden Age artifacts. Even Aristotle himself described the Maltese as “perfectly proportioned”, according to the American Kennel Club.
Nobles of the Roman Empire went on to perfect the beloved Maltese, but it was upon the fall of Rome that the Chinese stepped in, saving this sweet pooch from certain extinction.
We have the Chinese to thank as well, for the refining of the Maltese by crossing him with some of their most favored toy breeds.
Eventually, the Maltese found his way to Europe and then to the rest of the world. Today, this spirited, intelligent, and affectionate lap dog sits at number 37 out of 194 on the American Kennel Club’s list of America’s most popular dog breeds.
So, what has kept this ancient little dog so popular? Let’s take a look at his breeding history and find out just what is in this little guy’s DNA.
What Was The Maltese Initially Bred For?
The Maltese is an ancient breed bred for companionship, making him ideal for homes looking for cuddly lap dogs.
The Maltese is one of the few breeds of dog who was bred and refined through centuries primarily for companionship.
While many of his canine counterparts are bred working dogs, the Maltese knows nothing of humble working origins and was simply created to lounge about, play, and steal his owners’ hearts.
His beauty, personality, and intelligence combined is likely what made him such an ideal companion dog, and in fact, relics from ancient Egypt seem to boast the likeness of the Maltese as well, leading many historians to believe the Egyptians were unable to resist this little white ball of fur either.
Along with his companionship origins, the Maltese was also seen as somewhat of a fashion statement, especially by noble ladies of the Roman Empire, hence the Maltese’s nickname of “The Roman Ladies’ Dog”.
The Maltese didn’t begin putting his talents and heart-stealing powers to work until 1877, when he appeared in New York’s first ever Westminster Dog Show.
Today, the darling little Maltese is more than a sweet, loving companion. He is a show stopping star across the world, winning awards for his impeccable build, gorgeous white coat, and big, black eyes!
Of course, the Maltese brings more than beauty to the table. This pooch is loaded with personality. Keep reading to see for yourself!
What Are The Maltese Dog’s Temperament And Personality Traits Like?
The Maltese is as charming as he is cute.
Wondering if the Maltese would make a good family dog? Then you’re in luck. The Maltese is not only adorable, he is also sweet to boot!
This tiny lap dog is a playful companion to families of all ages. He is eager to please and enjoys learning new tricks. Plus, his funny, charming disposition will keep everyone in the house entertained.
However, because he was bred primarily for companionship, it’s important to note that the Maltese can be prone to suffering from separation anxiety, depression, and destructive behaviors.
This is a pup who will need to be with his family more often than not. With that being said, the compact Maltese is an excellent dog for seniors or for those who work from home.
He also makes for a great apartment dog due to his small size and adaptable nature.
And while the Maltese is not an aggressive dog in the slightest, he has been known to be vocal and courageous. He has a spunky, big dog personality and will make for a wonderful guard dog, although this means that any potential owner shouldn’t mind barking.
The Maltese is a good family dog and enjoys children, however, like all small dogs, the Maltese is not best for families with very small children in the home.
Weighing just under seven pounds, the Maltese can be easily injured if picked up wrong, dropped, or handled too roughly.
Parents who want to own a Maltese should make sure to supervise young children around their Maltese at all times and speak with children on how to interact with a dog correctly, gently, and with respect.
Like all dogs, the Maltese can be prone to nipping or biting out of fear or pain. He should be socialized at an early age and trained using positive reinforcement methods like treats and praise.
The Maltese can also be a willful little dog with a stubborn streak. However, he is, for the most part, eager to please and will enjoy hearing you praise him and offer him treats for a job well done.
Because the Maltese is such a family-oriented dog, he can be sensitive and will not respond well to harsh training methods. In fact, training him with punishment-based training may actually harm the relationship between you and your dog.
You may also find that the Maltese loves being with you and will follow you from room to room like a tiny shadow. He loves nothing more than snuggling up on your lap while you work or sleeping next to you snug as a bug in a rug on your bed.
Of course, when it’s time to go and play, the Maltese is all for the fun and adventure! He makes for a wonderful travelling companion and road tripping dog as well due to both his compact size as well as his adventurous spirit!
Plus, everywhere you go you are sure to get compliments on this gorgeous dog’s appearance. Why, you ask?
Well, let’s talk about what a Maltese looks like!
What Does The Maltese Look Like?
The Maltese is known for his silky white coat and happy expression.
You know this dog is good looking when Aristotle himself makes a comment about him. But what is it about this little white dog that has continuously turned heads for centuries?
Let’s take a look.
Maltese Height: 7 – 9 Inches
Maltese Weight: 7 Lbs and Under
Maltese Coat Color: White
Hypoallergenic Coat: Yes
Small but sturdy, the white, silky coated Maltese is an ideal companion for those suffering from allergies due to the fact that he is a low shedding dog whose coat produces less allergy inducing dander than many of his canine counterparts.
But that’s not all. His white, silky coat, which is often compared to that of human hair, can grow all the way to floor length. The Maltese also has big, black eyes and a happy, expressive face.
With his long, floppy ears, and erect tail with plums of fur flowing over his back like a waterfall, it only takes one look at a Maltese to fall head over heels in love with him.
Of course, with all that hair comes a lot of grooming, right? Right.
Let’s learn more.
How Do You Groom a Maltese?
Grooming your Maltese is a great way to bond with him.
The Maltese is beautiful, but that beauty comes at a price. If you opt to keep your Maltese’s coat long, then prepare to spend a good amount of time and money grooming him.
A long-haired Maltese will need consistent brushing at least once a day to help keep his silky white locks from becoming tangled and matted. He will also need weekly bathing and routine visits to the groomer for trims.
Many Maltese owners who have no plans on entering their Maltese into the world of show opt to keep their Maltese’s hair cut short in a puppy cut, which reduces time and money spent on grooming.
Still, a short-haired Maltese will need consistent bathing with a high-quality dog shampoo that will not strip his coat and fur of their natural oils.
And since the Maltese has long ears, he will need his ears checked and cleaned regularly to keep them free of debris, moisture, and waxy buildup that could lead to ear infections.
Since the Maltese’s fur is white, he will be more prone to tear stains. A high-quality tear-stain remover for white dogs can be used to help keep your Maltese’s face bright and shiny.
Potential owners should also work to keep their Maltese’s long bangs out of their dog’s eyes to help avoid eye irritation that can increase runny eyes and eye gunk, which can in turn lead to more tear stains.
Like all dogs, your Maltese will need his nails clipped regularly as well to keep them from cracking or splitting, which can lead to pain and infection.
Small dogs like the Maltese are also more prone to suffering from serious dental issues, so investing in a good doggy toothbrush and dog-safe toothpaste is a must to help keep your Maltese’s mouth healthy and clean.
We understand that sometimes grooming your dog can be a hassle, but remember that, when done right, it is an important part of bonding with your dog. You should also keep in mind that a proper grooming routine for your Maltese will help not only keep him looking spiffy, but it will also help keep him healthy.
Let’s read on to learn more about the health of your Maltese.
What Is the Average Lifespan Of A Maltese And Does The Maltese Have Any Serious Health Issues?
Like all dogs, the Maltese can be prone to a number of genetic health issues.
All dogs can be prone to a number of genetic health issues, and the Maltese is no exception. And while lifestyle, diet, and exercise all play a role in the happiness and health of your Maltese dog, it’s important to be aware of health issues he may face due to his genetic history.
With a lifespan of 12 – 15 years, the Maltese is most prone to health issues including:
- Skin issues and allergies that may lead to excessive licking
- Luxating Patella
- Bladder Stones
- Dental issues including tooth decay, infection, and tooth loss
- Digestive Issues
- Portosystemic shunt
- Eye Ulcers
- Ear Infections
- And Hypothyroidism
Since some of the primary concerns for your Maltese have to do with his oral and digestive health, a proper diet for small dogs is going to be imperative to helping keep your Maltese happy and healthy.
Small dog breeds like the Maltese should be on a high-quality dog food that is specified for his size, age, and activity level, as well as for any hereditary health issues you know he has.
Your veterinarian should be able to help you find the right diet for your Maltese based on any health concerns you may have.
We should note that the Maltese may be more sensitive to extreme weather due to his small size so owners should take the proper steps to ensure their Maltese is properly geared up for cold and hot weather conditions.
Last but not least, a good exercise routine will help keep your Maltese in ship shape. Let’s learn more about the ideal exercise and training requirements for a Maltese dog.
What Are The Training And Exercise Requirements For A Maltese?
The Maltese may be small, but he is an outgoing athlete!
The tiny, adoring Maltese may surprise you with his athletic abilities and desire for adventure! And while the Maltese does need routine, daily exercise to stay happy and healthy, experts note that a quick, brisk walk and some backyard play will also do the trick.
The Maltese can, in fact, get what he needs out of a days’ worth of exercise just by playing a game of fetch or chase in the yard or house.
Still, this brainy little breed will appreciate sniff time and outings, and a change of scenery will help to not only socialize him, but keep him mentally sound.
And speaking of keeping your Maltese being mentally sound, we want to add that this is a clever little dog who likes to learn new tricks.
He may be prone to boredom and anxiety, especially if he is left alone, so you’ll want to invest in some fun puzzle games or puzzle toys for him to keep his mind active and busy.
As we mentioned above, the Maltese is a sensitive dog who only wants to be with you and make you happy, so make sure you are training him using positive reinforcement methods like praise and treats.
He will not respond to harsher methods like punishments and in fact may shut down altogether.
Potty training a Maltese can be difficult due to his small size and the fact that catching potty accidents may be difficult. One way to combat this is to train your Maltese to go potty on potty pads when inside.
The Maltese should be trained and socialized at an early age and then consistently throughout his lifetime to help keep him happy, well rounded, and confident in all situations.
You can help your Maltese feel secure and happy by making sure new experiences are fun for him. Also, dog proofing your house is yet another way to help keep your Maltese safe.
For a Maltese who is extra anxious, and especially for a Maltese who suffers from serious separation anxiety, we suggest crate training.
When done properly, crate training your maltese can help keep him feeling secure and safe while you are away while also protecting him and your home against destructive behaviors due to stress.
And speaking of destructive behaviors, let’s talk about some pros and cons of owning a Maltese.
What Are Some Pros And Cons Of Owning A Maltese Dog?
The Maltese is a wonderful dog, but that doesn’t mean he is the dog for everyone.
Yes, we are aware that we have made the Maltese out to be the best dog ever, and the truth is he really is. Well, to the right person, of course.
The Maltese may be perfect for some, and an absolute drag for others. If you’re not sure if the Maltese dog would be right for you, here is a list of pros and cons of a Maltese to help you decide.
Pros To Owning A Maltese:
- They are hypoallergenic
- Maltese dogs are small and adaptable
- They have gentle, sweet personalities
- Maltese get along with children and other household pets
- They are eager to please
- The Maltese is family oriented
- They need only moderate exercise
Cons To Owning A Maltese:
- The Maltese can be difficult to potty train due to his small size
- He is sensitive and can easily get hurt feelings
- The Maltese is vocal and likes to bark
- The Maltese is small and therefor fragile and prone to injury
- Maltese dogs are prone to separation anxiety and destructive behaviors if left at home alone for too long.
- They can be high-maintenance when it comes to grooming
What Is The Ideal Home Type For A Maltese Dog?
The tiny Maltese is a compact pup who is perfect for homes of all sizes.
You may think a Maltese is perfect for your home, but is your home perfect for a Maltese?
The ideal home type for a Maltese would be a home with a family who is around more often than not and who has the time and patience to devote to him. Remember, this is a dog who becomes very attached to his people and he will require a lot of love and attention.
And while the Maltese does get along well with other children and household pets, he is very small and can be easily injured, so we would not recommend this dog for families with very young or overly handsy kiddos who may accidently hurt him.
With that being said, the Maltese is small but hardy and can adapt well to a number of home environments. He makes a wonderful apartment dog but also enjoys larger homes where he can run about and play with his family and furry siblings.
Choosing A Maltese Puppy Or Rescue Dog – Tips On Finding The Healthiest Maltese Dog Possible.
Going through reputable sources is key to finding the healthiest puppy possible.
Like all dogs, the Maltese can be prone to a number of serious genetic health issues, some of which may be unavoidable.
Luckily, there are measures you can take to ensure your Maltese starts off on the right paw with you and your family from day one. Along with proper grooming, a healthy, high-quality diet, and a good exercise routine, you can help ensure your Maltese is healthy by making sure you get him from a reputable source.
While we understand that the Maltese is a high-demand dog these days, and high-demand dogs are typically more expensive when going through a breeder, the truth is that trying to cut costs by going through backyard breeders, online sellers, or pet stores could wind up costing you more in the long run both emotionally and financially.
Reputable breeders should be able to ensure that your Maltese puppy has been on a healthy diet, is old enough and weaned properly from his mother, and has been health screened before going home with you. Furthermore, responsible breeders will also be able to provide you with certificates of health proving their puppies are good to go.
If you would prefer to go through a rescue but worry you won’t be able to find a purebred Maltese to adopt, think again! There are a number of breed specific rescues across the United States that specialize in the Maltese.
One of the best things about going through a rescue to adopt a dog is that you will be able to provide a dog in need a good home and a loving family. But of course, there are more benefits to rescuing a Maltese dog than that! Going through a rescue means you will also be able to find the dog of your dreams at a fraction of the price of going through a breeder.
Furthermore, many rescue and shelter organizations will provide a free veterinary exam and will be able to give you a better idea of what type of personality or temperament your Maltese will have.
Many adult Maltese dogs who come through rescues may also already be housebroken, which is always a plus!
So, what do you think? Is the Maltese dog the right for you and your family? Tell us your thoughts about the Maltese in the comments below and let us know if you think you are going to find a Maltese to call your own!
Madison Guthrie (also known as Sonny Mackenzi) is a pet care specialist and positive-reinforcement trainer who works most closely with anxious and reactive dogs. Born and raised in Littleton, Colorado, Madison developed a love for animals at an early age and spent most of her childhood outdoors rescuing stray pets and helping to rehabilitate injured wildlife. Along with animals, Madison also developed a love for writing and music. Over the past five years, she has worked to use her passions to help the pets and pet parents in her community build stronger bonds and live happier, healthier lives together. Currently, Madison lives in South Pasadena, California where she owns and operates Miss Madison LLC, a marketing company that focuses on helping privately owned veterinary establishments and pet care companies grow and thrive. She also works as a dog trainer at My Dog Spot, which is an award-winning pet care and training establishment in Pasadena, California.