The Maltese is a small pet dog. He’s cute and affectionate and very close to the members of his social group. He loves being with them and doesn’t deal well with spending time alone. His masters should be present and available to provide him with all he needs. Docile, intelligent and happy, training him is easy and pleasant - don’t think the latter isn’t necessary simply because he’s small.
Key facts about the Maltese
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Origins and history
The Maltese is an ancient dog, dating back to 500 BC. He was particularly popular among Roman women. Against all odds, his Maltese name actually has nothing to do with the island of Malta, and instead originates from the word “Màlat”, meaning “refuge” or “port” in the Semitic language (spoken in the Mediterranean). Unsurprisingly, the Maltese’s ancestors lived largely in Mediterranean ports, and were tasked with chasing away mice and other pests. The Maltese dog has therefore been around for thousands of years in the Mediterranean, particularly in Italy.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs
Section 1 : Bichons and related breeds
Physical characteristics of the Maltese
Female : Between 8 and 9 in
Male : Between 8 and 10 in
Female : Between 7 and 9 lb
Male : Between 7 and 9 lb
The coat should be pure white but the breed’s official standards also recognise pale ivory.
Type of coat
His coat is very long (up to 8 inches).
His head, torso, tail and limbs are covered in silky, very long fur. His coat is straight, never wavy or curly.
His iris is dark ochre.
The Maltese is a small dog whose body is one-third longer than his height at the withers, making him look narrow and long. His skull is flat, his eyes are round and very dark, while his ears are triangular, worn high on his head and hang down on the sides of his face, covered in fur. His limbs are short, straight and very furry. His tail is aligned with his rump. His physique constitutes one long curve, finishing at the rump between his hips; he has very long hair that touches the back of his knees.
Good to know
This little snowball is a hypoallergenic dog. They are therefore particularly good for people allergic to dog hair and saliva, or even houseproud people looking for a pet that won’t moult all over the place.
The Maltese is an adorable dog that is very attached to his social group, with whom he wants to spend all of his time. In no way solitary or independent, he requires a lot of attention and affection.
Very jovial, the Maltese dog’s main priority is spending time with his masters; and if that doesn’t include playing, so be it! He will make a great pet for children, but they still need to respect him to make sure the interactions go smoothly.
Despite his ability to be very energetic with his master, this dog appreciates calm moments more than anything, especially to be stroked and cuddled; and if on the sofa, even better!
While he’s only used as a pet, the Maltese Dog is very intelligent and can greatly excel in a diverse range of activities, including dog dancing, for example.
This dog has no predatory instinct at all, despite the fact that he used to serve to hunt mice. Today, he is able to live in the company of small animals, especially if he’s grown up with them.
Fearful / wary of strangers
This little dog can be quite aggressive in the face of intruders, but will only display his discontent by barking. Once he has figured out a stranger, he will then know if he can approach them for strokes, or if he should continue barking to scare them off.
The Maltese Dog is truly dependent of his master. He hates being isolated and doesn’t deal well with being left alone. His only aim is to please his master and has even been known to stare adoringly at his owner for long periods of time as a sign of affection.
Behaviour of the Maltese
This little snowball is very dependent and attached to his master as well as his social group. If he isn’t surrounded by people all day (such as retired people, for example), it will be necessary to teach him from a young age how to cope with being alone.
To do this, it will be necessary to make the absences as positive as possible, by providing him with dog toys, for example, and making the absences progressive (5 minutes, then 10, then 15, then 30, etc.). This will be necessary to avoid separation anxiety, which can make for a stressful cohabitation.
In any case, the Maltese won’t tolerate prolonged absences, so it’s not possible to leave him alone from morning to evening. For busy owners, it will be a question of finding the time to go home during lunch, to elicit the help of a dog sitter or to take him to work if possible.
Easy to train / obedience
Intelligent, lively and docile, the Maltese is very friendly and easy to train if you take the time to teach him the basics from when he’s a puppy.
His small size does not justify an omission of training. Even small dogs must have limits, rules, and a basic education to properly integrate into the household, but also into society more generally.
Therefore, you should train your Maltese as early as possible, to prevent him from learning bad habits. It’s much easier to learn habits than to ‘unlearn’ them, to then have to relearn new behaviours.
You should pay special attention to teaching him how to be alone, since this dog typically experiences separation very negatively.
Barking is this little dog’s principle means of communication. He barks to express a variety of emotions: excitement, frustration, distrust, etc.
Tendency to run away
The Maltese dog is far too dependent to run away. It would never occur to him to try to escape if his home is comfortable and cosy.
Not liking loneliness, it is quite possible that the Maltese could destroy objects during the absences of his masters, in order to externalise an emotional overflow.
Greedy / Gluttony
Depending on his temperament and habits, some Maltese dogs can be very greedy, but never in excess. You should be careful not to overfeed this little dog to avoid obesity.
This dog’s size makes him an ineffective guard dog. However, his barks serve as a good alert.
Many traits of this dog, coupled with his small size and calmness make him the perfect candidate for a first adoption. He also suits many types of people and lifestyles, including young, old, active or retired.
If you are active, it will be necessary to make arrangements to bring him to work or have another solution so that he doesn’t have to spend the whole day alone, as it won’t be good for him. This is a definite point to take into account before adoption.
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Maltese in a flat
Life in a flat suits this little homely dog perfectly. He loves his creature comforts and appreciates time spent indoors.
He can equally enjoy life in the countryside with a garden to stretch his legs in, but he should never be left outside away from his social group.
Need for exercise / Sporty
With a very low need for exercise, this little dog is calm and favours the comfort of the sofa over a walk in the rain.
However, he should still be walked on a daily basis, and this shouldn’t consist of a few simple laps of the block. Even though he’s not sporty, the Maltese still needs to exert his energy to be fully content, both physically and mentally.
Travelling / easy to transport
Travelling with this little dog is very easy. It’s actually recommended that you take him with you wherever you go, since he hates being apart from his owner.
His small size allows him to travel in public transport in a transport bag without any issues. By plane, he can travel with his master in the cabin, to his great pleasure. By car, however, it will be necessary to invest in a small transport cage to ensure his safety.
Moreover, in order to be able to take him everywhere, socialisation will be necessary so that he can cope with different situations and changes of environments. In addition, proper training will be necessary to keep him listening to you in the face of distractions.
Maltese and cats
This breed gets on well with cats, but a cohabitation from a very young age is recommended to make sure it runs as smoothly as possible.
Maltese and dogs
This little dog appreciates the presence of his fellow dogs, but socialisation will be necessary from when he’s a puppy to get him used to interacting with other dogs and to learn the canine code.
A cohabitation is possible, but remember he’s a dog that likes to have his master’s exclusive attention. You should therefore teach him the rules of sharing from a young age.
Maltese and children
The Maltese gets on very well with children, who he will gladly play with. However, be careful with very young kids, who can sometimes get too rough with this sensitive dog.
Maltese and the elderly
The elderly make ideal owners for the Maltese Dog, since being retired allows them to be present the entire day and therefore meet his needs for attention, while being careful not to spoil him too much.
His calm and inactive nature is also a definite plus point for sedentary people.
The price of a Maltese Dog varies according to his origins, age and sex. You should budget around £1110 for a dog registered with the KC.
As for your monthly budget, you should set aside around £20 to be able to meet this little dog’s needs, including food and treatments (vaccinations, deworming, etc.).
The Maltese dog’s grooming should be meticulous and daily, mainly because of his very long coat that can often grow longer than his height at the withers.
He must be brushed and detangled regularly and after every walk, especially if he lives in the countryside.
Like with many little long-haired dogs, many owners choose to cut their Maltese’s hair short at a grooming parlour, which significantly simplifies his daily grooming requirements.
On a weekly basis, you should also clean his eyes to avoid infection, and inspect his ears and teeth.
The Maltese dog’s amount of hair loss is relatively minimal. He doesn’t shed during the annual moulting periods, despite what you might think from looking at his thick, long coat.
Nutrition of the Maltese
His meals should be adapted to his age, health and level of physical activity.
Pay particular attention to ‘sofa dogs’ that don’t get much exercise, as they can rapidly put a lot of weight on.
Premium-quality dry food is perfect for him, with regular vet check-ups while he’s young to make sure he’s getting everything he needs.
One meal a day is enough, preferably given in the evening while he’s alone and without any distraction. Make sure you’re not overfeeding him; you should avoid leaving a heap of dry food in his bowl to help himself to, and snacks in between meals should be exceptional.
Health of the Maltese
His lifespan is around 13 years.
Strong / robust
Despite his small size, the Maltese is quite a robust dog. That said, he is nonetheless predisposed to a number of pathologies.
The heat is less of a problem for this dog than the cold, but you should remain vigilant: make sure he always has access to a bowl of cold water and is able to retreat to a cool shady spot should the need arise.
The Maltese Dog doesn’t tolerate the cold well at all, so you need to be very careful with him when the temperatures drop. He will greatly benefit from a winter coat.
Tendency to put on weight
Prone to obesity, it’s important for this dog to enjoy a diet adapted to his physical condition.
- Heart disease
- Congenital portosystemic shunts (birth defect that prevents blood from being cleaned by the liver, leaving toxic waste in the body)
- Shaker dog syndrome (light trembling causing the dog to shake, affecting small white dogs in particular)
- Hydrocephalus (excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain ventricles or cavities, a disease primarily observed in dwarf breeds)
- Eye infections
- Dislocation of the kneecaps
- Teeth and gum sensitivity