The Maltese Is A Toy Dog Breed With A Big Attitude

Maltese Dog

The Maltese dog is very small, intelligent, lively and bright.

This is a breed that seems to behave like a puppy for its whole life. They are always playful and bright, and looking for attention. They were bred specifically to be human  companions, and so they seek out and need the company of humans

Maltese dog breed
Maltese with long coats
Maltese dog breeds
Maltese with trimmed coat

Maltese – Temperament

This breed has had several names over the years, for example ‘Maltese Lion Dog’ and  ‘Maltese Terrier’, but nowadays they are simply called the ‘Maltese’ breed. They are best known for their long, flowing white hair. The long coat is sometimes referred to as a ‘show coat’, as this is how it should look in the show ring. However, many Maltese owners prefer to keep their dogs coat trimmed.

While it is tempting to keep your Maltese on your lap all the time, and carry them everywhere, you must remember that this is a dog, and it needs a degree of movement and exercise. And, if they are to run around, that means they need training, too.

Although they are courageous and brave, they are not best suited to playing with very small children, because they are so small and light and are easily injured in rough play. Also, they may snap at a small child in self-defense if hurt.

Bred to be companion dogs, they are used to being indoors, and should only go out for short periods of exercise and to relieve themselves. Otherwise they should spend most time indoors, particularly if it wet or cold outside. They should certainly sleep indoors at night.

Maltese dog breed
Maltese with long coat

Maltese Breed History

The Maltese dog breed can be traced back thousands of years, with Maltese-like dogs being mentioned and depicted by the ancient Egyptians, and during the Roman empire.  The breed was certainly widely spread throughout the Mediterranean area in the centuries that followed.

But while the history of the Maltese can be traced back a long way, the origins of this dog are uncertain. Just about the only thing that IS certain is that the breed did not originate on the Island of Malta!

Some of the theories say that the origin is Italy, others say Asia, from Spitz-type breeds. The truth may be a combination of these and other theories. And while this dog was known and existed on Malta, they did not originate there. However, Malta was an important trading station in the Mediterranean Sea, and Maltese dogs were common there, and also traded. This is how the breed spread all through the countries bordering the Mediterranean.

From the Mediterranean, they then became popular throughout Europe as companion dogs, and breeders aimed at keeping them small so that they were easily carried and made comfortable lap dogs.

By the 1600s the breed had been taken to England, and became very popular with the Royal Family and other nobility.

The Maltese dog breed was introduced to America around 1870, and was officially recognized by the AKC in 1888.

Around the year 2000, professional dog breeders started to cross the Maltese with purebred Yorkshire Terriers to produce the Morkie hybrid dog. They were aiming to combine the best features of the 2 breeds, and the Morkie has become popular over the last 10 years as a cuddly companion dog.

Vital Statistics;

Height; Only 7 to 9 inches.

Weight;  4 lbs – 7 lbs, but not more than 7 lbs.

Life Span;  12 to 14 years.


Snow white

Maltese dog breed
A trimmed Maltese

Ease of Training

This is a very intelligent breed, and they love pleasing their owners, so they learn very quickly. They love new tricks and playing the fool.

However the Maltese is one of the hardest breeds to house train. Maybe because they spend most of their time indoors, they seem to have more ‘accidents’ than other breeds. The trick to house breaking this breed is to take the dog outside regularly and frequently, (especially after meals), and give it the opportunity to do its business outdoors.

Basic training should begin the day after you bring the dog home for the first time. Once vaccinations are complete, socialization and puppy classes are important.


The Maltese is alert and vigilant, and very aware of what’s happening in its vicinity. If it thinks something is amiss it will bark repeatedly to alert you. As such, it makes a very good watchdog.

But as a guard dog it is not so good, due to its small size. It does not have any intimidation factor, and is not able to tackle any unwanted intruders. If you are looking for protection with a dog, you should lokk for a bigger breed.


This is a high-maintenance dog breed, even though it is small. Their long and fine coat will mat easily and quickly if not combed through every day.  You also need to spray a dilute hair conditioner as you comb to make the job easier. Remember, this is a daily job!

Once the coat becomes matted, it’s frequently impossible to untangle and comb through, and the only option is to take your Maltese to a professional groomer and have the coat trimmed.

Actually, most owners will choose to keep their Maltese trimmed all the time, if they are not intending to show the dog in a show ring. A short coat is much easier to look after, and collects less dirt.

In addition, this breed does not have an undercoat as it was not bred to be outdoors much and so doesn’t need the extra warmth of an undercoat. Add that to the very low shedding, and together with a trimmed top coat this is a breed suitable for owners with allergies.

Health Considerations

A reputable breeder should be honest about potential problems with this breed, and be able to show you certificates to prove the parents have been screened for common conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, and eye health. There are several other possible health conditions which can include the following;

  •  Narrowing of the trachea, impeding breathing and making wearing a collar difficult.
  •  Gum disease
  •  Luxating patella
  •  Glaucoma
  •  Progressive retinal atrophy
  •  Liver problems (Portosystemic shunt).

Famous Maltese Dogs

Several famous personalities have owned Maltese dogs over the year;

  •  Halle Berry
  •  Torrie Wilson
  •  Heather Locklear
  •  Lindsay Lohan
  •  Frank Sinatra
  •  Liberace
  •  Lee Remick
  •  Mia Farrow

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