Originating in the Mediterranean area, these little dogs, with long, silky white hair, appear to float, rather than walk across a room. Believed to have gained their popularity among European royalty after the Crusades, Maltese were kept as companions and sometimes bed warmers!
There is nothing cuter than a Maltese puppy! They look like minute, roly-poly snow creatures. With their fluffy white hair and black as coal eyes and nose, they resemble polar bear cubs. As they mature, the fluff is replaces by long, straight strands of white hair that gracefully sweep across the floor. They do look like their nickname, "barking mops!"
Interestingly, if your Maltese's nose turns from pitch black to light brown or even pink, it's a sign they could be lacking in enough exposure to sunshine. A few walks, romps in the yard or even car rides can turn that nose black again. In some Maltese females, it is also a sign they are in heat.
Averaging in weight from 5-12 pounds, their ideal weight is between 4-7 pounds, Maltese are found in the Toy group.
Lacking an undercoat to protect them from cold, dampness and sun, you have to be watchful that your Maltese doesn't get over chilled, or sunburned. It's a good idea to keep a sweater readily available for those chilly, damp days.
Stay away from flea markets and pet stores. Maltese are one of the most popular dogs used by dreadful puppy mills and sloppy backyard breeders. Find a responsible, trustworthy breeder. It may cost a few dollars more, but it will be well worth it.
Maltese are also an enormous part of the new designer breed market. They have been crossbred with several other small breeds creating Hava-Malts (Havanese/Maltese), Malti-Poos (Maltese/Poodle), Malti-Shihs (Maltese/Shih Tzu), the list goes on and on.
This intrepid little dog does have a few health issues and strange behaviors. They are known to reverse sneeze, producing a honking like sound, especially when excited. They are also inherently predisposed to respiratory, skin, gastrointestinal and eye problems as well as dental troubles. It is suggested to provide plenty of hard biscuits and safe chewing items to help prevent or minimize dental problems. They are prone to slipped stifle and luxating patella.
Their average lifespan is 15 years.
Eye tearing is another matter common with Maltese. It causes unsightly stains around the eyes. Because of this, around their eyes needs to be gently cleaned every day or two. Keeping the hair clipped short around the eyes so as not to irritate them, sometimes helps.
Unless your Maltese is kept in an endearing "puppy cut," they do require a lot of regular, sometimes even daily grooming. Expect to spend a lot of time or money, to maintain that flawless look that makes them so special. They are not adverse to getting dirty, so they will be getting lots of baths. It's best to get them accustomed to it while still young.
Some Maltese puppies have low blood sugar and may suffer from seizures. It is a good idea to keep Nutra Cal, honey, Karo or maple syrup readily available. A little on a fingertip, placed under their tongue could save their life. Most outgrow this affliction by the time they are a year old.
Terms that best describe the temperament and personality of a Maltese are: daring, playful, cuddly, affectionate, clownish, loyal, high-energy, noisy, self-confident, trusting, intelligent, gentle, and alert. They also make great little watchdogs! They are fearless and have no concept of their size.
Like many small dogs, they are known to be difficult to house-train, persistent barkers and suffer from separation anxiety, the foremost reasons why they are abandoned or surrendered to shelters and rescues.
Fair, firm and consistent leadership from their owners, as well as early obedience training and socialization helps to curtail some of their negative behaviors. Prime candidates for Small Dog Syndrome, they can take over if they sense a lack of leadership on your part. Maltese respond amazingly fast to positive reinforcement, punishment-free methods of training. They love to learn, as long as you turn "playing school" into a game.
If not trained to walk properly on a leash while still a pup, it is suggested to use a harness rather than a collar, to avoid collapsed trachea.
Maltese are not couch potatoes! This sturdy little breed requires heaps of exercise and brisk walks to prevent them from developing inappropriate and destructive behaviors. The plus side of spending time exercising and walking them is, once that edge is removed, they are anxious to snuggle up with you on the couch.
In general, they are the gentlest of the smaller breeds. Naturally playful, they usually do well with children, if socialized and desensitized while still young. They make a perfect companion dog for older people. More and more, Maltese are being found in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, as they make fantastic therapy dogs.
Bottom line: Do your homework! Learn as much as you can about this remarkable little dog, before committing your heart to them. Check shelters and rescues as a good number are surrendered, some due to nothing more than the permanent hospitalization or death of their owner. If you believe a Maltese is the perfect dog for you, who knows, your new best friend may be patiently waiting for you.