Meet the Breed: The Maltese



  • Height: 8"- 10”
  • Weight: 6-9 pounds
  • Historical function: companion, lapdog
  • Modern function: companion, lapdog
  • AKC classification: Toy

Physical Characteristics:

The Maltese is characterized by its small size, long white coat, cute black button nose, and large, round dark eyes. The eye rims are black. Though small and fine boned, the Maltese is fairly sturdy and compact with a deep chest. The body is square to slightly rectangular in build with a level topline. The head is slightly domed. The ears are pendulous with heavy feathering. The coat is single and is actually hair, not fur, so this breed may be a better choice for allergy sufferers. The hair may be white, ivory, or have lemon tones to it. The coat can be kept in the long show cut but many pet owners opt to keep them in a puppy cut for easier maintenance. 

History of the Breed:

The Maltese was developed in Italy and first recognized as a breed on the Island of Malta. The dog has been documented through ancient Greek and Roman literature and artifacts. This dog became the companion of royal ladies throughout the world, being carried in their clothing and sleeping in their beds. This tradition carries to today with the Maltese being a favored "purse" dog. 


The Maltese is well suited as a companion having been bred for this purpose for thousands of years. They are gentle, lively, and playful, and very devoted to their owner. They are intelligent and sensitive to the needs of their family members. Take care not to coddle these dogs too much and encourage Small Dog Syndrome. May be difficult to house break. Supervise these dogs with small children as they could be injured with rambunctious play. 

  • Best suited for: Any family with older children, retirees, and people who like to travel with their dog. Excellent choice for those with allergies and hairdressers. A perfect companion in an apartment.
  • Preferred living conditions: This dog is extremely adaptable and will be happy wherever you are; however, they do best in dry climates.

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: This coat requires daily coat and tooth brushing as well as weekly bathing. Special products may be needed for eye and mouth stains. Keeping the coat in a puppy cut will make grooming easier. Sheds little to no hair.
  • Exercise needs: Daily walk, though play takes care of most of their exercise needs.
  • Life expectancy: 15-18 years.
  • Health concerns: May be prone to eye problems, sunburn and slipped stifle. Does best in dry climates.

Breed Club Links: American Maltese Association Perfect Pairings: Angels' Eyes, Tropiclean Awapuhi White Dog Shampoo

Have any stories about a Maltese? Please share!

Photo courtesy of Dan Bennett.

This entry was posted by Mary.
CISSY on May 8 at 10:15 PM said:

I have a Maltese, and you have described her perfectly. She is so sweet, and affectionate, Actually she was easy to pottie pad train, but she also loves going outside. Yes, they are very bright! She trains me :-) I taught her to play dead with Bang Bang, and she rolls over and lies there. Then gets a treat. Now she just rolls over, and lies there whenever she wants a treat. Forget the Bang. Not needed. I have had to let her know that she has to wait until asked to do so. She is so cute and funny. Makes us laugh and smile a lot:-)
What do you think?

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