The Maltese is a small-sized dog that falls under the ‘toy dog’ category. They are smart, playful & loyal, and have been bred to be companion dogs.
History of the Maltese breed
The Maltese originates from the central Mediterranean area, having been named after the Mediterranean island of Malta. The exact roots of the breed is unknown, although they are thought to have descended from the Spitz-type or the Terrier-type dog.
The Maltese is one of the oldest known breeds of dogs, with first recorded mention of this breed as early as 500 B.C. in ancient Greek & Roman texts. Prior to the 17th century they were used by the Romans for catching rats, and later gained more prominent attention among royalty and ladies-in-waiting for their silky, white coat and delicate appearance. Thereafter they were kept as companion dogs among this crowd, and gained the nickname “Roman Ladies’ Dog.”
Appearance of the Maltese breed
The Maltese is best known for its pure white, silky coat. Owing to the single layer of their coat (in that they lack an undercoat), they don’t shed much and are considered a good choice for people with dog allergies. However, their coat does get matted and dirty because it is single-layered.
The Maltese weighs between 3 to 8 pounds (1.4 to 3.6 kg), and stands between 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) tall. They have rounded skulls, short, pointed muzzles, brown eyes, black lips and black noses. The nose may turn brown or pink without adequate exposure to sunlight (referred to as ‘winter nose’). They have compact, square bodies, with the length of their body roughly equal to their height, along with curly tails and long, drooping ears. The Maltese’s paws are very sensitive to touch.
Personality of the Maltese breed
The Maltese is intelligent and has high energy. They remain active and playful from puppyhood and into their senior years, especially loving games like fetch. They do well in small spaces and are suited to small houses or apartments. Being bred as a companion dog, they get attached to their owner, often forming a very strong bond with one person and choosing to stay in close proximity to them at all times. As a result, they are prone to suffering from separation anxiety.
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The Maltese will also make a bond with other members of the household, although not quite as strong as with their owner, because they crave attention often. They are polite with strangers, and quickly befriend those that enter their household. The Maltese generally prefers the company of humans rather than other dogs.
The Maltese is also excitable and may become irritable, making them less suitable to be around young children and possibly other pets. They also get territorial and have a tendency to bark a lot. Receiving obedience and socialization training in their early years will help to curb these problems.
Caring for the Maltese breed
As mentioned above, the Maltese has a single-layered coat, and they don’t shed much, meaning there is a good chance that people with dog allergies may not be allergic to the Maltese. Additionally, they are diligent with self-grooming, so weekly baths and combing thrice a week will be sufficient to keep them clean. They will regularly get tear stains, which will also be reduced with regular bathing. The Maltese will also need brushing of teeth about once a week, as they are prone to cavities in their older years, along with clipping of nails and cleaning of ears once a month. Grooming will be required once every 30 to 45 days to keep their coats from matting and retaining more dirt.
The “puppy cut” is a common style of grooming for the Maltese, where fur on their body, paws and face is kept at a short length (usually less than an inch long), to keep them looking like a puppy.
Although high in energy, the Maltese will require only 30-45 minutes of outdoor exercise (walking) per day. This is best divided into two short walks of about 20 minutes each, one in the morning and one in the evening.
Other information about the Maltese breed
The expected lifespan of a Maltese is 12-15 years, and they reach full adult size at about 1 year old. They should receive 400 calories in feeding daily, equal to half a cup of (dry) dog food twice a day. Being quite smart, the Maltese responds well to training and to positive reinforcements with food, play and compliments as rewards.
The Maltese is very courageous and will protect his owner and home from any perceived threats, making them good watchdogs. They are usually not aware of their small size, and will be willing to take on a much bigger attacker.
Certain health issues are more common in the Maltese, such as patellar luxation (kneecap dislocation) and hypothyroidism, and dental cavities & deafness in their senior years.