So you’re looking for a new furry addition to your family. And with so many dog breeds to choose from, it can be overwhelming!
A popular choice for first-time dog owners is the Maltese dog. Friendly and energetic, Maltese dogs are affectionate pets, but they’re not the perfect fit for every owner.
Keep reading to find out more about the Maltese dog's temperament, health, and care needs to evaluate whether this breed is the right fit for you.
A Maltese is a small, compact breed of companion dog that weighs between 3 to 7 lbs. One of their most striking features is their straight, silky white coat that can grow to become long enough to touch the floor.
You’ll rarely find Maltese dogs in colors other than white. Even though its fur can get long, it hardly sheds due to a lack of an undercoat.
You can also recognize a Maltese dog by their:
Maltese dogs have been around for a long time. Their history can be traced back as far as two thousand years! For example, ancient Greek Maltese owners would build tombs for their beloved companions.
No one’s exactly sure where the Maltese originated, though. While they may have come from Italy, others claim they were first bred in Malta, hence the name.
The English were the ones responsible for breeding the Maltese dog you recognize today, and they were entered in the early Westminster Kennel Club shows of the late 19th century.
Even English royalty loved Maltese dogs! Royals such as Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria were said to favor this breed.
In dog shows, Maltese will often win in the “Toy” category. When you see one of these toy breeds in person, it’s not difficult to see why.
The Maltese have been around humans for over two millennia. As a result, they love people and want to be everyone’s best friend!
They’re affectionate companions who build strong, trusting bonds with their owners. Once you’ve built a bond with a Maltese dog, they’ll want to please you and make you happy.
Since they’re so eager to please, you can easily train a Maltese dog — as long as you invest the time necessary to do it. They respond well to positive reinforcement.
Maltese dogs also become highly protective of their families. While they’re not guard dogs, they certainly seem to think they are.
For those who like to have fun companions, Maltese are the perfect breed. They’re playful and energetic dogs, although they don’t need long walks every day like other breeds with a similar energy level.
If you plan on adopting a Maltese puppy, keep this in mind — they need early socialization to help them have a well-rounded temperament. Make sure to set time aside every day to socialize your puppy.
Try to invite friends and family to your home from time to time — alternatively, visit other people and bring your Maltese with you. This is so your puppy gets to know other people, too. It’s part of the socialization process that trains your pup to be friendly and confident around people from outside the home.
Because of their love for humans, Maltese dogs will also need plenty of human attention. Without enough love and care from their owners, these pups are prone to separation anxiety. Before picking a Maltese up, make sure you have enough time to give them every day to keep them happy.
Maltese dogs can be a stubborn breed, so some owners may consider them “difficult.”
But they’re also highly intelligent and respond well to training when you’re consistent.
If you have small children, know that a Maltese can be a bit impatient with grabby hands and rough play. However, studies show a dog’s behavior isn’t predicted by breed. So while anecdotal evidence states a Maltese can be difficult, a lot of your results will depend on you and your training regimen.
This breed is prone to barking, which means that many Maltese dogs will vocalize perhaps more than you’d like if you live in an apartment. And because they are known to show intolerance towards other dogs and small children, they may be more likely to bark when they share an environment with other pets and kids.
That being said, every pup is different. So one pup could bark more than another depending on the individual Maltese dog’s personality.
However, they’ll be less likely to bark if they get the proper amount of exercise. They won’t have as much pent-up energy they need to release.
A Maltese dog is a perfect house dog, especially if you live in a small apartment or rental that doesn’t have a lot of space.
Not only are Maltese dogs small, but they don’t need tons of space to get their daily dose of exercise. And even if you don’t have a backyard, they’ll be happy with short walks and play sessions with you inside your home.
Plan to adopt a Maltese soon? Here are some important facts about a Maltese dog’s health.
Maltese dogs can live long, healthy lives. They can live an average of 12 to 15 years when properly cared for.
So if you’re looking for a beloved companion who’ll be around for a long time, this breed is a great choice.
As a breed, the Maltese don’t have too many serious health issues. However, they’re not immune to some health concerns.
Every breed will have its own set of health concerns, some more than others. Luckily, the Maltese breed only has a few inherited conditions to watch out for.
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) states that Maltese dogs should get tested for the following:
Other problems they’re known for include:
While there’s no way to know for certain if an individual dog will develop one or more of these health issues, there are a few things you can do before you choose your pet.
For example, if you’re getting your Maltese from a breeder, ask about the parents and their health history.
Of course, you won’t be able to get this information if you’re adopting a Maltese from a shelter. If that’s the case, you can still ask if the shelter has any information about your dog’s genetic history.
A Maltese dog needs at least one walk per day. However, they’re not as demanding as breeds such as Huskies, German Shepherds, or Dalmatians.
A short 20-30 minute walk each day should be enough to keep your Maltese healthy and well-exercised. It can also help to reduce barking.
For busy people who crave the companionship of a furry friend, that can feel like a lot.
If you’re short on time, you can also play around with your Maltese, whether that’s inside or outside. Be sure to keep them extra active during the play session.
Here are some best practices for caring for a Maltese - this can help you further figure out if this dog breed is the right fit for you, your family, and your home.
There are several tasks involved with grooming a Maltese dog.
First, you’ll need to brush your Maltese frequently. For longer-haired pups, you may need to brush as often as every day. For shorter-haired varieties, you can get away with as little as three days in between brushes.
But you’ll also need to comb your Maltese in some areas. For example, a comb is better for the face area. And if you own a long-haired Maltese dog, you'll need to comb through its entire body before you brush them.
Combing before you brush will help you spot tangles before it turns into matting.
Bathe and condition their coats regularly as well. You should aim for a bath about once a week.
Additionally, you should incorporate spritzing into your dog’s brushing routine. Spritzing is the applying of a leave-in conditioner spray to your Maltese dog’s coat.
Scrub your Maltese dog’s teeth every day. You should also wipe their face a few times a day to avoid staining around the eyes.
Remember to clip their nails as well. Nail clipping needs to be done every four to six weeks, depending on wear and tear. Remove excess hair or wax in its ears weekly as well.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing all of these tasks on your own, consider bringing your Maltese to a professional groomer every month or so.
However, bringing your Maltese to a groomer doesn’t mean you can stop brushing them. If you go weeks without brushing your Maltese dog, its silky coat may get heavily tangled or even matted.
They’ll also need their weekly bath — so unless you’re bringing them to a groomer each week, you can’t skip that chore, either.
Maltese dogs can be trained at a high level for those who want to compete. But even if competitions don’t interest you, it’s still important to properly train any new Maltese dog that joins your family.
It’s recommended to crate-train Maltese dogs for housetraining, especially if you have a puppy. You should also set up gates or a playpen inside your home to give your puppy a dedicated space as you house train them.
You can also try clicker training with Maltese dogs. Combine treats with the clicker to reward your Maltese for their good behavior. Keep training sessions short (10 minutes or less) to avoid overwhelming your dog.
It’s relatively easy to feed a Maltese. Because they’re so small, they don’t require a huge amount of food.
Keep in mind that not all foods have the same caloric density so there isn’t a specific number of cups every Maltese will eat. A brand of dog food that’s more calorie-dense will require smaller portion sizes.
How should you pick the right food for your Maltese? This breed doesn’t have any special requirements. Any high-quality dog food is suitable for your Maltese.
With that said, avoid cheap, low-quality dog foods. These foods are often chock-full of fillers and other ingredients that won’t offer much nutritional value to your Maltese.
Other qualities to look for in high-caliber Maltese dog food include:
You can choose dry kibble to feed your Maltese. Alternatively, you can also blend dry kibble with wet food.
Some Maltese dogs can be picky eaters. Try warming the food in the microwave to encourage your pup to eat — just make sure to test the food’s temperature with the skin of your inner wrist to make sure it won’t burn your Maltese.
Maltese dogs are a great choice of pet for first-time dog owners, especially for those who live in small spaces and rentals. However, because of their fragile frame and tendency to be impatient, they’re not the best choice for families with small children.
Even though they’re not immune to diseases, they’re generally healthy dogs that’ll be a part of your family for years to come.
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