Maltese

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Get all the information about the beautiful Maltese in our definitive guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
12 to 15 years
Size:

Extra Small

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Shed Level:

Low

Temperament:
LapdogGentleEager To Please
Coat Color:
White

Best For

The Maltese breed can thrive in small or large homes as long as they have a lap to snuggle in. New and experienced pet parents will love this easy-going breed who gets along with people and even cats. However, take care around young children or bigger pets who might accidentally hurt the sweet, tiny dog.

Maltese Traits

What makes the Maltese a Maltese? Let's find out how they stack up.

Maltese Temperament

From deep in their history, Maltese dogs have a love for laps and their people. Truly, their favorite place is to be wherever you are. Their intense love for their family means they may feel anxious if they’re alone for too long, leading them to bark if they get bored or worried.

If you live in an apartment, be warned: This tiny dog can carry a persistent bark that some neighbors won’t appreciate. Training and socialization are important to help your pup be at ease with the noises that come with apartment life and lessen their need to bark.

These friendly, social butterflies love people and other pets, including cats. Because they’re about the same size as a cat, the two can get along surprisingly well. But even though they’re fearless, their small weight and height make them fragile. So, they should always be supervised around very young children and babies to make sure the pup isn’t injured or overwhelmed by rough play.

The tiny Maltese has a sweet personality that makes them great therapy dogs. But more than anything else, they just want a chance to sit in your lap and be close to you.

How to Care for a Maltese

About the only thing high maintenance with a Maltese dog is their grooming needs (that silky coat does need a little extra TLC). Because of their size and what they were born to do (occupy your lap), they don’t have high exercise or training needs. This little pup is truly content as long as they’re with you.

Maltese Health

Your little Maltese can have a long lifespan (about 12 to 15 years), but as with any breed, they have unique health issues that can crop up. Keep an eye on these to give your dog the best life possible.

  • Luxating Patella: Many small breeds encounter this issue, where a kneecap slips from its normal position. If your dog has a luxating patella, you might notice a little skip sometimes when they walk. Depending on the severity, your dog might not need any treatment or may need surgery.
  • Portosystemic Shunt: This is also called a liver or hepatic shunt, and it occurs when blood vessels circumvent the liver, preventing it from clearing the blood of toxins. This is usually a congenital issue, and symptoms can include head pressing, poor growth or seizures. Often, surgery is the best treatment.
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus: This occurs when a blood vessel near the heart doesn’t completely close after birth, and it can lead to heart failure. The good news is that this condition can be surgically fixed with a high success rate. A heart murmur is often the first sign, and a cardiologist can confirm the condition.
  • Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis: GME is a complex brain condition that can lead to a variety of neurological issues. Symptoms may include blindness, seizures and behavior changes. Treatments include steroids and chemotherapy, and their success levels vary. Dogs with GME should be treated aggressively and early.
  • Tear Stains: Tear stains are caused by molecules that contain iron called porphyrin. All dogs produce porphyrin, but it’s more noticeable in white pups. Most tear staining isn’t a cause for concern, but if your pup is tearing up more than normal, it could be the result of an underlying health condition like allergies, corneal ulcers or other eye disease, in which case, you should contact your vet for a checkup.
  • Respiratory Issues: Some Maltese can develop one of two respiratory issues: a collapsed trachea or reverse sneezing, which have similar symptoms (often, your pup will sound like a duck quack or goose honk). The first can worsen with age and may need surgery. The second is harmless. You can protect your pup’s trachea by using a harness with the leash to prevent pulling on the collar.
  • White Dog Shaker Syndrome: Some dogs may develop tremors around 1 to 2 years of age, varying in severity. It may worsen if they’re overly excited and disappear when they’re relaxed. Often the tremors resolve with prednisone treatment.
  • Eye Diseases: In general, Maltese have lower incidents of eye issues. However, in some cases they may have progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), glaucoma or cataracts. All three can cause blindness, but only glaucoma and cataracts may be treated with surgery. There is no treatment for PRA. But never fear, a blind pup can still live a full, happy life.
  • Dental Disease: Because pint-sized pups have less room for all their teeth, toy dog breeds like the Maltese can be more at risk for dental disease. Prevention is the best form of treatment; be sure to brush your pup’s teeth at least a few times a week (daily is best) and get them professionally cleaned once a year by your vet.
  • Hypoglycemia: Smaller Maltese, often called “teacup,” are more prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) than standard-size Maltese dogs. This can be treated with regular, small meals to keep blood sugar levels healthy.

Maltese History

The Maltese has a long history of being a beloved lapdog, even dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. Some believe the dog was introduced to the Island of Malta by the Phoenicians before the rise of Greece. Others say the dog’s origins are in the Alps or Egypt. And some say the dog was bred from Spaniels or Spitzes, while others say they originated in Malta. Needless to say, there’s a lot of mystery behind the Maltese origin.

As Malta was conquered by different empires for 2,000 years, word about the Maltese spread. The 4th and 5th century Greeks loved the Maltese, and Aristotle referred to the breed as “perfectly proportioned.” For the ancient Romans, the Maltese was a status symbol. There is even a legend that Saint Paul was given a Maltese after he was shipwrecked on Malta.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, the Maltese breed was kept alive in China, where it was crossed with native breeds. The Maltese breed was refined during this time and became a dog of nobility again throughout Europe.

In 1877, at New York’s first Westminster dog show, the breed was originally referred to as the Maltese Lion Dog and was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888.

Are you looking to add a Maltese puppy as a pet? You can find a list of reputable breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. What’s the average Maltese puppy price? The cost can range from $600 to $4,000 for a puppy, depending on the breeder, pedigree papers, and health or temperament screenings performed. Maltese rescue organizations and local shelters can also help you find a Maltese puppy or dog to adopt.

Have you come across a “teacup Maltese” or a “black Maltese” pup in your search? Teacups are smaller-sized Maltese and are often marketed as “rare.” Breeders may charge more for these pups for these smaller types. Be warned: These smaller pups often have a lot of health issues or genetic disorders. Responsible breeders do not breed for smaller sizes, and the AKC does not recognize these pups (or their breeders), either. Be sure to work with a reputable breeder to ensure you’re getting a healthy pup. And there is no such thing as a black Maltese. Maltese are always white. If you’ve got a black Maltese, you’ve got an equally adorable pup who’s most likely a Maltipo (Maltese-Poodle mix) or a Maltipom (Maltese-Pomeranian mix).

FAQs

Are Maltese hypoallergenic?

Maltese are considered to be hypoallergenic because they don’t have an undercoat and are so low-shedding. Some people might still experience allergies from them, however. Brushing your pup will help keep those flyaway hairs at bay and allergy triggers to a minimum.

Do Maltese bark a lot?

Maltese can bark a lot, especially since they may experience separation anxiety when away from their family. In fact, if you live in an apartment, your dog may need training or a dog sitter, so they don’t annoy your neighbors with their barking.

Are Maltese good with kids?

Maltese can be great with kids; they were bred to be companion dogs, after all. Of course, as with any dog, they need proper socialization. The biggest issue with children is that Maltese can be fragile since they are so small. You’ll need to supervise them around smaller children and babies so they aren’t injured by rough play.

Can Maltese dogs swim?

Maltese dogs can swim, but they’re not as great at it as Golden Retrievers are. Their long hair can actually weigh them down, kind of like if you were to swim in jeans. If you want to teach your dog to swim, put on a doggy life jacket or get a professional trainer to help.

What are the most popular Maltese names?

The most popular Maltese names are Bella, Teddy, Zoe, Milo, Max, Bentley, Luna, Cooper, Buddy, Leo, Benji, Ollie, Gracie, Bailey, Rocky, Bear, Sadie, Tucker, Gigi, Snowball, Sugar, Frosty, Cotton, Angel, Casper, Coconut, Vanilla, Bunny, Marshmallow, Ice, Pearl, Itty Bitty, Sweetpea, Gizmo, Pixie or Buttons. Get more dog names here.

What are the most common Maltese mixes?

The most common Maltese mixes are:

  • Maltese-Shih Tzu mix (Malt-Tzu)
  • Maltese-Poodle mix (Maltipoo)
  • Maltese-Yorkie mix (Morkie)
  • Maltese-Chihuahua mix (Malchi)
  • Maltese-Bichon mix (Maltichon)
  • Maltese-Havanese mix (Havamalt)
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Top Takeaways

Maltese are loving, social butterflies who want nothing more than to be snuggled up in your lap as much as possible. They get along with cats and other pets and tend to view other humans as potential friends. But they’re fragile and can be hurt by young children or bigger pets who play too rough. If you take your Maltese on a short walk once a day and spend a lot of time bonding, they’ll be happy and content.

Expert input provided by veterinarian Georgina Ushi Phillips, DVM, who writes for the Not a Bully website and certified dog trainer Melissa Thomas, MPC, VSA-CDT, owner of Training to a T, LLC.

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