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Nicole Cosgrove

June 21, 2021

maltese dog

The Maltese is a small dog who over many centuries has proven to be popular amongst royalty, nobility as well as regular people all over the world. It was and still is a beloved companion dog but is also surprisingly athletic and takes part in events like tracking, agility, rally and obedience.
The Maltese is a very popular lap dog. It is a great companion, it is gentle, happy, eager to please, loving and loyal. It can be hard to house train so needs owners who are able to be firm and consistent but also patient. It is not the best dog for cold climates or damp ones either.

Here is the Maltese at a Glance
Name Maltese
Other Names Maltese Lion dog
Nicknames None
Origin Malta
Average size Toy, Small
Average weight 4 to 7 pounds
Average height 7 to 10 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years – some live a little more
Coat type Long and silky
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color White, light ivory
Popularity Quite popular – ranked 31st by the AKC
Intelligence Very good – the brightest toy dog
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle some heat but not extremes
Tolerance to cold Low – not good in any kind of cold climates
Shedding Low – does not shed very much
Drooling Low – is not a dog known to drool
Obesity Average – could gain weight if over fed but not prone to obesity
Grooming/brushing Daily brushing if coat is kept long
Barking Frequent – may not be a good dog to have where there are tight noise regulations on pets
Exercise needs Moderate – gets a lot of its needs indoors but will need a daily walk
Trainability Moderate – house breaking in particular may take more time
Friendliness Very good – Social and friendly
Good first dog Very good – may need help with training though
Good family pet Good to very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization – best with older children not younger
Good with other dogs Very good – due to its size large dogs may accidentally hurt it during play though so needs supervision
Good with other pets Good with socialization
Good with strangers Moderate – Can be wary at first, if not well socialized can even be shy
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Good – has some issues including patellar luxation, liver problems, eye problems and white dog shaker syndrome
Medical expenses $435 a year for basics plus pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year including dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $465 a year for grooming, a license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $975 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $2000
Biting Statistics None reported

The Maltese’s Beginnings

The Maltese is an ancient breed with ancestors that can be traced back to 500 B.C with reference made in Greek and Roman literature and artifacts. Its exact origins are not really known, there is some argument for it being descended from Spitz dogs and also some for being related to the Asian dog the Tibetan Terrier. Where ever it is from it came to Europe with nomadic tribes and was known by various names including Canis Melitaeus, Maltese Lion Dog, the Roman Ladies’ Dog and Melita. So named because some believed it came from the island of Malta. Over more than 2000 years it has been mentioned or drawn across many different cultures.

By the 1400s it was a beloved companion of French aristocracy and by the 1500s was the same for royal and nobles in England especially the royal women, from Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scot to the Victorian era and Queen Victoria herself. Many paintings and portraits of these times show noble women with their Maltese companion.

It was in the 17th and 18th centuries though that the Maltese breed nearly disappeared. Breeders at the time were trying to breed it smaller, to the size of a squirrel and their efforts were disastrous. The breed was damaged and without intervention would become extinct.

New Lease on Life

In the end to save it breeders all over had to crossbreed the Maltese with other small dogs like miniature Spaniels, East Asian miniature dogs and Poodles. This saved the dog but led to there being different breeds of Maltese, as many as 9 in the early 19th century and several new breeds were formed including it is believed by many, the Havanese, Bolognese and Bichon Frise.

In the late 19th century the Maltese was recognized by both the English and American Kennel Club. In American its numbers grew slowly but steadily until the 1950s when it regained popularity in dog

shows and as a companion. Today it is ranked as 31st most popular dog by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Maltese is a small toy dog weighing 4 to 7 pounds and standing 7 to 10 inches tall. It has a compact body, squared body with a long, white or light ivory, silky single coat. When not being kept as a show dog many owners opt to keep the coat short to a 1 inch length as it is easier to maintain, otherwise it hangs nearly to the ground.

It has low set feathered ears that droop, big round dark eyes and a tail that is long and it holds over its back. It is fine boned and has a deep chest. Its head is slightly rounded and it has a medium length muzzle. With enough sun exposure the nose is black but when not out in the sun much it can fade to a light brown or pink color. That black will return though with more sun exposure.

The Inner Maltese


The Maltese is alert and lively and while not very protective it will bark to let you know of an intruder. It is a frequent barker and loves to play, but that frequent barking in some places like Australia has led to it being the most abandoned dog.

It is affectionate and loving too and enjoys a life of cuddling, adoration and attention. It is intelligent and friendly, bold and is not afraid of larger dogs. It is easy to coddle and that should be avoided to endure it does not become a handful. A Maltese who thinks it is in charge can display poor behavior, be difficult to control, snappy and demanding.

When well bred and raised it is a gentle but happy energetic little dog. It is very devoted but its attachment means it can develop separation anxiety when left alone for too long. It can also be jealous when your attention is being taken by visiting guests. In general they have a curious nature but some lines are more outgoing and some are a bit more cautious.

Living with a Maltese

What will training look like?

It is a smart dog and enjoys hanging out with you so with the right approach training can be moderately easy. The approach means keeping in mind it is sensitive so harsh techniques are not going to be successful. It also requires you to be the clear pack leader, be firm, in charge, consistent but patient and positive. It will respond better to rewards, encouragement and treats.

If training is harder than you were prepared for you can turn to professional schools or trainers for help. Do not skip early socialization or obedience training. The dog will be better for it and your life with the dog will be too. House training can be difficult and may take longer. Some opt to train it to use a litter box since it is small enough especially if you live where it gets very cold or hot which are climates it does not do well in.

How active is the Maltese?

Keeping in mind how small this dog is, it is safe to say it is perfect for apartment living, it does not require a yard and even though it is an active and lively dog it does not need much effort to give it what it needs when it comes to physical exercise. It is very active inside and with the right rotation of toys it can get a lot of its physical and mental needs met right there. Take it out for a walk or two each day, 10 to 15 minutes and it will be happy.

This is a dog that stays playful and lively even into old age. If there is a yard make sure it is well secured, it is small enough to get through some pretty small spaces. When it is younger than 8 months avoid walking it too far as the bones are still developing. Most Maltese are great at creating their own games for entertainment and stimulation like hiding a toy under the kitchen cabinet and then trying to retrieve it!

Caring for the Maltese

Grooming needs

This dog has a single coat and does not shed much so is considered to be a good option for people with allergies. This means there is also not as much if any clean up to do around the home when it comes to loose hair. It does mean though that it will need to be taken to a professional groomer regularly to have its hair stripped and trimmed. When it is kept long it will need to be brushed daily as it tangles easily and can collect debris. If it is not a show dog it may be easier to keep it trimmed to a more manageable length.

When it comes to bath time the best policy with any dog is to only give it one as it needs it. Washing too often impacts on the essential oils in its skin. Make sure you only use a dog shampoo too for the same reason. It will need its nails clipping when they get too long, taking care not to cut or nick the quick. It will also need its ears checking for infection once a week and given a wipe clean and its teeth brushed two to three times a week. It can suffer from staining under the eyes so wipe them regularly. There are solutions or powders made specifically for tear stain removal.

Feeding Time

It will need to be fed ¼ to ½ cup of a good quality dry dog food a day and it should be divided into two meals. Avoid feeding them table scraps as this is not always healthy for them and it can also lead to them becoming fussy eaters. The exact amount you feed it will depend on its size, age, health, level of activity and metabolism. Some Maltese can have more delicate digestive systems than others.

How they get on with children and other animals

While it can get along well with older children who know to be careful around it, it is best not with a family who have young children. In fact a lot of Maltese breeders will not even sell to owners who have young children. It is a small and delicate breed and it is too easy for a young child to hurt or even cause serious injury from careless play. Also be warned that when a Maltese is spoiled and develops small dog syndrome it can be snappy around children.

With socialization it can get along with other animals and dogs but care around other dogs especially larger ones needs to be taken. It tends to challenge large dogs firstly, and also to some it may seem like a chew toy so supervision is a must.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

In general it is a fairly healthy dog. It has a life span of 12 to 15 years, and could live a little longer with really good care. Take care though with so called tea cup Maltese as they are prone to more genetic disorders and have higher health issues in general.

Health concerns a Maltese may be prone to include digestive issues, sunburn, dental problems, patellar luxation, liver problems, eye problems, hypoglycemia, white dog shaker syndrome, reverse sneezing and collapsed trachea. Buy from a good breeder and as well as seeing health clearance for the puppy you should see ones for both parents.

Biting Statistics

Looking at 34 years of reports on dog attacks on people in Canada and the US there are not reports of the Maltese causing any kind of serious injury. However people are less likely to report injuries from small dogs and the Maltese can be snappy when poorly bred and raised. Also any dog can become aggressive given certain circumstances or situations. As the owner you are responsible for ensuring the risks are minimal. No matter what dog you have it should be trained, socialized, given the physical and mental stimulation it needs, fed well and cared for.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Maltese is not a cheap dog to buy despite being such a small dog. On average you can expect to pay $2000 from a good breeder, more if you want to use top show breeders. In general females will cost more than males. You could get one for less from looking at listings, back yard breeders and the like but then you do not know what the lines is like. You could also adopt from a rescue or shelter for $50 to $200 and that would also cover medical procedures you would otherwise have to cover, but that is likely to be an adult dog not a puppy.

When you have a puppy you will need to have it examined by a vet. It should also have blood tests done, given some vaccinations, micro chipped, dewormed, and eventually spayed or neutered. These medical needs will cost about $260.

Certain basic items will be needed, a collar and leash, bowls, bedding, a crate and carrier to start with. These costs will start at $120.

Annual costs for basic medical needs like flea prevention, pet insurance, check ups with a vet, heart worm prevention and shots come to a starting figure of $435.

Feeding the Maltese is not a deal breaker. For a good quality dry dog food and some treats you can expect it to start at $75 a year. If you prefer a more expensive brand or more exotic treats these will cost more. Since the Maltese can be fussy you may need to try several types of food before you find something it likes.

Training is another cost to conciser. How much it will cost annually really depends on the level of training you are taking it to. If you are just doing some basic obedience it will be about $120. But that could increase depending on what kind of level you want to take it to, and also whether it is something you do yourself or pay for.

Other annual costs will include license for $20, grooming for $270, toys for $20, miscellaneous costs for $35.

Overall each year there will be a cost of at least $975.


The Maltese is a very popular lap dog. It is a great companion, it is gentle, happy, eager to please, loving and loyal. It can be hard to house train so needs owners who are able to be firm and consistent but also patient. It is not the best dog for cold climates or damp ones either.

Grooming is going to be time consuming if you opt to keep its hair long. Also if it is long the section in the middle of its back where it is parted can suffer from sunburn so it will need looking after. It can also be a picky eater.

With the proper socialization and training this is a lovely dog but a lot of owners have a tendency to spoil it because of its cuteness and size. Remember it is a dog, not a baby. With that kept in mind you will have many years of love and companionship together.

Popular Maltese Mixes

Maltese ,Havanese Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 8 to 12 inches
Weight 6 to 13 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Moderate
Breed Traits

Eager to please
Full of joy
Esy to train



Maltese, Bichon Frise Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 8 to 10 inches
Weight 8 to 12 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Occasional to moderate
Activity Low to moderate
Breed Traits

Gentle little dog
Good Family Pet
Apartment Dweller



Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 6 to 10 inches
Weight 4 to 12 pounds
Life span 10 to 13 years
Touchiness Very sensitive
Barking Occasional to frequent
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Needy and Playful
Loyal and loving
Clever and friendly
Apartment Dweller
Good for new Owner
Loves to play


Can be

Mauzer Dog
Mauzer Dog
Miniature Schnauzer, Maltese Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 8 to 14 inches
Weight 7 to 20 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Frequent
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Funny and Feisty
Loves to play
Low Shedding
Tendency to get Fat
Lovely companion
Moderately easy to train



Maltese and Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 8 to 14 inches
Weight 5 to 20 pounds
Life span 10 to 13 years
Touchiness Somewhat sensitive
Barking Frequent
Activity Moderately active
Breed Traits



Can be

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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