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The Maltese are a small toy breed with largely unknown origins. Despite its name, the Maltese do not originate from the island of Malta but from somewhere in south-central Europe.
It’s thought that these dogs have a long history, being around for thousands of years. Images of them have been found in Ancient Greek and Roman literature. Plus, legends state that Roman aristocrats chose Maltese dogs as their companions.
In more recent times, the Maltese received recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1888. Since then, the Maltese have become a popular toy dog in the UK, chosen for its miniature size, glamorous long coat, and affectionate nature.
Meet the Maltese dog
This tiny canine weighs less than seven pounds and stands just 7 to 9 inches tall, smaller than most domestic cats. Some breeders try to produce even more miniature Maltese dogs, known as “teacup” Maltese, weighing around four pounds at maturity. However, it’s best to avoid this variety as Maltese dogs weighing less than four pounds are more prone to genetic disorders and general health conditions.
The Maltese’s most distinct feature is its long, silky coat that will be pure white but may have a pale ivory tinge. It looks shiny and feels soft and dense. They lack an undercoat, and their hair is always straight, never curly. Underneath their long coats, Maltese have athletic yet delicate body structures.
The Maltese’s glossy coat constantly grows, so they need regular trims at the groomers. Additionally, you should brush them a few times a week and bathe them once or twice a week. To reduce the amount of maintenance, some Maltese owners opt to cut their coats short, which changes the texture to fluffy and wavy rather than silky and straight. You’ll be pleased to know that their long hairs do not shed much, though.
In contrast to their white coats, Maltese have adorable black-button noses, dark eyes and small floppy ears, giving them a cute and elegant appearance. Another distinctive feature is their tufted tails that curl up and over their backs.
Maltese dogs have a decent life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. However, they can be prone to hereditary medical conditions, such as heart and liver problems.
The temperament of a Maltese dog
The Maltese are sweet but lively pups that are confident, curious and playful. They are people-orientated and are friendly towards everyone they meet. They tolerate being picked up and held and make fantastic lap dogs.
Maltese pups are intelligent and trainable and do exceptionally well with positive reinforcement training methods. However, while they will quickly pick up commands and tricks, house training a Maltese may require more time and patience. Early socialisation is also crucial with this breed to ensure they grow up to have a good temperament and get along well with children and other animals.
As a compact canine, the Maltese enjoys going on walks but does not require much exercise. Their primary need is to be close to their owners, and they can be quite the attention seekers. They will do fine if left alone for a few hours but can display frustration through barking if they stay alone for much longer.
10 reasons to add a Maltese to your family
- They look like teddy bears - The Maltese's soft white fur, black button nose, and eyes make them a living teddy.
- They are happy and affectionate - Your Maltese will wag its little tail with delight and constantly shower you with love.
- You can carry them around in your bag - Maltese dogs are super easy to transport, and many will happily chill in your handbag as you walk down the street.
- You won't find white hair all over your house -Maltese dogs don't shed much, so you won't have to vacuum your black furnishings every day.
- You don't have to take them on long walks - Maltese dogs have low energy needs, so you'll never have to take them on an hour-long walk to tire them out.
- They are easy to train - This breed understands things quickly. They are always eager to learn, making training sessions fun and enjoyable.
- They can interpret their owner's emotions - Maltese dogs are known for their ability to understand how their owners are feeling. They can pick up on changes in their mood and even sense pregnancy.
- They make excellent apartment pets - Maltese are indoor dogs that take up very little space, so they are super adaptable for all types of homes.
- You can give them a ponytail - Many owners of female Maltese dogs use clips and hairbands on the hairs on their heads to make them look even cuter.
- They have no fear - The Maltese may be small, but they are incredibly courageous. These confident canines don't get scared of anything and protect their owners at all costs.
Best homes for a Maltese dog
Because of their tiny size, Maltese dogs don't need gardens and do well living in apartments and flats. Therefore, they are a good choice for those with limited living space. Maltese dogs are also suitable for first-time dog owners as they are easy to train and not too much of a handful.
While Maltese dogs can get along with children, their small, delicate bodies put them at risk of accidental harm. Thus, they are not the best breed to choose if you have small children who are too young to understand how to handle a small pup like this. Finally, Maltese dogs can get along with other small canines and cats if introduced early. Still, their size makes them vulnerable for houses with large dogs.