"Angel Dog"

Photo of Maltese


“Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta,” the Maltese is one of the oldest known breeds and many of the small, long-coated dogs we know today might be descended from the Maltese. Probably originating on the Isle of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea (although some breed historians argue in favor of an Asian origin), the Maltese has been depicted in the art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome as well as Egypt. Later, Maltese often appeared in portraits, in the laps and arms of the British and European aristocracy. Maltese came to the United States in the late 19th century, originally as Maltese Lion Dogs. Although early Maltese sometimes had dark markings, Maltese today must be all white. A much-beloved lap dog in any century or on any continent, Maltese currently rank the 18th most popular breed in the U.S.


Fearless but sweet, Maltese relate to the world with cheerful affection and a sensible degree of caution – they are, after all, very small compared to everyone else! Peppy when they want to play but mild-mannered when you want to snuggle, Maltese have a particular skill at personal companionship. They would prefer to go with you wherever you go, riding along in your arms or in a handbag, but they can stay home, too, to frisk with another dog or even the cat. While Maltese think children make delightful playmates, they could get injured by an unsteady toddler and might resort to nipping if kids get too rough or get them too wound up. Otherwise, Maltese love most people once they get to know them, and will bark happily to tell you whenever anything interesting goes on outside the window. They won't want to let you go to bed without them, either – a Maltese wants to be your companion day and night, and much prefers your bed to any dog bed, no matter how luxurious.


One of the smallest of the toy dogs, the fine-boned and aristocratic Maltese should weigh under 7 pounds, although some pets weigh more. The heavily feathered ears, dark round eyes, jet-black nose, and plumed tail gracefully sweeping over its back give the Maltese a glamorous show-dog look, most dramatically characterized by the long, flat, silky, snow-white coat hanging almost to the ground in its natural state and tied up on top of the head in one or two “topknots” decorated with pretty bows or barrettes. Some Maltese, advertised as “teacups” or “miniatures,” are not rare and are more prone to injury and health problems like hypoglycemia. The delicate Maltese tends to be a picky eater even at the correct size – caring for extra-small Maltese can be extra challenging and costly.


How do you train a dog who already acts like an angel? Actually, despite their reputation as sweet and gentle companions, Maltese need at least minimal at-home training, and will gain more confidence and a more stable temperament if exposed to new situations and many kinds people during the first year of life. Without this supervised socialization, Maltese can bark excessively, nip, become overprotective, or suffer from anxiety. Keep training sessions gentle, fun, and short. Like most toy breeds, Maltese can also be challenging to housetrain because they need to go out frequently. Many people choose to paper-train the Maltese so it doesn't have so far to go, but even this can be difficult because the tiny Maltese doesn't necessarily see why it has to walk all the way over to the newspaper. Keeping the Maltese in a comfy crate for short periods when you can't supervise and taking the dog out (or to the paper) on a regular schedule will eventually teach even the most pampered pup where the bathroom is.

Grooming & Care

Maltese need daily grooming to prevent tangles – spray first with coat conditioner to prevent hair breakage and use a pin brush or steel comb. Pet owners often keep their Maltese in short haircuts, trading glamour for convenience. Because Maltese need a shampoo and blow-dry every 6 to 8 weeks, many people take them to professional groomers, but pet owners can do the work themselves. Every day, the Maltese needs its teeth brushed, and a daily face wash and drying under the eyes plus a tear-stain remover from the pet or grooming shop can help keep under-eye staining to a minimum. Clean and dry ears and trim just the tips off nails every week or two.

Health Concerns

Like many small dogs, Maltese can suffer from luxating patellas (kneecaps that slip out of place) and collapsing tracheas. Try a harness instead of a leash, to keep pressure off the Maltese's tiny throat. Notoriously picky eaters, Maltese puppies often suffer from hypoglycemia and may need special nutrient-dense food to maintain their health. Maltese often retain baby teeth and lose adult teeth early, so regular dental care is a must, including daily brushing and veterinary dental check-ups. Maltese can also be prone to skin allergies, White Shakers Syndrome (a disease causing tremors) and liver shunts (a liver abnormality). Ask your breeder about these issues.

Famous Maltese

Governor of Malta, Publius, had a Maltese named Issa immortalized by the poet Martial.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 3
Schedule 6
Home 44
Children 49
Experience 11
Quick Facts
Grooming 57
Exercise 61
Challenges Can bark and nip, some lines prone to anxiety.
Height 9 to 10 inches
Weight 4 to 6 pounds
Life 12 to 14 years
Home Alone 82
With Kids 89
With Strangers 91
Availability 23

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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