A stunning, lively and talented little dog


A Stunning, Lively and Talented Little Dog, The Maltese is a Joy To Be Around

Although the Maltese is a small, toy breed, it doesn't think it is. This fearless, lively, cuddly pup is perfect for those who want a gentle and relatively easy-going companion dog with a big personality. However, its soft, silky fur also makes it an excellent show dog.


With a known existence of at least 28 centuries, this ancient breed was called the Canis Melitaeus in Latin. One theory holds that it originated from a Spitz-type dog that was kept by the Swiss Lake Dwellers. These ancient people were accidentally discovered over 150 years ago, in 1854, when the Meilen commune used a time of very low water levels to begin to build a harbor on Lake Zürich's shore. What they unearthed as they began to build were artifacts from "lake peoples" who built settlements there between the years of 4300 and 800 BC.

Another theory as to the Maltese's origin is that it may be related to the Tibetan Terrier, with its ancestors in Asia.

The first actual record of the breed was found on a Greek amphora dating to about 500 BC, and the breed is also mentioned in ancient Roman and Greek literature. Famed philosopher Aristotle also mentioned the Maltese by the name Melitaei Catelli, about 370 BC. Greek writer Callimachus described the dog by its Latin name around 350 BC, and Roman philosopher and author Pliny thought that the Maltese probably took its name from Meleda, while Greek geographer and philosopher Strabo surmised the dog originated from the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. Queen Elizabeth I's physician John Caius repeated the assertion that the Maltese came from the island of Malta and in fact thought that Callimachus had actually meant to say that Malta, not Meleda, was the source of the dog's name. This assertion is supported by the fact that the Roman governor of Malta, Publius, who ruled during the time of the apostle Paul, had a Maltese named Issa.

The first Maltese shown in the United States was a white dog listed as a "Maltese Lion Dog" at the first showing at Westminster, in 1877. In 1888, the breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club.

For centuries, the Maltese has been prized by those of aristocratic breeding, but this refined little dog will adapt within any household because of its spirited temperament and sturdy constitution.


The Maltese is the quintessence of regal elegance and bearing. With a black button nose and brown eyes, the Maltese's tiny body is fine boned, but compact and strong. The ears are pendulous and low set. There is no undercoat, but the outer coat is silky, and is kept long for show. Those who don't intend to show pets often cut the long silky hair into a shorter and easier to care for "puppy cut."

The fur is white or off-white, and when kept long is parted down the middle of the back and combed straight down, almost to the ground. In adulthood, your little pet will weigh between six to nine pounds and be eight to ten inches tall at the shoulder.


Playful, lively, and energetic, this gentle little dog will be extremely devoted to you and will be very trusting as long as you set proper boundaries. With a very sophisticated intelligence, this dog can learn tricks easily. Despite its tiny size, this breed makes a very good watchdog, because of its sensitivity to suspicious noises. Your pet will get along well with other pets in the household, including cats and other dogs.

One thing you must try to avoid encouraging is something called "small dog syndrome." With this syndrome, little dogs that are treated like babies or small children don't learn to be properly submissive to you, who must establish yourself as the alpha dog (or leader) in the pack. They become temperamental, snappish, spoiled… in effect, little terrors that rule the roost. Not only does this result in a very unhappy owner, in many respects, but a pretty unhappy dog, as well. Make sure that as soon as you bring your puppy home, you set firm boundaries that put you in charge. Discipline with gentle but firm and consistent corrections is most effective. Your little pet wants to please you and will do so if you put the proper guidelines in place.

Further, there is no need to pamper or overprotect your little dog, as delicate as he or she looks. These are very hardy little dogs, and they love to play and romp outdoors. Take your pet for a daily walk for exercise and to reinforce pack behavior. Since your pet loves to play, let it romp endlessly indoors and out to use up that boundless energy and to keep your pet happy.

With clearly defined boundaries in combination with regular socialization, the Maltese is simply a joy to be around in every sense of the word. He or she will keep you entertained well into his or her old age, since these little dogs don't lose their puppy-like behavior even when they become older.

Proper Environment

The Maltese will easily accept either an apartment environment or house. To exhaust this dog’s endless level of energy, it is imperative that you take your pet for daily walk for exercise and allow him or her to romp outdoors. An off-leash dog park is ideal if you don't have a yard.


The Maltese is a very healthy little dog, with a life expectancy of 15 years or even longer. If you part your pet's hair in the classic "long" Maltese look, be aware that your little dog’s skin can get sunburned in the part. The Maltese can also have delicate digestion, and it's important that you don't feed your pet table scraps. Instead, invest in a good quality dog food (for small breeds, if applicable) as recommended by your veterinarian. Your pet is also sensitive to extreme temperature fluctuations, and it's important to keep your pet warm enough or cool enough, as the case may be, at all times. This breed is also troubled by particularly damp weather.

Prone to teeth problems, this dog will benefit from chewing good quality dog biscuits and by having your vet inspect and clean teeth regularly if necessary.


If you keep your pet's coat in the classic long show style, you need to brush and comb daily to prevent tangles and matting. The coat is very delicate and soft, and your pet's skin is very sensitive, so it's important to be gentle when you do so. Bathe or dry shampoo when necessary, making sure your pet does not get overly chilled. Your pet's "beard" and areas under the eyes should be cleaned regularly to prevent staining. The Maltese sheds very little, and is a good breed for those who suffer from allergies.


Adopt a Maltese.

Retrieved July 21, 2013.

AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Maltese.

Retrieved July 21, 2013.


Retrieved July 21, 2013.

Maltese (dog).

Retrieved July 21, 2013.

Maltese (Maltese Lion dog).

Retrieved July 21, 2013.

Rediscovering the legend of the lake dwellers.

Retrieved July 21, 2013.

Pliny the Elder.

Retrieved July 21, 2013.


Retrieved July 21, 2013.

Questions people ask about the Maltese dog...

  • +Are Maltese easy to train?

  • +Does the Maltese bark a lot?

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