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The Maltese is one of the most popular Toy breeds in the United States. They are widely recognized as "the little dog with the flowing white coat," and are prized for their small stature. The aristocrat of the canine world, the Maltese has also been called the Melitaie Dog, Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta, the Roman Ladies' Dog, the Comforter Dog, the Spaniel Gentle, the Maltese Lion Dog and the Maltese Terrier. Their history can be traced back for thousands of years; Charles Darwin even ventured that the origin of the breed was around 6000 BC. Thought to be a descendent of a Spitz-type dog from the Swiss lake region, the exact lineage of the breed is unknown. Associated with the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, an early center of trade from which they gather their name, it is believed that the Maltese made its way throughout the world as bartering chips for supplies. The dogs became favorites of them aristocrats, evolving from its probable rodent-control beginnings to become a companion animal.

Other Names Body Type Personality Coat Health Concerns

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AKC Group: Toy

Breed Club: American Maltese Association

Rescue Club: AMA National Rescue Program

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Body Type:

  • As a Toy breed, the Maltese ranges from approximately 3 to 10 pounds, with between 4 and 6 pounds being the ideal
  • Their body is compact and their length should equal their height
  • Tear staining can be a problem and is relative to how much the dog's eyes water; stains can be controlled by keeping the face dry and cleaning it daily


  • As a companion dog, the Maltese does not enjoy being left alone for long periods of time
  • They can be very energetic, but despite occasional bursts of activity, they are an excellent choice for individuals residing in apartments
  • Highly intelligent and good natured, they are easy to train
  • They may be intolerant of rough play, however, and households with small children may want to consider another breed because the Maltese can be easily injured due to its small size


  • They have hair that continuously grows, not fur that sheds, which makes them a more desirable choice for people with allergies
  • Their coat is pure white, long, silky and slightly wavy, and they have black noses and black pigmentation around their eyes
  • Regular grooming is required to prevent mats from forming; another alternative is to keep the dog in a "puppy cut," an allover clip of 1 to 2 inches in length

Health Concerns:

  • The average life expectancy is 12 to 15 years
  • Overall, the Maltese is a healthy breed, with relatively few problems
  • Some of the more common ones are: Luxating Patella - the patella (kneecap) moves out of its normal location. Mild cases often require no treatment; severe cases may be able to be corrected surgically; Portosystemic Liver Shunt - liver defect which mimics liver failure. It is best treated surgically, but may also be maintained with diet and medication; Progressive Retinal Atrophy - causes progressive vision loss that leads to blindness. No treatment is currently available
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Tasty Tidbits:
  • Malteses have a special mental "trigger" that can be used to make them obey your every command like you had a special "doggie remote control"

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