The lovely Maltese is often considered one of the most beautiful of all dogs, with its long, flowing white coat and soulful dark eyes. These little dogs have been known on the island of Malta for over 2000 years. Ancient Romans, Greeks, and others in antiquity wrote about them, and they appeared in many pieces of Old World art. Today they are still admired for their beauty and for their playful, gentle personality.
History of the Maltese Dog
The Maltese comes from an area in the central Mediterranean, though there is some confusion over whether the dog was originally from Malta, from the island of Mijet, or from a Sicilian town called Melita. There are early references to the dog in connection to all of these places. However, by the first century A.D. the dog is clearly associated with the island of Malta. The Maltese was celebrated by Roman poets, by the Greeks, and referred to in Greek and Roman literature. Even Aristotle mentions them. The dogs appear to have always been highly valued and esteemed in the households of their owners. They have belonged to royalty throughout the centuries. The Maltese was first shown at Westminster in 1877 and the American Kennel Club first registered them in 1888.
The Maltese is considered to be a relatively healthy breed. Although health problems do occur in the breed, many of them are very rare. The Maltese has a long lifespan and many live to be 15-18 years of age.
As with many Toy dogs, Maltese can be prone to dental problems so you will need to brush your dog’s teeth regularly to prevent tartar and plaque from building up. Hypoglycemia can be an issue, especially with puppies, so you should feed your Maltese several small meals each day instead of one large meal.
Neurological disorders which can occur in the Maltese include GME (Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyeitis), Syringomyelia, and White Shakers Syndrome.
Gastrointestinal problems which can appear in the breed include GSD (Glycogen Storage Disease), Portosystemic Shunt/Hepatoportal Microvascular Dysplasia, and IBD/Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
The cardiovascular disease PDA or Patent Ductus Arteriosus can occur in the Maltese.
The orthopedic problems luxating patellas (slipped kneecaps) and Legg Calve Perthes disease can occur in the breed.
Collapsed trachea and reversed sneezing can occur in some dogs.
These are the most serious health problems that can occur in the breed. Again, these are health issues that have occurred in the breed, however rarely. Before getting a Maltese puppy or adult you should talk to a breeder about health issues in the breed. Discuss health and genetic testing and find out about their dogs and what kind of testing they dog. Most breeders take breeding very seriously and they screen for genetic health problems. If there are health tests available, find out if the breeder has done the testing.
Temperament and Training
The Maltese is a gentle, playful, lively little dog. They are very affectionate and also very intelligent. They have been known for centuries as refined dogs. They are also very faithful and they tend to be clean dogs. They are playful and fun and they make excellent family pets. They are good with children as long as the children are not too rough with them. These are very small dogs (just four to six pounds) so they should not be manhandled or they could be injured. Don’t leave young children and dogs alone together.
The Maltese is a very intelligent dog and they can be easily trained, especially if you use positive reinforcement (praise and treats). They are eager to please. Although they are small, they are very brave.
We provide Maltese dog and puppy training in Beverly Hills and West LA. Learn more about our private dog training classes.
The Maltese is known for its gorgeous long, white coat. This beautiful coat takes a lot of grooming. If you keep the coat long then you will need to brush your dog daily and bathe and condition the coat every week or two. Otherwise the coat will mat and tangle.
Like the Poodle, the Maltese is a single-coated breed. They have no undercoat and they shed very little. For this reason the Maltese is often considered a good breed for people who have allergies to dog hair and dander.
Some pet owners prefer to keep the coat cut short. You can take your dog to a professional groomer to have the coat cut in a puppy clip. You will probably need to visit the groomer about every six to eight weeks if you are going to keep the coat cut short.
Otherwise you should clean your dog’s ears every week to prevent ear infections from forming.
You will need to trim your dog’s nails weekly to keep them short. If you trim them weekly then you won’t cut the dog’s quicks and you can just remove a small amount of nail each week.
Special Needs or Care
Some Maltese like to bark a lot which can get them into trouble. Studies in two different countries (Australia and South Korea) found that the Maltese was the dog most often “dumped” by owners. Before you get a Maltese you should make sure that this is the right dog for you. Talk to owners and breeders and find out what it’s really like to own a Maltese.