A small toy breed, the Maltese is an ancient dog breed thought to have its origins in Malta. However, it is possible that its lineage may be traced back to a Spitz variety of dog, or even to a variety of dog from Asia. There have also been references to Maltese terriers in the ancient literature of Rome and Greece. Regardless, the breed has a history going back many centuries, and has been known by a variety of different names. It has been known as the Maltese since the 1800s.

The appearance of the Maltese

The Maltese is a distinctive looking breed. It is small and diminutive in size, with a solid compact body. It is white all over, with dark eyes and a dark nose, and is characterised by its long, silky coat. While some slight variations of colour may be permissible, these are not seen as breed standards. Despite its apparent thickness, there is no undercoat. Maltese terriers usually have a shoulder height of around 25 centimetres, and weigh around 3 kilograms, although some males can be heavier.

Caring for a Maltese

With their impressive coats, Maltese Terriers require a considerable amount of maintenance in terms of a grooming regimen. There is no undercoat, which means that tangling and knotting are not typically an issue. In addition, Maltese dogs don’t tend to shed. Still, grooming on a regular basis is recommended to keep the coat in good shape. As Maltese dogs have long hair around their eyes, it is recommended that daily cleaning be undertaken to prevent staining in this area. The same is true for the snout region, which can become discoloured if not cared for.

Clipping a Maltese is another option for keeping the coat in good shape, and many Maltese owners will choose this option when it comes to their pet’s grooming regimen.


Maltese dogs are known for their intelligence, and are typically good at learning tricks and commands. However, they can be lively and spirited, and often exhibit ‘small dog syndrome’. Pampering a Maltese can worsen this behaviour. In order to stave off potential behavioural issues, careful training from an early age is essential.

Maltese dogs as family pets

Maltese dogs are immensely popular as family pets. This is largely due to their friendly and loyal temperament. They are popular as companion dogs, and form close bonds with their owners. It is not unusual for a Maltese to follow its owner around the home. They do require constant attention and care, and are not recommended for those who work long hours or who are unable to spend time with their pet.

Maltese terriers are happy to remain inside, and do not require much in the way of exercise. This makes them good in small residences. However, they are also prone to yapping and barking, which may be problematic in flats or apartments. Yapping can be exacerbated by boredom, and many Maltese terriers suffer from separation anxiety. While some Maltese dogs get on well with other dogs, they tend to be best suited to a single dog household.

In addition, while Maltese terriers are usually friendly, they do not appreciate being excessively handled. As a result, they are not the best choice for homes with very young or hands-on children. On the other hand, Maltese dogs are a low allergenic dog, meaning that they can be a good choice for those who are otherwise allergic to dogs.

Specific health issues

Maltese dogs tend to suffer from the same health issues that plague other small dogs of the toy variety. The most common of these relates to problems with the knee and hip joints. Depending on the severity of the problem, some Maltese terriers can eventually suffer from osteoarthritis and degeneration of the joints.

In addition, regular washing of the eye area is necessary to prevent infection, while careful attention to the dog’s dental hygiene is also essential. Maltese terriers are also prone to sunburn, and may exhibit respiratory issues. They have difficulty regulating their body temperature, so keeping them away from very hot weather is recommended. Some Maltese terriers can also have difficulty giving birth, which is something that owners should keep in mind if they are considering breeding.