Maltese picture, also called Bichon Maltese, Isle of Malta Dog, Teacup Maltese and Tiny Toy Maltese
Canis lupus familiaris

The Maltese is believed to a very old breed of dog… several thousand years old!

The Maltese are one of the Bichon breeds and were specifically bred to be a companion dog. Its name comes from the island of Malta, but its exact origin is unknown. It is, however, believed to be a very old breed of dog and a descendent of a Spitz. Today it is often cross-bred with other small dogs to produce some of the so-called ‘designer dogs’. One resulting breed that is recognized is the Kyi-Leo, the product of a cross between the Maltese and the Lhasa Apso.

Maltese make wonderful companions for individuals and families. They are gentle, loving, graceful and devoted. They are also very intelligent, and they learn tricks with ease. A well socialized Maltese will get along well with children and all other pets, and are usually polite with strangers. This breed can do well as a guard dog. They make wonderful apartment dogs, and because they shed very little, can be a good pet for people prone to allergies.

When selecting a Maltese, look for respiratory difficulties, eye and tooth problems, and difficulties in feeding and digestion. Slipped stifle is somewhat common in the breed as well.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Canidae
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: lupus familiaris

Common Name(s)

Maltese. Bichon Maltese, and Isle of Malta Dog. Descriptive names indicating size that are sometimes used are Teacup Maltese. Tiny Toy Maltese, and Extreme Tinies

Breed Type

The Maltese is a toy breed of the Bichon type. It is a devoted and lively companion, as well as a popular show dog. The Maltese fares best in moderate climates.


The exact origins of the Maltese are unknown, but the breed is believed to be several thousand years old. Evidence suggests that the Maltese may have originated in Asia. Its name comes from the island of Malta, with which it has been traditionally associated. It is believed to be a descendent of a Spitz, which was bred with unknown smaller dogs.
The Maltese is often intentionally crossbred to produce so-called “designer dogs.” Popular hybrids include the Maltepoo (Maltese and Poodle mix), the Shihtese (Shih Tzu and Maltese mix), and the Cocktese (Maltese and Cocker Spaniel mix). One recognized breed, the Kyi-Leo, is the product of a cross between a Maltese and Lhasa Apso.


The Maltese is a fine-boned dog with a rounded head. It has large, dark eyes with dark rims, and drop ears. The muzzle is tapered with a black nose. The coat is long, straight, thick and shiny. There should be no wave whatsoever according to breed standards. The usual color is white, but cream or light lemon ears are acceptable (although not favored).
Male Maltese are 8 to 10 inches tall, and females are 8 to 9 inches tall. Weight standards vary among kennel clubs, but the average is 4 to 7 pounds.

Care and Feeding

A proper diet is essential in maintaining the Maltese’s trademark look. Bad diet can cause the coat to yellow, and it can contribute to tear staining. The best foods for the breed include saltwater fish, poultry, lamb, brown rice, avocado and wheat.
Grooming of a long-coated Maltese can be rather time consuming. The soft coat must be gently brushed and combed each day, and regular bathing is essential. The dog must be dried thoroughly and kept warm. The eyes and beard should be cleaned daily to prevent staining. Special care must also be taken to keep the ears clean, and hair growing inside of them should be removed. Teeth should be brushed regularly. Many pet Maltese owners clip the coat for easier grooming.
The Maltese needs annual checkups to maintain good health. Vaccinations are due on the following schedule:

  • 6-8 weeks: Distemper, Leptospirosis, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo, and Corona virus (DHLPPC)
  • 10-12 weeks: Second DHLPPC
  • 14-16 weeks: Third DHLPPC and rabies
  • Annually: DHLPPC and rabies booster

The Maltese sheds very little hair. This makes it a good dog for allergy sufferers and provides for minimal added maintenance in the home.

Housing Your Dog

Maltese are best suited to indoor life. If you live in an area with extreme weather, paper training may be advisable to avoid letting the dog out in hot, cold or wet conditions.

Social Behaviors

A well socialized Maltese gets along nicely with children and other pets of all types. They are usually polite with strangers as well.

Handling and Training

The Maltese is a quick learner that excels at doing tricks. It may, however, be a bit stubborn during training. Firmness and consistency are essential to success.


Maltese can get most of the exercise they need through normal play. But a daily walk is still important and should not be omitted.


When selecting a mate for your Maltese, check bloodlines for respiratory and eye problems.

Common Health Problems

Maltese are prone to digestive problems. This may be alleviated by a change in diet. Tooth problems are also common, but can often be prevented with proper dental care.


Maltese may be hard to find in some areas, but breeders can be readily located online. Prices vary greatly, with show quality dogs often selling for more than $1,000.


Maltese“, Dog Breed Info Center, Copyright 1998-2008
Cusick, William D., “What to Feed a Maltese“, Referenced online, 2008
Maltese Puppies for Sale“, Copyright, LLC, Referenced online, 2008
Maltese (dog)“, Wikipedia, Copyright 2008

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels