At a glance
malteseMaltese are small toy dogs with snow-white hair and are also known as bichon maltaise. The breed is a very popular companion dog and show dog.


  • Names – bichon maltaise, Couton, Maltie
  • Group – AKC: Toy Group; KC: Toy
  • Size – small
  • Life expectancy – average of 15; range of 14 to 18 years
  • Cost of ownership – medium
  • Ease of ownership – high
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Amount of Exercise – low
  • Amount of Grooming – high
  • Ease of Training – medium
  • Obedience level – high
  • Suitable for Children – high
  • Amount of Care Required – medium
  • Susceptibility to Health Problems – medium

The Maltese is a robust small companion dog with a beautiful silky white coat that can be kept short, or in the case of showing, will hang straight to the ground from the center part line. The thick, heavy hair can be grown to 8 inches in length. Coat colors can be pure white or light ivory. Hair covers the long pendant ears and tail; the tail is feathered and coiled over the back. The large, dark eyes and black nose are the only non-white features on the dog’s body. The Maltese may feel and look fine-boned, but it is sturdy.


  • Bitch: 4-6 lbs (1.8 – 2.7 kilos)
  • Dog: 4-6 lbs (1.8 – 2.7 kilos)


  • Bitch: 8-9 inches (20 – 23 cm)
  • Dog : 8-10 inches (20 – 25 cm)


  • Color – white
  • Coat – no under coat, only a mantle of long, silky, straight white hair
  • Shedding – low
  • Allergies – low
  • Causes Allergies – low

The Maltese personality is one of high intelligence, play and delight. They are very social, and love being the focus of attention, whether in the home or in the show ring.

  • Separation Anxiety – high
  • Barking tendency – low
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Compatibility with other animals – high
  • Suitable for children – high
  • Watchdog suitability – medium

Although he is only a tiny breed, the Maltese is a good watchdog and will bark at unusual noises and will fearlessly inspect a visitor. Some Maltese can become aggressive and possessive of people and things if not properly socialized and trained at a young age. They are primarily companion dogs that thrive on love and attention. As they age, they continue to remain playful and affectionate.

Housebreaking a Maltie can be a challenge, so crate training is highly advised. Early socialization benefits the dog tremendously, especially when they reach the adult stage of their life. Training must be done gently, with patient consistence and involve a reward. The Maltese does not need extensive obedience training, as they are naturally obedient to their Masters. Some Maltie’s like learning tricks.

  • Obedience – high

Exercise required
Maltese will appreciate a daily walk and this outdoor exercise will help ward off certain unpleasant behavioral issues. They will enjoy a good romp in a safe open area off lead and will also happily participate in indoor activities. They remain playful and have a youthful spirit well into old age.

  • Energy – low
  • Amount required – A maximum of 20 minutes of walks per day is sufficient.

The hair related to the ears, eyes and face of the Maltese require special attention. Cleaning the ears includes plucking the hair growing inside the ear canal to prevent infection. To alleviate tear staining under the eyes, clip away any stained fur and keep the face dry and cleaned daily using a soft cloth and water. The hair on the top of the head is often tied up in a topknot to keep it away from the eyes.

The Maltese is susceptible to sunburn along the hair parting. They can have a sensitive digestive system and this can upset their eating habits. Chills and/or shaking that last for a few seconds sometimes affect them when they are excited; however, experts cannot exactly pinpoint a precise reason for the cause. They are sensitive to really cold or hot temperatures. With proper care, this dog can outlive most dog breeds, reaching 18 years of age.

In general, Maltese will do well when fed good quality dry dog food, such as one that is high in energy and fatty acids, such as a lamb and rice formula. Adding the occasional canned or frozen food, some meat broth (no salt added) or a bit of liver for a treat is also a good idea. An alternative to beef liver (which may cause diarrhea) is beef hearts. Avoid supplements unless recommended by a veterinarian.

Other interesting treats are raw carrots and broccoli cut up into tiny pieces. Maltese seem to like the crunchy taste of these treats, which are also good for stimulating their gums. Additionally, feeding your Maltese a dry sort of food will help to reduce tartar build-up. Tartar starts with a soft deposit called plaque. Hard food helps to scrape away the plaque before it turns to tartar.

Older Maltese will have different nutritional requirements, as organs become less efficient in breaking down food. The less active the Maltese, the less protein he will require daily. Many of the major brands of dog food have formulas available for the elderly canine.

On a final note, a Maltie can be a finicky eater, so you need to consistently feed him a proper diet and avoid introducing him to bad eating habits, such as providing table scraps. A good diet well help a Maltese maintain healthy hair, skin and coat.

Maltese lack an undercoat, and is virtually a non-shedder if the coat is well cared for. Regular grooming is required to prevent matting, which can irritate the dog. Many owners will keep their Maltese clipped in a “puppy cut,” a 1 – 2 inch all over trim. This helps make the coat easier to manage.

Daily combing and brushing of the long coat is important but be gentle, as the coat is very soft. Clean the eyes every day to prevent staining, and clean the beard after meals for the same reason. Bathe or dry shampoo regularly – making sure the animal is thoroughly dry and warm afterward.

  • Ease of grooming – medium
  • Amount of grooming – high

Good breeders will try to avoid, among other things, producing a litter of Maltese that have more terrier-style heads, which feature a longer nose, narrower head and high-set ears. There is also the concern of spaniel-like heads; however, the terrier type is known to be the most incorrect head appearance, lacking conformity to the standard.

Another issue that breeders are testing their dogs for is Brucellosis. Severe cases of this condition can result in impotency in previously fertile Maltese.

  • Litter size – average of 3; range of 2 to 5
  • Puppy cost – average of $500 and range in $150 – $1000 for a pet puppy or retired breeding dog; $900-$5,000 for a show prospect puppy or untested mature dog.

Maltese dogs are prone to dental problems as well as heart failure. They are sensitive to the outdoors and should not be subjected to excessively cold, hot or damp situations for long periods of time. They should also be discouraged from remaining too long in the sun as they are prone to sunburns on their head.

  • Life expectancy – average of 15; range of 14 to 18 years
  • Susceptibility to illness – low
  • Common health problems – dental problems, heart failure


  • Living conditions – The Maltese is content with apartment life. They are very active indoors and can thrive without a yard. However, they require a daily walk to burn off some energy.
  • Good with Children – Older, more considerate children get along well with the Maltese.

This ancient dog was developed in the Isle of Malta, a small island off the coast of Italy. It is thought that they have miniature spaniel and poodle blood in their heritage. Some believe that these snow-white dogs were imported to England by Crusaders returning home from the Mediterranean. The breed was a favorite in the court of Henry VIII and became particularly popular with women, who often carried them in their voluminous sleeves. Today, the glamorous Maltese is an adored pet and an acknowledged competitor in shows worldwide.

  • County or origin – Malta
  • AKA KC name and group: Group Gun Dog, AKC Toy

Did you know…

  • Some famous celebrities that have a Maltese include:
    • Elizabeth Taylor (Sugar)
    • Jessica Simpson (Daisy)
  • The Maltie is often a good choice for people with dog allergies.
  • The breed was reported as the 19th most popular breed in the United States in 2007.
  • After her death, it was discovered that hotel mogul Leona Helmsley’s left $12 million to her Maltese, “Trouble” in her will.
  • Like the Papillon, the Maltese has appeared in the works of painting Masters like Rubens and Goya.
  • Winsor Pilates

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