Maltese Overview

Dog Breed:
Breed Group:
Toy group
Affectionate, charming, fearless, playful and elegant.
7-9 inches
Under 7 pounds
Life Span:
12-15 years
Coat Colors:
Area of Origin:
Best For:
Families with older children/All sizes of home/Owners with time to keep the Maltese coat in perfect condition.
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Malteses
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Malteses
Mixed Breeds:

Maltese Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Maltese

  • Loves to run and play

  • Adores being with people

  • May not be a good choice with young children

Maltese are an instantly recognizable toy dog who glide along under their long white silky coats. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is just a lapdog because underneath that glamorous appearance is a fearless athlete who loves to run and play.

This is a breed that loves to be with people, and so they can excel as therapy dogs. The Maltese may not, however, be the best choice for families with toddlers; some dogs find the noise and commotion which comes with small children challenging to tolerate and their small frame may not be the best combination with heavy handed petting.

Sadly, the Maltese have become popular with backyard breeders and puppy mills. Do ensure that you’re happy with the conditions that all the breeder’s dogs live in and that you meet both ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ before committing to purchasing a puppy.

Maltese Breed History

  • Depicted on ceramics back to the Golden Age

  • First known as the Maltese Lion Dog

  • First appeared at the Westminster show in 1877


Sixty miles south of Sicily, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, lies the island of Malta. A thriving seaport going back to 3500 BC, the island became known for being a clearing house for spices, silks and gemstones, and a little white lapdog.

The Maltese have been depicted on Golden Age ceramics, and Aristotle even referred to them, describing this toy dog as ‘perfectly proportioned.’ The Romans considered the Maltese as a status symbol, with even Emperor Claudius falling for their charm.

Following the fall of Rome and during the Dark Ages in Europe, it was breeders in China who prevented the Maltese from becoming extinct. The Chinese bred the Maltese with their own native toy breeds, and when they finally returned to Europe, it was with a much more refined appearance. 

With its eye-catching looks, the Maltese have been entered at dog shows in the US from the very beginning. Exhibited as the Maltese Lion Dog, they appeared at the first Westminster show back in 1877.

Maltese Size & Weight

  • Males are between eight and ten inches

  • Females are between eight and nice inches

  • Weight between four and six pounds


The Maltese are a small breed that should weigh under seven pounds, although most dogs tend to weigh in between four and six pounds.

Males are usually between eight and ten inches at the shoulder, while females are between eight and nine inches. With their petite size, care is needed to ensure that they don’t get hurt from being underfoot.

Maltese Personality & Temperament

  • Lively and fearless

  • Highly intelligent

  • Suitable for apartment living


Maltese have a lively personality and are incredibly people-orientated towards everyone they know. That said, they can become quite the fearless watchdog until they are introduced to new people coming into the home. Visitors can then expect to become enchanted by this lapdog, who will soon have them providing fuss and cuddles on demand!

This is not a breed that is often recommended for families with young children, and this is due to the very small size of the Maltese and the subsequent risk of unintentional injury. Tiny dogs and toddlers running around and falling are unlikely to be a good combination. Some Maltese also find the noise from children playing and heavy-handed petting to be difficult to tolerate.

There should be no doubt as to their high level of intelligence. There are many Maltese competing in a whole range of canine sports including the agility ring, where they can show off both their trainability and their athleticism. 

The Maltese can adapt to living in an apartment as long as they have the opportunity for several walks each day. They are not a breed that is going to thrive if left outside, and with their people orientated nature, they are going to find it challenging to be left alone for long periods of time.

The Maltese have just a single coat of hair, and so they will need a waterproof jacket when walked in the rain and a warm fleece coat to wear in cold weather. In hot weather, care is needed to protect any skin which is exposed where the hair is parted. 

Maltese Health & Grooming

  • Few health issues

  • Daily grooming needed

  • Can be prone to dental issues as they get older


The Maltese are a healthy breed that tends to experience very few health issues. Responsible breeders will screen their dogs for the following two genetic health conditions before considering them suitable for breeding from:

  • Luxating patella is caused when the knee joint slides in and out of place, causing pain. This is more common in the smaller breeds, and signs of a problem can usually be seen by the time the puppy is six months old.
  • Heart anomalies are not common in the Maltese, but the Breed Association recommends testing to ensure that this remains to be the case.

The long, flowing coat of the Maltese needs daily combing right down to the skin; this will then prevent mats and tangles from developing. Many pet owners do choose to take their Maltese to a groomer and have the coats trimmed to a more manageable length. This breed also has very fast-growing nails, and these will need regular trimming if not worn down through daily walks. 

As Maltese get older, they do tend to be prone to dental disease, so daily teeth brushing should become part of their routine.

With the absence of an undercoat, the Maltese shed very little throughout the year compared to other breeds. Although there are claims of this being a hypoallergenic breed, you should be aware that there will still be some hair shedding accompanied by the growth of new hair.

Maltese Training

  • Loves learning new behaviors

  • Can be single minded

  • Low prey drive


Despite first impressions of being just a lapdog, Maltese are intelligent little dogs and very trainable. With their love of being around people, learning new behaviors provides an excellent opportunity for quality time together. Now, they can be a single-minded breed at times, but training with rewards and positive methods will result in quick learning and fun training sessions. 

Maltese tend not to have a high prey drive; however, you should be aware that all dogs have some desire to chase and hunt, and so careful introductions should be arranged with other family pets.

Maltese Exercise Requirements

  • Loves learning new behaviors

  • Can be single minded

  • Low prey drive


Maltese do have lots of energy but taking their size into account means that most will be happy with a thirty-minute walk each day. Extra care needs to be taken if exercising in areas with other dogs running free. A friendly play bounce or body slam from a larger dog could cause damage to the Maltese.

This is a super playful breed, and they’ll always be up for a game with their family. This is also a great way of tiring out both mind and body to ensure that they don’t get up to mischief!

Maltese Diet & Feeding


A veterinarian or pet nutritionist is the best person to provide you with advice for your dog. However, as a general rule, most Maltese will start off with a specially formulated puppy food, which provides them with all the energy and nutrients they need while growing. Then at around six months, they’ll move on to adult food. 

Many pet food manufacturers produce specialized diets for small dogs. These formulations pack in all the dietary needs into a small amount of food, which then helps to reduce the likelihood of your Maltese becoming overweight. 

You may also be interested in:

Maltese Rescue Groups

Sadly, there are many Maltese who find themselves without a loving home. Thankfully there are non-profit organizations throughout the US who work hard to find each dog their new forever family. These include: 


The American Maltese Association Rescue –


Maltese Rescue California –


Northcentral Maltese Rescue –


For more information on this enchanting breed take a look at the webpage of the American Maltese Association –