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Adopt a Maltese

Maltese Dog Breed

Picture: Kent and Donna Dannen


bichon, companion, terrier, water dog

Area of origin:


Original function:

lap dog

Average size of male:

Ht: 9-10, Wt: 4-7

Average size of female:

Ht: 9-10, Wt: 4-7

Other names:

bichon Maltiase

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    Friendliness towards dogs

  • Friendliness towards other pets

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    Friendliness towards strangers

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    Ease of training

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    Watchdog ability

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    Protection ability

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    Cold tolerance

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    Heat tolerance

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Maltese Video Dogs 101: Maltese More Dog Videos

Maltese Dog Temperament

Long a favorite lap dog, the gentle Maltese fills this role admirably. She also has a wild side and loves to run and play. Despite her innocent look, she is bold and feisty and may challenge larger dogs. She can be reserved with strangers. Some bark a lot.

Maltese Dog Care

The exercise requirements of the Maltese are easily met with indoor games, a romp in the yard or a short walk on leash. Despite her coat, the Maltese is not an outdoor dog. The coat needs combing every one or two days. The white coat may be difficult to keep clean in some areas. Pets may be clipped for easier care.

Maltese Dog Health

Major concerns: none
Minor concerns: patellar luxation, open fontanel, hypoglycemia, hydrocephalus, distichiasis, entropion
Occasionally seen: deafness, white shaker-dog syndrome
Suggested tests: knee, (eye)
Life span: 12-14 years

Interested in the history of the Maltese dog breed?

The Maltese is the most ancient of the European toy breeds, and among the oldest of all breeds. The island of Malta was an early trading port, visited by Phoenician sailors by 1500 B.C. Maltese dogs are specifically mentioned in writings as early as 300 B.C. Greek art includes dogs of Maltese type from the fifth century on; there is evidence that tombs were even erected to favor Maltese. Although the dogs were often exported and subsequently widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia, the core population on Malta remained relatively isolated from other dogs, resulting in this distinctive dog that bred true for centuries. Though the Maltese's hallmark is her long, silky, dazzling white hair, early Maltese came in colors other than white. By the early 14th century, Maltese had been brought to England, where they became the darlings of upper-class ladies. Writers of the succeeding centuries continually commented upon their diminutive size. Still, these little dogs were never commonplace, and an 1830 painting entitled The Lion Dog From Malta, Last of His Race suggests that the breed may have been in danger of extinction. Soon after, two Maltese were brought to England from Manila. Although originally intended as a gift for Queen Victoria, they passed into other hands, and their offspring became the first Maltese exhibited in England. At this time, they were called Maltese terriers, despite the lack of terrier ancestry or characteristics. In America, the first Maltese were shown as "Maltese lion dogs" around 1877. The name lion dog probably arose from the habit of dog fanciers, particularly those in Asia, of clipping the dogs to look like lions. The AKC recognized the breed as the Maltese in 1888. The Maltese slowly increased in popularity and now ranks as one of the more popular toys.

Copyright © 1998, 2005 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. based on

Shelters with Maltese Dogs

Some animal welfare organizations with Malteses ready for adoption:

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