Maltese – A small, friendly breed with a rich history

The Maltese is a small, white dog known for its loving, affectionate nature. But there’s more to this breed than just an adorable face and amiable personality.

Named for the island of Malta, the Maltese was likely brought to the area by the Phoenicians, an ancient civilization that ruled even before the Greeks.

Since the breed’s initial introduction around the year 1500 B.C., it had earned many names. One such name is “Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta,” referring to the dog’s long history. It has also been called the “Melitaie Dog,” in reference to the ancient city of Melite in Malta. The dog also earned the name “Roman Ladies Dog,” as this breed was a favorite amongst women in Ancient Rome. At the first Westminster show, the breed was known as the “Maltese Lion Dog.”

No matter what you call it, the Maltese is known as a highly affectionate little breed, happy to warm his owners’ laps.


  • The breed was likely brought to the island of Malta around the year 1500 B.C.
  • Greeks and Romans favored the breed, and the Greeks even made tombs for their deceased Maltese dogs
  • A statue of a Maltese was found in Egypt, signifying that this breed may have been worshipped by the Ancient Egyptians
  • The Roman Governor of Malta during the time of Apostle Paul owned a Maltese named Issa


The Maltese has a long, rich history. Beginning from around the year 1500 B.C., a variety of different civilizations came and conquered the island of Malta, which is located south of Sicily. During the 2,000-year period that followed, Malta was a popular place to trade goods, including the Maltese dog.

The breed was most likely brought to the area by the Phoenicians and only got more popular since their introduction. The Romans and Greeks loved this little dog, and it eventually earned the name “Roman Ladies Dog,” as women especially appreciated the looks and personalities of this breed.

Even when Rome fell, the Maltese continued to be a famously beloved breed. The Chinese took the Maltese in and ensured its continued existence by breeding it with similar toy breeds of their own.

It’s not hard to see why this is such a beloved breed. With his silky fur, elegant looks, and charming personalities, it makes sense that the Maltese continues to be a sought-after breed in all parts of the world.

Appearance and Vital Stats

General Appearance

The Maltese is a toy breed, bearing a long, silky coat of fur. Although he is a small dog, the Maltese retains a sprightly nature and has a spring in his step.

Maltese General Appearance

Dog Breed Group

The Maltese is part of the Toy Group. Dogs in the Toy Group are known for their diminutive statures, which tend to be balanced out by larger-than-life personalities. They are known primarily as companion animals, though many toy breeds are very protective and make for great watchdogs.


The Maltese’s size is one of the breed’s most defining characteristics. Like all toy breeds, it is an extremely small dog. Your Maltese dog will stand about 7 to 9 inches tall at the shoulder and will weigh 7 pounds or less.

Life Span

As with most small breeds, the Maltese can be expected to live a longer life than larger breeds. Your healthy Maltese can be expected to live about 12 to 15 years.

Coat and Colors

The Maltese’s coat is one of its most striking features. The breed sports a single coat, which means there is no undercoat. The fur is white, long, and silky. It’s so long, in fact, that the ends should either touch the ground or almost touch the ground when left untrimmed.

Because the fur on the dog’s head is so long, many owners choose to tie the hair up in a topknot to keep the dog’s vision clear.

Maltese Coat and Colors

Overall, the fur should be completely straight. There should be no curl, kinks, or woolliness to the fur’s texture. The fur will also be pure white, though there may be some very light tan or lemon coloring around the ears.

The breed sheds very little, and will instead require trimming if you prefer that your dog have shorter fur.


The Maltese’s tail is carried over its back. The tail has a curl and will lie to one side. You’ll find the fur long and feathered.


This breed has rather low-set ears, flopping over rather than standing upright. The fur on the ears is long and feathered, hanging against the dog’s head.


This breed’s charming, playful personality is one of the many aspects that make this breed a favorite around the world. It’s not going to be hard for this little breed to win you over with their lively yet still gentle personalities.

At the same time, the Maltese is a brave, confident breed, which makes them great watchdogs. It’s easy for the Maltese to forget its size and believe it’s much larger and more fearsome than he actually is.

The Maltese will love settling down with you for a nap, but he’ll also love getting out in the world and exploring. This adaptability is an incredibly desirable trait for many owners. The Maltese is a great breed to have if you’re interested in agility.

These dogs are extremely intelligent, and can sometimes exhibit a stubborn streak during training sessions. Keep training fun and engaging by working in short sessions and providing lots of rewards.

Apartment Living

The Maltese make a fantastic apartment breed. Although they will bark initially at visitors, they are generally very quiet. Their small size makes them ideal for apartment complexes that only allow little dogs.

Be aware that the Maltese will form a very close bond with his owner. Because of this, he may develop separation anxiety if he is away from you too often. He’ll do best in a home that has someone around for the majority of the day.

Children and Other Pets

The Maltese is an incredibly friendly breed! They make friends easily and will see everyone they meet as a potential new playmate. This breed does very well with children, but bear in mind they may not be well-suited to a home with very young kids.

This is because young children won’t necessarily know how to handle a dog properly. Since the Maltese is so small, it can be all too easy for rambunctious kids to unintentionally harm these tiny pups.

Even older kids should be shown how to approach a dog. They should also know not to approach your dog while he’s eating, or to tug on the dog’s fur or limbs.

As long as your Maltese is properly socialized, he’ll get along well with other animals of all sorts. However, it’s still important to remember the Maltese’s size, especially since the Maltese likely will not. Large, super boisterous dogs may not make the best playmates for this tiny breed.



As a toy breed, the Maltese won’t require much food to feel full. You should feed your Maltese ¼ cup to ½ cup of high-quality dog food every day.

Because the Maltese is primarily a companion animal and lapdog, many owners tend to spoil these pups. Unfortunately, one of the ways they spoil their dogs may be by overfeeding. This can result in obesity. It’s important to make sure that you are not overfeeding your dog.

Help prevent obesity by splitting your dog’s food up into two meals and keep your dog feeling full throughout the day.


The Maltese is a very low shedder, which means that you don’t need to worry about cleaning up fur he’s sloughed off around the house. You do, however, need to worry about properly maintaining his coat.

Because the fur is so long, you will need to brush your Maltese’s fur every day. This is to prevent mats and tangles and to keep grime and dirt from building up. Unlike many other breeds, the Maltese needs to be bathed frequently. Expect to give your Maltese a bath once or twice a month to keep the coat healthy.

You can choose to have your Maltese’s coat kept short with regular trimming. But even Maltese dogs with short fur need to be brushed at least every other day.

The Maltese can also be prone to tear stains around the dog’s eyes. Help prevent tear stains by gently cleaning his eyes every day using a soft cloth and warm water.


Maltese Exercise

Maltese dogs are lively and energetic. But don’t worry, they don’t require a lot of exercise to satisfy their needs. Taking them for a brisk walk every day combined with a few short play sessions will be enough for your Maltese.


The Maltese is, in general, a very healthy breed. But there are still some conditions that these little dogs can be prone to getting.

Patellar Luxation

This condition is prevalent amongst small breeds like the Maltese. Patellar luxation occurs when the dog’s knee joint doesn’t align properly, which causes the bones to slide in and out of place. This can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

If your vet diagnoses your Maltese with patellar luxation, then they will either set you up with a management plan or recommend corrective surgery depending on the severity.


This is a common illness in the Maltese breed. It is caused by low blood sugar levels, and can result in confusion, unsteady walking, and may even result in episodes that look similar to seizures.

Your vet will be able to help you manage your dog’s blood sugar levels properly.

White Dog Shaker Syndrome

As the name implies, this condition is common amongst small white dog breeds, like the Maltese. If your dog suffers from white shaker dog syndrome, then he may experience tremors all over the body, rapid eye movements, and tripping and stumbling.

It is not known what exactly causes white shaker dog syndrome. If your vet diagnoses your Maltese with this condition, then they will most likely prescribe immunosuppressive drugs to help manage it.

Similar Breeds

Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier is a toy breed of about the same size as the Maltese. These dogs have very similar coats in terms of texture, with long, straight fur that can either be left long or trimmed short for easier grooming.

Yorkies have one-of-a-kind personalities. While they are extremely affectionate little dogs, they also have a real bossy streak. These dogs do not always appreciate being told what to do, which can sometimes make training a bit of a chore. Just remember to make your training sessions short and super fun to keep your Yorkie engaged.

The Yorkie makes up for his small stature with its incredibly feisty, unshakeable personality. If you adopt a Yorkie, then one thing you can count on is that these little dogs will offer you plenty of laughs.

Biewer Terrier

Biewer Terrier

Measuring and weighing about the same as the Maltese, the Biewer Terrier is a relatively new breed that was a result of breeding rare Yorkie colorations together. They have long, silky coats that will need to be brushed at least every other day.

Like most toy breeds, Biewer Terriers have big personalities. They are eager to please when it comes to training, and your Biewer Terrier may carry some of his puppylike behavior well into adulthood.

And don’t be fooled by their small size—Biewever Terriers are up for all sorts of adventures and will be more than happy to join you on long walks or even hikes.

Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

Slightly larger than the Maltese, the Bichon Frise likely originates from the Canary Islands. These dogs have both an undercoat and an overcoat, with the undercoat being dense while the overcoat maintains a tight curl.

The unique texture of their coats will likely require professional grooming to keep them clean and healthy.

Bichon Frises are amiable, curious, and lively little dogs. It’s never a dull moment with this breed, and you’ll find yourself laughing and smiling often at your Bichon Frise’s antics.