Maltese dog breed characteristics, origin and care

Maltese breed characteristics

  • Size: Toy
  • Traits: Lively. Playful. Loyal.
  • Maintenance: High maintenance, regular brushing, bathing, and clipping required (can be expensive and time consuming)
  • Best suited to: Singles, couples and seniors. Not ideal for families with small children. Suits apartments.
  • Lifespan: 12 to 15 years

Delightful. Devoted. Cheeky. Maltese are vivacious little dogs with heaps of personality and a propensity for play. They love to be near their human masters whom they will do almost anything for and appreciate lots of love and attention.

If you are looking for a small dog with luscious long locks that you can show off to your neighbours and friends, a Maltese may be the right dog for you.

Where I’m from

The exact origins of the Maltese breed are unclear. One of the older dog breeds, Maltese dogs are thought to originate from the larger Spitz-type breeds found in the Swiss lakes area or from the Tibetan Terrier of Asia. Though its true beginnings remain a mystery, Maltese-type dogs became popular in the Mediterranean region of Europe a couple thousand years ago. The dogs are mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman literature and Aristotle himself was first to cite the breed by name around 370 BC. Millennium later, the dog became the favoured lapdogs of aristocrat ladies and nobles across Europe from the 1400s including in France and the British Isles.

The breed was nearly decimated in the 17th and 18th Century after breeders erred in trying to make the breed the size of a squirrel. English breeders saved the breed by mixing the remaining Maltese with small Poodles and Spaniels, which developed into the toy-sized white dog we see today. Maltese were first entered in dog in the late 1800s.

What I look like

Maltese are an all white, small yet sturdy toy dog with a long, silky hypoallergenic coat. Though breed owners often keep them shorn short with a “puppy cut”, which gives Maltese an endlessly youthful appearance. The only non-white features are their big brown eyes and small black button nose. With furry drop ears and a curled tail that touches their back, Maltese are the epitome of an adorable toy breed.

How I act

Maltese are very lively little creatures that love oodles of attention and affection. They retain a puppy-like playfulness for their entire lives. Though they can be snappy towards young children, early socialisation will help moderate these tendencies. Bred as lapdogs, Maltese love to be around their masters at when at home or wherever they journey.

Maltese do well in obedience training due to their intense loyalty and wanting to please their master. Early socialisation and training is a must for the Maltese to ensure a well-adjusted dog that is less likely to act out with any aggression. Training should be calm and Consistent, and Maltese react well to reward-based schooling.

Like with many smaller breeds, toilet training can be a challenge for the Maltese with patient crate or paper training crucial. Though Maltese are energetic, their small size means they only require 20-30 minutes of daily exercise to stay in shape. Plenty of exercise also ensures any behavioural issues are kept to a minimum.

Looking after me

Maltese can be fussy eaters and should not be fed table scraps or anything else that might put them off their main staple. A meal of high quality dry dog food twice a day will keep your dog’s insides healthy and teeth clean. This can sometimes be supplemented with canned food and a liver treat on occasion.

If you plan to keep your Maltese’s hair at their naturally long length they will require a lot grooming. This single coat does not shed and is prone to matting, so will require daily combing and brushing to remain tangle free. Even when shorn short with a puppy cut, Maltese need daily brushing and a monthly bath as their white coat can become very dirty.

Maltese may also suffer from brownish tear stains under their eyes, which requires daily cleaning with warm water and the hair around their eyes needs to be trimmed or held back with a tie. If a tearing problem persists it is best to Consult a vet.

Maltese though generally healthy may suffer from a number of ailments including locked kneecaps, heart problems and dental issues.

It is advisable to check the temperament and medical history of a puppy’s parents and view veterinarian clearance certificates to ensure you get a healthy dog though not every ailment can be predicted. Be very wary of uncertified backyard breeders.

Maltese can be affected by too hot or cold weather and should be kept in temperature-controlled environments.

Maltese typically have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

Am I the pet for you?


  • Maltese are spirited small dogs for the right owners that are happy to have a loyal, little companion dog by their sides Constantly.
  • Maltese don’t shed and have a hypoallergenic coat, which make them a good choice for most allergy sufferers.
  • Their small size doesn’t mean they aren’t brave! Maltese can make excellent guard dogs alerting their masters of intruders with a loud bark.


  • Maltese are not a good choice for families with small children as they do not have much patience and can bite or nip if handled roughly.
  • Maltese are one of Australia’s most dumped dogs with aggression and barking cited as the main problems. When choosing a Maltese be sure to enquire about the demeanours of the parent dogs, or ask to meet at least one of the parents to see how they interact with people and other dogs, and make sure to only to go to a reputable breeder. Early socialisation and training can also help ease any anti-social tendencies.
  • Maltese need a lot of grooming and hair upkeep due to their long coats, which can be time-Consuming and costly. Trim them short for less maintenance.
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