DescriptionMaltese are small, fine-bonded, but sturdy dogs. Height from the ground to withers should equal in length from withers to tail. Their sloping shoulder blades lead down to short, fine-boned, straight forelegs, to elbows held close to the body, and onto small round feet; the legs should have a moderate amount of feathering. Going back up to the head, it should be of medium length, slightly rounded on top, and in proportion to the rest of the body. The ears are heavily feathered, long, and low set on the head. Eyes are dark, round, and alert with black rims giving them what is called a "halo" effect. Muzzle is of medium length, fine and tapered, with a moderate stop. Their nose is to be black, though may fade and become brown or pink during the winter, referred to as a "winter\'s nose"; it will turn back to black with more exposure to the sun. Teeth should meet in an even or scissors bite.
Continuing on down the body, the neck should be long enough to promote a high carried head. The body is compact with a level topline. Chest is deep with well-sprung ribs and has a slight tucked up appearance in the loin. The back legs are strong, and are well angulated at the stifles and hocks. Finally, the long-haired well-feathered tail plume is carried high, draped gracefully over the back.
A well put together Maltese looks as if he is floating along the ground under a great cloud of white hair.
Coat DescriptionThe Maltese sports an all white single-layered coat, that offers little to no shedding. Their long hair should drape over each side, divided down the back with a center part from nose to tail; the hair should be about 8 inches long, or almost touching the ground. It is optional whether to keep the long hair on the head in a topknot, or to be left hanging. Some dogs may have kinky, curly, or woolly hair; anything other than a silky texture is out of standard.
HistoryThe Maltese is the oldest European toy breeds, and amongst the oldest of all breeds. The breed itself can be traced back many centuries; Charles Darwin places them as far back at about 6ooo B.C. Though its exact origins are unknown, it is believed that they originated on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, hence the name "Maltese". They are believed to be descended from a Spitz-like dog used for hunting in marshes and wooded areas in Southern Europe; though also thought to have been used for rodent control. Bred down to obtain its small size, the breed has bred true for centuries due to being kept on the island, Malta. Though it is also thought to have originated in Asia and may have helped to form the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Terrier, Tibetan Spaniel, and even the Pekingese. They have been seen in Egyptian culture around 300-600 B.C., and on Greek vases around 500 B.C.
Brought to England by Crusaders and nomadic tribes, they soon became very popular with woman, who carried them around in their sleeves. They were favored by royalty, and it is said that Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Josephine Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette may have owned them.
In America, they were first shown as Maltese Lion Dogs around 1877, and were recognized in 1888 by the AKC.
TemperamentThe Maltese is among the most gentlest-mannered of all little dogs. They are very affectionate, playful, loving and cheerful. Full of Personality, enthusiastic and energy, they are known for their sudden and wild outbursts; running in circles, or at top speed in all directions. Recommended as a great candidate for the first-time dog owner, these lovable companions want nothing more than to be with YOU.
Adoring and devoted to their masters, they are eager to please, and can be very protective of their owners. If they feel other animals or people may possibly be a threat to you, or their territory, they will frantically bark and possibly try to bite the intruder. They are uninterested with objects or animals larger than themselves, they are without fear; they act like big dogs trapped in a little dogs\' body. Bold and quick to sound the alarm at suspicious noises and strangers, they can tend to be barky.
Lively and spirited, they are fairly easy to train and highly intelligent, quick to learning tricks and commands. Though some may be a bit stubborn, as their lovable nature and cuteness tends to make them be very spoiled. They love to play outdoors and have a "thing" for jumping in puddles, or anything they can make a mess of themselves. Males and females are equal in temperaments.
They can be snippy with rough children, as they are very fragile and break easily. On the other hand, they do get along great with other dogs, cats, and small animals. Some may be difficult to housebreak, as well as being picky eaters. Because of their devotion to their owners, they tend to suffer from anxiety issues when left alone for long periods of time.
Health ProblemsThe Maltese does not usually suffer from any major health problems, though because of their size there are a few things to watch out for. patellar luxation (in which the knee will pop out of place), hypoglycemia (low glucose or sugar level), slipped stifle, and problems with anesthetics. Some minor problems are: having an open fontanel (soft spot on head), hydrocephalus, distichiasis, entropion, teeth and gum issues, eye infections, liver problems, and low thyroid. Occasionally, deafness and white shaker dog syndrome is seen. White Shaker-Dog Syndrome is primarily seen in small white dogs, it causes an all-over tremor that may cause difficulty in walking. This disorder usually develops when they are adolescents or adults, and can be treated with medication.
GroomingDaily grooming is required to keep your Maltese coat clean and snarl free. Many owners will keep them what is commonly referred to as a "puppy cut", where the hair is kept 1-2 inches all over the entire the body, where they then closely resemble a puppy. Though for ones that are keep in a coat for conformation, a lot more upkeep is needed. They often wrap the long hair to keep it from matting and snarling up. Dead hair needs to be brushed and plucked out, as the breed does not shed; the coat will become matted if the dead hair is not removed.
In conformation, the coat is parted down the center of the back from nose to tail; the hair should reach the ground. To part the hair, one should stand directly behind the dog to better access whether the part is straight or not. Using a metal comb, start at the beginning of the neck and run it straight down the spine. The coat will fall to either side of the spine to wear you can just comb straight through to the ground. The long hair on the head is made into a topknot held together with rubber bands, bows, or ribbons to allow the Maltese to see. Trimming the hair in between the toes must be done every other week, is they tend to mat very easily.
Maltese owners find it easier if after washing using shampoo, adding a "leave in" conditioner will help alleviate any knots and snarls while combing. It is very important that all shampoo and conditioner residue is completely gone from the coat, as the coat will fray and snarl very easily. Towel dry until damp. Finish drying him off by using a hand dryer. Never use high heat is it will ruin the coat by causing the hair to break off. Using a pin or slicker brush, brush with the direction (or grain) of the hair; make sure each section is completely dry before moving on. Make sure not to forget his head and feet as these areas tend to mat easily.
Maltese often have tear staining, the dog\'s eyes water excessively and turns the hair around the eyes a dark brown-black color. It is not really known what causes tear staining, though most owners have found that using bottled water vs tap water does decrease the amount of staining. It is also possible to have their tear ducts flushed, which may or maynot help.
ExerciseThe Maltese exercise requirements are very minimal, mostly due to their size. Indoor games, a romp in the yard or a short walk on leash is more than enough then to keep them fit and trim. They can become overweight very easily; it is important that they get regular exercise. One should wait until they are at least 8 months old to start jogging, or any long-distance walking.
They make a great choice for the elderly or disabled person, or those with limited space, such as apartment dwellers.
TrainingDue to being highly intelligent, the Maltese are very easy to train. In that regard, it is due to being spoiled that most problems arise. They breed itself is known to be hard to housebreak. Because of their size, some owners will use "pee pads", in which the dog learns that it is alright to go to the bathroom inside the house. Even if you are successful with training them to go on a pad, the dog will be accustomed to using paper, and may then intend to go to the bathroom on any paper, or paper-like objects left on the floor. Using a crate is one of the best methods to housebreaking, as well as constant supervision. Use a leash or rope to tether them to yourself; this will keep them from wandering off and relieving themselves. When 100% attention can not be paid to them, they should be put into their crate. Upon waking, before and after playing and eating, and before settling in for the night, they should be let outside to go to the bathroom. By using special treats only used for when they go outside, and lots of praising will soon get the dog onto the right path of being housetrained.
More so than other breeds, the Maltese need a large amount of companionship with their people and do not like being left alone for long periods of time. They can become destructive by chewing and ripping apart your house, as well as constantly barking in their frustration. By giving them a bone, or a toy aimed for mental stimulation, will keep them occupied and less destructive, but it is not a cure. If you are not home for long periods of time, or can\'t take a break in your schedule for one on one time, then this is not a breed for you.
Standoffish by nature, they need to be provided with enough socialization and exposure to different people, places, and animals at a young age. They are naturally cautious, which if not socialized properly can cause them to become shy and fear aggressive. It is important to make socialization fun for the dog, using treats or other rewards for reacting nice towards strangers, is the best way to encourage your dogs\' good behavior. With a tendency to bark, they should be taught that excessive barking is uncalled for.