Breed At A Glance


Spirited, sweet-natured, trusting and devoted to it’s owner

Life Expectancy
15+ years

Average Height
7-10 inches

Average Weight
4-7 lbs

Coat Color

Coat Length/Texture
Long, profuse and luxurious (no undercoat)

Also known as Maltese Lion Dog, Cokie

General Temperament

Bred for centuries as a companion pet and “lap dog,” the Maltese is a loving and playful addition to the family. They pack a lot of attitude and energy in their tiny little bodies, and enjoy doing tricks, playing outdoors and jumping into puddles. They sometimes have amusing outbursts of running around the house or backyard at top speed. Maltese love to please their owners and are quick learners, making housebreaking and obedience training a snap with just a little positive reinforcement. A Maltese is a great option for a first time dog owner because they aim to please and want nothing more than to be with you. Maltese do not need a lot of space and are well suited for apartments, though some bark quite a lot at strange sounds or the arrival of visitors. Also, because they are bred to desire affection from their owners, they often suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for long periods of time. They can be a bit snippish with unruly children. Early socialization will reduce this tendency, though educating children on how to properly interact with the dog is equally important. It is very easy to spoil a Maltese, given their cuteness and exceptionally affectionate personalities. But allowing the dog to believe they are in control can lead to a variety of behavior problems. Early socialization with plenty of human and animal visitors, exposure to sounds and smells outside of the home, and establishing yourself as the “alpha dog” will ensure a harmonious relationship with your pet. The Maltese does not shed, making them a good pet for owners with allergies.

Breed History

The Maltese derives it’s name from the Mediterranean island of Malta, where it was first identified, though it’s origins are thought to go back well over 2,000 years. Malta was an important port in early seafaring trade routes, and dogs were often brought along on ships and used as barter. Though the exact ancestry of this breed is unknown, dogs similar to the Maltese have been immortalized by artists, philosophers and writers for over 2,000 years. For centuries, the Maltese was a coveted pet, often only affordable to royalty or to the otherwise wealthy in Europe. Eventually, as its use as a companion pet grew in popularity, preference was given to smaller individuals. By the time they reached Britain in the 16th century, they were so small that British women could carry them around in their sleeves. They subsequently nearly died out, only to be resurrected by adding the poodles and spaniels to breeding programs. The Maltese was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888.

Body Structure and Composition

The Maltese is one of the smallest breeds recognized by the AKC, though their profuse long and silky coat gives the dog a larger perceived volume. They are referred to as “square” because the length of the body from the should to the rump is usually the same as the height at the shoulder. The ears are set low on the skull, and the head, eyes and muzzle are well proportioned. The tail is plumed and carried curled up over the back. Though they do not shed, frequent brushing is required to prevent matting and remove anything that might get caught in the dog’s coat.

Medical Information

Like many other toys breeds, Maltese sometimes suffer from luxating patellas (also known as “slipped stiffles”), a painful condition that occurs when the kneecap slips out of place. They are also prone to eye infections, as well as teeth and gum problems. Thyroid problems and hypoglycemia can also affect individuals of this breed. Along with caring for the long silky coat, another grooming issue for the Maltese is tear staining. This is a result of very active tear ducts that tend to stain the white fur just under the eyes. This can be controlled by gently combing the fur under the eyes with the fine toothed metal comb every few days, and by using tear stain removal products. Feeding the dog a diet free of food coloring might also help.

Anecdotal Information

Early Greek and Roman writers and philosophers, including Aristotle, Callimachus, and Strabo, wrote of dogs that may have been similar to Maltese. Many owners find this breed’s tendency to bark more than they can bear. Two often cited studies include those done in Australia and Korea, which reveals that the Maltese is the most frequently abandoned breed in those nations.

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