The Maltese is an ancient breed of toy dog associated with the island of Malta. The origin of the breed can be traced back thousands of years. The breed is believed to have descended from a Spitz type breed which belonged to Swiss Lake dwellers, but it may also be related to Asia’s Tibetan Terrier. The breed was most likely used by nomadic tribes for rodent control, but over time the breed became primarily a companion.
The breed generally weighs anywhere from 3 to 12 pounds and stands 7 to 9 inches high. The skull of the breed is rounded and its ears drop. It has very dark eyes and usually a dark nose as well. Its body is very compact and proportionate. The coat of the breed is pure white, and it is very long and silky.
The breed is generally energetic and fearless. It is a friendly breed who loves to play and, when properly socialized, loves to play with other animals as well as people other than its owner. Unlike many active breeds, the Maltese does not require excessive exercise. Exercise does aid, however, in the reduction of problematic behavior. The breed prefers enclosed spaces, such as houses or small yards, and lives well in small homes. It can make an excellent watch dog as it barks when alarmed as well as when faced with intruders. Potty training tends to be difficult with the Maltese.
The Maltese is not necessarily low maintenance when it comes to grooming. The breed rarely sheds, due to its lack of undercoat, but it needs to be regularly trimmed and groomed. Its face, especially in the eye region, needs to be cleaned every few days because of tear staining.
The breed is generally healthy and lives on average for 12 to 15 years. The breed may experience dental problems, prolapse valve syndrome, luxating patella, portosystemic liver shunt, progressive retinal atrophy and sunburn.