Your Purebred Puppy, Honest Advice About Dogs and Dog Breeds

Questions and answers about Maltese temperament, personality, behavior, physical traits and characteristics, feeding, health care, buying, adoption, puppies and adult dogs.

Maltese dog breed

Maltese FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Maltese Dogs

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2013



How big are Maltese?

Maltese are "supposed" to stand about 7-8 inches at the shoulder and weigh 4-7 lbs, but many individuals are smaller, and many are larger.

Have you heard these phrases: Teacup Maltese? Tiny Toy Maltese? Extreme Tinies? Some breeders use these cutesy, made-up phrases as "marketing terms" for smaller Maltese. That's all they are -- marketing terms. There is only one Maltese breed, and whether an individual weighs 2 pounds or 6 pounds or 10 pounds, he's still just a Maltese. Some are simply smaller or larger than others. The larger individuals are actually sturdier and often make safer pets.

In fact, I do NOT recommend a Maltese under 4 pounds. These individuals are great risks in the health department. Their bones are extremely fragile. There is not enough room in their mouth for healthy teeth. Their internal organs are often weak and can fail suddenly. They tend to have great difficulty regulating their blood sugar and can suddenly fall into hypoglycemic comas.

Responsible Maltese breeders never try to produce these tiny high-risk creatures. If a tiny one pops up in one of their litters, they do their best to find the best home that can keep it alive, yes, but they try hard not to produce them in the first place.

IRRESONSIBLE breeders, on the other hand, deliberately breed tiny, high-risk Maltese because they can sell them for high prices to unsuspecting owners who don't know how fragile they are, or to owners who want one because it's "adorable" or to satisfy their mothering instincts. Don't be one of these people. If you reward irresponsible breeders by giving them your money, you are encouraging them to keep producing tiny, sickly, short-lived creatures.



Please be a responsible buyer and stick with Maltese who will mature at 4 pounds and up, who have the best chance of living a normal healthy life. In this way, breeders will be motivated to produce these sizes. (You can tell that a puppy will mature at 4 pounds and up if he already weighs at least 2-3 pounds at 10-12 weeks old.)




Where does the Maltese come from, and why was the breed developed?

On the Mediterranean island of Malta, the Maltese was developed to be the household pet of wealthy, cultured families.




What kind of temperament and personality does the Maltese have?

I give you my honest opinions about Maltese temperament and personality -- positives AND negatives -- in my dog breed review, Maltese Temperament (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).




What colors do Maltese come in? I though they were supposed to be white, but I've seen some black and white ones.

No, the black and white ones would be Havanese, which is a close cousin of the Maltese. There are actually FIVE breeds that are closely related:

  • Maltese
  • Havanese
  • Bolognese
  • Coton de Tulear
  • Bichon Frise

The Maltese is the smallest, and is always solid white, or white with light tan or lemon shadings on his ears. The Bichon and Bolognese, too. The Havanese and Coton, though, come in various colors and are a little larger and sturdier than the Maltese, making them better choices for many families. All of these breeds have similar (very nice) personalities and are light-shedding.




How much grooming do Maltese need?

Coat care is a major consideration with this breed. The long coat needs frequent brushing and combing to avoid mats and tangles, which can be quite painful, as they pull on your dog's skin whenever he moves. The worst places for mats and tangles are behind their ears, behind their front legs (in their "armpits"), and on their chest, stomach, and groin. Their legs and paws also need to be kept combed, and their tail. And you should clip their groin and anal area short so it stays clean and sanitary when your dog goes to the bathroom.

If you want to minimize brushing and keep your Maltese looking like a perpetual puppy (very cute!), I recommend shearing the coat short several times a year. You can do this yourself, or have a professional groomer do it.




How much do Maltese shed?

Hardly at all, though if you shear the coat short, they do shed a little more because their shed hair can now fall out onto the floor instead of getting caught in their long hair. Maltese produce very little dander and are one of the best breeds for allergy sufferers.




How long do Maltese live, and what health problems do they have?

Typically 12-15 years, but they're not necessarily healthy throughout their long life! You should definitely read my full article, How Long Do Maltese Live?




Do crossbred or mixed breed Maltese make good pets?

They do make good pets, yes, but first you need to know what a purebred dog really is -- and what crossbred and mixed breed dogs really are. You might think you know, but I bet you'll be surprised by my articles: The Truth About Purebred Dogs, The Truth About Crossbred Dogs, and The Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs.




Can you help me decide whether the Maltese is the best breed for me?

Yes, I offer personal consultations on choosing the best breed for your family and lifestyle. Learn more about my Dog Breed Consulting Service.




Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Maltese have pros and cons, and female Maltese have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs




If I just want a dog for a pet, not for showing or breeding, does it matter whether he has AKC registration papers?

First you need to know what registration papers really mean -- and don't mean. You might THINK you know -- but you might be wrong! Find out the truth about AKC Registered Puppies: Are AKC Papers Important?.




There's an adorable Maltese puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No. There are no responsible Maltese breeders who would ever place one of their Maltese puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.




How do I find a good Maltese breeder?

It's hard! The sad truth is that the vast majority of people offering Maltese puppies for sale are unknowledgeable, irresponsible, completely clueless -- or all of the above. Visit Dog Breeders: How To Find a Good Breeder.




How do I pick the best Maltese puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.




I'm interested in adopting a dog rather than buying from a dog breeder. How do I find Maltese dogs for adoption?

You can find Maltese available for adoption from dog rescue groups or from the animal shelter. Visit Adopting a Dog From Rescue and Adopting a Dog From The Animal Shelter.




I just got a new Maltese. Which pages should I read first?

  • Maltese Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Maltese puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off RIGHT is essential!
  • Training Maltese, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Maltese puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.



What's a good training schedule for training Maltese puppies? What things should I teach, and when?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Maltese: Puppy Training Schedule.




How do I housebreak my Maltese?

The key to housebreaking your Maltese is confinement, confinement, confinement. Visit Housebreaking Your Puppy or Adult Dog.




My Maltese has some behavior problems I'd like to solve.

Respect training solves behavior problems much better than obedience training. Visit Respect Training For Puppies and Adult Dogs.




What's the best dog food for Maltese?

Homemade dog food. Visit The Best Dog Food For Your Dog. If you can't feed homemade dog food, there are only a few (very few!) commercial dog food brands I recommend. Visit The Second-Best Dog Food For Your Dog.




I have to take my Maltese to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically -- but most vets are not telling you the truth about this! Don't let your vet give your Maltese any more shots until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.




What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Maltese, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.




My vet doesn't agree with some of the things you've written about health care.

My advice is based on the latest research by veterinary immunologists, and it's the same advice given by most licensed veterinarians who belong to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. If this advice sounds different from what your own veterinarian is telling you, it's a good bet that he or she does not belong to the AHVMA. Visit Think Your Veterinarian's Good? Here's How To Tell.




I have a question about Maltese that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books: