They stand out at every canine competition. Left with their natural coats, they have hair hanging straight to the ground with a center part. The straight hair that hangs so gracefully for more than eight inches is the envy of every woman in the room.
The Maltese breed originated on the island of Malta. According to the Dog Breed Info Center at dogbreedinfo.com, Crusaders returning home from the Mediterranean introduced the breed to England. The dogs became immensely popular with women, who toted them around in their sleeves.
These little companions are around 8 to 10 inches long and weigh just 6 ½ to 8 pounds. Their size makes them an ideal dog for life in an apartment. The Maltese coat has a single layer, with no undercoat. What makes it so striking is the utterly straight, thick, heavy hair. Although white is the ideal, a light ivory shade is acceptable for breeding.
Maltese have long ears and a tail that drapes over the dog’s back. Its large eyes are deepset and surrounded by dark rims. Ideally, the muzzle should be a third the length of the dog’s head. While the breed has is considered fine-boned, the dogs are actually quite sturdy.
Most Maltese are active dogs who remain devoted to their masters or mistresses. They have a gentle and loving temperament and are considered very intelligent and quick to learn tricks. They represent the stereotype of a companion dog and get along well with other canines. Give one of these dogs a choice of where to play, and he’ll head straight for the nearest puddle.
While members of this breed are so lovable, many of them prove difficult to housebreak. Some have a tendency to develop small dog syndrome, a condition in which the dog believes he’s in charge of the human beings in the house. When this happens, the Maltese is prone to snap at children and some adults.
It’s also important for owners to avoid overprotecting their small companions. Doing so can make them extremely jealous of any visitors. Allowing them the run of the home can result in separation anxiety, guarding and barking to the point of being obsessive. Should any of these traits develop, the way to counteract them is to surround the dog with stable pack leaders.
Maltese unfortunately are susceptible to a variety of health problems. Due to their parted hair, they’re at risk for sunburn. Skin, respiratory, eye issues, tooth problems and slipped stifle – a hind leg deformity – are common. They sometimes have trouble eating due to a weak digestive tract.
Because Maltese get chills easily and are also extremely uncomfortable in very hot weather, it’s a good idea to paper train them to avoid having to go outside during daily weather extremes. However, they love to walk and don’t like just playing as a substitute for frequent strolls in good weather.
The average life expectancy of this breed is at least 16 years. It’s important to keep the dog out of damp areas and to comb and brush the long coat every day. Many owners opt to keep the dog’s coat short for easier maintenance. Other daily care includes cleaning the dog’s eyes and his or her beard after each meal.
Since the Maltese sheds very little hair, it’s a good pet for prospective owners who are sensitive to pet dander due to allergies.