History of the Maltese Breed
The Maltese is one of the oldest breeds and the most ancient of the toy breeds. The island of Malta was visited by Phoenician sailors around 1500 BC and is the homeland of this tiny dog. The breed has been mentioned in early writings and Greek art. Tombs have been fashioned after the Maltese, and poetry has been written about it. In Italy, the miniature spaniel and poodle were added into the bloodline. Even though the breed was often exported, it retained its distinctive look because the breed’s chief population remained in relative isolation on the island of Malta. One of the modern day traits is the breed’s white silky coat, although that was not an original characteristic. The Maltese came in a multitude of colors and was most recognized for its small size. In the 14 th century, this feisty breed arrived in England via the Crusaders who were returning from the Mediterranean. It quickly became an accessory for every well-to-do lady. Upper-class women often carried the little dogs in their sleeves and even brought them to bed with them. Even though it was very popular, its numbers were limited; and it may have even been in danger of extinction. When the Maltese first arrived in England, it was dubbed the “Maltese terrier,” even though the breed is nothing like a terrier. In 1877, the dog made its first appearance in America. It was called the Maltese lion dog because of the Asian practice of lion-like coat styles. Recognized in 1888 by the AKC, this stunning breed is an extremely popular toy and loved as both a show dog and pet.
Size and Appearance of the Maltese Breed
The Maltese is a compact, square breed that is known for its long, silky coat. It has pendant ears with a gentle and intelligent expression. It is an active breed with a flowing gait that gives it the appearance of floating along the ground. This little dog has a single coat of long, flat hair that hangs straight to the ground. Wearing its hair in a topknot is also acceptable. The coloring is usually pure white, although a light ivory color or slight lemon markings on the ears are acceptable.
This sweet little breed makes a perfect lap dog. It is gentle, trusting, and well mannered; yet has a lively side that is often surprising due to its innocent-looking appearance. It is playful and bold, often taking on larger dogs. It can be wary of strangers, barking at strange noises. Some tend to bark excessively and, if pampered too much, may become jealous of visitors. The Maltese does not tolerate children and other pets because of its dislike of rough play. It is an intelligent breed, but is difficult to housebreak. The breed can be trained to perform tricks, but only if it feels that it is being properly rewarded. This feisty dog loves going outside, but be warned that it is an avid puddle jumper, requiring many baths.
Maltese Recommended Maintenance
The long, silky coat of the Maltese matts easily, particularly if wet. Carefully brush the coat daily, as the hair breaks easily. Bathe regularly, ensuring that the coat is dried thoroughly and the dog is kept warm. Wash off the fur around the eyes and beard to prevent staining of the delicate, white coat. Clean ears and eyes on a regular basis. The extensive grooming requirements cause many owners to clip their pet’s coat, although this removes one of the breed’s most recognized traits. Medical issues with the Maltese include digestive problems, an inclination towards burning in the sun, as well as discomfort in temperature extremes. This little dog has minimal exercise requirements that can be met with indoor play, however the Maltese enjoys outdoor walks as well. It makes an excellent choice for an apartment pet, because it is an active breed indoors.
• Life span: 12 – 14 years
• Major concerns: none
• Minor concerns: patellar luxation, open fontanel, hypoglycemia, hydrocephalus, distichiasis, entropion
• Occasionally seen: deafness, white shaker-dog syndrome
• Suggested tests: knee, (eye)