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Maltese

 Photo of Maltese
Photo: By Jill Terry

Maltese Books

Group: Toy - Breed Standard

Origins

As an aristocrat of the canine world, this ancient breed has been known by a variety of names throughout the centuries. Originally called the Melitaie Dog, he has also been known as "Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta", the Roman Ladies' Dog, the Comforter Dog, the Spaniel Gentle, the Bichon, the Shock Dog, the Maltese Lion Dog and the Maltese Terrier. Sometime within the past century, he has come to simply be known as the Maltese. The breed's history can be traced back many centuries. The Maltese is thought to have been descended from a Spitz type dog found among the Swiss Lake dwellers and bred down to obtain its small size. Although there is also some evidence that the breed originated in Asia and is related to the Tibetan Terrier, the exact origin is unknown. Maltese are generally associated with the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. The dogs probably made their way to Europe through the Middle East with the migration of nomadic tribes. Some writers believe these proto-Maltese were used for rodent controlthe cuteness factor was locked in.

Description

Height not exceeding 25 cms (10 ins) from ground to withers.

The Maltese is a dog belonging to the toy group that is covered from head to foot with a mantle of long, silky, white hair. The coat is long and silky and lacks an undercoat. The color is pure white and although cream or light lemon ears are permissible, they are not desirable. Some individuals may have curly or woolly hair, but this is outside the standard. Characteristics include slightly rounded skulls, with a one finger width dome. Also, a black nose that is two finger width long. The drop ears with long hair and very dark eyes, surrounded by darker skin pigmentation that is called a "halo", giving Maltese their expressive look. The body is compact with the length equaling the height. Their noses can fade and become pink or light brown in color. This is often referred to as a "snow nose" and many times will become black again with increased exposure to the sun.

Character/Temperament

Maltese can be very energetic and are known for their occasional wild outbursts of physical activity, running around in circles chasing their tail, and bolting at top speed with amazing agility; given this, they still do well for apartment dwellers. They are relatively easy to train and enjoy a playful game of fetch. These intelligent dogs learn quickly, and pick up new tricks and behaviours easily. Since they were bred specifically for companionship, they do not do well being left alone for long hours.

The breed has a reputation for being good-natured, but may be intolerant of small children or other dogs. They can be protective of their owner and will bark or may bite if animals or people infringe on their territory or are perceived as a threat.

For all their diminutive size, Maltese seem to be without fear. In fact, many Maltese seem relatively indifferent to creatures/objects larger than themselves (unless of course it is the owner). They are among the gentlest mannered of all little dogs, yet they are lively and playful as well as vigorous. Because of their size, Maltese dogs are not a good choice for families with small children because they can be easily injured.

Breed Health

The Maltese is generally a healthy breed with few inherent problems. Some problems seen are luxating patella, portosystemic liver shunt, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). The average life span is 12-15 years.

Training

See our books on training


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Last link added: 12 Mar, 2008