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Maltese Dog Breed: Dogs of Nobility

Donna shares insider tips about your pets gained through exclusive interviews with industry experts.

Maltese Dogs Throughout History

Did the Maltese dog originated in Malta, as is popularly believed? If so, why is there evidence of this tiny yet regal dog punctuating various time periods and geographies of history?

  • During the time of the apostle Paul, governor Publius owned a Maltese named Issa. Claudius (10 BC to 54 AD) also owned one.
  • Ancient Egyptians worshipped them. Roman ladies carried them in the sleeves of their garments to stay warm, Italian painters incorporated them into their art, and the Greeks decorated their pottery with images of Maltese dogs.
  • In a 1607 account, there is record of a Maltese that was sold for $2,000. Although they were the favorite lap dogs of the noble class, their gentle spirits and affectionate natures have earned them a solid place in the hearts of most.

What Do Maltese Look Like?

The Maltese is a compact dog whose muscular body is concealed by its long flowing hair. The nose should always be black and provide a sharp contrast to the white coat.

Faint lemon markings are permissible, but pure white is preferred. The head is slightly round, with a tapered muzzle. Ears should drop rather than sit erect and be heavily feathered. Tails arch gracefully and are plumed.

Maltese puppy coats are typically cut in what is called a puppy cut or puppy clip that is similar to the puppy cut for Poodles.

As the dogs mature, the hair grows longer and silkier and will eventually touch the floor. Some owners have been known to refer to their Maltese—quite lovingly, of course!—as dustmops with feet.

Fun Facts

Here are some fun facts and tidbits to better acquaint you with this ancient and regal dog breed:

  • The Maltese breed originated in Malta.
  • They belong to the AKC Toy group. The first dog was Topsy (AKC number 12056) and was registered in 1888.
  • Their original purpose was as a companion animal for royalty.
  • Maltese are known by many different nicknames such as Maltese Lion dog, “ye ancient dogge of Malta,” Maltese terrier, Melitae dog, Comforter, Spaniel Gentle, Shock Dog, and Roman Ladies’ dog.
  • Their average life span is 15 to 17 years.
  • Maltese are lively, playful dogs that crave human attention.
  • Some of their known health problems are a collapsing trachea, liver shunts, hypoglycemia, skin allergies, and white shaker dog syndrome.
  • Since they are highly intelligent; obedience training is strongly suggested.
  • The breed is good with older children and pets but wary of strangers. Younger children may be too rough and could injure these small dogs.

Vote for Your Favorite Dog Breed!

Grooming Tips and Suggested Supplies

Because of their long silky coats, Maltese are high-maintenance in terms of grooming. Their coats need a daily brushing to prevent mats and tangles, and regular baths to preserve their snow-white coloration.

A monthly professional grooming, along with daily touch-ups, will keep your Maltese in show-dog condition. Here are some typical supplies that Maltese owners use to keep their dogs well-groomed:

  • Curved slicker brush for all-over brushing, removing dead hair, and preventing mats
  • Matting comb to remove mats
  • A medium/fine combination metal comb to comb out the coat and style the topknot
  • Bows to tie or clip onto the topknot; rubber bands to secure it
  • Nail clippers to trim the nails and a nail groomer to smooth any jagged edges
  • Cotton balls to use with eye drops to cleanse the eyes and remove any eye stains and to protect the ears from watering during baths
  • Scissors to trim the hair between the foot pads, and around the eyes

Brush the coat daily with the slicker brush to remove debris from the coat, but be careful not to scratch the dog’s skin with the sharp edges. Comb the coat thoroughly and then part the hair down the middle from the top of the head to the base of the tail. Gather the loose hair around the face and comb upward to form the topknot. Secure with a small rubber band and accent with a bow.

Now that you know important Maltese breed information, are you considering getting one? You may want to start your search with Northcentral Maltese Rescue, or with the AKC Online Breeder Classifieds.

Train Your Maltese to Do Tricks


All (87) Breed Dog Grooming for the Beginner, T.F.H. Publications

The Complete Dog Book, Official Publication of the AKC, 18th edition

Maltese: A Comprehensive Guide to Owning and Caring for Your Dog, A Kennel Club Book, Juliette Cunliffe

The Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition, edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Share Your Thoughts About the Maltese Dog Breed

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on April 29, 2012:

Hey, Debbie...thanks for stopping by and sharing your input. I've never had a Maltese but they look like awesome little dogs. Good luck with your boy.

Debbie Pinkston from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas on April 29, 2012:

Great hub with lots of information. I had never owned a Maltese until 2009 when I adopted a Maltese boy from a local shelter. He's adorable...see my hub.

Thank you!

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 18, 2011:

Thank you, Eddy, for taking time to read and comment on this hub. I really appreciate your kind words:)

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 18, 2011:

Thank you, Eddy, for taking time to read and comment on this hub. I really appreciate your kind words:)

Eiddwen from Wales on December 17, 2011:

A brilliant hub and thanks for sharing.

Take care


Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 16, 2011:

Hi Deborah: Yes, these little ball of fur just grab your heart, don't they? Thank you for the votes and feedback. It's always so nice to hear what you think about my hubs.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 16, 2011:

I love Maltese's they are so adorable.. love them.. great HUB...I VOTED UP AND AWESOME

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 16, 2011:

Hi amymarie_5...thank you for sharing your thoughts about the awesome Maltese dog breed! I'm glad you enjoyed this and I certainly appreciate your vote of confidence and support.

Amy DeMarco from Chicago on December 15, 2011:

Malteses are so cute. I love this breed of dog. I learned a lot from reading this. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the Maltese.. who knew!?

Voted up & interesting. :)