Breed of the Month: Maltese

Description: The Maltese has a single coat which can grow to be very long and parts evenly down the back of the dog. The coat is usually white but can come in other colors like cream and other off-white variants. This breed has a slightly rounded skull with a muzzle that tapers but not to a point. It has large black eyes and a black nose. It has pendent shaped low-set ears and short straight legs.

History: The Maltese has a rich and interesting past and its origins are thought to be traced back to 6,000 BCE from spitz type dogs of central Europe. The Maltese receives its name from the island of Malta where ancient Grecian and Roman people believed the dog originated. From the Mediterranean island, this breed was traded to all parts of the world, specifically the Middle East, Japan, Tibet, China, and the Philippines.

As the Maltese made its way across the globe, it gained popularity with many aristocrats, nobility, and monarchs. The Roman Emperor Claudius, Roman Emperor Publius, Queen Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots were all owners of Maltese dogs.

Size: Males: 8–10 inches at the withers, weighing 6-9 pounds. Females: 8–9 inches at the withers, weighing 6–9 pounds.

Temperament: The Maltese was bred to be a companion and, by nature, is friendly, lively, and eager to please. This breed is known to coexist well with cats and other dogs. If properly supervised, this dog is good with children. As the Maltese is very small, they are very fragile and can easily be harmed by children who play too rough. If not properly socialized, this dog can be snappy and can bark excessively if bored.

Grooming: The Maltese has a single coat of hair which is very soft, typically white, and which sheds minimally. Frequent brushing is required to keep the fur from matting. Some owners will give the Maltese a “puppy cut” where the dog is clipped at a length of 1 to 2 inches. Some owners who are interested in showing their Maltese will let the hair grow long.

Much like the Bichon Frise, the Maltese is likely to get ‘tear staining’ which is a brown or peach colored staining around the eyes. This can be reduced by daily washing of the hair around the eyes.

Health: While the Maltese is generally very hardy breed with few medical issues, it is very susceptible to extreme weather conditions. The Maltese has no undercoat to protect its light colored skin from the sun, so a Maltese that spends too much time in the sun is likely to sunburn. With the lack of an undercoat, this breed is also susceptible to getting very cold and should avoid extreme cold and damp weather.

The Maltese is prone to retinal atrophy which can lead to loss of vision in low light. Retinal atrophy can eventually progress to complete loss of vision in one or both eyes.

Lifespan: 15 or more years.

Trivia: Famous owners: Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Streisand, Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley, Anna Nicole Smith, Halle Berry, Ashely Tisdale, Britney Spears, Billy Ray Cyrus.