Maltese Breed Information
Alternative names -
Bichoy Maltaise, Couton
Country of origin - Malta
Classification and breed standards
FCI:|Group 9 Section 1 #65|Stds
ANKC:|Group 1 (Toys)|Stds
CKC:|Group 5 - Toys|Stds
A Maltese is a small breed of white dog belonging to the toy group. The Maltese does not shed and is covered from head to foot with a mantle of long, silky, white hair. An ancient breed long associated with the island of Malta, it has retained its distinct appearance for millennia.
Adult Maltese range from roughly 3 to 10 lb (1.4 to 4.5 kg), though breed standards, as a whole, call for weights between 4 and 8 lb (1.8 to 3.7 kg). There are variations depending on which standard is being used; many, like the American Kennel Club, call for a weight that is ideally between 4 and 6 lb (1.8 to 2.7 kg), and no more than 7 lb (3.2 kg).
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 (1) finger width dome and a black nose that is two (2) finger widths long. The body is compact with the length equaling the height. The drop ears with long hair and very dark eyes, surrounded by darker skin pigmentation that is called a "halo", gives Maltese their expressive look. Their noses can fade and become pink or light brown in color. This is often referred to as a "winter nose" and many times will become black again with increased exposure to the sun.Malteses have extremely long tounges.
The Maltese can be a handful for owners unprepared to deal with their energy. Maltese are also notoriously difficult to housebreak and often need to be box or paper trained (via "Wee-Wee Pads"), rather than trained to "go out".
For all their diminutive size, Maltese also seem, for the most part, to be without fear. In fact, many Maltese seem relatively indifferent to creatures/objects larger than themselves, which makes them very easy to socialize with other dogs, and even cats. They are extremely lively and playful, and even as a Maltese ages, his/her energy level and playful demeanor remain fairly constant and does not diminish much.
Although Maltese are very good with children, a Maltese puppy would not necessarily be a good choice for families with infants. The breed tends to believe that the infants are other puppies with whom to play, which can be disruptive. Once a Maltese is a bit older and more mature, it is fine around extremely small children and infants.
Maltese do not require much physical exercise, although they enjoy running and are more inclined to play games of chase, rather than play with toys. They can be very demanding and, true to their nature as "lap dogs", love to cuddle and often seek this sort of attention. The Maltese is very active in the house, and, preferring enclosed spaces, does very well with small yards. For this reason the breed also does well with apartments and townhouses, and is a prized pet of urban dwellers, especially as they are not yappy. They are incredibly friendly dogs to people they know. With strangers they will make a high pitched bark but will quiet down if the person means no harm. They are not the kind of dog that needs constant affection; if you don't want to play they will gladly go on their own.
While good-natured dogs can be obtained from reputable breeders, in some countries the Maltese experiences a high dumpage rate compared to other small dogs such as the West Highland White Terrier.
Maltese have no undercoat, and have little to no shedding if cared for properly. Like their relatives Poodles and Bichon Frise, they are considered to be largely hypoallergenic and many people who are allergic to dogs may not be allergic to the Maltese (See list of Hypoallergenic dog breeds).
Regular grooming is required to prevent the coats of non-shedding dogs from matting. Many owners will keep their Maltese clipped in a "puppy cut," a 1 - 2" all over trim that makes the dog resemble a puppy. Some owners, especially those who show Maltese in the sport of conformation, prefer to wrap the long hair to keep it from matting and breaking off, and then to show the dog with the hair unwrapped combed out to its full length.
Dark staining in the hair around the eyes ("tear staining") can be a problem in this breed, and is mostly a function of how much the individual dog's eyes water and the size of the tear ducts. Tear stain can be readily removed if a fine-toothed metal comb, moistened with lukewarm water, is carefully drawn through the snout hair just below the eyes. This maintenance activity must be performed every two or three days, as a layer of sticky goo is quick to redevelop. If the face is kept dry and cleaned daily, the staining can be minimized. Many veterinarians recommend avoiding foods treated with food coloring and serving distilled water to reduce tear staining.
Many toy breeds and small dogs are known to yap or scream or bite ankles. While Maltese dogs are not given to excessive barking, they will sound the alarm at noises in the night. In fact, legend has it that the ancient Romans would use the Maltese as alarm dogs, and raised them with Rottweilers, or a proto-Rottweiler breed. Intruders would first be confronted with the diminutive Maltese, only to be later confronted with their more formidable companions.
The Maltese is generally a healthy breed with few inherent problems. The most significant issue for Maltese is their dental health. Maltese have notoriously bad teeth and it is not uncommon for animals to begin losing teeth at the age of 8 or 9.
There is also an inclination toward heart ailments, which usually surface around the 10th year. These might include a prolapse valve syndrome, or an enlarged ventricle. These condition can be life threatening, but are manageable through medication.
Other problems may be a luxating patella, or "floating kneecap", portosystemic liver shunt, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
Maltese are also prone to sunburn along where their hair parts, and, in general, have rather delicate skin.
Some dogs of this kind get the chills very easily, and are prone to shaking or shivering for no apparent medical reason. Maltese are also often uncomfortable in hot, as well as damp, weather.
The average life span is 12-15 years, although Maltese can live to be 18 or older.
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. Some have placed its origin at two or three thousand years ago and Darwin himself placed the origin of the breed at 6000 BC.
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 control before the cuteness factor gained paramount importance. The Isle of Malta (or Melitae as it was then known) was a geographic center of early trade, and explorers undoubtedly found ancestors of the tiny, white dogs left there as barter for necessities and supplies. The dogs were favored by the wealthy and royalty alike and were bred over time to specifically be a companion animal. Some royals that purportedly owned Maltese were Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Josephine Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette.
In fact, the Maltese were so favored by the Roman emperors, they choose to breed them to be pure white - something they considered a 'sacred color'. Before then, there were other light colors that Maltese come in - still seen again at the puppy stage, normally.
During the Renaissance, the poet Ludovico Ariosto in a few lines of his literary masterpiece, "Orlando Furioso," describes a dog, that could possibly be a Maltese, however we cannot safely state that it is referring to one.
"The tiniest dog Nature has ever produced --"
"Her coat of long hair, whiter than ermine,"
"Her movements exquisitely graceful and"
"Matchless elegance of appearance."
(Vol.II Canto 43)
7. Conformation champions
During the 1940s Dr. Vincenzo Calvaresi was one of the prominent members of the Maltese fancy in the U.S. and his Villa Malta breeding program produced more than 100 champions.
Toni and Aennchen Antonelli of Aennchen's Maltese were the main force in establishing the Maltese breed in the United States in the 1950s. One of the best known Maltese from their breeding program was the female Ch. Aennchen's Poona Dancer, winner of 37 "Best In Show"s and owned by Larry Ward and the late Frank Oberstar.
The top winning Best In Show record of 43 for Maltese was held for many years by Ch. Joanchenn's Maya Dancer, owned by Mamie Gregory, until recently broken in the 1990s. Marge Rozik continued the breed for years until her death in 1999 and Debbie Martin continues the Villa Malta line from her home near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
8. Cross-bred Maltese dogs
In the popular 1974 film Benji, the part of the dog Benji's heroic love interest, Tiffany, was played by a mixed breed female of primarily Maltese ancestry. She also appeared, with her mixed-breed puppies, in the film's 1977 sequel, For the Love of Benji.
Maltese are often deliberately crossed with Shih Tzus and Poodles to produce small, fluffy lap dogs. Maltese-Poodle crosses are called Malti-poos. Maltese crossed with Pugs are also seeing an increase in popularity.
In the 1950s the Maltese and Lhasa Apso were accidentally bred, creating a type of dog that later became known as the Kyi-Leo rare dog breed in the 1970s.
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