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The Maltese is a small breed of dog in the Toy Group. He's a sweet, intelligent dog who is devoted to his people. Although they look delicate and aristocratic, the Maltese can have a lot of energy and excels not only as a companion but also a competitor in such dog sports as agility, obedience, and tracking. 

Gentle and fearless, the Maltese greets everyone as a friend. Wherever he lives, the Maltese is responsive to his environment and makes an effective watchdog.


The Maltese dog is one of the most ancient of the toy breeds, going back at least two millennia. This small dog was mentioned in the early great cultures of Greece and Rome. The Egyptians and, centuries later, many Europeans, thought that the Maltese had the ability to cure people of disease and would place one on the pillow of an ill person! This inspired one of its nicknames "The Comforter".

Despite his prominence in history, the exact origin of the Maltese dog is uncertain. Many believe the breed was developed in the Isle of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea from Spitz- or Spaniel-type dogs. 

Queen Elizabeth I and her Maltese dog
Wherever he came from, the Maltese thrived. By the 15th century, he had found a secure place in the arms and hearts of French aristocrats. During the reign of Henry VIII, Maltese arrived in the British Isles and by the end of the 16th century, the Maltese had become a favourite pooch for royal ladies including Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and later Queen Victoria. 

Although he survived the fall of the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages, the Maltese nearly disappeared around the 17th-18th centuries when attempts were made to breed him to be the size of a squirrel ! After this disastrous experiment, breeders mixed poodles, miniature spaniels and East Asian miniature dogs with the breed to save it. This resulted in the Maltese becoming so varied that several new breeds were formed. It is thought that today’s Maltese is the direct ancestor of the Bichon Frise, Bolognese and Havanese breeds.


This elegant dog breed is famous for the long silky white coat covering his body. Straight and thick, the coat falls all the way to the floor. Many years ago, Maltese came in many colours, but these days they are always white.

But the Maltese is more than his coat. Completing the picture is a slightly rounded skull, shiny black nose, hanging ears, dark brown eyes surrounded by black eye rims and short straight legs. Maltese carry their heads high on their long necks, and their plumed tails carry over their backs. This gives them a distinguished, aristocratic look.

  • Height: up to 25 cm for both males and females
  • Weight: there's no restriction for conformation but a healthy weight range for an adult dog is 3-4kg.
For the Maltese Breed Standard, visit Dogs Australia.


Even though the Maltese are very small dogs, they tend to be brave and without fear. They are generally sweet tempered and owners will find their Maltese constantly by their side, whether they are working around the house or relaxing in bed.

Maltese as one of the toy breeds don’t require a great deal of space which makes them ideal for those who have small backyards or live in apartments

Because they have a long history as companion dogs, Maltese require a lot of human attention and suffer from separation anxiety. If left alone for hours each day, they can bark and become destructive.

No breed is perfect, and Maltese sometimes are intolerant of small children or other dogs, especially if they have been overly pampered by their people. If this occurs, they can become very protective, barking and even biting if animals or people are perceived as a threat to their relationship with their beloved human family.

Maltese are not a good choice for families with small children, however, because they are so small and can be easily injured. Like all dogs, they must be taught their place in your home, and require early socialisation and basic obedience training.

They are also notoriously hard to housetrain and some like to jump in puddles.

Health & Lifespan

As a rule of thumb, wait until your Maltese puppy is 8 months old to walk very far with him, because his bones are still developing.

As with many other toy breeds the most common health issue relates to the leg joints. Patellar luxation (locking of the kneecaps), is not entirely uncommon and can progress to cause more serious osteoarthritis. This condition can usually be addressed with surgery.

When purchasing your puppy, have a vet check it over thoroughly. The vet will check the leg joints and as a matter of routine will also check the heart for congenital heart murmur.

Maltese are prone to gingivitis and need a diet that includes chewy food.

Maltese will live to 14-15 years but it is not uncommon for them to reach 18 if kept out of the damp.


Because he doesn't have an undercoat, the Maltese sheds little, and many people consider the breed to be hypoallergenic. But be warned, Maltese are one of the highest maintenance dogs.

Keep the coat well out of the eyes otherwise constant tearing will cause a painful dermatitis. 

If neglected, the coat will also cause serious health problems such as skin infections, pain and restricted movement. 

If you’re not up to grooming daily, the coat can be clipped right back, about an inch long, ensuring that the dog stays warm. Even a clipped dog will need regular grooming. Unless bathed weekly and groomed daily, the Maltese long luxurious coat will mat, especially when the puppy coat is replaced by adult hair.

Recommended for

Most Maltese breeders will not sell puppies to families with young children. It's just too easy for a toddler to injure a tiny Maltese by dropping him, stepping on him, or holding him too tightly. He does much better in a home with quiet older children or adults who will treat him with the care he needs.

Maltese are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Maltese in need of adoption and or fostering.

For more information on the breed, please contact:

Dogs NSW at

Dogs VIC at

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