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Fast Facts

Country of Origin:Italy
AKC Group:Toy Group
UKC Group:Companion
Use today:Companion
Life Span:12 to 14 years
Coat:Long, flowing single coat
Grooming:Weekly grooming.
Size:Small Dog Breed
Height:No height standards
Weight:4 to 7 pounds

The Maltese is among the gentlest mannered of all little dogs, and its trust and responsiveness are appealing. Art objects dating back 3,000 years depict this beautiful little dog, whose breed name may derive from the island of Malta or the Sicilian town of Melita. The breed gained favor and popularity wherever it went, thanks to its affectionate, intelligent personality. The Maltese can reach 10 inches high at the shoulder and ideally weighs 4 to 6 pounds. Its silky, pure white coat is long and hangs straight to the ground from a center part running from nose to tail. The coat needs daily brushing to stay tangle-free and frequent bathing to keep it sparkling white, even if you choose to give it a shorter pet trim. Dark eyes and pigmentation of nose, lips and eyerims enhance the alert expression. A fine pet for limited accommodations, the Maltese's exercise needs are minimal. Although tiny, this breed makes a fine watchdog, barking to alert its people when strangers approach. Because of its size, the Maltese is best suited to a home with older children who can be trusted to handle it carefully.



Sarah Christie

In 1916, Booth Tarkington wrote a novel titled "Seventeen" in which the female love interest, Miss Lola Pratt, stole the heart, mind and imagination of the main character, William Baxter. In every scene, Miss Pratt cradled a tiny dog, Floppit, whose features were indistinguishable beneath a cascade of white hair. She lavished far less attention on her lovestruck suitor than she did on Floppit, the quintessential Maltese: adoring, adorable and utterly devoid of any less-than-delicate dog habits.

Maltese have been the chosen dog breed of royalty and landed gentry for centuries. Their extravagantly long, white coats and easy-to-please personalities are the result of more than 2,000 years of selective breeding. "The best thing about the Maltese is their terrific temperaments," says Carole Baldwin, breeder of more than 100 American champions, of Cotati, Calif. "I wish more people could be like the Maltese."

Sleeve Dog

Mystery clouds this dog breed's origins, which may go back 2,000 years. Images of Maltese have been found on Greek vases from 500 B.C. Originating from the Italian town of Melitae, the dogs were status symbols from the start, a favorite pet dog of Roman ladies who carried them in their sleeves, hence the nickname "Sleeve Dog." As chattel of the wealthy and powerful, the dogs had no use beyond amusement and companionship. They may have been condemned to a life of foppish display had they not been pressed into service as ratters on ships in the middle part of the 17th century. Farsighted sailors recognized the Maltese's potential as trade currency, bringing them along to swap for spices and silks, but saw no reason they shouldn't earn their keep during the voyage.

The Maltese is not hyperactive or high-strung like some other toy dog breeds. Emotionally stable and not overly sensitive, they often respond to reprimands by barking and wagging their tails. These dogs are unaggressive by nature. While loyal and loving to their owners, Maltese are equally loving to the refrigerator repair guy and door-to-door salesman. While their temperaments may be suitable for small children, their delicate bone structure is definitely breakable, and infants may be unable to resist pulling all that hair.

White Wonders

Because of their snowy, luxurious coats, Maltese stand out in the group ring and often win Best in Show. Their long, flowing coat elegantly ripples in the breeze created by those invisible little legs pumping along underneath it. The effect is something like a silky white wig propelled on a roller skate.

Be forewarned, however: Unless you wrap a show dog's coat, indoor carpeting, not to mention backyard romps, will ruin it. Be prepared to give your Maltese twice-a-week grooming sessions. You could opt for a utilitarian "puppy cut," but this defeats the reason for owning a Maltese, sort of like feeding growth hormones to a Shetland pony.

Like white animals of many species, Maltese are prone to deafness. Otherwise, they suffer the usual health problems associated with toy dog breeds, such as heart defects, dental trouble and stifle injuries caused by jumping off household furniture. Compare furniture jumping to launching off the roof of your house 20 times a day, and you'll see how wear-and-tear adds up.

Maltese are the perfect choice for adults, elderly apartment dwellers or families with older children. This dog breed does well in urban environments and has no qualms about living indoors. The good news is the Maltese doesn't shed much - perfect for those with dark-colored carpets or aversions to plastic slipcovers.

Once a status symbol, always a status symbol. But for all their snob appeal, Maltese are remarkably unpretentious little dogs and make loyal pets.

-More About Maltese-

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