The Maltese is a small, long-haired dog developed in the Mediterranean region as early as the 10th century B.C. A favorite of noble women in Rome, the dog was originally used to hunt rodents but eventually became a companion animal and lap dog. Today, it is well known for its striking white coat and small size.
Energy and Intelligence
Maltese dogs are companion dogs, not working dogs, but they are still an energetic and intelligent breed. Because they are small - often less than 7 lbs. - they generally do well in urban settings or homes with small yards. Maltese still require exercise for happiness and good health as do almost all dogs. They are happiest when treated as part of the family and don't do well in crowded kennel situations.
The Maltese dog's most striking feature is its silky white coat, which grows to a length of several inches. With no undercoat the breed does not shed when groomed regularly, making it a good choice for people with allergies. As with any supposedly hypoallergenic breed, it's important to make sure that you can tolerate a specific dog before purchasing it. Maltese are prone to tear staining and require regular face cleaning for a clean appearance.
Maltese tend to bark excessively, which can be a problem in an urban or suburban setting. A survey by the Australian RSPCA found the Maltese as one of the most abandoned breeds in Australia because of their barking. This may be due to habit or separation anxiety; in either case, early training can reduce problems later in life.
Aggression was the other major reason cited by owners in surrendering Maltese dogs to the RSPCA. Experts recommend that small children only be allowed to play with Maltese under close supervision. While this is understandable, given the energetic nature of the breed and the unpredictability of children, general aggression and snappishness represents a failure of breeders to adequately select their dogs based on temperament. Aggressive Maltese should be avoided and should never be bred.