Bred as early as 300 B.C., Maltese are meant to be companions and lap dogs. They weigh, on average, no more than seven pounds and sport a white coat that can grow to touch the ground. They are gentle but lively and enjoy play time. Maltese do not tolerate extreme temperatures or loneliness well and are meant to be indoor dogs. They enjoy spending quality time with their humans, but are wary of strangers and are capable guard dogs despite their small size. Maltese have few genetic health concerns and, if well-cared for, can live up to 14 years.
Maltese puppies should be given a dry, small-breed puppy formula food until they are nine to 12 months old. Puppy formula has extra protein your Maltese puppy needs to grow. Avoid foods meant for larger breeds, as the kibble can be difficult to chew or even break your Maltese puppy's tiny teeth. Small breeds such as Maltese don't have fat stores for energy, so they require more frequent meals. Plan to feed your Maltese puppy four small meals per day. Use the daily amount recommendations on the food packaging as a general guideline as to how much your puppy should eat each day.
Baby and adult Maltese are energetic and need daily exercise. Their small size makes this requirement easy for an owner to meet, however. Many of them can get their exercise just wandering around the house, but these playful dogs also enjoy a game of fetch or tug. Let your puppy do all of the pulling, however, or you risk hurting it because of its small size. Your Maltese puppy will also appreciate daily walks on a leash. Five to 10 minutes a day will give it the opportunity to spend time out of the house or yard and exercise its mind as it is exposed to new sights, sounds and smells.
Your Maltese puppy may be small, but it is feisty and courageous. Maltese don't seem to realize how small they are and may pick fights with much larger dogs. This can be dangerous, so you should socialize your puppy as early as possible. The ideal age for socialization is before six months. This is your chance to introduce your Maltese puppy to other dogs, strangers, children, sights, sounds, smells and any other situation you think your puppy might encounter throughout its life. Reward your Maltese puppy with treats and praise whenever it acts bravely and friendly in new situations or around new people or animals. This will help give your Maltese the confidence it needs to face life without fear or aggression.
Give your Maltese boundaries in your home. Its feisty nature can cause it to be domineering if it does not have rules to follow. You can choose whichever rules fit the needs of your home and your family, but enforce them daily and consistently. Some examples include not allowing your Maltese to sleep on your bed, making the trash can off limits or requiring your dog to sit and wait patiently at the door before being let outside or allowed to greet visitors. You should also teach your Maltese puppy basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, down and come. Use positive reinforcement techniques and reward your puppy for obeying commands and rules correctly. Never punish your Maltese. It is easily injured due to its small size, and it can develop fear or aggression.
Take your Maltese puppy to a veterinarian to receive vaccinations against diseases, such as rabies and distemper. Your vet may ask you to bring your puppy in several times in the first year of its life for regular physical examinations (to detect any developing health problems) and to administer booster shots. After your puppy reaches one year, it should see a vet at least once a year to stay up-to-date on its physicals and vaccinations. At home, provide a warm place for your Maltese puppy to sleep, such as a dog bed or a blanket in a crate. Keep toys, chews and bones meant for small breeds available at all times to give your puppy a chance to exercise its teeth and its mind. Brush your Maltese puppy's coat at least once weekly to avoid tangling and matting. Bathe as needed.