History and Origin:
The Maltese is a toy breed, bred originally in Italy and first established as a breed on the Maltese Islands. An extremely ancient breed, it has been a companion dog to royalty and nobility for nearly three thousand years. Depictions of the Maltese have been found on Greek amphorae (large vase-shaped containers) as early as 500 BC, and many ancient Greek and Roman poets and philosophers wrote about the little dog. It was believed by the Egyptians and some European civilizations that the Maltese held restorative properties; it is documented to have been placed on the pillow of a sick person to make him or her well again. The breed was loved by Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and Queen Victoria, but almost became extinct as some enthusiasts wanted to breed the dog even smaller than its six or seven pounds in the seventeenth century. Influence from other toy breeds such as the Poodle, Toy Spaniel, and possibly the Pekingese (or other Asian breeds) staved off extinction, but also created multiple new breeds of Maltese. From these variations likely came the Bichon Frise and Havanese, among others. The Maltese as it appears today is the result of English breeding; Maltese dogs in North America are direct descendants of the English Maltese.
Personality and Temperament:
The Maltese is a people pleaser, remarkably patient and lively. It is very good with children, responds well to positive training techniques, and is a sweet and loving companion. It is a brave dog, fearlessly alerting it’s owners of foreign sounds with a sharp bark. Unfortunately, as the Maltese is a toy breed, it has a tendency to develop Small Dog Syndrome. It may develop undesirable behavior traits if treated like a small human instead of a dog. Due to its long history as a companion animal and its outgoing, friendly demeanor, the Maltese makes a fantastic dog for the nervous or first-time owner.
Exercise & Training:
The Maltese adores playing outside, and despite its size it is an avid walker. It is comfortable living in an apartment as long as it receives proper exercise and stimulation to keep it happy and healthy. With a natural tendency to please, the Maltese is highly trainable with positive reinforcement. Even though its small size makes it a convenient breed to carry around in a purse, walking, training, and socialization is essential to ensure the Maltese becomes a well-adjusted, adored member of the family.
Very light shedders, the Maltese can be an appropriate breed for people with dog allergies. If the coat is allowed to grow out long, it does not need professional grooming, however a shorter coat will need maintenance two or three times a year. The Malteses soft, fine fur is prone to matting, and needs to be brushed gently daily. Wiping its eyes daily is also suggested, as the dog is prone to tearing, which will stain the face. Regular bathing will keep the coat soft and luxurious.
As an ancient breed, the Maltese has influenced the development of many modern day toy breeds, such as the Havanese and Bichon Frise. The modern Maltese is the result of a revival effort and possibly has Pekingese, Toy Spaniel, and Toy Poodle blood in it.
Interesting Facts about the Maltese:
1. The Maltese has had many names in the past, including ”Yee ancient dogge of Malta”, ”Roman Ladies Dog”, ”The Comforter”, and “The Maltese Lion Dog”.
2. Among ancient writers who described the Maltese in their writings are philosophers Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, and Strabo.
3. The Maltese is one of the earliest breeds accepted into the American Kennel Club, in 1888.
4. The Maltese is among the most popular of breeds in the United States, and is well represented at AKC shows. It frequently wins the Toy category, and has also won many Best in Show championships.