The Maltese is a small breed of dog in the Toy group. It is descended from dogs originating in the Central Mediterranean Area. It is thought to have been descended from a spitz-type dog, and was selectively bred in order to obtain its small size. While the exact origin is unknown, there is also some evidence that it may have originated in Asia and is possibly related to the Tibetan Terrier. With the migration of nomadic tribes, these dogs probably made their way to Europe through the Middle East. This ancient breed has been known by many different names throughout the centuries. It was originally called “Canis Melitaeus”, in Latin, and is known in English as the “ancient dog of Malta”. It is also known as the “Roman Ladies Dog”, and “Maltese Lion Dog”.
The skull of the Maltese is slightly rounded, with a finger-wide dome. They have brown eyes, and a black button nose. The body shape of the Maltese is compact, with its length equaling the height. The Expressive look of the Maltese is from its drop ears with (sometimes) long hair, which is surrounded by darker skin pigmentation, called a “halo”. If the animal is lacking in sunlight exposure, their noses can sometimes fade and become pink or light brown, referred to as “winter nose”. With increased exposure to sun, many times the nose will return back to its black color. The Maltese’s coat is long and silky, but has no undercoat. While it is considered a fault in the breed standard, some can have curly hair. The coloring of the coat is that of a pure white, and a pale ivory tinge is permitted on the ears. The adult dog of this breed weighs between 3-10 pounds, but breed standards call for weights between 5-8 pounds. The height of the breed is 7-12 inches. The gait of the breed is jaunty, smooth, and flowing. When it is viewed from the side, it gives an impression of rapid movement. When the animal is in stride, the forelegs will reach straight and will be free from the shoulders, with the elbows close; the hind legs will move in a straight line.
The Maltese is bred to be a good, snuggly, companion dog. This breed is playful and extremely lively, even as they age. On occasion the Maltese can be snippy with smaller children and should be supervised. However, early socialization will reduce this habit. They love humans and prefer to be near them. As the breed is an active one within a house, they prefer enclosed spaces and do well in small yards. AS the breed does not like to be left alone for long periods of time, some may suffer from separation anxiety.
The average life span of the Maltese is 12-15 years. Maltese dogs can show signs of tear staining underneath the eyes, and are susceptible to reverse sneezing. This breed also has a tendency to have many tooth problems which can result in cavities. Without proper care, the infected teeth can fall out as the dog gets older.