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Breed: Maltese
affectionate, assertive
medium (pet), high (show)
14-15 years
Recommended for:
older families, apartments


The forebears of today’s Maltese are thought to have been brought to the Mediterranean region by Phoenician traders over 2000 years ago. One of the small breed of dogs referred to as ‘bichons’, these dogs have been present around, or at least passed through, the Mediterranean for thousands of years. The dogs are considered one of the oldest European toy breeds and their popularity has endured throughout the centuries. Today’s Maltese is somewhat different from those earlier dogs and is likely the result of crossings of miniature spaniel and miniature poodle breeds.


The Maltese is immediately recognisable by its prolific, long, silky white coat, shiny black nose and proud head carriage. Black eye rims surround the dark brown luminous eyes. This dainty dog grows no higher than 25cm at the shoulder and should weigh around 2-3 kg. In full coat the hair should hang to floor length and the hair over the eyes is tied up into a small topknot. Slight lemon markings in the coat can also occur and are not considered a flaw.


Maltese epitomise the companion dog. They are generally sweet tempered, although sometimes snappy and aggressive, but always loyal to their owners. Owners will find their Maltese constantly by their side, whether they are working around the house or relaxing in bed. Bright and assertive, the Maltese will not appreciate rough handling and can become snappy with children. Responsible breeders have however recognised this problem and have taken steps to breed for a more desirable temperament.

Health and lifespan

As with many other toy breeds the most common health issue relates to the leg joints. Patellar luxation, the locking of the kneecaps, is not entirely uncommon and can progress to cause more serious osteoarthritis. This condition can usually be addressed with surgery. When purchasing your puppy have a vet check it over thoroughly. The vet will check the leg joints and as a matter of routine will also check the heart for congenital heart murmur. Maltese are prone to gingivitis and need a diet that includes chewy food such as raw chicken necks. Report any vomiting to the vet straight away as this may indicate the dog has a liver shunt. Keep the coat well out of the eyes otherwise constant tearing will cause a painful dermatitis. If neglected, the coat will also cause serious health problems such as skin infections, pain and restricted movement. If you’re not showing your Maltese and aren’t prepared to groom it daily, clipping is strongly advised.

Care and Maintenance

Maltese are one of the highest maintenance dogs. Even a clipped dog will need regular grooming. Unless bathed weekly and groomed daily, the long luxurious coat will mat, especially when the puppy coat is replaced by adult hair. If you’re not up to grooming daily, the coat can be clipped right back, about an inch long, ensuring that the dog stays warm. Maltese like to be clean and dry and although an active breed, they don’t require a great deal of space. This makes them ideal for those who have small yards or live in apartments. Your Maltese would be quite content just lazing around the house.


While most Maltese have little difficulty whelping, they occasionally need help in the delivery of large puppies. Most often it is the first litter of pups which present the most problems and a cesarean section may be required in small bitches.

Cost and recommendation

Due to its fondness for inside environments the Maltese is an excellent apartment dog. They’re not particularly suited for those families with very young children due to the snappy nature of some of the breed. If you have a very busy lifestyle and want a dog you should perhaps consider a lower maintenance breed, these dogs do require regular care. Maltese are dedicated companions and are best as a single pet or possibly a pair. Pups are regularly available and will set you back from $450 for a pet up to around $600 for a show quality dog. Endeavour to visit those breeders recommended by your state’s canine authority, this will help ensure that your puppy is likely to be bred from sound parents with good temperaments.

National contacts

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.

Dogs NSW
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 – Fax: (02) 6241 1129.

Dogs West
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409