A white Maltese prances over a lawn toward the camera.

One of the oldest existing dog breeds, the Maltese is seven pounds of silky white hair and vivacious personality. Maltese are gentle, brave, and affectionate dogs, lively in spirit and in motion. Intelligent, energetic, and sweet, the Maltese makes a wonderful companion—though the breed is known to be short-tempered with children and others when spoiled and untrained. They are fast learners, however, so do your family and your dog a favor by following through with obedience school and socialization. Because of their smarts and enthusiasm, Maltese are great candidates for lifelong learning. They will proudly show off any new skills, from running agility courses to learning tricks in the living room.

Physical Description


The Maltese has a long, straight, silky coat of pure white. The fur at their ears may have a light tan or yellow tint. They have no undercoat.


Average Height: 8-10 inches


Average Weight: 6-8 pounds

Breed Standard & History

This toy dog is distinguished by his silky, long drape of pure white fur. The hair on his head may be left hanging or pulled up into a smart topknot. The fur on his legs is feathered and his tail curves up and over so its fur flows down one side of his haunches. He has curious black eyes and a black nose. The Maltese moves around the show ring, your house, or the dog park with a jaunty confidence. He is never too shy to play with dogs of any size.

Though their name derives from the island of Malta, it is unknown where Maltese first developed. It is well documented, however, that the breed's popularity dates to antiquity when they were beloved by ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians as far back as 2800 years ago. Maltese were depicted on artifacts from these cultures, tombs were built to memorialize them, and precious goods were traded to acquire them. Eventually, Maltese became favored pets in Europe, where they acquired the name 'The Comforter' based on the belief that they cured disease when placed near sick people. They were the companions of royalty in France and England, and were first brought across the Atlantic to the US in the late 1800s, where they have become one of the most popular toy breeds.

AKC Breed Category

Toy Group


General Temperament

The Maltese is loving and feisty. Though small and refined in appearance, this is a courageous dog who loves to play and cavort. Everyone is a potential friend to the Maltese. He has an open and gentle nature that makes him a valuable therapy pet.

Family Life

Are Maltese Good with Kids? Maltese are not a great choice for homes with small children because of the breed's small stature and delicate build. They make wonderful pets for families with older children.

(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)

Are Maltese Good with Other Pets? Maltese are usually happy to have furry playmates around the house or at the dog park, as long as they've been socialized with them from an early age. If not trained to be tolerant of other animals, they have a tendency to be protective of their owner's affections.


Maltese are protective of their personal space and of their owners. Though they are generally patient and gentle, they will bark at people and dogs who get too close before proper introductions are made.

Are Maltese Good Guard Dogs? These alert dogs will keep an eye and ear out for anyone approaching your home, and they'll bark until assured the whole house is aware. Once proper introductions are made, Maltese will welcome everyone as a potential playmate.

Energy Levels

Maltese have moderate to high energy levels. While Maltese enjoy relaxing with their people as much as the next lap dog, they also want to play and keep busy.

Specific Concerns

  • They can be difficult to housetrain.
  • If you keep your Maltese's hair long, he is prone to sunburn on his back where the hair is parted.
  • They are prone to separation anxiety.
  • They may be picky eaters.
  • They get cold easily.
  • Their coats are high maintenance when kept long.



Maltese are indoor lap dogs who want to be near their families as often as possible. Though they like to be active, their exercise requirements are minimal, making them great pets for apartments and for the elderly. Slow to housetrain and prone to separation anxiety, crate training is a smart choice for Maltese as it gives them a sense of security and minimizes accidents. Because they are little and have no undercoat, Maltese don't leave a lot of fur around the house.


Maltese enjoy frolicking around the back yard and taking medium-length walks with their owners. They are house dogs, however, and shouldn't be left alone outside for any length of time. Because they have no undercoat, a dog jacket helps keep a Maltese warm when it's very cold or when they will be outside for a longer stretch.


Maltese need a few short walks a day, along with a short play session indoors or out. They are naturally active and will usually get enough exercise, even within a small apartment, to stay healthy and fit.


Maltese need a few short walks a day, along with a short play session indoors or out. They are naturally active and will usually get enough exercise, even within a small apartment, to stay healthy and fit.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: A healthy Maltese will trot by your side down the block, but has very short legs and won't be able to keep up with you for long.
  • Hiking Miles: A Maltese will happily hike with you for one to two miles on the easy trail.


Maltese require a half cup to one cup of quality dry dog food each day, split between two meals. The exact amount and type of food will depend on your dog's age and activity level. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet for your Maltese.

Alone Time

Maltese don't enjoy spending time alone, without their beloved family members. If left alone for too long, they will likely develop destructive habits out of boredom or anxiety. Consider crate training your Maltese to keep him out of mischief when you are away for short stretches.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

12-15 years


Maltese' long hair requires daily brushing to prevent knots and matting. Use detangler or conditioner if matting is a problem. Maltese require shampoos every few weeks to keep their coat clean and silky. To prevent tear and food stains: gently wash the fur below your dog's eyes daily, and the beard on his chin after every meal. Many Maltese owners cut their dog's hair shorter to make grooming easier. Trim his nails every few weeks and gently clean his ears every week to prevent wax buildup, which can lead to infection.

Common Health Issues

Maltese may be prone to a number of breed-specific health concerns, including:

  • Patellar luxation
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Portosystemic shunt
  • Deafness
  • Collapsed trachea
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Periodontal disease
  • White dog shaker syndrome
  • Glaucoma

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Maltese by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



Maltese' intelligence makes them highly trainable, though they can be slow to housetrain. They are eager to please and respond well to training when there are plenty of rewards in the form of praise and treats.

Advanced Training

Maltese excel at agility training and dog sports. They can make wonderful therapy dogs, who love giving and receiving attention.

Sporting Dog Training

The Maltese may chase after a bird or squirrel in the yard, but this is not a hunting breed.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about the Maltese.

Explore Other Breeds

Yes. Maltese are considered a hypoallergenic breed because they are small and don't have an undercoat, which means they shed only lightly. No dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic, however. If you have allergies, arrange to spend a few hours with a Maltese before bringing one home, to see whether you have an allergic reaction.

Maltese are very light shedders.

This breed keeps an eye on his homestead, and will alert you to all interlopers—whether it's a squirrel in the yard or a friend coming by for a visit.

Maltese are good swimmers, but they shouldn't take more than a short dip because they get cold easily. Never let your Maltese swim unsupervised.

Shop Customer Favorites for Dogs