Guess where the Maltese dog breed originated… That’s right, Malta! Malta is an island in the Mediterranean sea. It is close enough to Italy to share some of the same culture, but far enough away, that it has its own unique cultural traits and rules as an in depended state in its own right. Malta was a great trading port in early history. In fact, the Maltese dog shows up in historical writings as early as 300BC. And it was recognized by the American Kennel Club over a hundred years ago (in 1888 to be exact).
The Maltese dog breed is a small and petite dog standing only 9-10 inches tall and weighing about 4-6 pounds. The Maltese dog has a silky long white coat which sometimes has a light tan coloring on the ears. Like some other small dog breeds, the Maltese dog may have a tendency to bark a lot. But some Maltese dogs could easily be the opposite. They are good-natured dogs who generally get along well with other pets and children.
The Maltese dog can be bold and feisty, yet sweet and gentle. While the Maltese dog is generally a fearless dog, they can be shy around strangers. Their fearlessness sometimes gets them named as a Maltese Terrier, but terriers were bred to be fearless hunters or fighters whereas the Maltese dog was bred to be a pampered lap dog. Therefore, the Maltese dog falls under the AKC Toy Breed group.
The Maltese dog is bright and intelligent, and is relatively easy to train. They respond very well to positive training methods. While they tend to have a lot of energy, their exercise requirements are minimal. Short walks and/or a few short sessions of playtime per day is all the Maltese dog needs. However, grooming for a Maltese dog requires a lot more attention. Their silky coats tend to tangle so they need attentive brushing almost every day. Certain areas of their coat, such as around the eyes and mouth, tend to get dirty and stained. A soft damp cloth can be used every now in-between their bath times.
Like most pure bred dogs, the Maltese dog is prone to certain hereditary health issues. Dental problems is probably the most common. But the Maltese dog is also prone to hydrocephalus, patellar luxation, liver shunt, and eyelid problems.
Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an increase of cerebrospinal fluid in the cranial vault of the skull. Some dogs with this issue have no adverse affects while others may experience seizures, paralysis, depression, irritability, blindness, or balance issues. Generally, once these serious symptoms begin to appear, the issues tend to get worse, even with medication. Because unscrupulous breeders tend to overlook the cause of hydrocephalus (a dome-shaped skull often with a “soft” spot or hole at the top), this genetic trait is becoming more and more common in the Maltese dog.
Patellar luxation is where the knee cap slips out of place. If this happens, the dog could be unable to walk. Tests can be done on the Maltese dog to determine how likely patellar luxation is to surface in the future.
Liver shunt is very well explained in this article by Shannon Riggerou: Liver Shunts In Dogs – Why My Dog Went Undiagnosed For 3.5 Years And How You Can Spot It!
This article is dedicated to the memory of Noodle, a purebred Maltese who spent the first eight years of her life as nothing more than a breeding dog. She had very little living space and no one to love her during those eight years. After the years of unhappiness, she was rescued and placed into a very loving home. If you are considering a Maltese dog as a pet, please consider getting one from a Maltese rescue group or a responsible breeder – emphasis on the word, responsible. A responsible breeder would know about hydrocephalus, patellar luxation, and liver shunt and would be careful to not use any dogs with these issues for breeding.
For information on other dog breeds visit http://dogbreedinfo.synthasite.com/. For a cute Maltese Dog Figurine visit http://www.animalfigurinestore.com/product/DF34.