As one of the smallest of the toy breeds -- already the littlest of canines -- a full-grown Maltese might be dwarfed by a large breed puppy. However, a Maltese thinks she's a big dog, so make sure she doesn't try to pick a fight with a larger canine.
One of the oldest of all dog breeds, today's Maltese, named from their homeland of Malta, looks much the same as her counterpart in ancient Rome. If you share your life with a Maltese, your dog resembles the pet kept by wealthy households for the past 2,000 years. In addition to beauty, the Maltese gained admirers because of the breed's innate charm, intelligence and playfulness.
The Maltese reaches her adult size between the ages of 12 and 15 months. The mature Maltese weighs in between 4 and 6 pounds. If you plan to show your dog, she must weigh less than 7 pounds to meet American Kennel Club standards. The Maltese shouldn't exceed 10 inches in height at the shoulder. Males are larger than females. This breed is extremely proportionate, with the height from the top of the shoulders to the ground the same length as from the top of the shoulder to the tail root.
The Maltese sports a slightly round head, with feathery, dropped ears. The dark, round "button" eyes have black rims, and the nose is also black. Because this little dog carries her head high, her neck should be somewhat long as she carries her head high. The Maltese boasts a sloping shoulder, deep chest and level topline. The legs are fine-boned and well-feathered, and the feet are round with black paw pads. The Maltese carries her plumy tail over her back. She's often adorned by adoring owners with hair clips and jewelry.
For a full-grown Maltese, her long hair is truly her crowning glory. The silky coat hangs nearly to the ground. She'll have a center part running the entire length of the body. Keeping that coat sparkling white and free of mats requires frequent bathing and daily grooming, in addition to regular visits to a professional groomer. Make no mistake -- the Maltese is a high-maintenance dog. If you don't show, you don't have to keep your Maltese in a full coat. Your groomer can trim your dog in the shorter puppy clip or a variety of other trims.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.