The tiny, silky-haired Maltese is the oldest of the toy breeds and one of the earliest recognized of all dog breeds. These small, hardy dogs have loveable, lively personalities that make them excellent companion dogs just so long as they receive proper training.
The Maltese has enjoyed its status as canine royalty for more than 28 centuries. First recognized on the island of Malta, this spirited dog became the favorite companion for wealthy, fashionable ladies all over the Mediterranean. Returning crusaders brought members of this breed back home to England, and these dogs quickly became the little darlings of Britain's royal women. The Maltese made its first American appearance at a Westminster Kennel Club show in 1877 and currently enjoys being one of the more popular toy breeds.
Perhaps due to their royalty link, Maltese dogs are groomed to look dignified and refined. Their small bodies feature a mantle of white, silky, straight hair that flows to the ground. Their dark, alert eyes and black noses look very striking against the white fur. These dogs have no undercoat and typically don't shed very much, making them a popular pet for allergy sufferers. You can keep your Maltese's head hair out of her eyes by tying it up in a cute little topknot. Adult Maltese typically weigh between 4 and 7 pounds and reach only about 10 inches in height at the shoulder.
Maltese have long been prized for their gentle, affectionate natures. These lively, little dogs are natural hams, demanding and thriving on their owners' attention. Descended from miniature spaniels and poodles, a Maltese possesses a playful, energetic personality and will keep you busy well into her adult years. Devoted to their masters, these dogs are very responsive to their environment and will quickly sound the alarm if they hear a suspicious noise or if somebody approaches your door.
Because Maltese are both gentle and playful, they typically make great family pets. However, you must teach children how to properly play with this tiny dog to avoid any unintentional injuries. Maltese usually get along well with family cats and dogs but are quite willing to take on strange dogs much larger than themselves. As loving as these dogs are with family members, they can be very shy and reserved around people they don't know.
The tiny Maltese doesn't need much space and handles living in small dwellings with ease. They need only about 10 minutes of exercise a day and are typically active enough indoors to meet this requirement. Of course, they would still enjoy a romp in the yard or a short, on-leash walk around the neighborhood. Maltese are very sensitive to extreme temperatures and dampness, so they must stay inside most of the time. If you keep them sheltered from the elements, these dogs can live to be 15 to 18 years old.