The tiny white ball of fluff known as the Maltese is one of the world's oldest dog breeds, dating back to Biblical times. That Maltese probably wouldn't look out of place with dogs of today—it was small, white and held in high regard by the ancients.
A full-grown Maltese weighs between 4 and 7 pounds. The height at the shoulder ranges from 8 to 10 inches, with males larger than females.
Always white, the Maltese does not have an undercoat. The soft, silky coat requires daily grooming to avoid tangles and mats. If you show your dog, the coat must hang to the ground, but that is not required in a companion-only pup. The short "puppy cut" is much easier to maintain. The Maltese's tail, carried like a silky plume, hangs over the back. Because white coats are hard to keep clean, bathe your dog regularly to keep her looking like the aristocratic little dog she is.
The consummate lap dog, Maltese don't require much exercise, making them suitable for apartment and city life. They're playful and devoted to their person. These little dogs usually get along with other pets, but may challenge bigger dogs, so be careful when out on walks. Your dog is smart and learns quickly, so make sure you teach her the right things. A generally healthy breed with few inherited diseases, your Maltese can live into her mid- to late teens.
These adorable little dogs are notoriously hard to housebreak. They also tend to bark frequently. If you can't stand yapping, this breed is not for you. However, for tiny types, they're decent watchdogs. Some of the drawbacks pertinent to the breed are the owner's fault. Just because she's cute, don't spoil her rotten. If the Maltese thinks she rules the roost instead of you, she can become snappy with strangers or children. Some basic dog obedience classes can work wonders.
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.