The elegant and affable Maltese, best known for its striking thick white coat, makes an excellent companion dog. If you're thinking of adopting a Maltese, it’s important to know that small-breed puppies mature more rapidly than larger dogs. Training must begin from the moment you bring your puppy home.
When Maltese puppies are born, they weigh around 4 ounces, their eyes are closed and they cannot hear or smell. Between birth and 4 weeks of age, the Maltese puppy’s eyes open and her senses develop. Her baby teeth start to come in, and by 4 weeks old she is starting to stand and cautiously explore. She weighs about 14 ounces at this point, and her curly white coat is growing thicker. Puppies are still completely dependent on their mothers during this stage.
When the puppies are between 3 and 4 weeks of age, their mother starts weaning them. Puppies are dependent on their mothers and their litter mates for socialization during this period. They are old enough to start interacting with people and other animals, but should not be completely separated from their mother during this period. Between 4 and 7 weeks of age, Maltese puppies begin their transition to solid foods (with your help, of course).
The ideal time to adopt a Maltese puppy is when he is between 7 and 8 weeks of age and weighs between 18 and 24 ounces. Training should begin as soon as you bring your new puppy home. The period when a puppy is between 8 and 11 weeks old is known as the “fear-impact” period. Bad experiences during this time could affect the puppy’s behavior well into adulthood. Take care to ensure your puppy’s experiences are positive. Maltese puppies will respond will to gentle training with plenty of positive reinforcement.
Around 3 months of age and weighing about 2 pounds, the Maltese puppy most closely resembles a human toddler in terms of development and personality. Your Maltese will begin teething, so take care to keep anything you don’t want her to chew on out of her reach. By 6 months she will have grown her adult coat and reached her adult height of between 8 and 10 inches, and should weigh between 4 and 7 pounds. Maltese puppies also become sexually mature by 6 months of age, so this is a good time to get your Maltese spayed or neutered.
Much like a human teenager, from 6 months to a year of age your Maltese puppy will have more energy, and will begin to test his boundaries. This can be the most trying time for a Maltese owner, because it will seem as though your puppy has forgotten all his training. During this period it is important to establish yourself as the “leader” of your Maltese’s “pack.” At around 1 year of age, a Maltese puppy is a fully developed dog, although he may retain some puppy-like personality traits for another year or so.
Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.