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Malteses: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Maltese has long been a popular dog and status symbol beloved by everyone from the Aristocrats of the Roman Empire to Elizabeth Taylor. Step into the elegant world of the adorable Maltese for everything you need to know about this petite toy breed.



The Maltese origin traces back over 2,000 years to the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. Known for their elegance and royal allure, Malteses have been cherished companions of royalty and aristocrats throughout history. Their connection to high society makes them one of the oldest and most esteemed toy breeds.


Maltese are famous for their long, silky, white coats that flow gracefully at length or make for the perfect style canvas for a creative groomer.

That may be why the Maltese was considered a fashion statement and status symbol by the Aristocrats of the Roman Empire. Elizabeth Taylor was also a big fan, having several as pets, and Aristotle called them “perfectly proportioned.” Quite the review!

Their expressive eyes and button nose add to their overall tiny charm, making them irresistibly adorable.

Similar breeds

When considering similar breeds, the Maltese shares some traits with the Bichon Frise, known for its fluffy coat and cheerful disposition.

The Shih Tzu is another toy breed that shares the Maltese's luxurious coat and friendly nature, though they get larger than Malteses.

Toy Poodles are also great for those interested in small, intelligent breeds. They also have hypoallergenic coats, perfect for anyone with allergy triggers.


A typical Maltese’s temperament is characterized by their affectionate, playful, and outgoing natures. Known for their lively Maltese personality, these dogs are excellent for families, including those with children. They tend to do well with other pets, also.

They may be small in stature, but Malteses are sporty, always ready to show off in the agility and talent department. How’s that for a toy dog?

Their alertness and responsiveness are part of why they make great watchdogs, always keen to protect their homes and loved ones. Keep this in mind, though: you’ll want to invest in training to manage their tendency to bark.

Are Malteses hypoallergenic?

The Maltese is considered a hypoallergenic breed. Their hair-like coat tends to hold onto shed hair, reducing the release of allergens into the environment. Regular grooming can further minimize potential allergy triggers.

Looking for other allergy-friendly dogs? Take a look at our guide to hypoallergenic breeds.

Illness/health concerns

Malteses have some health concerns that potential pet parents should be aware of.

Maltese dogs may also develop eye problems, dental problems, and luxating patella, a condition in which the kneecap dislocates, causing pain in their leg.

Collapsed tracheas are also common in Malteses, like many toy breeds. This is a condition that can cause breathing problems. While it’s a genetic condition, you can prevent harm to the tracheal rings with proper leash use and harnesses instead of collars that may apply pressure to the throat.

Keep up with regular veterinary check-ups to make sure your Maltese stays in the best possible health.

How big do Malteses get?

The Maltese is a petite toy breed, typically standing between 8 to 10 inches tall. They usually weigh up to 7 pounds. Their small size makes them ideal for apartment living and other close quarters, and they are also easy to travel with.

However, it's important to note that their petite stature also makes them more fragile, requiring careful handling to prevent injury.

A dog’s age, whether they’re male or female, and their activity levels can affect their adult size. You may also notice some variability in this area if your Maltese is a mixed breed.

Life expectancy

The life expectancy of a Maltese ranges from 12 to 15 years. Proper care, a balanced diet, and regular veterinary check-ups can contribute to a long and healthy life.

Expected lifetime cost

Owning a Maltese can cost approximately $18,000 over its lifetime. This estimate includes food, grooming, training, and regular veterinary care, coming out to an average of $1,300 per year.

Estimated cost to insure

Pet insurance is an investment in any dog’s health and helps dog moms and dads prepare for the unexpected. You can expect insurance for a Maltese to range from $25 to $40 per month, depending on their age, health, and where you live.

The good, the bad, the ugly

Malteses are wonderful companions and super cute, too. But like any dog, they have some quirks you’ll want to know. If you’re considering a Maltese, understanding these less glamorous traits can help you to make a well-informed decision.

  1. Grooming needs: The Maltese's coat requires regular grooming to keep it looking its best. Neglecting this can lead to matting and skin issues, so be prepared for frequent brushing and professional grooming sessions.

  2. Furry and fragile: Due to their small size and delicate build, Maltese dogs can be more susceptible to injury than larger breeds. They'll need extra care when handled, especially around children and larger pets, to prevent accidental harm.

  3. Big barkers: Maltese dogs are known to be vocal. They can be especially noisy when alerting to strangers or unfamiliar sounds.

  4. Separation anxiety: These pups form strong bonds with their families and can become distressed when left alone for extended periods, leading to destructive behavior and excessive barking. Make sure they’ve been exercised and have a few fun ways to stay entertained while you’re away.

  5. Dental issues: It’s a good idea to make teeth brushing part of any Maltese’s care routine. You may also consult your vet on the possibility of professional cleanings to prevent issues like gum disease and tooth loss.

So you want a Maltese...

The Maltese has long been a beloved breed among dog lovers, but like all pups, caring for a Maltese means embracing their glamorous and less glamorous aspects all the same. If you’re ready for the commitment, they’ll give you years of love and companionship in return.

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