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How Smart Is a Maltese Dog? Canine Intelligence Explained

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on April 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

maltese puppy looking back

How Smart Is a Maltese Dog? Canine Intelligence Explained

Quantifying an animal’s intelligence is subjective. Any dog owner will tell you how smart their pups are and the tricks they can do. They may provide extraordinary examples of their canine companions, proving their intelligence. That’s true with most dogs, including the Maltese.

The breed’s history offers valuable clues for determining their intelligence. Enthusiasts selectively bred the most intelligent dogs, like the Border Collie and Poodle, for specific jobs and behaviors. The Maltese’s role for humans is as an animal companion. These dogs are likely as smart as most dogs, capable of the emotions of a 2 ½-year-old child.

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The Intelligence of the Maltese

The Maltese can experience the emotions of a small child. Therefore, they can feel anger, excitement, and love. All are fitting for a companion animal. We can surmise that this pup is emotionally intelligent from a canine’s perspective.

Unlike sporting dogs, Maltese don’t have the instincts to look for food or hunt prey; they’re more concerned about keeping their owners close. Therefore, we can conclude that the Maltese is as smart as any dog and has the innate capabilities to navigate their world.

Maltese dog licking a nose of her female owner with colorful hair
Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

Gauging Animal Intelligence

Scientists have explored the question of animal intelligence in various species. The goal is to develop criteria that are unbiased and non-subjective. This gives researchers a level playing field when considering multiple species and satisfies some benchmarks for universal testing of this concept.

Dogs share 84% of our DNA, which suggests they can at least process information. Science supports this suggestion. Researchers have discovered similar voice areas in canine and human brains in one study using comparative neuroimaging1. These findings support the importance of vocal communication, given that humans and canines shared a common ancestor 94 million years ago.

Researchers developed three aspects of intelligence to gauge this trait in other species.

They include the following:
  • Formation of general concepts based on experience
  • Problem-solving
  • Social intelligence or the ability to know conspecifics and humans

These criteria are significant because they allow for robust testing. Scientists can create experiments that demonstrate an animal’s capacity for each one. Armed with this information, we can gauge whether the Maltese or any other breed is intelligent.

maltese dog sitting on the floor and looking up
Image Credit: Pezibear, Pixabay

Canine Criteria

A dog owner judges a pet’s intelligence differently than a scientist conducting an experiment. Perhaps the best criteria involve training elements, a canine’s adaptability to new experiences, and the ease of behavior modifications.

The German Shepherd stands out because they can pick up new commands or tricks quickly. They can read situations and react accordingly and are easy to train, which provides further proof of their intelligence.

Dogs with jobs in herding, guarding, and hunting often excel in independent thinking and decision-making. Many pups, such as the Chow Chow, can tolerate being alone. Some breeds also show a headstrong streak, like the Scottish Terrier. Their day-to-day life encourages this behavior. The Maltese doesn’t show these same tendencies. Instead, they are gentle and affectionate pets.

The Maltese doesn’t like to be alone, which isn’t unusual for a pup selectively bred as a companion animal. Likewise, they are sensitive to harsh words or negative reinforcement. The Maltese’s happy place is by its owner’s side.

Being Cute

It’s a fair assumption that being cute and affectionate are essential attributes in a companion dog. They don’t require extraordinary intelligence to read their owners’ emotions. It’s simply a matter of being observant instead of solving complex problems. This role doesn’t challenge the Maltese, and the pup is easy to train since it goes hand-in-hand with pleasing their owner.

They are loyal and sometimes wary of strangers, which are also compatible traits. The Maltese is also a playful dog, which fits their personality. It’s worth noting that mental stimulation isn’t as critical for this breed as it is for intelligent breeds like the Golden Retriever. The Maltese also has a low wanderlust potential.

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The Maltese is the American Kennel Club’s 39th most popular breed, with good reason. They love their owners and prefer to be by their side at all times. Their compact size makes them easy to handle and take on vacations. The easy life has its perks. Although the Maltese isn’t as intelligent as the Border Collie or German Shepherd, they’re bright dogs that love spending time with their favorite humans.

Featured Image Credit: Petra, Pixabay

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