Ye Ancient Dogg of Malta is one of the oldest companion dog breeds. Early Maltese catnapped with royalty, strolled on splendid palace grounds and snuggled with lovely ladies. Nowadays, whether he lives in a mansion or humble abode, the Maltese showers his family with affection and expects a good dose in return. He’s charming, cheerful and effortlessly portable: an easy companion with the perfect dash of vivacity.
A breed with centuries of history, the Maltese was well-regarded as an exotic trading item. Considered the jewels of women, the little lapdogs were treasured by European royalty. Wealthy ladies carried them in their dresses, sleeves or baskets. Over time, this breed has been called the Canis Melitaeus, the Roman Ladies’ Dog, the Maltese Lion Dog and Melita (Malta’s former name).
Today the mannered yet animated breed is satisfied with frolics and daily walks, making him well-suited to apartment living. Adaptable, bright and eager, the Maltese’s desire to please facilitates training. He can excel in competitive obedience, rally and agility as well as softer activities such as therapy visits. And rumors aside, Maltese aren’t inherently reluctant about housetraining. Because small and large dogs operate physiologically alike, there’s no physical reason for Maltese to don the housetraining dunce cap. The breed’s petite size, however, may impede his family’s observation of pre-elimination behaviors. Not to mention his tiny accidents are difficult to detect!
Weighing a mere 6 pounds or so, this breed is obviously no guard dog. But don’t tell him that! He considers himself a respectable watchdog. Bottom line: He’ll at least notify his family of new circumstances or perhaps a passing squirrel.
Most socialized Maltese are friendly with other dogs and animals. Caution is sensible, however, for big dog friends may accidentally hurt the tiny Maltese. Similarly, although the Maltese is typically friendly around children, he can be injured by rough play or accidental drops, so supervision is warranted.
All Maltese are much loved by their family, but one eccentric owner carried her adoration to the extreme. Also known as the Queen of Mean, the wealthy Leona Helmsley apparently loved her Maltese above all else. Helmsley left her Maltese named Trouble an exorbitant inheritance for his ongoing luxurious care after her death. Much legal trouble ensued, and courts subsequently reduced the inheritance. It should be noted that, unlike Helmsley, Trouble himself (true to the Maltese temperament!) wasn’t much trouble to maintain!
Thumbnail: Photography ©Cynoclub | Thinkstock.
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Tell us: Do you have a Maltese or a Maltese mix? What do you love about this dog breed?
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!
Originally an attorney, Lynn Hayner has been writing for companion animal publications for more than 15 years. She researches breed profiles, dabbles in animal law issues and collects stories about dogs and their families in her travels. A lifelong dog aficionado, Lynn is shadowed by her “Who the heck needs a leash, I’ll follow mama anywhere,” German Shepherd Dog, Zoey. Follow Lynn on Twitter at @lynnhayner.
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