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The Maltese is a dog belonging to the toy group that is covered from head to foot with a mantle of long, silky, white hair. Adult Maltese range from roughly 3 to 10 lb (1.4 to 4.5 kg), though breed standards, as a whole, call for weights between 4 and 8 lb (1.8 to 3.7 kg). There are variations depending on which standard is being used; many, like the American Kennel Club, call for a weight that is ideally between 4 and 6 lb (1.8 to 2.7 kg), and no more than 7 lb (3.2 kg). The coat is long and silky and lacks an undercoat. The color is pure white and although cream or light lemon ears are permissible, they are not desirable. Some individuals may have curly or woolly hair, but this is outside the standard. Characteristics include slightly rounded skulls, with a one (1) finger width dome. Also, a black nose that is two (2) finger width long.The drop ears with long hair and very dark eyes, surrounded by darker skin pigmentation that is called a "halo", giving Maltese their expressive look. The body is compact with the length equaling the height. Their noses can fade and become pink or light brown in color. This is often referred to as a "winter nose" and many times will become black again with increased exposure to the sun.
Maltese can be very energetic and are known for their occasional wild outbursts of physical activity, running around in circles chasing their tail, and bolting at top speed with amazing agility; given this, they still do well for apartment dwellers. They are relatively easy to train and enjoy a playful game of fetch. These intelligent dogs learn quickly, and pick up new tricks and behaviours easily. Since they were bred specifically for companionship, they do not do well being left alone for long hours.
The breed has a reputation for being good-natured, but may be intolerant of small children or other dogs. They can be protective of their owner and will bark or may bite if animals or people infringe on their territory or are perceived as a threat.
For all their diminutive size, Maltese seem to be without fear. In fact, many Maltese seem relatively indifferent to creatures/objects larger than themselves (unless of course it is the owner). They are among the gentlest mannered of all little dogs, yet they are lively and playful as well as vigorous. Because of their size, Maltese dogs are not a good choice for families with small children because they can be easily injured.
The Maltese is commonly bred with other breeds to further express its temperament and intelligence.
Maltese have hair, not fur and have little to no shedding if cared for properly. Like their relatives Poodles and Bichon Frisé, they are considered to be largely hypoallergenic and many people who are allergic to dogs may not be allergic to the Maltese (See list of Hypoallergenic dog breeds). Regular grooming is required to prevent their coats from matting. Many owners will keep their Maltese clipped in a "puppy cut," a 1 - 2" all over trim that makes the dog resemble a puppy. Some owners, especially those who show Maltese in the sport of conformation, prefer to wrap the long hair to keep it from matting and breaking off. Dark staining in the hair around the eyes ("tear staining") can be a problem in this breed, and is mostly a function of how much the individual dog's eyes water and the size of the tear ducts. If the face is kept dry and cleaned daily, the staining can be minimized. Many veterinarians recommend avoiding foods treated with food coloring and serving distilled water to reduce tear staining.
The Maltese is generally a healthy breed with few inherent problems. Some problems seen are luxating patella, portosystemic liver shunt, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). The average life span is 12-15 years.
The Maltese is one of the oldest breeds and the most ancient of the toy breeds. The island of Malta was visited by Phoenician sailors around 1500 BC and is the homeland of this tiny dog. The breed has been mentioned in early writings and Greek art. Tombs have been fashioned after the Maltese, and poetry has been written about it. In Italy, the miniature spaniel and poodle were added into the bloodline. Even though the breed was often exported, it retained its distinctive look because the breeds chief population remained in relative isolation on the island of Malta. One of the modern day traits is the breeds white silky coat, although that was not an original characteristic. The Maltese came in a multitude of colors and was most recognized for its small size. In the 14 th century, this feisty breed arrived in England via the Crusaders who were returning from the Mediterranean. It quickly became an accessory for every well-to-do lady. Upper-class women often carried the little dogs in their sleeves and even brought them to bed with them. Even though it was very popular, its numbers were limited; and it may have even been in danger of extinction. When the Maltese first arrived in England, it was dubbed the Maltese terrier, even though the breed is nothing like a terrier. In 1877, the dog made its first appearance in America. It was called the Maltese lion dog because of the Asian practice of lion-like coat styles. Recognized in 1888 by the AKC, this stunning breed is an extremely popular toy and loved as both a show dog and pet.
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