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'The little white dog from Malta' is noted for its physical beauty and contrasting independence of spirit. This is a dog in the 'toy' category of breeds, however, what it lacks in size and height it makes up for in character and loyal affection.
The Maltese is thought to be one of the most ancient dog breeds. It has been estimated that the breed originated around 8,000 years ago. Although the ancient Greeks and Romans believed the dog originated on the Island of Malta, there is really no evidence that proves the dog was indigenous to the Island, but rather that the Maltese is descended from a Spitz-type dog bred by the people who lived in Central Europe. Malta was a central point for trading and these little, good looking dogs were sold as wares and commodities would be from there, these little dogs were taken all over the world with traders and travellers reaching as far as South East Asia and China.
Beginning around the mid 1800's and early 1900's, speculation into the origins of the Maltese began and what 'group' they should be classified within, given their probable Spitz ancestors but rather small stature. Breeders in England, felt that the Maltese belonged in the Terrier family due to their fearless temperament and the fact that they were rather good ratters. People were unable to agree so the breed was simply to be referred to as the Maltese dog from then onwards.
The first English Kennel Club stud book has twenty-four Maltese Dogs registered between 1859 and 1873. A prolific breeder of the time (1875 through 1885) was a Lady Giffard, whose dogs were noted for their long silky coats.
Average height to withers: Both males and females between 8-10 inches, with females being on the smaller side.
Average weight: 2.5-5.5kg for both males and females.
Pure in colour and in our heart is how many breeders like to speak of Maltese Dogs. They are almost always white haired, sometimes showing lemon or orange tinges, and have long, luxurious hair which requires many hours spent on it to make sure it is always in tip top condition. There is no undercoat and this dog does not tend to shed a great deal making it a good choice for those with allergies.
They look, physically, almost puppyish for the majority of their lives even as a mature dog being selected and bred to retain 'cute' features such as a little, black button nose, expressive dark eyes and drop ears. An interesting fact is that the nose of the Maltese Dog can change colour in sunlight, changing to a paler colour.
Maltese Dogs were bred to be cuddly companion and lap dogs for genteel ladies, and as such they still thrive on kindness, love and attention. That said, they are extremely lively and playful, and even as a Maltese ages, the energy level and playfully independent spirit remain intact.
They can have a tendency to be 'snappy' with smaller children and should be supervised when playing with children, although socialising them at a young age to a wide range of people and other animals will reduce this behaviour.
The Maltese is very active within a house and appears to prefer smaller spaces. They can also suffer from separation anxiety and display undesirable behaviours such as chewing, howling, barking and scratching when suffering from this.
On average the Maltese Dog lives up to 12 years of age. It seems to be very healthy as a breed with few congenital problems. They are susceptible to 'reverse sneezing' which is a gagging, choking sound they can make when playing or are excited, however, this is no cause for alarm and no treatment is usually required.
With little shedding, the coat of the Maltese Dog does require attention to remove dead hair and ensure minimal matting and tangling. It is likely that professional grooming treatment will be sought at some point in the life of the Maltese, so the coast of this need to be accounted for. The pure white coat can be prone to staining under the eye area but can be dealt with using a clean, damp cloth and a fine tooth comb, taking care not to scratch the delicate eye itself.