Size: The Maltese has a shoulder height of 20-25 cm (8-10 in). Maltese have a domed skull, round dark eyes surrounded by a dark ‘halo’, wide, black, nose, and low ears covered by long hair. Some have a ‘winter nose’ which fades to pink in the winter; the color change can be permanent in older dogs. The Maltese carries its tail over the back and to one side and has small, round feet.
Coat: The Maltese has a distinctive long, white, silky coat with no undercoat. Some standards allow cream or lemon colored ears. The Maltese does not shed and is a good match for those with allergies.
Character: The Maltese is eager to learn, fearless, friendly, and sociable. Its high energy level may overwhelm new owners who aren’t prepared for it. Maltese are not prone to excessive barking, but their tendency to bark at suspicious activity makes them excellent watchdogs. They love to cuddle, but are not overly demanding of attention.
Temperament: Maltese easily befriend other dogs and cats, even much larger ones. Maltese puppies may be too playful for small infants. Maltese will bark at strangers but grow used to them quickly.
Care: The Maltese requires quite a bit of grooming, from daily brushing and combing to special lotions to remove tear stains (careful brushing with a warm metal comb works as well). Dead hair should be brushed out, as the Maltese does not shed. Irritating hairs around the eyes need to be removed. Some pet Maltese are trimmed in a ‘puppy cut’ of 1 to 2 inches in length over the entire body for easier maintenance. Some show dogs are ‘wrapped’ to prevent matting of the fur. The Maltese has a lifespan of 12-14 years, though some live as long as 18 years. Most are healthy, but some are prone to heart issues such as prolapsed valve syndrome and enlarged ventricle, which usually present around the 10th year and can be controlled with medication. Many Maltese have dental issues. They can begin losing teeth by the age of 8 if not properly cleaned. Maltese are prone to sunburns where their hair parts. They get cold easily in chilly climates but can also become quickly overheated as they do not easily dissipate heat.
Training: Encouragement rather than harsh words should always be used when training the Maltese. They are very sensitive. Maltese are very difficult to housebreak and may need to be paper or box trained.
Activity: The Maltese does not require a great amount of exercise. It can have its needs met by indoor play and activities, and enjoys playing chase. Maltese are well suited to apartment life.