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Maltese 101- Dog Breed Info

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By Rose Martelli
WebMD Feature from

Dog Breed:

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"The Maltese is a sweet, loving little dog, who wants to be wherever its owner is," says Mary Palmer, president of Northcentral Maltese Rescue, Inc., located in Racine, Wis., a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing Maltese nationwide. "If Maltese cannot be with you, they want to know why. They are affectionate and intelligent almost to a fault." On its website, the American Kennel Club describes the Maltese as "gentle-mannered and affectionate, known for being lively, playful and fearless."


Because of the Maltese's coat -- which is naturally long, flowing and snowy-white, a gorgeous trait that ranks the Maltese as "an aristocrat of the canine world for over 28 centuries," according to the AKC -- "grooming is a top priority," Palmer says. Most Maltese owners will keep their dogs' coats maintained in some kind of puppy cut, she says. "A visit to the groomer every six to eight weeks is important, and grooming in between visits is a must."

Common Health Issues:

The biggest problem for this toy breed, Palmer says, is periodontal disease. "Owners often overlook the oral problem, but in fact, it leads to the majority of deaths in one way or another," she warns. Yearly dental cleanings are a must. 

Training Tips:

While the AKC states on its website that the Maltese "are very fast learners if they feel sufficiently rewarded," Palmer warns that housetraining can prove problematic, though not because the breed isn't bright enough. It's because "they're so small that it's often difficult to catch them in the act of something inappropriate," Palmer explains. As with most breeds, positive enforcement and reward are the best training tools, and especially with Maltese, Palmer says, "because they want to please to a fault." A Maltese owner also must train himself or herself not to fall for the pup's inherent cuteness. Be firm!

Best Owner/Animal Match:

"A good Maltese owner is one who has a lot of time to share," Palmer says. They particularly love bonding time on a walk or on the couch. While the AKC states on its website that they are "great family dogs," Palmer advises against bringing a Maltese into a home with children under the age of 8, or owning one if you have to leave it alone in the house for long periods of time.

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