Comparison of a Bolognese Dog Vs. a Maltese Dog

by Joanna Ehlers
The spunky Maltese retains a youthful disposition throughout his lifetime.

The spunky Maltese retains a youthful disposition throughout his lifetime.

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Adorable, vibrant and famously devoted, the diminutive Maltese and his Italian cousin, the Bolognese, are members of the toy group and are within the bichon family which includes the Havanese, coton de tulear, lowchen and bichon frise. Because of their shared ancestry, the dogs share many similarities. A closer examination illustrates the likenesses in their origins, appearances and dispositions.

Noble Beginnings

The ancient dog of Malta was once a valuable trade commodity and could be found lounging upon the laps of Roman high society. He was the adored subject of ceramic paintings and even poetry dating from 40 A.D., according to the American Kennel Club. From his origins as the cherished pets of royalty, the Maltese has throughout history retained his status as favorite among movie stars and celebrities. The Bolognese, also, was the favorite of kings and rulers in his homeland of Italy, specifically in Bologna, where he was delighting the nobility from the 11th century. Held dear by the Medici, Estes and Gonzaga families, the dogs were a favorite subject of court paintings. With the decline of the nobility, the Bolognese dog was nearly forgotten but for one enthusiast named Gian Franco Giannelli, credited with saving the breed and bringing it back from the brink of extinction. They were fully recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1995. Although the Bolognese is not yet able to participate in AKC conformation events, they have been a part of the AKC's Foundation Stock Service since 1999, which is one of the prerequisites to being fully recognized by the AKC.

Similar Standards

The Bolognese dog resembles its curly coated French cousin, the bichon frise, in some aspects, including his build. The United Kennel Club states that Bolognese dogs must be compact and square in build to fulfill breed standards. Males stand up to 12 inches in height, and weigh no more than 9 pounds. Females may be slightly smaller while retaining the breed-correct build and form. Maltese dogs are the more diminutive of the two breeds, preferably weighing between 4 and 6 pounds but no more than 7 pounds. Maltese bodies are compact and strong for their size, with fine bones and a deep chest. Light tan or lemon coloring on the ears is allowed, but not preferred by the American Kennel Club.

Coat and Care Practices

The white coats of the Bolognese and Maltese breeds appear similar, and both require plenty of maintenance. The single-layer coat of the Maltese tangles easily, and must be brushed daily to remove knots and maintain its silky, flowing appearance. The Maltese can enjoy a bath once a week, after brushing, to maintain his perfect, white coat. He should be dried with a hair dryer after towel-drying as much of the coat as possible, according to VetStreet. Regular brushing of his teeth will keep Maltese teeth and gums healthy, and his breath fresh. The wavy coat of the Bolognese is not quite so long, but must be brushed at least three times a week for coat health and maintenance. A bath is only necessary if he gets dirty. Both breeds can suffer from tear stains that will turn the hair under the eyes a rust color and may even lead to eye infections. Both breeds require daily face washing.

Disposition Discrepancies

Both the Maltese and the Bolognese breeds are people-oriented and thrive on human companionship. These breeds possess a playful, inquisitive nature that will entertain and delight their families. Both make excellent companions and lap dogs. Though the fearless Maltese may be small in stature, he excels in the agility ring and may be trained to be a capable tracking dog. His eagerness to please his human companions makes him easy to train. The Bolognese shares the enthusiasm of the Maltese, but may gravitate to one person in a family group, according to VetStreet. The reserved Bolognese is devoted to his owner, and may experience anxiety-driven behaviors when separated. Both the Bolognese and the Maltese are best-suited to homes with children over the age of 9, due to their small stature.

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