One of the oldest of dog breeds, the tiny, pure white Maltese has been a favored companion since the days of the ancient Greeks. Smart, brave and energetic, these little dogs usually bring joy to the lives of their owners. Still, the Maltese can experience some problems, whether behavioral or medical. Just because a dog is little doesn't mean that training isn't required. It's important that your dog receive annual visits to the vet.
Tiny Dogs, Big Mouths
Your little white pup makes a good watchdog. He'll let you know if anyone comes near your home. On the other hand, Maltese can become problem barkers. That's especially true if they're frequently left alone. They were bred as companion dogs and don't like solitude. You might be unaware that your tiny pal is a nuisance barker until your neighbor complains. Lots of exercise and playtime might alleviate minor barking problems, but for serious issues, contact a dog trainer.
Tiny Dogs, Big Nerves
Although the Maltese is among the smallest of the toy breeds, weighing less than 7 pounds at maturity, he doesn't realize he's a little guy. A tiny dog with a lot of nerve can cause a problem when he encounters other canines. Adjectives like "spunky" and "bold" often describe the Maltese personality, but that also means your courageous little dog might have no fear about taking on a more powerful animal. It's up to you to protect your best friend when he's in the company of other dogs.
No Small Children
Tiny dogs and tiny kids don't mix. A Maltese can make a good family dog for older kids who know how to handle him. He's just too small a dog for young children, who can inadvertently hurt him. That can result in kids being bitten in self-defense. If you occasionally host small visitors, keep them away from the dog or supervise them very carefully.
If you aren't fond of frequently brushing your dog, choose another breed. While grooming isn't a Maltese "problem" per se, if it's not done regularly you'll have one. Your Maltese requires daily brushing and regular trips to a professional groomer. His hair mats easily, so can quickly become a mess. Matted hair can lead to skin infections.
Maltese aren't prone to a lot of serious health problems. Among the most common is liver shunt, a genetic disorder found in many small dog breeds. It occurs when a prenatal vein that carries blood for the fetus fails to close after birth. Blood in these dogs bypasses the liver, which has the job of filtering toxins. Special low-protein diets can manage liver shunt in some dogs, while others require surgery to correct the condition. Other health issues affecting the Maltese include luxating patellas, also known as popped kneecaps, periodontal disease and, rarely, a neurological condition known as shaker dog syndrome.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.