GROUP 1 - TOYS
The Maltese is a breed of dog whose roots go far back into antiquity and is native to the Mediterranean area. From there, however, a question has been raised as to whether these dogs were actually first seen on the Island of Malta, as the name suggests, or whether Melita, a town in Sicily, was the breed’s true birthplace. Both theories have been investigated and both, it would seem, have factual evidence behind them.
The earliest known representations of Maltese dogs on artifacts found at Fayum, Egypt (600-300 B.C.), suggest that the breed was one of the dogs worshipped by the ancient Egyptians and was believed to have the power of healing. Ancient Egyptians would place a Maltese puppy in the area in which they slept, with the belief that would then have their health restored while they slept. Numerous pictorial representations of the Maltese also occur in Greek ceramic art, such as the vases found at Vulci (about 500 B.C.), and the dog is mentioned in the writings of many Greek and Roman philosophers.
During the 1500’s, the Maltese made its way into Britain, where the breed was prized by the upper class, aristocrats and royalty. It was particularly popular during Elizabethan times (the late 16th century), with two notable owners of the times, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Again, the breed was believed to possess medicinal powers and due to the breed’s warm, affectionate nature and small size, it became known as the “Comforter.”
Beginning around the mid 1800’s and into the early 1900’s, there was great debate among dog authorities concerning the question of “which dog family the Maltese belonged”. Some dog fanciers of England felt that the Maltese belonged in the Terrier family, due to their terrier-like temperament; others disagreed and felt that the Maltese, because of his body and coat type, were spaniel in nature. Ultimately, in the early 1900’s, it was concluded that the “Maltese dog” was neither terrier or spaniel. Rather, he should correctly be referred to as the “Maltese dog”.
In 1862, twenty Maltese were exhibited at a show in London. The Kennel Club (England) was established later in 1873 with the first English stud book created by the Club having twenty-four Maltese registered between 1859 and 1873. A very famous breeder, from 1875 through 1885, was Lady Giffard, whose dogs were noted for their long silky coats. Two of her most famous dogs were four-pound “Hugh” and his litter sister “Queenie”. From 1902 to 1913 The Kennel Club offered classes for Maltese dogs, other than white.
The earliest known Maltese on record in the United States was born in 1873. He was entered as a “Maltese Skye Terrier,”at Westminster in 1879 and was also the first coloured Maltese shown there, described as being white with black ears. The first white Maltese exhibited was entered at the first Westminster show in 1877 as a “Maltese Lion Dog”.
Sweet tempered and very intelligent.
This breed should never show aggression in any shape or form, however, do not confuse aggression, with the ability to stand up to another dog, as Maltese will stand their ground as well as the next dog. Maltese are also very good watchdogs and will give the impression of fierceness to ward off strangers, however, once aware there is no danger, will usually lick the stranger to death. Even though the Maltese is diminutive in size, they believe they are equal to any other dog. Though the Maltese is sweet tempered and amongst the gentlest breeds in the toy ring, he is also very lively, playful and vigorous.
The Maltese, you see being judged in the show ring are, in what we call, “full coat”. To keep a dog in the manner that you see them, when shown, will take the owner a minimum of one hour per day. The dog needs to be brushed completely with a pin brush to ensure they have no knots, their eyes need to be cleaned and their long topknot banded.
They also need to be bathed with a good quality shampoo and conditioner, specifically formulated for use on dogs, followed by blow drying the coat, just as you would with your own hair, at least once per week. Most pet owners find this grooming too much and therefore opt to have their coat clipped short at a grooming salon. There are many different lengths of clip, depending on your individual circumstances.
A Maltese should be clipped approximately every 8 weeks.
If you prefer a fluffier look to your Maltese then you will need to do some grooming at least once per week. Many grooming salons offer different options such as maintenance baths, where they do basic trimming as an alternative between full body clips. If you would prefer to clip your own Maltese there are some TAFE colleges that offer grooming courses where you can learn the basics.
The Maltese is most suited as an indoor pet. It is an excellent family pet as long as young children are supervised when the puppy is very young. Being a small, toy dog, it cannot be left unattended on a couch, chair, bed or table as it does not have any perception of height and will jump, causing injury that will need veterinary care.
If a puppy was to fall off a bed or couch, it would be the equivalent of a small child falling from a first floor balcony. Unfortunately, young children are easily distracted and may not remember to place the puppy on the ground when they run off to another activity.
The Maltese is happy to chase toys in the yard or just simply sit on the couch and enjoy a good movie with you. This breed basically wants to be a part of your life. Maltese do not require regular exercise, however they do enjoy going for a walk.
Due to the intelligence of this breed and its willingness to please, the Maltese can make excellent agility or obedience dogs.
The most common health problem we find is that Maltese can get a build-up of tartar on their teeth. This is mainly caused by diet and the fact that most Maltese prefer not to eat bones, like the bigger dogs do. There are many products on the market to assist in reducing this problem and some are very simple and cost effective, such as the additives to drinking water.
There are some genetic problems with this breed, the most commonly known being a slipping patella. There have also been some cases of epilepsy and liver shunt.
Words: Tricia & Peter Cutler
Image: Champion Shots. Image supplied by Mary Atkinson
Now you know a little about the Maltese, you may think that this is the dog for you. Before you make a decision, please make contact with the breed club or your State controlling body for purebred dogs. They will be able to give you information about available puppies and also suggest dog shows where you can see the breed and speak to breeders. In this way you will gain a better perspective of the Maltese and its needs, and whether this breed would suit your lifestyle.