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Norwich Bulletin - 8/22/2004

The Maltese

I like little dogs because they remind me of cats (at least in their size). But the Maltese is actually smaller than most of my cats, the little canine usually weighing in between four and six pounds! A bundle of energy that can successfully run an agility course, this little dog is also a graceful, loyal companion.

The pure white, silky coat of a Maltese can't be missed. This little dog hails from the island of Malta, off the coast of Sicily. It was originally bred from spaniels and is a member of the Bichon breed family. The Maltese is a very old breed, dating back hundreds of centuries and has basically been bred to be a beautiful companion for people.

Owners of a Maltese need to know up front that the dog's striking coat takes time keeping it looking the way it should. This single coated pup's coat grows like human hair, with constant, year-round shedding.

There is daily grooming involved when a Maltese makes its home with you, however, since they require no trimming, they can be groomed at home, as long as you keep up with the every day brushing. You also need to spray water and diluted conditioner before you brush to avoid breaking the coat as you groom.

Some Maltese owners choose to keep their pet in what is called a puppy coat. There is no doubt in my mind if I were ever to have a Maltese that I would choose to go the short coat routine!

It's easy to see a cuddly little puppy and just baby and spoil the heck of it. When a puppy is that small you tend to think their bad manners are cute - but the fact is that the Maltese is a dog and requires some training. For instance, housebreaking, jumping on people, excessive barking, are all bad habits that should not be allowed in big or little dogs.

You don't want to end up with an annoying, snippy little dog if you can have a well behaved, gentle companion. So a puppy class and some basic obedience is the key to a perfect canine friend.

It's fun to have a little dog that can basically go anywhere with you and you don't have to worry about having lots of room. Maltese like to go with their people and usually travel well.

Whether its for a car ride or playing in the yard, or off on a plane, they are easily portable and adapt easily to whatever situation they find themselves in. Maltese are ideal for adults who are home a good deal of the time or who can take their pet with them when they go out or travel. Maltese do not like to be alone and away from their family.

The Maltese is in general, a sturdy, healthy little dog. However, I do not recommend this toy breed with small children or large dogs. Both can seriously hurt a puppy unintentionally.

It is better to wait until your children are older and can enjoy the experience of a little dog. Remember when searching for a vet for your Maltese, to see how much experience that particular vet has with Toy Breeds in general. They need to know the differences between the needs of this little dog and, say, a German Shepherd.

For instance, because they are so small as puppies they can suffer from hypoglycemia and need to eat up to five times a day. A good moist food, as they are not generally great dry dog food eaters. When it is time to spay or neuter your Maltese, your vet needs to know that toy dogs are oftentimes very sensitive to anesthesia. Like my Abyssinians, I would suggest using gas instead of anesthesia. It is far less intrusive and your pup can be easily monitored.

The life span for a Maltese is 12 to 14 years so you need to be able to make a long term commitment to your little friend. They are inside dogs and get along well with cats.

If you think a Maltese may be the pet you are looking for you can check out the American Maltese Association at www.americanmaltese.org or contact the Maltese rescue at 908-630-9186. These very sweet, loyal dogs make charming companions and are a favorite amongst toy breed owners.

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