The Maltese is a toy breed known for their white, silky hair and affectionate, lively temperament. The American Kennel Club describes the breed as "intelligent little dogs that are very fast learners if they feel sufficiently rewarded."
However, Maltese are not without potential concerns, especially when it comes to behavioral issues. "It is a small dog that tends to bark a lot, but this can be helped with proper socialization, training and adequate exercise -- both physical and mental," said Charlotte Wallewein, an experienced dog trainer and behavior specialist based in Calgary, Canada.
Because of their small size, added Wallewein, Maltese may not be suited for very young children because they can be injured easily and may bite if startled.
Even if the Maltese is the only dog in the household, it is important to socialize the dog early in the game. Many dog trainers, veterinarians, doggy-day care centers and ASPCA outlets organize puppy socialization classes. These sessions provide puppies with an opportunity to learn from each other, which is especially important when it comes to bite inhibition. When puppies teeth on each other, they quickly learn that such behavior is undesirable.
Avoid Free Feeding
If possible, avoid free feeding, which is the practice of leaving the dog's food on the floor and letting them eat whenever and however much they want. Always command the Maltese to sit first before allowing the dog to eat. This provides positive reinforcement to the dog for paying attention and following the owner's commands. Take away the food bowl after the Maltese is finished. Be in control of the food supply to reduce the chance of food aggression. Always make fresh water available.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Reward the Maltese with small, bite-size treats whenever they act out a desirable behavior. To prevent overfeeding, divide the treats into bits smaller than peas. Have the treats handy in order to give a piece to the dog immediately after they display good behavior. Do not succumb to the dog's begging for table scraps or treats. Always associate food with merit. Be firm with the dog, but do not use force, which can only create fear. A scared dog is much more likely to act out defensively and bite. Yelling and screaming, on the other hand, may give the dog the false perception of receiving excited attention from their owner.
The Maltese is an intelligent and active dog that needs to be challenged physically and mentally. Keeping the dog in a crate with adequate toys when nobody is at home is a good way to prevent boredom and give the dog a sense of security. Once at home, let the dog out and go out for a walk at least once per day. Just like all other dogs, the Maltese enjoys games such as tag, running and fetch. A bored and under-exercised dog is much more likely to become destructive. Never send the Maltese into the crate as a form of punishment. The crate should remain a safe and happy den.
References & Resources