Training a Dominant Maltese

Training a Dominant Maltese

The Maltese are lively little dogs known for their long white silky hair and being affectionate. They are not ideal pets for families with small children.

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.

Proper Socialization

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 its owner.


The Maltese are 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal for a Maltese to be aggressive?

No, it is not normal for a Maltese dog to be aggressive. Aggression in dogs can be caused by various factors such as fear, anxiety, poor socialization, lack of training, or abuse. Maltese dogs do have a tendency to behave like alpha dogs and might not be submissive to their owners if they are not trained appropriately. However, with proper training, socialization, and management of any underlying medical conditions, many dogs can learn to be friendly and well-behaved. If you are concerned about your Maltese behavior, it is best to consult with a veterinarian or professional dog behaviorist for guidance.

Are Maltese difficult to train?

Maltese dogs are generally considered to be intelligent and eager to please, which can make them relatively easy to train. They are extremely energetic, and they also have an eagerness to please, which makes them extremely agile and competitive with other dogs. However, like all dogs, they may have their own unique personality and challenges. Consistency, positive reinforcement training methods, and patience are key to successfully training a Maltese. Maltese puppies can be stubborn sometimes, so it’s best not to use negative reinforcement tactics, as they tend not to produce results. It's also important to start training early, socialize them well, and provide mental stimulation through interactive games and obedience training. With the right approach and commitment, most Maltese can be trained to learn a variety of behaviors and commands.

Why is my Maltese so aggressive toward other dogs?

Aggression towards other dogs can have a number of underlying causes, including fear, anxiety, lack of socialization, poor training, or dominance-related issues. In some cases, medical conditions such as pain or hormonal imbalances may also contribute to aggression. It's important to have your Maltese evaluated by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical causes for the aggression. If no medical causes are found, working with a professional dog behaviorist can help address the aggression. Your dog may not have had much socialization with other dogs as a pup, which could result in aggression toward other dogs. Also, such behavior can also result from past traumatic experiences with another dog. A behaviorist can assess your Maltese behavior and develop a personalized training plan that addresses the underlying cause of the aggression. The plan may include behavior modification techniques, socialization, and training exercises designed to help your Maltese learn to react calmly and appropriately to other dogs. It's important to be patient and consistent with training, as behavior change can take time.

Are Maltese dominant?

Maltese dogs can display dominant behavior, like any other breed, but it is not a breed-specific characteristic. Maltese are usually peaceful dogs, and their behavior may be categorized as confident and friendly. Some of them might be cautious around people or other dogs. Dominance-related behaviors in dogs can be a result of several factors, including lack of proper training and socialization, improper management and leadership, or instinctual tendencies. However, with proper training, socialization, and leadership, many Maltese dogs can learn to be well-behaved and responsive to their owners.

How do you calm down a Maltese?

Here are some steps you can take to calm down a Maltese. Provide a safe and quiet environment: Make sure your Maltese has a quiet and comfortable place to rest, away from any stressful stimuli. Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and anxiety in dogs. Take your Maltese for walks, play fetch, or engage in other interactive games. Obedience training and positive reinforcement techniques can help build trust and strengthen the bond between you and your Maltese. Establish a consistent daily routine and stick to it as much as possible. This can help reduce stress and anxiety in dogs. Gentle massage or petting can be a calming and relaxing activity for your Maltese. Provide your Maltese with comfort items, such as a blanket or toy, that they can associate with feeling safe and secure. There are various calming aids available, such as pheromone diffusers or calming chews, which can help reduce stress and anxiety in dogs. Every dog is unique and may respond differently to these calming techniques. If your Maltese is persistently stressed or anxious, it's best to consult with a veterinarian or professional dog behaviorist for guidance.

Are Maltese difficult to train?

The Maltese breed is renowned for its intelligence and trainability, making them quite easy to train. While they can exhibit stubbornness, their want to please and high levels of energy make them quick learners and good competitors in agility and other dog sports. However, Maltese dogs respond better to positive reinforcement training techniques, which emphasize rewarding desired actions rather than punishing undesirable ones. These techniques encourage the dog to repeat desirable actions by rewarding it with goodies, compliments, and play. Maltese owners may effectively teach their dogs directions, tricks, and appropriate behavior by developing a close relationship with them and remaining consistent in their training. It is important to note that individual dogs within the breed may vary in their response to training, with some being more receptive than others. However, overall, the Maltese breed is considered relatively easy to train due to their intelligence and desire to please their owners. Patience, positive reinforcement, and engaging training sessions are key to unlocking the full potential of a Maltese and fostering a well-behaved and obedient companion.

Why is my Maltese becoming aggressive?

There could be several reasons why your Maltese is displaying aggressive behavior. It's crucial to rule out any probable medical conditions that could be causing discomfort or pain before anything else, as these conditions can occasionally trigger aggression. To ensure there are no underlying health issues, take your dog to the vet. Another factor to consider is socialization. Your Maltese may display fear or hostility toward unfamiliar surroundings if they were not properly socialized as puppies by being introduced to a variety of situations, people, and other animals. Inadequate mental and physical activity might also contribute to a dog's hostility. The clever and active breed of Maltese needs regular playing, exercise, and mental stimulation. Without these outlets, they can become frustrated and develop aggressive behaviors as a way to release their pent-up energy. Additionally, changes in the dog's environment or routine can trigger anxiety or stress, which may manifest as aggression. Check to see if the household has undergone any recent changes, such as the addition of a new pet, a relative, or a move. Finally, it's essential to examine your own behavior and training methods. Inconsistent training, harsh punishment, or inadvertently rewarding aggressive behavior can reinforce and escalate aggression in dogs.

How long does it take to train a Maltese?

The length of time needed to teach a Maltese can vary based on a number of variables, including the temperament of the particular dog, prior training experience, and the consistency and efficacy of the training techniques utilized. Maltese are generally intelligent and eager to please, which can work in your favor during training. It's crucial to keep in mind that training is a continuous process and has to be viewed as a lifetime commitment as opposed to a one-time effort. Basic obedience training, such as housebreaking, leash manners, and commands like sit, stay, and come, can be taught relatively quickly, often within a few weeks of consistent training sessions. However, more advanced training, such as off-leash reliability or complex tricks, may require additional time and practice. It's important to approach training with persistence, patience, and approaches for positive reinforcement. Training sessions should be brief and frequent rather than protracted and irregular. However, it averagely takes between a month and 4 months to train them.

How do you discipline a Maltese?

Disciplining a Maltese, or any dog, should focus on positive reinforcement and gentle, consistent training methods rather than harsh discipline or punishment. Positive reinforcement involves rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, and affection. When it comes to correcting unwanted behaviors, it's important to redirect your Maltese's attention and provide an alternative behavior that you want them to engage in. For instance, if your Maltese is chewing on the furniture, gently move their attention to a suitable chew toy and give them positive reinforcement when they start playing with it. Avoid yelling, physical punishment, or any form of aggression as these can damage the trust and bond between you and your dog. Consistency is key, so establish clear rules and boundaries from the beginning and enforce them consistently.

Can Maltese be trained not to bark?

Through diligent and persistent training techniques, Maltese dogs can be educated to reduce barking.  Despite the fact that barking is a dog's natural habit and a way of communication, the excessive or pointless barking may be curbed. The Maltese should get training that focuses on teaching them alternate behaviors and rewarding them when they remain calm and quiet. This may entail methods like desensitization, in which the dog is gradually introduced to situations that often cause barking in a calm and controlled way while being rewarded for remaining quiet. Teaching the dog the "quiet" command and rewarding them for doing so can also be successful. 

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