The Maltese is a small breed of dog in the Toy Group. It descends from dogs originating in the Central Mediterranean Area. The breed name and origins are generally understood to derive from the Mediterranean island nation of Malta; however, the name is sometimes described with reference to the distinct Adriatic island of Mljet, or a defunct Sicilian town called Melita.
Maltese have no undercoat, and have little to no shedding if cared for properly. Like their relatives, the Poodles and Bichon Frisé, they are considered to be largely hypoallergenic and many people who are allergic to dogs may not be allergic to the Maltese. Daily cleaning is required to prevent the risk of tear-staining. Many owners find that a weekly bath is sufficient for keeping the coat clean, although it is recommended to not wash a dog so often, so washing your Maltese every three weeks is sufficient, although if the dog keeps clean even longer than that. They need to be professionally groomed about once every month and a half.
Regular grooming is also required to prevent the coats of non-shedding dogs from matting. Many owners will keep their Maltese clipped in a "puppy cut", a 1–2 in (2.5–5 cm) all over trim that makes the dog resemble a puppy. Some owners, especially those who show Maltese in the sport of conformation, prefer to wrap the long fur to keep it from matting and breaking off, and then to show the dog with the hair unwrapped combed out to its full length. Some Maltese need to be blow-dried in order to prevent mats because drying is ineffective to some dogs.
Maltese dogs can exhibit signs of tear staining underneath the eyes. Dark staining in the hair around the eyes, "tear staining", can be a problem in this breed, and is mostly a function of how much the individual dog's eyes water and the size of the tear ducts. To get rid of tear staining, a solution or powder can be specially made for tear stains, which can often be found in local pet stores. A fine-toothed metal pet comb, moistened with hot water and applied perhaps twice weekly, also works extremely well. The antibiotic, Cephalexin has been shown to completely clear up "tear staining" in some cases. Maltese are susceptible to "reverse sneezing", which sounds like a honking, snorting, or gagging sound and results often from over-excitement, play, allergies, or upon waking up. It is not life-threatening or dangerous—it will go away after about a minute.
They are ranked 59th out of 69 in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs. which indexes obedience and the ability of a dog breed to follow commands, with very light focus on skills seen outside of working breeds, such as emotional intelligence.
Maltese tend to have many or several tooth problems usually resulting in cavities, without proper care the infected teeth may fall out as the dog gets older. Maltese might need additional care, and have their teeth brushed with soft-bristled toothbrush and special dog toothpaste every week to avoid tooth problems.