According to the AKC standard, “for all his diminutive size, the Maltese seems to be without fear. His trust and affectionate responsiveness are very appealing. He is among the gentlest mannered of all little dogs, yet he is lively and playful as well as vigorous.” The Maltese has been around since Medieval Times, and has been a companion dog from the very beginning. Whereas other small breeds are often the result of breeding larger dogs down to size, the Maltese started off as small as they are today. They are sturdy little dogs, however, who love to play hard and can keep up with dogs twice their size.
It is the Maltese nature to be sweet, playful and easygoing, but their individual temperaments can be altered by how they are raised. While you may be inclined to treat a Maltese as if he were a helpless baby, it is important to let these dogs have some independence. Sheltering them, spoiling them or not training them to be well mannered can lead to bratty behavior. Treating your Maltese like an independent being and setting proper boundaries can help ensure that he's as “gentle mannered” and “playful” as the AKC suggests.
Maltese don't need a lot of vigorous exercise in order be happy and healthy, but daily walks are a must. These little guys love to run, so allowing them time to zip around the yard or park can help them expend extra energy. Their size makes them ideal apartment dogs, but a commitment should be made to walking your Maltese daily as it keeps them in shape and helps prevent separation anxiety.
Give these little guys some praise and treats and they are capable of anything. Maltese are highly trainable and unlike other toy breeds, possess a desire to please. Some can have an independent streak, but that can generally be overcome by keeping training interesting and mixing up the routine a bit. Once your Maltese realizes there are treats in the deal, he'll perk up and catch on quickly.
Toy breeds should never be treated harshly or given physical corrections. Small dogs feel their only method of protecting themselves is through their bark and bite, and they don't hesitate to use either. Harsh treatment or physical discipline can cause your Maltese to be mistrustful of people in general. Rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad is the best method to train a Maltese.
Housetraining a Maltese can be a long, drawn out process. Finding where these tiny dogs have gone on your carpet can be a challenge, especially because they are so small and can hide quite easily. Crating your Maltese may be necessary for six to eight months. Some owners request the breeder housetrain their dog before bringing him home.
Separation Anxiety is quite common in Maltese. They adore people and hate to be left alone for long periods of time. Most Maltese don't get enough exercise, as owners of toy breeds think they don't need to walk their dogs. Exercise definitely helps, but Maltese are best suited for homes where there is a stay at home parent, or in the home of retirees.