Just to see a Maltese dog is often to fall in love. These pint-sized pups, with their pure white long hair coats and adorable black button eyes, have been loved and adored by people for centuries.
While the Maltese dog certainly doesn’t look aggressive, some toy-sized dog breeds are known to be aggressive. If your family continues small children or small prey-type pets, it is worth asking whether the Maltese might be aggressive towards either.
Read on to learn more about the Maltese personality and find out if this might be the right canine companion for your family.
Are Maltese Aggressive Dogs?
The only time a Maltese dog is likely to be aggressive is if the dog is mistreated in some way.
Seen through this toy-sized dog’s eyes, mistreatment might look like deliberate neglect or it could be as simple as too-rough play, even if unintentional.
Because these dogs are so tiny, weighing less than seven pounds fully grown, careful handling is key to avoid any display of canine aggression.
Learn Fascinating Historical and Breed Facts About the Maltese
This short video shares fascinating information about the history of the Maltese breed and explains what to expect with this dog’s personality.
Most importantly, as the video points out, the Maltese is quite small and needs careful handling to avoid injuring this tiny pup. This tip also gives you a hint about why a teensy Maltese dog might display aggressive behavior, as we will discuss next here.
Where Does the Maltese Dog Come From?
The Maltese bear the nickname of “ye ancient dogge of Malta,” as the American Kennel Club points out.
Why? Because the Maltese are a truly ancient dog breed that was originally bred on the island this dog takes their breed name from.
As Canine Perspectives Dog Trainer explains, the Maltese has been bred as a companion to people for centuries. This dog is often said to have a “heart of gold.”
In fact, the Maltese dog has once nicknamed the “sleeves dog” because royal women would tuck their pups into their flowing sleeves and carry them around town!
Clearly, any dog bred to spend the day riding around in their owner’s sleeve wouldn’t necessarily be associated with an aggressive temperament.
Are Maltese Dogs Ever Aggressive?
As you learned earlier here, the Maltese dog breed rarely weighs more than seven pounds – and that weight includes the full-length show coat.
As well, the full-grown adult Maltese dog rarely stands more than nine inches from paw pads to shoulders. This dog is short and slight.
So why would a Maltese ever think to behave aggressively, since everything and everyone is bigger than they are?
There are a few key reasons why you might witness aggression in a Maltese dog. In the next sections here, we will explore each possibility in depth.
Maltese Aggression Due to Health Problems
As the Animal Health Center New Hampshire explains, health problems can sometimes trigger aggression in dogs, no matter what the breed may be.
According to the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), the Maltese have three main known genetic health concerns: cardiac issues, patellar luxation (trick kneecap), and liver issues.
Any dog that is feeling poorly may behave with aggression. This is primarily because the wild instinct to try to disguise weakness or illness is still very much present in domestic companion canines.
Dogs that don’t feel well may also act aggressively because they are disoriented, nauseous, weak, anxious, or simply not understanding what is happening to them.
For example, patellar luxation is a genetic joint malformation disorder that can cause the knee joint to dislocate spontaneously.
If your Maltese is in pain but you don’t realize the knee is out of the socket and needs medical care, you may get a growl or a bite (or both) as a sign all is not well.
The Animal Health Center New Hampshire points out that thyroid issues are not uncommon in Maltese dogs, and that thyroid or hormonal imbalance can sometimes trigger acts of aggression in these dogs.
Maltese Aggression Due to Poor Training and Socialization
As Yaletown Dog Training highlights, the Maltese (and any dog breed) can sometimes display aggression because they need more socialization and training.
However, before deciding you understand exactly what is causing your Maltese to act aggressively, it is also important to first step back and assess the entire big picture.
One common reason a Maltese may display aggression is when they are in a multi-pet family with larger dogs or dominant cats. A Maltese may feel the need to compete for your time, for attention, for food, for toys, or for other important needs.
As PetCare RX explains, the Maltese has a long history of serving as a watchdog and guard dog to their people.
These dogs may not be particularly intimidating in size or appearance, but they are always ready to use their bark to alert their people that there is an intruder or that something is amiss.
If a Maltese puppy does not receive early socialization and training to learn to tell the difference between a friend, a neutral situation, and a potential threat, you may see aggressive behavior from that dog in adulthood.
Maltese Aggression Due to Being Spoiled
As far as canine cuteness goes, the Maltese rank right up there at the top. These dogs look just like teddy bears, especially in the short puppy cut that is so popular for long-haired dog breeds!
While the Maltese can look just like a toy, this can backfire when you become too indulgent towards your dog.
The Maltese do not rank very high on some canine intelligent tests. ScienceAlert published a list of the 79 smartest purebred dog breeds and the Maltese ranked 59th.
But this particular intelligence test focused on trainability. Specifically, the test ranked dogs according to how quickly they learned a new skill and how motivated they were to repeat it.
The Maltese dog’s low ranking does not indicate this dog breed is not smart. On the contrary, the Maltese are very intelligent! But they are not very motivated to obey people. They prefer to keep their own counsel.
So you may find that your Maltese might decide to display aggressive behavior as a method to resist doing what you want them to do.
While this dog breed tends to use cute behavior more than aggressive behavior to do this, both can work with an unsuspecting dog owner.
In other words, you will have to be very disciplined and focused on training to make sure you are training your Maltese dog and not the other way around!
Maltese Aggression Due to Owner Over-Protectiveness
You are probably starting to pick up on the fact that many of the issues the Maltese dog breed struggles with in terms of aggressive displays relate to their tiny size.
With a dog this small, there will always be some special issues you need to remain mindful of.
And sometimes, the real underlying issue when a dog displays aggression can be traced back to that dog’s owner – you.
For example, let’s say you decide to adopt or purchase a tiny Maltese puppy. Your dog will probably come to you weighing just three to four pounds – a truly tiny pup.
So you are very, very careful with your tiny Maltese. You handle your dog with kid gloves and insist on your friends and family do the same. You jump anytime there is a perceived threat and you pamper and coddle your dog at every turn.
Even after your Maltese puppy grows up and has learned the ropes of family life through training, socialization, and observation, you may still have those same overprotective tendencies.
Dogs are very attuned to people. In fact, according to New Scientist, canines are so attuned to people that they even developed alterations in their eyebrow muscles that change their expressions!
So you can bet your Maltese dog is noticing how high-strung you are when it comes to their safety and protection. This may in turn provoke your dog to act anxiously or aggressively towards other people or family pets, strangers, or strange animals.
In order to dial down the aggression, you will have to change your own behavior first.
Dealing with Maltese Aggression
Before dealing with displays of aggression from your Maltese, you first need to understand what is causing them.
Why is your dog behaving aggressively? Are they sick or hurt? Do they need more training and socialization? Are you being over-indulgent or over-protective? Are they being handled too roughly?
Once you identify the issue, sometimes all that is required is some simple adjustments and the aggression goes away on its own.
But if your dog continues to behave aggressively despite your best efforts, it is time to reach out for help. A professional dog trainer can work with you to solve the problem.