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Have you always wanted a canine companion that can accompany you everywhere you go? But maybe you live in a small apartment, or you know you don’t have the energy to give a dog all the exercise they need.
Well, why not take a page out of the book of some of the most photographed socialites and get a toy breed that can fit in the palm of your hand?
One of the most popular toy breeds is the teacup Maltese. Measuring just 4-6 inches tall, these little white balls of fluff look like tiny teddy bears, except that they hug back!
This affectionate little breed would love nothing better than to be your best friend and always be at your side.
But while these tiny dogs are in some ways easier to care for than larger dogs, they also pose unique challenges that you should consider before adopting one into your family.
Read on as we cover everything you need to know about the teacup Maltese, to decide whether they might be the right dog for you.
- Miniature version of the Maltese
- Purebred dog
- 4-6 inches tall
- 4-5 pounds
- 12- to 15-year lifespan
- Hypoallergenic coat
History Of The Breed
The Maltese dog is thought to have been bred in south-central Europe as a small companion dog for households. They had already spread around Europe as popular canine companions in the early 19th century.
In 1837 Edwin Landseer painted a portrait of Quiz, the Maltese of the Duchess of Kent, the mother of Queen Victoria of England. The dog was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888.
The dog may be related to the Melitaie, a small lap dog that was popular among the ancient Greeks and Romans. They are often depicted on amphorae, and quite a few ancient authors, including Aristotle and Pliny, mentioned the loveable pups.
Today they are popular companions thanks to their small size, friendly demeanor, and the fact that their coats do not shed, making them one of the “hypoallergenic” dogs.
Breeding of the teacup Maltese began in the middle of the 20th century. They were bred both by selecting the smallest Maltese to mate, but also by introducing miniature poodles and miniature spaniels into the line.
A breed standard for teacup Maltese was created in 1964, but they are not recognized as separate from the standard Maltese by the American Kennel Club.
The standard Maltese is already considered a toy breed, measuring just 8-10 inches tall and weighing between 7-9 pounds. Teacup Maltese are even smaller, usually measuring somewhere between 4-6 inches tall and weighing just 4-5 pounds.
Their small size means they are quite fragile and can’t handle rough play. They need to be handled with care and tenderness.
Maltese and teacup Maltese are highly recognizable dogs because of their thick white hair that is soft and fluffy. This coat also does not shed, so the dogs are often considered hypoallergenic.
However, this does mean they need regular brushing to prevent knots and matting. If left alone, their coat will grow long, but many people prefer to keep them cut shorter.
Teacup Maltese have round, white faces that are punctuated with black eyes and a black nose. They almost have the look of a small teddy bear.
They tend to have little legs and quite a round, firm body. This is ideal for picking them up and handling them around the belly.
Teacup Maltese are very loving dogs, and there are few things they love more than being around their humans.
They like to snuggle up and will never be far away from where you are. While they may have a favorite person, they tend to bond with everyone in the home and will be loving toward all.
As a result of the strong attachment they make, they can develop separation anxiety if they are left on their own for too long and too often. This can result in depression and unexpected behaviors.
They do best in households where there is always someone about, or when they can come with you to work. They make great emotional support dogs.
Teacup Maltese are playful dogs that will love to get into everything, but their small size also means they tend to wear themselves out quickly.
They don’t need more exercise than just puttering around the house and getting into innocent mischief. They tend to continue to have a puppy’s playfulness well into adulthood.
Small dogs often have a reputation for being yappy, but teacup Maltese don’t tend to be barkers. They might get vocal during play, but this is just to show their enjoyment. Plus, their tiny bark is incredibly cute.
They can be sensibly wary of other dogs, or small children whose hands have been rough with them in the past. But if you socialize them from a young age, they can easily fit into a house that already has other animals, or learn to accept new ones.
While teacup Maltese aren’t considered among the most intelligent dogs, they certainly aren’t stupid.
They are also eager to please and tend to fall into symbiotic relationships with their owner, so they will learn quickly what is wanted from them and how to respond in certain situations. Teaching them specific tricks can be a bit harder.
When you do train them, be sure to use positive reinforcement that rewards them for doing the right thing, rather than punishing them for doing the wrong thing.
These sensitive pups can take punishment badly and might start hiding from you and behaving strangely in response to confusing punishment.
Remember, one of the reasons that punishment doesn’t work well with dogs is that they struggle to know what exactly they are being punished for.
You might think it is obvious, but they can interpret it completely differently and therefore start to behave strangely.
House training teacup Maltese can be particularly challenging, but this is because they have very small bladders.
Sometimes they simply can’t hold it. For this reason, it might be worth investing in a pee pad so they have somewhere to go in case of an emergency.
Like most small dogs, teacup Maltese have a healthy lifespan of around 12-15 years. But they can be prone to some health issues, mostly related to diet because of the small size of their digestive system.
Investing in high-quality food and feeding them smaller, calorie-controlled meals throughout the day can go a long way to maintaining their health.
They have a tendency to suffer from low blood sugar, which can develop into diabetes if not properly monitored.
Liver, heart, and respiratory problems are also common ailments, so they will need regular vet check-ups to make sure everything is working as it should be.
Caring For A Teacup Maltese
While these little dogs might look like teddy bears, they are in fact living, breathing pups and not toys, so they do need a lot of care to thrive.
Because of their small size, teacup Maltese don’t need to eat that much and will consume less than one cup of food per day.
This should be fed to them as small meals three or four times a day to manage their small digestive system and tendency to have low blood sugar.
Considering how little they are eating, the food they do eat needs to be rich in nutrients to give them everything they need.
Since they aren’t constantly hungry like some dogs, they also tend to be picky eaters. These are both good reasons to invest in top-quality dog food.
Because they have such little legs, your teacup Maltese may be getting all the exercise they need each day by just running around the house. But this doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy going out for a walk.
The great outdoors is also about smells and other sensory stimulation, and not just about stretching their legs.
Because of their small size, fragility, and the tendency of their coat to get matted, be careful where you take them.
Best to take them to a green, grassy park where they can nose around in a small area rather than expect them to walk a hiking trail with you. If you want to take them hiking, you’ll probably want a small pack for carrying them.
But don’t fall into the trap of carrying them everywhere. If they start to put on weight, this could be a sign that they aren’t getting quite enough exercise.
The nature of the coat of the teacup Maltese means they need regular grooming. How regular depends on how long you keep their coat and how much time they spend in the great outdoors, where it can pick up debris.
If you keep the coat long, you will probably have to brush them every day, but this can be a great bonding experience for the two of you. If you keep their coat shorter, around an inch in length, then you can probably get away with weekly brushing.
They also need to be bathed about once a week, as their white coats can easily become stained. Pay particular attention to their faces, where tear stains tend to develop.
Cost Of Adopting A Teacup Maltese
As a highly desirable breed, you can expect to pay between $750 and $2,000 for a puppy from a respectable breeder.
This is partly because they have relatively small litters. Standard Maltese only tend to have three pups in the litter, and a teacup Maltese may only have one or two. You might find that you have to put your name on a waiting list to get a pup.
You may get lucky and find a teacup Maltese in a shelter. This is because many people buy them thinking they will be easy to take care of since they look like a toy, and then realize they have bitten off more than they can chew.
They usually get snatched up pretty quickly once they become available for adoption, but again, you can put your name on the list.
You can learn more about what is involved when adopting a puppy here.
Should I Get A Teacup Maltese?
Having read our complete guide, are you still interested in introducing a teacup Maltese into your home? Ask yourself the following questions to make a final decision.
What Is Your House Like?
Teacup Maltese don’t need much space to be happy, and they also aren’t shedders, so they do well in small homes and apartments. But also consider who else lives in your home.
While they can form fast bonds with children and other animals, their small size makes them a bit fragile. They don’t tend to do well with children under 6 years of age or animals that like to roughhouse.
Will They Need To Be Left Alone Often?
Teacup Maltese not only love their people, they also need to be around them most of the time. If they are left alone for extended periods on a regular basis, they can develop separation anxiety.
Is there usually someone at home, or is the house empty for hours a day while everyone is at work or school? Can they accompany someone to work, maybe making a nest under their desk?
Are You Prepared To Train Them?
Teacup Maltese are fairly intuitive dogs and will fit into the household easily, but this does not mean that they don’t need training.
They will need essential training for their safety in public spaces, and of course house training. Do you have the patience to see them through the difficult months that it might take for them to stop peeing inside the house?
Are You Ready To Make A Commitment?
Many people get themselves a teacup Maltese thinking they look like a toy.
But once the novelty has worn off, they don’t want to worry about caring for the dog, giving them the company they need, or worrying about who will look after them when they are not around.
But teacup Maltese aren’t toys you can just cast aside or ignore when they are no longer interesting. Pups have a life expectancy of 10-15 years.
You need to be sure that you are willing to commit to a 10- to 15-year relationship before you bring one of these dogs home.
What is the difference between a teacup Maltese and a regular Maltese?
Officially, the standard Maltese and the teacup Maltese belong to the same breed and should adhere to the same breed standard, except that the teacup is much smaller, despite the standard Maltese already being considered a toy breed.
While Maltese are usually 8-10 inches tall and 7-9 pounds, teacup Maltese are generally 6–9 inches tall and 3-5 pounds.
Do teacup Maltese shed?
Teacup Maltese don’t shed significantly like other dogs as they have a single coat rather than a double coat. But all dogs shed—it is just much more moderate, like human skin and hair shedding.
However, bear in mind that they will need regular grooming. Brushing to prevent matting and washing to prevent staining on their white coats.
Are teacup Maltese healthy?
While Maltese are generally healthy dogs, teacup Maltese are more prone to certain medical conditions, usually linked to diet.
Their small digestive system means they can struggle to get the nutrients they need and process food properly. They can be particularly prone to hypoglycemia and liver problems.
Why are teacup dogs so expensive?
Teacup dogs tend to be among the most expensive because it has taken years of selective breeding to get the desired size, and breeders need to cover those costs.
They also need more care as puppies as it may be longer before they can start looking after themselves.
If you are looking for an adorable pup that will thrive in a smaller home, then a teacup Maltese can be a great choice. But just because they look like a teddy bear doesn’t mean they don’t need care.
Teacup Maltese need lots of love and affection and thrive when they can be around their people most of the time.
They also need particular care when it comes to feeding and grooming, and need to be handled with a light touch, as their small size makes them fragile.
But if you take the time to love your teacup Maltese, you will have a loving, adorable, and sometimes goofy companion that can brighten up your day without even trying.
Do you have experience with Teacup Maltese?
Share your thoughts and experiences with the community in the comments section below.
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