What you need to know

How to Know if a Maltese Dog is Purebred

Cristina Pascual
By Cristina Pascual, Veterinaria. Updated: January 29, 2024
How to Know if a Maltese Dog is Purebred

Animal file: Maltese

When we adopt a dog, their breed won't affect how much we should love and care for them. What is important is their health and happiness, as well as forging a strong bond together. However, there are some reasons you may want to know if you have adopted a purebred Maltese dog. Since purebred dogs are sold at premium rates, you want to make sure someone isn't illegally selling animals for profit. Certain breeds may be predisposed to certain behavioral characteristics or health problems, so knowing the origin breed can help in the care you provide for them.

Whatever the reason why you want to know, AnimalWised tells you how to know if a Maltese dog is purebred. We provide a breed description of the Maltese and show the traits which helps you to know if they are a purebred, mixed-breed or even a different breed altogether.

You may also be interested in: Is My Yorkshire Terrier Purebred?
  1. Is it important that your Maltese is purebred?
  2. Physical characteristics of a purebred Maltese
  3. Character of a purebred Maltese dog
  4. Is my Maltese purebred?
  5. What if your Maltese is a mixed breed?

Is it important that your Maltese is purebred?

As referenced in the introduction, your dog deserves love regardless of their breed or history. There is too large an importance placed on dog breed, a problem which can lead to healthy dogs being overlooked for adoption. It is understandable we would want a dog with certain qualities, but it is important to remember they don't need to be purebred to have them. Nor is it possible to foresee a dog's behavior via breed alone.

In saying this, there are many dog guardians who love certain breeds. They like their history, their character or even just their aesthetics. They may want to show the dog in a dog competition or be a member of a group with other guardians of the same dog breed.

Another important factor is whether we can adapt to their needs. There are certain breeds which need caregivers with a high level of energy, knowledge, experience and ability to look after them sufficiently. This means, when adopting a dog, we may need to avoid certain breeds if we are novice dog guardians.

For the Maltese, as with all dog breeds, a purebred specimen is one which has paternity from other purebred dogs. Their ancestors have been crossed to carry on certain traits which conform to a breed standard. This standard is stipulated by certain organizations such as the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)[1].

Physical characteristics of a purebred Maltese

The breed standard of a dog is a set of descriptions which an individual needs to meet to be considered typical of the breed. Perhaps the most prestigious breed standardization society is the FCI. They are the benchmark to which dogs are compared at canine competitions across the world.

The characteristics which are considered to make up the breed standard of the Maltese are the following:

  • General appearance: small size and elongated body with long white hair.
  • Size: height at the withers 21 to 25 cm (8-10") in males and 20 to 23 cm (8-9 ") in females
  • Weight: between 3 and 4 kg (7-9 lb).
  • Head: rather broad (slightly more than half its length), with a very marked stop (fronto-nasal junction), forming an angle of 90º. The nose is relatively large, rounded and totally black. The upper lips line perfectly to the lower lips and must be totally black. The teeth are white, the dentition is well developed and complete, and the incisors articulate in a scissor fashion. The eyes have an alert expression, being large and rounded. The eyeball is not sunken, but is slightly protruding. The eyes must not show the sclera (whites of the eyes) and irises are dark ocher in color. The edge of the upper and lower eyelids, as well as the third eyelid, are black. The ears are almost triangular and hang on both sides of the head.
  • Neck: always upright.
  • Tail: thick at the root and thin at the tip. Forms a single curve towards the back, touching the tip with the rump. A tail curled to one side of the body is also considered within the breed standard.
  • Extremities: rather robust bone structure, with parallel and vertical extremities. The paw pads are black. Nails should be black or at least dark in color.
  • Hair: pure white (or pale ivory), dense, shiny, silky, straight (without waves or curls) and very long all over the body. The hair should fall heavily to the ground like a cape, without splitting, tufting or tangling.
  • Movement: takes short and quick steps, with uniform movement and hair brushing on the ground.
How to Know if a Maltese Dog is Purebred - Physical characteristics of a purebred Maltese

Character of a purebred Maltese dog

Temperament is another important factor in breed standardization. It can also help us to determine whether you have a purebred Maltese. The FCI includes the Maltese in its group known as ‘companion dogs’. This means they are not dogs which can be used as working animals with much effectiveness, but they make great companions to families. This is because of a calm and affectionate nature.

Some people see their long hair and think of them as frivolous animals, but no animal is such. They are very intelligent dogs which have a state of permanent alertness. They are attentive to what is going on around them, they are fast, agile and lively.

Maltese dogs have a cheerful, playful and friendly character. They are not excessively restless, as can be the case with some Bichon-type dogs or small dog breeds. Although not common in this breed, behavioral problems occur. They are usually due to stressful environments, poor care or a lack of education. Their intelligence and predisposition toward obeying their family means they are relatively easy to train.

If you have adopted a Maltese, but have not yet given them a name, our list of Maltese dog name ideas might help you decide.

Is my Maltese purebred?

The only document that can prove that a dog is purebred is their pedigree certificate. This document guarantees that the ancestors are purebred and that they have been crossed with other purebred specimens. In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) issues pedigree certificates to prove lineage. However, the governing bodies differ according to country.

You will have to contact the AKC and start the process of purchasing a pedigree certificate, but you will need to be as sure as you can that you can prove it. This means getting references from the breeders and finding other documentation that proves their pedigree.

To know whether a Maltese dog is purebred, you can look a their physical characteristics and temperament, but these cannot prove heritage. To do this, you will need to either have a pedigree certificate which is authenticated by the correct body or have a genetic heritage test carried out. These are similar to genealogy tests carried out on humans. They can be expensive, but they are effective.

Dog genealogy tests or DNA tests are not available everywhere. You can speak to your veterinarian about them, but you may need to purchase them online. They can be expensive, but they provide the benefit of letting you know what other breeds may be in their ancestry. This can help us stay observant for certain health problems related to some breeds.

What if your Maltese is a mixed breed?

As we mentioned at the beginning, unless you want to participate in a dog show or contest, the fact that your Maltese is not purebred does not matter. It only means that some of their ancestors may have been crossed with specimens that are not purebred. When this happens, their anatomical characteristics may differ slightly from the official breed standard.

Remember that breed standards are characteristics that are selected subjectively by certain organizations to differentiate a specific breed. These standards usually change over time, meaning the characteristics that are considered ideal for a breed today may change in the future.

You should not forget that the truly important issue in animal husbandry is that it be done responsibly. Regardless of whether the ancestors are purebred or not, health and well-being are the most important factors in raising a dog. Purebred dogs often have shorter lifespans and are more prone to certain health conditions. We can see this by looking at the common diseases of the Maltese dog.

If your Maltese is not a purebred, it shouldn't affect how you see them as a companion animal. There may be some practical consequences if you have paid a premium for a purebred dog, but you will need to take that up with the breeder. If they are illegally selling non-pedigree animals, you may be able to sue to have your money reimbursed, but the well-being of the dog needs to be respected.

As with any animal, caring for a mixed-breed Maltese dog will require you to respect the five freedoms of animal welfare.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Know if a Maltese Dog is Purebred, we recommend you visit our What you need to know category.

  1. Federation Cynologique Internationale. (2018). FCI Standard No. 65: Maltese. Retrieved from: http://www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/065g09-en.pdf
  • American Kennel Club. (n.d.) Purchase a Pedigree. Retrieved from: https://www.akc.org/register/pedigree/
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How to Know if a Maltese Dog is Purebred