Man’s best friend comes in all shapes and sizes from massive Great Danes to microscopic Teacup Chihuahuas. It pays to be educated about the breed of dog you’re considering. Here are some things to take into account about the Maltese.

The Maltese is a member of the toy class, usually weighing between three and 10 pounds. Its most prominent characteristic is its long, flowing white hair with no undercoat. Because the Maltese donít have fur like other breeds, it will lose hair the way humans do instead of shedding like most dogs. Perhaps the most interesting and unique characteristic of the breed is its color-changing nose. The nose can change from coal black to a light brownish color or even pink depending on the amount of sunlight the animal is exposed to. The nose of a female Maltese may change color when she goes onto heat.

Because Maltese donít shed if properly and regularly groomed, they make good pets for people who suffer with allergies.

The breedís temperament lends itself to companionship. The Maltese is happiest when in the company of family and friends being lavished with affection. Like most small breeds, they are energetic and given to sudden bouts of activity, but their small size makes them a good option for apartment dwellers. Maltese are very smart. Their high intellect makes them easy to train and quick at picking up new tricks.

Maltese are generally good natured and playful, but like any pack-oriented animal, they might not do well with small children or strangers. They are very territorial and likely to be protective of the family unit.

Like anything else with hair, a Maltese must be regularly groomed to prevent matting. Some caretakers find a way around the chore by keeping their dogs in what is known as a ìpuppy cutî or a ìteddy bear cut,î where the hair is kept short, about a half an inch, all over the body. This style is certainly less fuss and may be more comfortable for the dog, but itís not acceptable for a show dog.

Maltese are relatively healthy dogs, usually unburdened with the afflictions of other pure breeds. However, luxating patella, white dog shaker syndrome and progressive retinal atrophy are common in Maltese that do develop problems. Luxating patella is a condition in which the kneecap slips out of place. White dog shaker syndrome is a sudden onset of tremors, sometimes full seizures, that troubles only white dogs. Progressive retinal atrophy is just what it sounds like. It will eventually result in blindness for which there is no cure.

In keeping with the designer breed trend, Maltese are often bred with other breeds, such as poodles, to emphasize their sweet nature and intelligence.