Poodles and Maltese dogs are popular breeds sought after by prospective pet parents due to their adorableness and their charming personalities. However, many people get the two breeds mixed up due to their similar traits. In this article, I will compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the two breeds so you will never confuse them again.
What’s the difference between poodles and Maltese dog breeds? While Poodles and Maltese are different in size variation, color variation, coat texture, trainability, and temperament, they do have some similarities such as grooming needs, shedding levels, life expectancy, are frequent barkers, and both are hypoallergenic.
While the Maltese breed has a general standard, the Poodle breed can vary greatly in many ways because there are three types of Poodles: toy poodles, miniature poodles, and standard poodles.
The type of Poodle that is most like the Maltese breed, and likely the one most people mix up with the Maltese breed, is the toy poodle. The remainder of this article will discuss their history as well as some of the more prominent characteristics of each kind that makes them unique.
The History of the Poodle
A long-standing staple in the world of dogs, the Standard Poodle originated in Germany, where it got the name “Pudelhund” or “Pudel,” which translates to “puddle” in English and meant simply “to splash about” in German
Although their roots are in Germany, they were popularized in France, where they were bred and worked as water retrievers for hunters and later as circus-performing dogs, a brief stint as war dogs in WWII, and truffle hunters. The Standard Poodle is an outstanding swimmer, assisted by its water-resistant coat and powerful, long legs and athletic body type. These dogs are also known for their intelligence and high trainability.
However, these Standard Poodles are extremely different from their Toy and Miniature brethren. While the Standard Poodle can weigh between 45 and 70 pounds (depending on gender) and can be over 15 inches in height, the Miniature Poodle typically weighs a mere 10 to 15 pounds with a height of 10 to 15 inches, and the Toy Poodle is even tinier, weighing in at 4 to 6 pounds and growing to no more than 10 inches in height.
As mentioned before, it is the Toy variant of Poodle that is the most similar to the Maltese breed in size.
The Miniature and Toy Poodles were bred to be able to live with their owners in smaller spaces such as big cities where there is little need for them to work and more of a need for simple companionship. Today these small versions of the Poodle breed are often used as show dogs because of their high intelligence, beauty, and trainability, or as companion dogs for families because of their friendly temperament.
In general, any variant of Poodle will make a great dog. They are extremely obedient animals that are eager to put their intelligence and athleticism to use. They are a very versatile breed that loves to learn and are popular among dog owners. In fact, they rank number 7 out of 195 of the most popular AKC-recognized breeds.
The History of the Maltese
Although the true origin spot of the Maltese breed is murky because of how ancient the breed actually is, most historians agree that Malta, a small island south of Italy, is where the breed was developed, hence the name “Maltese.”
Malta was colonized by the Phoenicians in roughly 1000 BCE. The Phoenicians were an ancient people who occupied the east Mediterranean territories, and who were thought to use these small dogs to protect their food rations on ships from rats and other pests, and possibly traded the dogs for food or other supplies when their ships made harbor.
These small, white dogs were bred as companions, and not for any sporting or hunting purposes (unlike the Poodle breed). They were often used as lap-warming dogs and were small enough to be carried around with ease on different errands with their owners.
This type of dog was sought after by many other countries, so they eventually found their way to Europe and the United States, where their demand as companions and show dogs has stood the test of time.
Today they are still very popular, although not as much as the Poodle, with a ranking of 37 out of 195 of the most popular AKC-recognized breeds.
There is not much variation in this breed of dog. They are expected to have white coats with long, thick, almost human-like hair, and are very small, with a weight of 7 pounds or less and a height of 7 to 9 inches.
They have the appearance of a dog of luxurious standing but are, in fact, more adaptable and playful than one might originally believe. They are often family or companion dogs and are great with children and other animals because of their friendly disposition.
Similarities Between Poodle and Maltese Dogs
Both the Poodle and the Maltese are famous for their beautiful, unique looks. Their coats are key features for both dogs, the Poodle having the famous curly coat and the Maltese having the famous long, silky coat.
Their appearances are what set them apart from many other breeds and are part of what makes them both excellent show dogs. However, their luxurious appearances require quite a lot of maintenance and care, often by professionals, and could be a con and an expense to the owner, so it is a cost that is important to keep in mind.
Poodle Vs. Maltese Appearance
Size. When comparing the Toy Poodle and the Maltese, they share a similar size. While Toy Poodles range between 4 to 6 pounds in weight and 10 inches in height, the Maltese often weigh less than 7 pounds and reach a height of 7 to 9 inches. These characteristics make both the Toy Poodle and Maltese great lap-sized dogs, and easily transportable in carriers or specially made purses, which is a popular practice among their owners.
Hair Traits: Poodles and Maltese dogs are both breeds that do not have an undercoat; as a result, their hair will continue to grow rather than shed. Owners never have to worry about finding large clumps of hair all over their floors, furniture, or clothing. This feature alone makes both breeds quite attractive to people looking to adopt a new furry friend.
Their hair is also hypoallergenic, meaning that people who normally have a bad cat or dog allergy are able to coexist alongside these pets without experiencing severe allergy symptoms. This is another very attractive feature in favor of both the Poodles and the Maltese. However, both coats require a lot of grooming and care.
Poodle Vs. Maltese Personality
Temperament: Both the Poodle and the Maltese are sensitive dogs – they are very attentive and responsive to their owners’ moods. Both are also described as playful and gentle, which make them excellent companions and family pets. In general, they are both energetic and love to please their family and can be quite protective of their owners. Overall, they are fun dogs that are often the light of their owners’ lives.
Vocalization: Although they can be trained to prevent unwanted barking, both the Poodle and Maltese breeds are moderate barkers. This means that somewhat often, they will bark, but it is important to keep in mind that all dogs, no matter the breed, bark for a reason (not simply to annoy their owners).
To prevent barking when it is not wanted, one must endeavor to understand what is triggering their pup to bark and attempt to alleviate that problem.
Energy Levels: Poodles and Maltese are both considered energetic dogs. Their lively personalities contribute to their high energy levels, and both are athletic dogs because of it. They excel at agility activities and are curious explorers on walks, especially the Maltese. The Poodle’s extremely high intelligence makes it always thirsty for mental stimulation, which means they’re just as curious as the Maltese.
Trainability: The word trainability refers to a dog’s willingness to be trained and how easy it is to get them to be responsive to training. Although the Poodle is one of the easiest dogs to train and ranks high on the trainable-dogs list, a Maltese will also be relatively easy to train with the use of a reward system.
Poodle Vs. Maltese Care
Grooming: Because their hair continuously grows, Poodles and Maltese dogs must be regularly groomed at least every 3 to 6 weeks (or roughly once a month) to prevent matting and the buildup of dirt in their beautiful coats.
There are many hairstyles one can get for their dog. Regular haircuts will help keep the hair from covering their eyes and bum, making sure they are living comfortably and without stress. It is also recommended that you brush your Poodle or Maltese daily to further prevent matting, which can occur very quickly in these dogs.
Diet: Regardless of the dog breed, the type of food you choose to give your pet should contain all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Be aware of any allergies they have and other known conditions they are at risk of. Also, factor in their age and size when portioning out daily meals.
If you don’t have a preference of brand for dog food, but still want quality food for your pet, some brands like Science Diet, Blue Buffalo, or Royal Canin are reputable options.
Your local pet store should carry many trusted brands such as these to ensure the food you give your dog keeps them happy and healthy. It is also important to keep an eye out for reviews and recalls on your dog food brand of choice.
Exercise: Just like people, dogs need daily exercise and other forms of entertainment; without it, they can easily become bored and develop negative habits such as chewing or scratching things they aren’t supposed to, such as the floors or furniture.
Both Poodles and Maltese require regular activity, whether it be in the form of physical exercise or brain games. A fenced backyard where they can run and play freely is a great way for these pups to get exercise without needing to leave your home. In addition, an arsenal of toys will keep them happy and entertained when you’re not at home.
Health: It is always important to take care and pay attention to the health of your dog, whether it is a Poodle, Maltese, or any other breed. Teeth-cleaning and brushing regularly are essential to preventing dental diseases (which tends to be more prevalent in Maltese).
Regular vet checkups can help ensure your dog stays healthy and strong while giving you peace of mind. For further health benefits, you can add supplements to your dog’s diet that they may be lacking in their daily meals under the supervision of your vet. Giving them treats with healthy ingredients or dental treats are also important for a dog’s health.
Life Expectancy: Poodles and Maltese share very similar, long life expectancies. A healthy Poodle, no matter the variation, is expected to live between 10-18 years. A healthy Maltese is expected to live between 12-15 years. However, any dog’s life expectancy varies on an individual basis and depends on several variables such as health conditions, living environment, happiness, and an owner’s dedication to their care.
Differences Between Poodle and Maltese Dogs
Although both dogs are highly coveted for their unique looks, their appearances are quite different. A Poodle will usually have tight, curly hair, long legs, floppy ears, dark eyes, and long snouts. It is one of the few dog breeds that have three different variants that all share the same traits. Meanwhile, the Maltese are always small with short legs, straight white hair, a short face, a button-like nose, and dark, round eyes.
Poodle Vs. Maltese Appearance
Size: The Toy Poodle is extremely similar in size to the Maltese, but there are two other types of Poodles that do not share their size with the Maltese breed. The Miniature Poodle, despite its name, is bigger than the Toy Poodle and Maltese and weighs 10 to 15 pounds and can reach a height of 10 to 15 inches.
The Standard Poodle towers over all the above, with an average weight of between 45 and 70 pounds and a height of 15 inches or taller. So, while there is almost no variation in the size of a full-grown Maltese dog, you can find a Poodle that can match almost any size you desire.
Hair Traits: Poodle and Maltese breeds both have long hair that grows continuously, but what makes them different from each other is their hair’s texture. Maltese dogs usually have straighter, silky-smooth hair, while Poodles have coarse curls.
In addition to the texture of these dogs’ hair, they also differ in color. Maltese dogs usually have white fur only. Poodles can range from solid to mixed colors. The colors you can find pure-bred Poodles in include:
Poodle Vs. Maltese Personality
Temperament: Although similar in general, there are a few known traits of both Poodles and Maltese that differ from each other. A Poodle’s highlighting features are its intelligence and adaptability, while the Maltese’s highlighting features are its affection and alertness.
Although both are loving and playful, the Maltese tends to be a bit more standoffish, especially to strangers, and the Poodle tends to be more laid back in comparison, but both are protective of their owners. A Maltese can be more of a troublemaker due to its fearless nature and larger-than-life personality.
If a Poodle gets into trouble, it’s probably because it is bored and not getting enough mental or physical stimulation for its large mind and athletic body.
Vocalization: A Maltese is more prone to barking than a Poodle, even though both are known to bark. It’s got a big voice and big personality inside its tiny body, as most tiny dogs do, and it makes use of it when it feels the need. Again, any dog can be trained to curb unwanted barking, as long as it is done in the right way and with care.
Energy Levels: Both the Poodle breed and the Maltese are high-energy dogs, but arguably in different ways. The Poodle has a love of adventure and stimulation, and its athletic body and long legs warrant longer walks more often than a Maltese.
On the other hand, a Maltese does have a lot of energy but doesn’t require as big an exercise routine as a Poodle might, especially a Poodle of bigger stature. Indoor playtime and activities inside with their owner are adequate for a tiny little Maltese, as long as it is paired with some outdoor exposure.
Trainability: Poodles are known widely for their quick learning, vast intelligence, and high capacity to be easily trained. Many Poodle owners report that they can teach their pets new commands within the first few times of saying them!
Although the Maltese is an alert and attentive dog with a high sensitivity to its owner, it will not have as easy of time learning commands as a Poodle (then again, most dogs won’t learn as easily as a Poodle either). Persistence and patience are the keys to the Maltese breed, and reward-based training paired with positive reinforcement will be beneficial to this type of dog and its occasional stubbornness.
Poodle Vs. Maltese Care
Grooming: Both dogs do require high levels of upkeep and grooming as far as their prized coats go, but due to the differences in their coats’ textures, grooming could be different. A Poodle’s coarse, curly coat might require much more styling, brushing, and general care from a professional than a Maltese. Its highly textured coat might also be more prone to dirt, grime, and matting.
But, do not underestimate the coat of the Maltese, because both of these dogs require a lot of coat maintenance.
I wrote this article on the best shampoos for poodles. In it, you will find the pros and cons of the most popular shampoos out there so you can pick the product best for your pet.
Diet: The bigger the dog, the more food it will require. Because the Standard and Miniature Poodles are larger than the Toy Poodle or Maltese, they will need a higher volume of food, respective to their weight and breed. Also, each of these Poodle variations and the Maltese has different health issues that may need to be supplemented through medicated foods or specialized veterinarian-approved foods.
Please refer to your vet for personalized recommendations on changes in dog food or treats, and keep in mind that frequently changing your dog’s food may upset its stomach and cause excessive flatulence, bloating, or runny stools.
Exercise: As was mentioned in the energy levels section, the Poodle will likely require more intense, outdoor exercise than a Maltese dog would. The Poodle was built athletically and specialized in swimming and duck-hunting for a very long time, so the larger kinds of Poodles will need more exercise to keep them happy.
However, smaller dogs like the Maltese may be kept happy by simple, short excursions outdoors, a couple of laps around the yard, and more of an emphasis on toys and mental exercises than physical ones.
Health: The life-expectancy of standard, miniature, and toy poodles is up to fifteen years. Although they can live for a very long time with the right care and regular checkups, it’s also important to be aware of common health conditions poodles face as they age. Some of these conditions include:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Idiopathic Epilepsy
- Intervertebral Disc Degeneration
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Addison’s Disease
- Patellar Luxation
- Thyroid Issues
- Sebaceous Adenitis
- Von Willebrand’s Disease
- Luxating Patellas
- Lacrimal Duct Atresia
For more about poodle health, this site offers key information owners should keep in mind.
The life expectancy of a Maltese is up to 18 years, although, like poodles, they are prone to a few health conditions. For example, because of their pale skin and thin hair, they are more sensitive to skin conditions such as dryness or itchiness. They also need to avoid excess exposure to sunlight, as they can become sunburned. Other common health conditions to look out for in Maltese dogs as they age include:
- White Dog Shaker Syndrome
- Von Willebrand’s Disease
- Aberrant Cilia
- Breathing Issues
- Canine Asthma (Colitis)
- Collapsed Trachea
- Heart Murmurs
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Reverse Sneezing
- Brain Bleed
- Open Fontanel
- Liver Shunts
- Patent Ductus Arteriosus
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Dental Disease
- Weak Bones
For more about Maltese health, this site offers additional information.
The Maltipoo – Best of Both Worlds
Can’t exactly decide between a Poodle and a Maltese? Fear not, because there is a solution out there for those torn between the two dogs: a Maltipoo!
The Maltipoo mix is the cross between a Poodle and a Maltese dog, and this cute little crossover comes with many perks of both breeds. For instance, it can come in a variety of colors like Poodles and can vary between Maltese/Toy Poodle size and close to Standard Poodle size. They also do not shed much at all, just like their parents, and are hypoallergenic in most cases.
Here are some quick facts about the Maltipoo crossbreed that might help you make up your mind:
- These dogs are most often a cross between a Maltese and a Toy or Miniature Poodle to keep its small size, which is favorable for travel and home-life.
- Their coat can vary between the curliness of their Poodle parent and the luxurious softness of their Maltese parent, and most often come in white, but can be bred for different color variations.
- They may be prone to a bit of barking, but that trait could easily lend itself to the Maltipoo becoming a watchdog for your family.
- Often the Maltipoo comes with the intelligence of a Poodle and the sweet adoration of a Maltese, making it a popular companion dog.
- The Maltipoo is a highly affectionate dog and is often reported to get along well with cats and other dogs.
It is important to keep in mind that, like a crossbreed, no traits are guaranteed in any one puppy. It would be most beneficial to find a highly reputable Maltipoo breeder and be sure that you are getting a puppy who is the product of careful breeding and trait-matching.
Make sure your new puppy comes with a health-guarantee and plenty of testing to make sure you’re getting the best possible match for you. Click here for more info on Maltipoos and how their crossbreeding is done.
Poodles and Maltese have a lot of similarities, but they have a lot of differences too. Overall, though, both are amazing breeds and are the product of hundreds (or, in the case of the Maltese, thousands) of years of careful breeding. With the right owner, either would be a great addition to any loving home.