A member of the toy group, the Maltese is known for her long, flowing white hair and diminutive size. According to the American Kennel Club, the breed has historically been a favorite of royalty and nobility because of her appearance and gentle temperament. While the hair must be left long to show your Maltese, it can be styled in many ways, but it also requires constant grooming if not kept short.
If your Maltese's hair has been left long, you can style her head hair with a top knot, which can be fastened with one or two bows on the top of the head. This knot is divided into two parts for the Maltese, and fastened with two bows to form two ponytails on the head and keep the hair out of your dog's eyes, according to the "Guide to Home Pet Grooming." Part the hair from the corners of the eyes to the inner corners of the ears then across the top of the head, between the ears. Divide this portion of hair in two equal parts and secure each with a rubber band and add bows over the elastic for decoration. You can also use a child's decorative hair elastics or barrettes to fasten the hairpieces in place. Top knots are acceptable for showing your Maltese, according to the AKC.
The puppy cut is a short-all-over haircut that makes the Maltese appear as it did as a puppy before her hair grew longer. While not acceptable for professional show dogs, this cut requires grooming only once per week. The hair on the dog is cut down to a uniform short length that eliminates any hair hanging down into your dog's face. Hair on the top of the head appears as a "mushroom cap," not hanging down at the sides. The hair on the head, tail, backs of legs and ears is trimmed with a scissors while the hair on the body, sides of the face, rear, neck and underside are trimmed down with a clipper. The overall effect is similar to that of a poodle or bichon frise.
Left to grow naturally, a Maltese's hair can reach 12 inches in length and touch the floor as she walks. Only the feet may be trimmed to clean up any stray hairs for show purposes. With long hair, the Maltese needs daily grooming of 20 to 30 minutes at a time and weekly bathing with a whitening shampoo and conditioner to keep the fur bright and shiny. Brush the hair gently, especially when wet, so you do not break the delicate hair and it flows gently around the dog as she moves.
For a Maltese with an intact long coat, wrapping is a style that allows your dog to be active without prompting worries about her coat becoming dirty and matted, or of hairs breaking. Sometimes referred to as bundling, this is especially useful prior to a dog show or during travel to a show. Divide the long hair into sections with a comb and wrap them in pieces of rice paper. Several smaller wraps or a few larger ones can be made all over the body, and each is folded and secured with a rubber band. The little hair "packages" must be unwrapped daily, brushed and then re-wrapped; you may want to spray each section with a leave-in conditioner to keep the coat healthy.
If you lead an active lifestyle and don't want to take the time to brush your Maltese daily, a shorter cut may be a better option. This style is easier to groom and to keep clean and mat-free, especially when allowing your dog to play outdoors. If your Maltese is prone to eye stains, a puppy cut trims away some of the hair between her eyes, reducing this issue. When you groom your Maltese, check her ears for any signs of infection due to excess hair. To prevent this, dust the ears with ear powder and pluck the excess hairs in the ear gently with your fingers, recommends the VetInfo website. Use a spray-in conditioner when brushing your Maltese to make the process easier and add some shine to the fur.
- Funny doggie image by Alina Chiannie from Fotolia.com