How to Identify a Show Worthy Maltese
If you've made a decision that you'd like to show your Maltese dog at the next dog show in town, you'll need to be aware of what's expected by way of standards and appearance. To work out whether your Maltese is show-worthy or not, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the competition’s guidelines and inspect your dog for qualifying characteristics. Focus on your dog’s physical appearance as well as its trainability and personality traits.
Examining Physical Features
1. Assess the body of the dog.
The standard body of a Maltese is compact. Typically, the distance from the withers (shoulders) to the root (base) of the tail should be the same as the distance from the withers to the ground. Its back should be level from the tail to the shoulders. The dog's chest should be slightly deep and the loins should be tight and slightly tucked under.
- The dog's neck should hold the head in a high position, almost as if the dog is holding its head back a little.
- The tail should be curled over the dog’s hind end. The tail should also be plumed.
- The front feet can be slightly turned out, but turned out back feet are not permitted.
- The Maltese pup’s paw pads should be completely black.
2. Inspect the dog’s face.
The face of a dog is one of the most important aspects of a show dog, especially when it is being closely scrutinized by a judge during a competition. A Maltese dog should have a slightly rounded head on top with drop ears and a medium length snout.
- The dog should have a black nose, with its eyes a deep brown or black.
- The skin around the eyes should be dark.
- The jaw should be lined up in a scissor bite. A parrot or sow bite is considered not desirable for this breed.
3. Check the appearance of the coat.
The coat should be pure white. But it can be common to see cream, tan, or lemon ears. These colors should be seen nowhere else on the coat. It is preferable not even to have these pigments on the ears, although it is still permitted if they are light and barely noticeable.
- The coat should be silky and thin, never greasy.
- Maltese dogs can also have red fur on their feet, but this is not permitted in most show competitions.
4. Ensure that a male dog has two scrotal testicles.
The testicles should appear normal and fully descended. Retained testicles are not acceptable on the dog show circuit.
Identifying Desirable Personality Traits
1. Look for obedience.
One of the most important traits for a Maltese show dog to possess is obedience. This trainability should be at least somewhat obvious, even as a young puppy. Notice if the dog listens to you when you speak to it and if it seems to adapt its behavior based on previous learning experiences.
- Try telling the dog “no” to a behavior you don’t want it to do. If the dog seems to understand, or at least try to, then this is a good sign for trainability.
2. Monitor for temperament.
Personality is one of the things these dogs are known for. The dog you are showing should be fearless. They are sweet dogs that are not at all aggressive. The personality needs to be playful. Any Maltese without these traits is not show worthy.
- You want a Maltese dog that is comfortable around people and not afraid of a crowd. Your dog should not be aggressive or shy.
3. Meet the parents.
If you are purchasing a puppy, meet the parents of the litter. If you cannot meet the father, at least see the mom. By observing the behaviors of the parents, you should be able to get an idea about the temperament of your puppy.
- Behavioral characteristics in dogs are often shared genetically – so a dog that is mild-mannered is likely to give birth to puppies with similar mild-mannered temperaments. And vice versa with disobedient or aggressive behaviors.
- This is also a great way to get an estimate about the ultimate size your Maltese puppy will grow to.
Understanding Show Guidelines
1. Acquire registration papers.
All Maltese dogs entered in shows must be registered as purebreds. In most cases, you should have been given your dog’s registration papers directly from the breeder when you acquired the dog. Most U.S. competition shows require AKC registration, so be sure to verify that.
- In some competitions, other types of registrations are partially acceptable. For example, CKS and APRI registered dogs are often allowed to participate in most events at shows, only excluding the Conformation event.
- If you don’t have any papers for your purebred Maltese dog (and you can’t get any from the breeder), you can contact the AKC to see what they can do to help you. In some cases, accreditation can be given with photo evidence and written statements by witnesses who claim that the dog is a purebred.
2. Maintain weight requirements.
Check to see whether the dog complies with size breed standards according to the AKC. The AKC requires a Maltese to be under seven pounds (3.2 kg), but four to six pounds (1.8 - 2.7 kg) is preferable.
- You could also check with another relevant body, such as the Kennel Club. In some cases, the show entity will have its own rules regarding breed-specific weight requirements.
3. Get the necessary training.
Many dog competition shows require a certain amount of training to prove that your dog is ready for entry in a real competition show. This training involves obedience tests and command tests.
- To get your Maltese to a point where it is ready to succeed in a dog show, you’ll need to focus on obedience training. This means practicing commands, establishing your position as the leader, rewarding your dog when it behaves correctly, leash training, and teaching your dog some simple commands. Once your dog masters some easy commands (like “sit,” “stay,” and “come”), you can move to more complicated tasks like fetching, following you without a leash, and rolling over. Make sure your dog knows how to stand and carry itself well so that its flowing coat is on display.
- Some shows also require entry into a preliminary competition at an unofficial dog show called “Matches.” These events are still hosted by kennel clubs and help dogs become more socialized and accustomed to the show atmosphere.
4. Aim for success.
A successful Maltese show dog must have a willingness to perform, which often translates into a demanding, pushy attitude. Winning show dogs often want to be the center of attention with their owners.
- A dog who loves to perform, even under pressure, will be able to succeed in the stressful show environment when other dogs may break due to the stress of the situation.
- Get your Maltese from a responsible breeder who is attached to a reputable breeder's association or dog society. Some person who had an accidental breeding who posted an ad online is probably not going to give you a good, healthy, quality puppy.
- With your own dog, if you are concerned that its coat is not white enough, there are plenty of whitening shampoos available at your local pet store.
- If you decide to show, start young with training. It’s just as much about how the dog performs as it is about the dog’s natural temperament and appearance. It is never too early to start training.