Maltipoo

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Maltipoo

One of the most popular of the Poodle hybrids to emerge over the past 20 years, the cute and cuddly Maltipoo has captured the hearts of many. The product of a mating between a pedigree Maltese and either a Toy or Miniature Poodle, this fluffy little dog is affectionate, docile, and great with kids and other pets. Its small size and low-shedding coat, which it inherits from both parents, make it very well suited to apartment living, but its tendency to bark persistently may create tensions between neighbours. The Maltipoo has the renowned intelligence of the Poodle, and is placid enough to be very easy to train. It is often recommended as an ideal choice for novice dog owners, being very unlikely to challenge the owner’s authority.

It is the quintessential companion dog, loving its snuggles and belly-rubs, and should never be forced to spend long periods alone, as it is prone to separation anxiety. If distressed or bored, this adorable bundle can be astonishingly destructive, leaving its owner in no doubt as to its unhappiness! Though the coat sheds very little, it grows rapidly and needs daily brushing to remove knots and tangles. Like all hybrids, the Maltipoo can inherit a range of health problems from the parent breeds, and anyone considering the purchase of a puppy should always research the health status of both parents. Though it often retains its puppy looks into its teenage years, the Maltipoo has a typical lifespan of 13–15 years.

About & History

While not officially a breed, the Maltipoo was developed in the United States from the 1990s onwards. Like other Poodle hybrids, the appeal of this cross-breeding lay partly in creating a dog with a low-shedding, supposedly hypoallergenic, coat; however, the Maltese, too, has a coat that sheds very little, so how much this was a factor remains unclear. Certainly, demand for so-called “designer dogs” was already strong when the Maltipoo was devised, and it would have been clear that the personalities of both parent breeds would perfectly complement each other in their offspring.

While both Poodles and Maltese are very affectionate dogs, the Maltese can be a bit too assertive and reactive in certain situations, and is known to nip when provoked. The Poodle, on the other hand, especially the Miniature, has a gentler personality and is far more tolerant, and this tends to shine through. Because the Toy Poodle can also be somewhat sensitive, Maltese/Minature Poodle crosses tend to be the more popular, rather than the tiny “teacup” Maltipoos that can also be found. Temperament aside, the teacup moniker is all too often used to rebrand hybrid or pedigree strains that have been poorly bred and are far more susceptible to many health problems, and puppies so labelled should be avoided if at all possible.

Appearance

Maltipoo Large Photo

There is no breed standard for the Maltipoo – each individual represents the random rearrangement of its parents’ genes, and so can take more after one parent than the other. Some Maltipoos will go through their lives being mistaken for one or other pedigree, though most do blend the features of Poodles and Maltese. The coat is very soft and fluffy, and most commonly grows in waves, rather than tight curls. If left unclipped, it can grow to 10–12 cm in length. It is usually a light colour, but possible colours and combinations include:

  • Cream
  • White
  • Silver
  • Apricot
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Parti-coloured (any combination of the above)

The body is well-proportioned with no elongation of the spine or shortening of the limbs. Most are athletic, muscular dogs, though they are prone to weight gain – something that must be avoided through good diet and adequate exercise. Size varies, depending largely on the Poodle variety from which it derives, but most Maltipoos will fall into the weight range 3–9 kg (7–20 lb), and measure 20–30 cm (8–12 in) tall at the point of the shoulders.

Character & Temperament

Maltipoos are affectionate, happy dogs that live to be in their owner’s company. They are extremely sociable, lacking the Maltese’s wariness of strangers, and most completely lack aggression, meaning they mix very well with other dogs and small pets.

They are very playful dogs, and so usually enjoy the company of children, although care must be taken with small Maltipoos that they are not dropped or otherwise injured by very young children. Alert and energetic, they make good watchdogs, as they will bark at the slightest unusual sound, but this can develop into a problematic behaviour if it is not curbed. Persistent, unprovoked barking is a common complaint with this hybrid.

Trainability

Photo of Maltipoo puppy

Maltipoos are easy to train. They are intelligent and always eager to please, and their natural docility means they accept their owners’ authority with question. As with any dog, they respond best to kindness and encouragement, rather than harsh correction should they misbehave, and raising one’s voice to a Maltipoo seldom has a positive impact on their behaviour.

In puppyhood, socialisation is of prime importance, and enrolling in a puppy class can help build the pup’s social repertoire once the primary vaccination course has been completed. Teaching the “speak” and “cease” commands to encourage the pup to bark when instructed can be helpful in managing nuisance barking.

Health

While a true cross-breed, or mongrel, benefits from its widely varied genetic make-up, hybrid dogs that are bred from two pedigree breeds are not so fortunate. While the vast majority will be healthy, all run the risk of inheriting one or more of the conditions that afflict their parent breeds. In the case of the Maltipoo, these are quite numerous:

  • Cryptorchidism – Failure of one or both testicles to complete the journey from within the abdomen to the scrotum before 12 weeks of age in male puppies. This can be detected by an experienced dog breeder or veterinary surgeon by palpation, and necessitates castration of the pup to prevent testicular tumours developing in later life.
  • Epilepsy – Signs are normally first seen between six months and five years of age. May or may not require medication, depending on the severity and frequency of seizures.
  • Hypoglycaemia – Occurs in young pups soon after weaning as a result of very small stores of starches within the body. Teacup varieties are particularly susceptible. Affected pups become depressed, unresponsive, and cold, and can die within hours if not supplemented with glucose.
  • Pancreatitis – An inflammatory condition affecting a digestive gland within the abdomen. Overweight dogs are predisposed. Signs include abdominal pain, inappetence, and vomiting.
  • Patellar Luxation – Malformation of the hindlimbs, allowing the kneecap (patella) to slip out of position during walking/running. Manifests as a three-legged skipping gait, and may require surgical correction.
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus – Failure of an embryonic blood vessel to close after birth, allowing blood pumped from the heart to bypass the lungs, resulting in low blood oxygen content. Diagnosed in young, lethargic puppies with an audible heart murmur and blue discolouration of the mucous membranes.
  • Portosystemic Shunt – Usually an inherited disorder, the presence of an abnormal blood vessel allowing toxin-laden blood from the general circulation to bypass the liver. Usually diagnosed in juvenile dogs showing ill-thrift and other vague signs.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – A common eye disorder inherited from both parent breeds, in which the light-sensing tissues of the eye degenerate in middle age, resulting in partial or full blindness. A simple blood test can detect carrier status, and all Maltese and Poodles intended for breeding should be certified PRA-free.
  • Sebaceous Adenitis – An inflammatory disorder of the sebaceous glands in the skin, resulting in hair loss, scaling, and irritation.
  • White Shaker Syndrome – Causes signs of trembling and loss of fine motor control in young dogs (usually arises before two years of age). May worsen with exercise and excitement. Though the cause is uncertain, it is thought to be an inflammatory condition, as most dogs respond to steroid medication.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Maltipoos are energetic and alert, but do not demand long walks. Most will be happy with around 30-minutes a day, though this should be doubled for those expected to live an indoor-only lifestyle. Their intelligence and deceptively athletic shape contrive to make them good competitors at agility and other sports, and many inherit the Maltese’s love of ball games.

Grooming

The wavy coat requires considerable work to maintain, and if left unclipped and unbrushed, is likely to end up a tangled mess within a matter of weeks. Maltipoos need daily brushing and combing, as the fine hair is prone to knotting. Monthly baths are also a requirement for most, though this must be done with a dog-specific shampoo to prevent drying and damaging the hair.

Although the coat could be left untrimmed with sufficient dedication on the part of the owner, in reality, Maltipoos need to be clipped at least every two months to facilitate easy grooming, and as their nails will also need cutting at around the same time, it is generally easier to allow a professional groomer to take care of these chores.

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