Shaggy or Supermodel: The Maltese Is One Breed With Two Very Different Looks

The breed standard for the Maltese sums it up: “The Maltese is a toy dog covered from head to foot with a mantle of long, silky, white hair.” But words can't really convey the flashy visual drama and glamour of a Maltese in full show coat.

When a stunningly groomed Maltese champion enters the show ring, it’s as if Angelina Jolie just stepped on to the red carpet at the Oscars. With a gleaming coat flowing behind him and a top knot held in place with a bedazzled clip, the Maltese seems to be floating on air.

But let’s step back from all the fawning for a minute. There’s another very appealing look for the ancient dog of Malta: The puppy cut. Despite the name, a dog of any age can sport this style. It basically just means a shorter coat, clipped to all one length.

So how does a Maltese owner figure out which way to go for her feisty little charmer? Well, for one thing, you don’t necessarily have to choose. If you give the longer coat a whirl and decide it’s not right for you—or your dog—clipping it down is a fairly simple matter. Here are just a few of the benefits of either style.

 

Puppy Cut

Maltese puppy cut
Photo courtesy Beth Levy/AKC Family Dog Photo Contest

  • It’s adorable. When a Maltese coat is cut down, it can look either wavy or straight, but the shorter, shaggier hair, especially around her head, really allows you see what a pretty face and sweet expression the breed has.
  • It’s easy. A monthly trip to your groomer is about all that is required to maintain the short length and avoid the dreaded mats.
  • It cleans up nicely. Even after a long roll in the mud puddles, a puppy cut can be washed and dried without needing extensive additional care.

Here’s how the puppy cut is done:

 

Show Coat

Maltese Show Coat

  • It’s head turning. If you’re the kind of dog owner who enjoys being in the spotlight, a show cut may be worth the effort you’ll need to put into it. But you may also need to build in an extra half hour for your daily walk—you will be stopped by curious and admiring passers-by eager to pet and coo.
  • It’s a hobby. If you enjoy a project and take pleasure in admiring a finished product, the time and care that goes into grooming and maintaining a show coat might be an enjoyable way to pass your Saturday afternoons. Of course, don’t forget your dog in all of this—if your Maltese still balks at the process even after a few tries, he may be telling you he’s more tomboy than glamour puss.
  • You get to buy hair accessory bling. Once you’ve mastered the top knot (see above), there will be plenty of clips, bows, and ribbons to shop for.

Maltese are also thought to be a good choice for allergy sufferers. While no dog is guaranteed to be 100 percent hypoallergenic, several breeds, have been known to cause less of an issue, including the Coton de Tulear, Poodle, Peruvian Inca Orchid, and the Bichon Frise.

And no matter which look you go for, as a Maltese owner you’re in good company: Halle Berry and Eva Longoria have had them, and Elizabeth Taylor had three: Sugar, Delilah, and Daisy.

 

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