Are Maltese Dogs Aggressive?

By John Martin - September 15, 2022

Maltese dog hanging out car window

Being a dog parent can sometimes be very troublesome and difficult. While showering your canine pet with love is easy, it can be worrisome if you are unsure about their temperament.

Most people worry about dog aggression. This article will set the record straight on the topic of Maltese dogs—are they aggressive? Let’s find out!

Are Maltese Dogs Aggressive?

Maltese dogs make excellent family pets because of their playful personality and gentle nature. They work well with children and adults of all ages.

They are very lively and have an abundance of energy for their size. They are easy to train and learn well. They are good for people who are moderately active.

Generally, they do not have aggressive or dominant traits. However, in addition to their genes, their environment also plays a big role in their temperament.

As with other dog breeds, Maltese dogs require structure and rules to keep them in check. If no boundaries are established, they can show signs of aggression.

Regardless of size, all dogs must be trained well to create stable pooches who are obedient. Training will ensure that your pet is well-behaved in the house and around other dogs and people.

Though aggression is not an innate trait for Maltese dogs, it does not mean they cannot turn aggressive. There are several reasons why a Maltese becomes aggressive.

Signs of Aggression

Keep an eye out for some common signals that indicate aggression in a Maltese or any other dog. The aggression may be directed towards people or other dogs.

In case of dog-to-dog aggression, you will notice your pet baring teeth at them, lunging, making direct eye contact, posturing, or raising their hackles in the presence of the other dog.

A Maltese may also nip aggressively at the other pet or snarl and snap at them without cause.

Fear can also result in aggression. Fear aggression can be seen in the defensive posture of the dog.

A scared, aggressive dog will avoid eye contact, tuck their tail between the legs, and have submissive body language. Unexpected contact may cause them to bite and snap at whoever is near them.

Take note of their body language. Aggressive barking at strangers and a frozen body positing is also a sign of aggression.

Reasons for Aggression in Maltese Dogs

There are numerous reasons why an adorable Maltese may start behaving aggressively. Below are some of the possibilities for their aggressiveness.

Health Problems

Aggression can be triggered in dogs due to health problems, regardless of their breed.

Maltese dogs are genetically inclined to suffer from liver issues, patellar luxation, and cardiac issues.

If your dog feels poorly, they may act out. The aggression instinct is triggered as a need to disguise any sign of weakness. It is seen in wild animals. However, domesticated pets also carry the same instinct.

If a Maltese dog is suffering from patellar luxation (spontaneous dislocation of the knee joint), they may bite or growl to show their displeasure at the pain.

Thyroid or other hormonal issues may also act as aggression triggers in Maltese dogs.

Lack of Socialization

Aggression in these dogs can be a sign they are poorly trained and lack sufficient socialization.

Poorly socialized Maltese dogs will also display aggressive behavior. You may notice they act out in the presence of other canines or pets.

However, before you come to any conclusions, you should step back and take in the big picture.

Maltese dogs in multi-pet homes are likely to show aggression. They may feel they are competing for your attention and other needs. This will bring out their aggressive side.

It is important that they get proper exposure to various social scenarios, animals and pets so that they can distinguish between a potential threat, a friend, and a neutral situation.

Poor Training

Proper training is key to getting rid of bad behaviors in any dog. Most cases of canine aggression are a result of improper obedience training.

The Maltese breed is not easy to housebreak. They are stubborn and like getting their own way. If proper boundaries are not laid down, they will try to dominate and act as the alpha with their human.

Training is extremely important to ensure obedience. Overindulging them can also put a kink in their obedience and result in aggressive tendencies.

Separation Anxiety

Some dogs suffer from separation anxiety when their human parent is away from them. If left unattended, they may develop some behavioral problems like aggression.

These problems may manifest as aggressive barks, insistent attention, and even sharp bites.

Trauma or Abuse

Traumatized or abused dogs are prone to aggressive behaviors. Dogs that underwent abuse under a previous owner usually suffer from PTSD and anxiety. They may have specific triggers that result in fear-related aggression.

You will need to enlist the help of a professional to help eliminate the bad behavior and create a layer of trust. In such cases, patience is important.

Once your dog feels they can trust you, their aggression will likely recede.

How to Deal with Aggression in Maltese Dogs

By nature, Maltese dogs are not aggressive. If certain circumstances do turn a Maltese dog aggressive, you will have to figure out a way to deal with it and get rid of the behavior.

However, before you take a step towards dealing with it, you will first need to understand the reason behind the aggression.

Assess your dog. Are they in pain? What are the signs of aggression? Does the aggressive behavior happen only around certain pets or people? Take note of everything.

Once you have figured out the underlying issue, you will need to deal with it appropriately to stamp out the bad behavior.

It is important to use positive reinforcement with them. Do not punish them for their aggressiveness. It will only backfire and worsen the situation.

Encourage good behavior with rewards. In some cases, it may help to reach out to a professional for assistance in figuring out the issue and correcting the behavior.

The Takeaway

Maltese dogs are an adorable breed. Though diminutive in size, they have a fiery spirit. However, they are usually not aggressive in nature.

Circumstances such as poor socialization and training, health issues, abuse, etc., can trigger aggression in these tiny dogs.

In order to deal with the behavior, the owner must first under the underlying cause. A few simple adjustments and a lot of patience go a long way in getting rid of a Maltese dog’s aggression.