Looking for an ideal little pup? Wondering which one is better – the Maltese or the Yorkie? Both dogs are great and we’ll go into detail about just what is wonderful for each breed starting with breed history.
Then we’ll cover differences in appearance, temperament and training needs, grooming needs, health issues, and life expectancy. By the end you’ll know for sure which one is best for you.
Maltese Vs Yorkie Breed History
The Maltese dog started in Italy. There’s a lot of debate on where and when. While many claim this dog comes the island of Malta it isn’t true (source). It is true that the breed was present in ancient Rome as a favorite lap dog.
The Maltese was a dog of the upper class of ancient Rome.
Even Aristotle mentions it around 370 BC. The Malt part of the name doesn’t come from Malta but comes from the island of Melita; however, at that time thousands of years ago there were two Melita islands so it’s unclear exactly which island it came from.
Yorkshire Terrier History
The Yorkshire Terrier comes from Yorkshire, a county in northern England during the mid 1800s (source).
Unlike the regal Maltese, this is a breed of the people. It was created by cotton and wool workers. There’s a theory that YTs were originally bred to hunt rats but the true reason behind the breed is unclear due to lack of documentation.
The parent breeds include the Scotch Terrier and may have included some Maltese (source).
The first Yorkshire Terriers came over to the U.S. in the 1870s and were first registered with the AKC in the early 1880s.
The current version of the Maltese is a long-haired white colored dog of the toy category. Their hair is smooth and silky.
Maltese weigh about 7 pounds on average. Their hair is long and can be grown out till it touches the floor which opens up a lot of creative grooming opportunities.
Due to their long hair they don’t shed often.
Yorkies also weight on average under 7 pounds when full grown (4-6 lbs typical). They are bit lighter than the Maltese.
Yorkie hair is typically a blend of blue, brown and black. Their dark black hair when young turns lighter and bluish as they get older.
Like the Maltese their hair can grow to the floor and is silky smooth.
Yorkies hair is designed to grow not to shed. Yorkie’s are a great choice for allergy sufferers.
Smart, gentle and playful are the hallmarks of the Maltese breed. They are curious but peaceful.
Socialization, as with all dogs, is highly important if you want your Malty to love everyone they meet. Be careful to have them meet and go to 50-100 friends houses and keep them going out to prevent separation anxiety.
According to the AKC, Maltese are slightly more outgoing than Yorkies (source).
Courageous, independent, and high energy. Also, one of the smartest toy breeds available. Yorkies are intelligent and train well. Since you’ll be cutting their hair often, in addition to socialization and house training, spend some time on hair grooming training. You want them comfortable with all 3.
Like other dogs you want to socialize your puppy for the first 3 months. Take them to friend’s houses and have them get comfortable being played with and petted by others.
Both Yorkies and Maltese have a tendency to bark. Don’t use this as a means of differentiating them or choosing one over the other.
For barking, the key is to get them young and work on bark training.
Both Maltese and Yorkies are intelligent dogs. With patience they can both be trained for the big three:
- House training and pee pad training
Yorkies, while intelligent, may be a bit more stubborn than Maltese (source).
The American Kennel Club recommends walking either the Maltese or the Yorkie twice a day (source). As toy dogs they are in the middle between being couch potatoes or needing tons of exercise.
I personally have a Chihuahua mix and love small breeds. Why? Their short legs make a mile for them much longer than it would be for a larger dog. I can usually tire my dog out after 6-7 miles of hiking and we do about 1-3 miles a day normally. This can easily be done spread out over the day in less than an hour. It’s great for you and for the dog.
Personally toy dogs and small dogs are great for the ability to exercise them without spending too much of your own time or needing a full yard.
Health and Dental Issues
The two most common health issues for Yorkies are eye issues and trick knees (luxating patella).
Maltese also have issues with trick knees. In addition Maltese can have heart issues (patent ductus arteriosus). They may also have liver issues and encephalitis.
Both Yorkies and Maltese can have teeth issues which are common in toy breeds. Daily brushing of teeth is required or large vet bills can be expected later. Vet work on teeth often requires full anesthesia which is not only expensive but a fairly invasive procedure.
Both Maltese and Yorkies can grow long, silky hair. This requires daily brushing if kept long. We have a full tutorial on cutting a Yorkies hair. Watch that and see if you’re up to it. Otherwise you’ll need professional grooming often.
Shorter hair also requires less daily brushing. In the tutorial above we also cover how to deal with dog hair that gets badly matted. Don’t let it happen! Brush often.
Just know that with these breeds they shed less and instead grow their hair long. Because of that you have to comb it or cut it often.
Maltese puppies can be purchased with papers for $300 – $800. Show quality breeds can cost over $2500 each.
Similarly, Yorkies can be purchased with papers for less than $800. Show quality breeds are similarly priced like Maltese.
We did a full article on the costs of German shepherds with covers their annual expenses. You can expect typical annual expenses for either a Maltese or Yorkie to be similar. Expect annual costs of about $200 – $300 per year and one time costs of about $4000. Those do not include the cost to purchase your puppy.
Why are one-time costs so expensive? That includes the more or less one-time costs of vet care near their end of their life. Either you paid about that in pet insurance for their life or you paid a big lump sum.
Based on the AKC’s analysis of health issues it would appear that Yorkies may get by with less health risks in old age. They do not seem to have the liver and heart issues of the Maltese. Of course, no real studies have been done on this so take it with a huge grain of salt.
In general, smaller dogs live longer so you can expect both your Yorkie and your Maltese to live long and do well till the end.
Speaking of which, let’s end with the end…
A massive study of over 75,000 dogs was conducted reviewing all causes of death from the Veterinary Medical Database (VMDB) (source). What did they find?
Maltese and Chihuahuas die most frequently of heart disease, specifically mitral valve disease which occurs often in toy breeds. Fox terriers had this too.
Respiratory and congenital diseases were a common killer of Yorkshire terriers.
The American Naturalist did a study and discovered that small dogs live longer (not surprising!). What is surprising is the numbers behind it. They found that for every 4.4 pounds of extra weight it will decrease a breeds life by one month (source). Keeping your dog fit and in their ideal weight range is key to helping them live longer.