• Mon. May 27th, 2024

How Smart Is a Maltese Dog? Canine Intelligence Explained


Jun 16, 2023
maltese puppy looking back


maltese puppy looking back

Quantifying an animal’s intelligence is subjective. That may be particularly true when judging our pets. Perhaps any dog owner will tell you gladly how smart their pups are and the tricks they can do. They may provide extraordinary examples of their canine companions, proving their intelligence. That’s true with any breed, including the Maltese.

The breed’s history offers valuable clues for determining how smart a Maltese is. Enthusiasts selectively bred the most intelligent dogs, like the Border Collie and Poodle, for certain jobs and behaviors. Many tasks were complex, nurturing intelligence in these breeds. The Maltese’s role for humans is as an animal companion. These dogs are likely as smart as most dogs, capable of the emotions of a 2 ½-year-old child.


Gauging Animal Intelligence

Scientists have explored the question of animal intelligence in various species. The goal is to develop criteria that are unbiased and non-subjective. That will give researchers a level playing field when considering multiple species. That can satisfy some benchmarks for universal testing of this concept.

Dogs share 84% of our DNA, which suggests they are at least capable of high-information processing. Science supports this suggestion. In one study, researchers have discovered similar voice areas in canine and human brains using comparative neuroimaging1. These findings support the importance of vocal communication, given that humans and canines shared a common ancestor 94 million years ago.

Researchers developed three aspects of intelligence to gauge this trait in other species.

They include the following:

  • Formation of general concepts based on experience
  • Problem-solving
  • Social intelligence or the ability to know conspecifics and humans

The significance of these criteria is that they allow for robust testing. Scientists can create experiments that demonstrate an animal’s capacity for each one. Armed with this information, we can gauge whether the Maltese or any other breed is intelligent. However, it’s essential to put it in context with canine abilities and the tasks that will tap into these qualities.

maltese dog sitting on the floor and looking up
Image Credit: Pezibear, Pixabay

Canine Criteria

A dog owner may judge a pet’s intelligence differently than a scientist conducting an experiment. Perhaps the best criteria involve the elements of training, a canine’s adaptability to new experiences, and the ease of behavior modifications.

The German Shepherd stands out in the first score since it can pick up new commands or tricks quickly. That makes sense, given its job as a guard dog. The ability to read situations and react accordingly is desirable in this breed. It is easy to train and eager to please, which provides further proof of its intelligence.

Dogs with jobs in herding, guarding, and hunting often involve independent thinking and decision-making. Many pups, such as the Chow Chow, can tolerate being alone. Some breeds also show a headstrong streak, like the Scottish Terrier. Their day-to-day life encourages this behavior. The Maltese doesn’t show these same tendencies. Instead, it is a gentle and affectionate animal.

The Maltese doesn’t like to be alone, which isn’t unusual for a pup selectively bred as a companion animal. It encourages this trait, although perhaps inadvertently. Likewise, this pup is sensitive to harsh words or negative reinforcement. This breed’s happy place is by its owner’s side. Anything that detracts from it is out of this dog’s comfort zone.

Being Cute

It’s a fair assumption that being cute and affectionate are essential attributes in a companion dog. They don’t require extraordinary intelligence to read their owners’ emotions. It’s simply a matter of being observant instead of solving complex problems. This role doesn’t challenge the Maltese, although the pup is easy to train since it goes hand-in-hand with pleasing its owner.

This breed is loyal and sometimes wary of strangers. The two traits are also compatible, given their historical and current role. The Maltese is also a playful dog, which falls in line with its personality. It’s worth noting that mental stimulation isn’t as critical for this breed as it is for intelligent breeds like the Golden Retriever. The Maltese also has a low wanderlust potential. Why leave a good thing?

divider-pawThe Intelligence of the Maltese

The Maltese can experience the emotions of a small child. Therefore, it can feel anger, excitement, and love. All are fitting for a companion animal. We can surmise that this pup is emotionally intelligent from a canine’s perspective and capable of the feelings that can safeguard its place in the household. Think about the implications of how smart the dog is.

A caregiver would see to their pet’s every need. The pup wouldn’t need to look for food or hunt prey or pests. It wouldn’t be challenged mentally to do more than be a friendly and affectionate pet. Therefore, we can conclude that the Maltese is as smart as any dog with the innate capabilities to navigate its world.

Maltese dog licking a nose of her female owner with colorful hair
Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

The Maltese is the American Kennel Club’s 39th most popular breed, with good reason. It’s a sweet dog that endears itself readily to its owner. We couldn’t agree more. Its compact size makes it a cuddly pup anyone would love to have. The easy life has its perks. However, it doesn’t encourage this breed to be any smarter than other companion animals.

Featured Image Credit: Petra, Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *