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Toy Poodles and Maltese are popular breeds that often get confused with one another. At a quick glance, these dogs look somewhat similar.

While these breeds are closely related, there are some key differences that allow you to distinguish them.

This article will discuss some of the differences to help you determine which one of these energetic and playful dogs is right for your family.

If you are planning on bringing a dog into your family and cannot decide between a Toy Poodle or a Maltese, learning about the two breeds will help you decide.

Toy Poodle and Maltese Overview

In exploring the Toy Poodle and Maltese breeds, you’ll discover their distinctive origins and histories, characteristic features that set each apart, and the unique personality traits that might make one a better fit for your family than the other.

Origins and History

Toy Poodle:

  • Origin: Descended from the larger Standard Poodle, which has roots in Germany and France.
  • History: Initially bred for hunting, the Toy Poodle was later developed in France for companionship.
Toy poodle puppy standing (outdoor shoot)


  • Origin: The Maltese is believed to have originated from the Mediterranean island of Malta.
  • History: Has a rich history as a refined pet of nobility, dating back over 2000 years.
A snow white maltese on a brown path running loose at the photographer.

Breed Characteristics

Toy Poodle:

  • Size: Stands between 24 to 28 cm in height.
  • Weight: Weighs around 2 to 5 kg.
  • Coat: Possesses a curly coat that’s hypoallergenic.
  • Colors: Can come in a variety of colors including white, black, apricot, and gray.


  • Size: Typically has a height of 21 to 25 cm.
  • Weight: Weighs between 1 to 3 kg.
  • Coat: Features a long, silky, white coat that’s also hypoallergenic.
  • Colors: Primarily comes in white.

Personality and Temperament

Toy Poodle:

  • Personality: Known for being intelligent, affectionate, and highly trainable.
  • Temperament: Energetic and playful, they are also alert and friendly, making them excellent family companions.


  • Personality: Renowned for their gentle, affectionate nature.
  • Temperament: Typically friendly and confident, the Maltese is playful and enjoys the company of their humans.

Physical Traits Comparison

When comparing the Toy Poodle to the Maltese, you’ll find distinct variations in their size, weight, and coat characteristics that set them apart as breeds.

Size and Weight Differences

Toy Poodle24 to 28 cm (9 to 11 in)2 to 5 kg (4 to 11 lbs)
Maltese20 to 25 cm (8 to 10 in)1 to 4 kg (3 to 7 lbs)

The Toy Poodle is slightly taller and can be heavier than the Maltese. While both breeds are small, the Toy Poodle often presents a sturdier frame compared to the Maltese’s more delicate structure.

Coat and Coloring


  • Toy Poodle: Possesses a curly coat that is hypoallergenic and light-shedding, which can be an advantage if you’re allergic. Common grooming practices include a range of stylish cuts that maintain the curly texture.
  • Maltese: Features a long, straight, and silky coat that also exhibits low-shedding properties. Due to its tendency to mat, regular grooming is imperative to keep their coats clean and smooth.


  • Poodles are known to come in a wide variety of colors, ranging from black, white, apricot, and gray to more unique shades like blue and silver.
  • The Maltese typically has a purely white or light ivory coat, making their appearance strikingly different despite the similar low-shedding quality they share with Poodles.

While they may both be small and possess qualities such as low shedding, your experience with each breed’s physical traits, especially grooming needs, will differ due to their unique coat types and the range of colors observed in Toy Poodles.

Behavioral Characteristics

When choosing between a Toy Poodle and a Maltese, you should consider their behavioral characteristics, including exercise needs, trainability, and social interactions with people and other pets.

Activity Level and Exercise Needs

Toy Poodles exhibit a high energy level and require daily exercise to maintain their mental and physical health. They enjoy regular walks, playful sessions, and are adept at agility courses. Adequate exercise helps minimize potential anxiety including separation anxiety.

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The Maltese, while still playful and energetic, often has a lower energy level compared to Toy Poodles. They require less rigorous exercise but will still enjoy daily walks and playtime. Both breeds can adapt to apartment living if their exercise needs are met.

Training and Intelligence

Toy Poodles are known for their exceptional intelligence and trainability. They respond well to positive reinforcement methods and can learn complex commands and tricks due to their smart and alert nature. This intelligence can sometimes lead to a barking tendency when they are trying to communicate or act as a watchdog.

According to Petmd.com, the poodle is the second smartest dog in the world behing the Border Collie. Here is what they say:

“Originally bred as a hunting dog, Poodles have a long history of working alongside their humans. This strong connection to their people means they’re relatively easy to train—they aim to please. Present-day Poodles might be a more common sight curled up on the couch at home, but these smart pups are still frequently at the top of the winner’s podium at obedience and agility competitions.” 

Maltese dogs may also be smart, but their trainability might require slightly more patience. They can be sensitive, so it’s crucial to use gentle, positive training techniques. Despite the need for a gentle approach, they can learn various commands and behaviors when consistently trained.

Social Behaviors with People and Pets

Toy Poodles are generally social and friendly with their immediate family. They can be reserved with strangers but are not typically aggressive. Early socialization is key to ensuring they are comfortable around new people and pets.

Maltese dogs are often very affectionate with their owners and can make excellent companions for families with children and other pets. With their friendly demeanor, they usually get along well with other dogs and even cats, especially when introduced properly at a young age.

By acknowledging the distinctive behavior of each breed, you can make a more informed decision that fits your lifestyle and preferences.

Check out: Border Collie vs Sheltie: Comparison Guide

Health and Care

When deciding between a Toy Poodle and a Maltese, it’s important to understand their specific health and care needs. Proper knowledge of their common health issues, diet and nutrition, and grooming needs is essential to maintaining their well-being.

Common Health Issues

Toy Poodles are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Patellar luxation, where the knee joint slides in and out of place, can be seen in this breed. They also may be at risk for epilepsy, a disorder that causes seizures. Another concern is eye disorders like progressive retinal atrophy.

Maltese dogs have their share of health challenges. They can encounter issues like the Toy Poodle, including patellar luxation. Additionally, they are prone to dental problems, due to their small mouths and teeth spacing.

Vet doctor examining cute but sick poodle dog with stethoscope at clinic

Diet and Nutrition

Your Toy Poodle or Maltese’s diet should be formulated for a small breed with high energy levels. Both breeds can benefit from high-quality dog food that’s age-appropriate—whether it’s commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval.

  • Toy Poodle: Protein-rich foods that support muscle strength.
  • Maltese: Often need dental care-focused diets to prevent tooth decay.

Caution: Both breeds can be prone to obesity, so monitor their portion sizes and limit treats.

Grooming Needs

Grooming is crucial for both breeds, not only for aesthetic reasons but also to prevent health issues.

Toy Poodles have a curly, dense coat that is relatively non-shedding. Here’s a quick guide for their grooming:

  • Daily brushing is recommended to prevent tangles and matting.
  • Professional grooming every 3-6 weeks is ideal for a haircut.

Maltese have a long, silky coat that requires a similar level of attention:

  • Regular brushing, several times a week, can keep their coat clean and free of mats.
  • Many owners opt for a shorter “puppy cut” to minimize grooming needs.
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Both breeds require regular ear cleaning, nail trimming, and dental care. Pay attention to their ears, especially if they are frequently in the water, as they can be prone to infection.

The white Maltese dog is trimming by electric razor by female groomer. Dog is looking to the camera.

Lifestyle Considerations

When choosing between a Toy Poodle and a Maltese, your living environment and family dynamics play crucial roles. Each breed adapts differently and requires varying levels of attention and activity.

Adaptability to Living Environments

Toy Poodles are versatile and can thrive in both apartments and homes with yards, provided they receive enough mental stimulation and exercise. They are energetic and appreciate space to play, but adapt well to smaller living quarters if their activity needs are met.

Maltese dogs are also well-suited to apartment living. Their smaller size and moderate energy levels make them ideal companions for those with limited space. Both breeds, however, require daily interaction and are sensitive to being left alone for extended periods.

  • Exercise Needs:
    • Toy Poodle: At least 30 minutes of daily activity.
    • Maltese: 20-30 minutes of exercise per day is typically sufficient.

Tip: Regular walks and playtime are essential for both breeds to prevent boredom and promote mental health.

Suitability for Families and Owners

If you are looking for a family dog, both Toy Poodles and Maltese are affectionate and enjoy companionship. Toy Poodles are intelligent and generally good with children, but due to their small size, interactions should be supervised to prevent accidental injury. They are social animals and often get along with other pets when properly introduced.

Maltese can make excellent family dogs as well, particularly enjoying the role of a lapdog. They may require more attention and may not be the best choice for families with very young children as they are delicate and can be easily injured. They do well with older children who understand how to handle them gently.

  • Family Adaptation:
    • Toy Poodle: Great with families, attentive to children, and pet-friendly.
    • Maltese: Better suited for families with older children, but also loving and loyal.

Note: Both breeds have the potential to be excellent companions, but consistent, gentle training is necessary to nurture their best qualities.

Frequently Asked Questions

When comparing Toy Poodles and Maltese dogs, there are some distinctive differences and characteristics to consider.

What are the main physical differences between Toy Poodles and Maltese dogs?

Toy Poodles typically stand between 24 to 28 cm in height and weigh around 2 to 5 kg. They have a curly, hypoallergenic coat. Maltese dogs usually weigh under 7 pounds and stand 7 to 9 inches at the shoulder, with a long, silky white coat.

How does the temperament of a Toy Poodle compare to that of a Maltese?

Toy Poodles are intelligent, active, and social, thriving in various family environments. Maltese dogs are known for being affectionate, lively, and very friendly, often forming strong bonds with their owners.

What are the grooming requirements for Toy Poodles versus Maltese dogs?

Toy Poodles require regular grooming to maintain their dense, curly coat, including clipping every 4–6 weeks. Maltese dogs need daily brushing to keep their long, silky coats free from mats and tangles, but they do not require professional trimming as often.

Are there any known health issues that are more prevalent in Toy Poodles than in Maltese dogs?

Toy Poodles are prone to issues like hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and eye disorders. Maltese dogs may experience health conditions such as luxating patella and dental problems, which are less common in Toy Poodles.

Which breed tends to be more suitable for families with children, Toy Poodles or Maltese?

Both breeds can be good with children, but Toy Poodles often have a slight advantage due to their robustness and playful nature. However, both breeds require supervision around young children to prevent accidental injury.

How do the intelligence and trainability of Toy Poodles differ from those of Maltese dogs?

Toy Poodles are among the most intelligent and easily trainable dogs, excelling in obedience and agility. Maltese dogs are also trainable and enjoy learning but may require a bit more patience and positive reinforcement.

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