You’re trying to decide which breed is best for you, but how are you going to choose between Havanese vs Maltese?
Both of these lap-size dogs are cute, smart, and adorably funny.
And they have qualities that you love, like those gorgeous coats and playful natures!
So how are you going to choose between them?
That’s where we come in. Let’s look at both breeds and try to make your decision a bit easier.
Havanese vs Maltese History
Maltese dogs are from Malta, an island about 60 miles south of Sicily, Italy.
This island was a thriving seaport city thousands of years ago. It was occupied by many civilizations over its history, and the Phoenicians may have introduced the dog to Malta before the rise of Greece.
Maltese dogs were around in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. These “Melitaie dogs” were depicted in art from Greece and Rome, and even had tombs erected to them.
The Egyptians may have worshipped them, too!
Roman aristocrats turned these pups into a status and fashion symbol.
The Chinese kept Maltese from going extinct during the Dark Ages of Europe. They crossed them with native breeds to refine them, then sent them back to the West.
Maltese dogs were part of the first Westminster dog show in 1877.
This breed, once known as “Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta,” has been around for 28 centuries!
Famous owners may have included Emperor Claudius and Saint Paul.
The First Havanese
Meanwhile, the Havanese is a newer breed, named after the Cuban capital and bred for companionship.
These dogs may have been brought to Cuba by Europeans colonizing the New World in the 1600s.
Their forerunners probably include the Tenerife, ancestor of the Bichon family, and the Maltese. During their time in Cuba, the Havanese were refined with Poodle blood as well.
Cubans brought the dog to the U.S. following the Communist takeover there in 1959.
It is the only native dog of Cuba, and the country’s national dog. It has also been called the Havana Silk Dog or the Spanish Silk Poodle.
Famous owners of the Havanese include Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens.
The Maltese is the older breed by far. Both of these dogs belong to the Toy Group in the American Kennel Club.
Havanese vs Maltese Appearance
The Maltese is a small white dog with long, silky hair. Sometimes, they have tan or lemon on their ears.
These sweet dogs are 7-9 inches high and under 7 lbs. They are compact pups, with black noses, dark and alert eyes, and a long-haired plume of a tail.
As Maltese age, they may experience a slight discoloration in their fur around the face.
The Havanese is a small and sturdy dog that comes in many colors and color combinations, from gold, red, blue, and silver, to brindle and sable patterns.
Possible markings included cream, Irish pied, parti belton, parti-color, silver, silver points, tan points, and white.
These pups are between 8.5 and 11.5 inches tall and weigh between 7-13 lbs.
They also have a long, plumed tail, long floppy ears, and brown eyes.
So Havanese are a touch bigger and heavier in general. Havanese come in a larger variety of color and hair textures.
Neither dog comes in different sizes. So if you see breeders advertising for teacup, mini, or pocket pups, this may signal irresponsible breeding, or be a marketing ploy to get more money.
Small dogs bred for a more diminutive size may have more health complications, so beware.
Havanese vs Maltese Temperament
The Maltese is a gentle, affectionate, and fearless dog.
This breed is known for its liveliness and playfulness, and for its love of human companionship.
They are cheerful and sweet, and can make good pets for families with older children.
They are less suitable for homes with smaller children because they are so small and fragile. You should not leave them alone with toddlers.
Havanese are also friendly and playful and sweet. They are known to be intelligent as well.
Havanese love people, and do best with lots of attention.
Like Maltese, they can be a bit delicate. Yet they are better suited to families with children because they have a sturdier build and an easygoing nature that can handle more rough play.
Both breeds, however, are said to be charming, outgoing, and easy to manage.
Havanese vs Maltese Training
Maltese are intelligent dogs bred to be responsive to humans. They can be a bit stubborn, but do well with consistent, positive training methods.
They are athletic and do well in dog sports, like obedience and agility.
Maltese are very outgoing and require good socialization.
Havanese are eager to please and very smart, but can also be sensitive. Don’t scold them; positive reinforcement is best for both these breeds.
These dogs require early socialization and gentle training methods.
They are generally a bit easier to train than Maltese, though, and just as outgoing.
Remember, even small, friendly dogs are the result of good socialization, so don’t skimp!
Havanese vs Maltese Exercise
Maltese have a lot of energy, but their activity needs are moderate.
A daily walk and access to a fenced yard, or even running around inside, is probably enough for them.
Havanese have moderate needs in terms of activity, and like daily walks or playtime.
Do not over-exercise a Havanese. Watch for signs of overexertion, such as panting, and quit when your dog can’t keep up.
The small size of these dogs makes it easier to handle their exercise needs. Even when stuck indoors in inclement weather, they’ll be just fine if you make sure to play with them sufficiently.
Remember that they do best when they’re with their people! So plan on exercising with them.
Havanese vs Maltese Health
The Maltese lifespan is estimated to be about 12-15 years.
The Havanese lifespan is estimated at about 14-16 years.
Maltese are vulnerable to heart issues, including heart murmurs and patent ductus arteriosus.
They may have cleft palates or develop hernias.
White-coated dog breeds are known to be prone to inherited deafness and may get White Shaker Dog Syndrome, or idiopathic cerebellitis. This causes tremors in young, white-coated dogs and gets worse with stress.
Maltese may suffer from certain gastrointestinal issues, such as glycogen storage disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and microvascular dysplasia (liver shunt).
They can get encephalitis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease of the central nervous system.
They may experience orthopedic issues such as Legge-Calve-Perthes Disease and luxated patellas.
Respiratory concerns include collapsed tracheas and reverse sneezing, both of which look similar. Reverse sneezing, however, doesn’t usually need medical treatment.
Although they aren’t prone to inherited eye diseases, they still may experience such conditions.
Watch for Maltese breeders trying for a more brachycephalic (baby doll type) head. This can result in Chiari malformation of the back of the skull, interrupting spinal fluid flow and leading to additional problems.
Puppies and some Maltese lines are prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) until 3-4 months of age.
Maltese also experience occasional dental issues and tear staining around the eyes.
You should know that most responsible breeders will not let Maltese puppies be adopted until 12 weeks.
This helps them get socialized better and reduces separation anxiety.
Havanese are generally healthy, but do experience their share of genetic abnormalities, including shortened forelegs, hips, cardiac problems, mitral valve insufficiency, cryptorchidism (undescended testicles), dental issues, and cancer.
Some conditions similar to the Maltese include inherited deafness, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, liver shunt, and patellar luxation, and heart murmurs.
Cataracts and cherry eye are eye conditions the two breeds have in common.
Havanese also experience chrondodysplasia and hip dysplasia, along with hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and sebaceous adenitis (destruction of sebaceous glands).
Maltese vs Havanese Grooming
Grooming is an important part of your dog’s health.
The Maltese should be groomed daily to the skin to prevent mats and tangles.
The Havanese should be brushed at least 2-3 times a week.
It might be easier to get a close clip from a groomer every few weeks instead.
Havanese must be bathed as needed; Maltese require more regular baths.
Clean their eyes and watch for tear-staining, and check ears often.
Maltese have fast growing nails that should be regularly clipped, and should have their teeth brushed frequently, since they develop dental issues as they get older.
So Maltese require a bit more grooming upkeep!
The Havanese sheds occasionally, and the Maltese sheds infrequently.
There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, but both breeds are less troublesome for allergy sufferers.
Which Breed Makes A Better Pet?
Well, this really depends on your personal preferences, so only you can decide.
Just remember, Maltese may not be as suitable for families with small children, and they may come with some additional health concerns.
Also, they require a bit more attention to grooming.
But both dogs are sweet and fun and sociable, so you can enjoy either one!
Whichever you choose, check out our small dogs name guide!
Other Breed Comparisons
We’ve got loads of breed comparisons that you can check out! Take a look at some of them here.
References and Resources
American Kennel Club, Havanese.
American Kennel Club, Maltese.
Havanese Fanciers of Canada, Havanese and Children.
The Havanese Club of America, A Layman’s Guide to Havanese Health.
American Maltese Association, General Maltese Information.
American Maltese Association, AMA Health Articles.
Strain, G. M. (2015). Information on deafness prevalence, causes, & management for owners, breeders, and researchers. Deafness in Dogs & Cats, LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.
Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Cardiology.
Starr, A. et al (2007). Hereditary evaluation of multiple developmental abnormalities in the Havanese dog breed. Journal of Heredity, 98.
Sutter, N. B. and Ostrander, E. A. (2004). Dog star rising: the canine genetic system. Nature Reviews Genetics, 5.
Tisdall, P. L. C. (1994). Congenital portosystemic shunts in Maltese and Australian Cattle Dogs. Australian Veterinary Journal, 71(6).