Maltese dogs are affectionate small dogs with silky white coats. Because of their tiny size, they're popular with pet owners who like to carry their dogs around with them, or who live in small homes. An AKC-registered Maltese with good parentage can sell for more than £1,300, making them a lucrative dog to breed, but successfully breeding them is not easy. Maltese puppies are delicate, and the mother's size often makes giving birth challenging,
Have male and female dogs tested for Brucellosis prior to breeding. This condition is rare, but can cause infertility. Before taking a female Maltese to the stud, she should have a health report from the veterinarian to show the stud's owner, including a vaginal cytology report and an eye certification.
Choose a stud. Consider what qualities are important for you, such as size, temperament, or potential show qualities. Some Maltese breeders specialise in breeding very small dogs, while others select for qualities that make good pets. It is traditional for the female to go to the stud for breeding, so you should also consider the distance you need to travel to get the female to the stud during her most fertile period, which usually only lasts about a week and may occur as rarely as once a year.
Agree on stud fees and other conditions prior to breeding. Stud fees for high-quality, AKC-registered Maltese males range from £195 to £650, though many stud owners will also accept the pick of the litter for payment. Cash payments are usually made before the dogs are bred. Maltese females can be difficult to impregnate (especially if it's their first breeding), so some stud owners might agree to try more than once for a single payment, until the female becomes pregnant.
Decide whether the puppies will be open or limited registration. Open registration means the puppy owner will be able to breed the dog, while puppies with limited registration must be fixed when they're 6 months old. Generally Maltese stud owners with a good dog will require limited registration in a contract prior to breeding, to protect their dog's line.
Breed Maltese females for the first time when they're about a year and a half old, and studs after they're 6 months old. Watch her after breeding to see if she has got pregnant. If she's pregnant, her vagina will remain slightly swollen after her heat cycle has finished. After 50 days, her nipples will begin to swell, and her belly will become noticeably swollen in the last 3 weeks of gestation. Maltese gestation lasts around 65 days.
Ensure the female has good nutrition during pregnancy and lactation. Ask your vet to advise you on the best food and supplements for the mother dog as her pregnancy progresses, and for the puppies after they're born. Vets and breeders all have differing opinions on the best nutrition for Maltese mothers and puppies.
Watch the female carefully for signs of labour during the end of the third trimester. Many Maltese require Cesarean deliveries for their first pregnancies, so watch for any signs of distress, such as crying, brown or green mucous coming from her vagina or bearing down with no result. If puppies are delivered by Cesarean, you will have to help them find the nipple. You will also have to massage their genitals to ensure elimination of meconium until the mother is alert enough to stimulate the puppies herself by licking.
Help the mother bear any puppies that become stuck during a natural birth by applying a lubricative jelly around her vagina and gently pulling the puppy out. Because Maltese are so small, problems with natural births are common. A puppy that remains in the birth canal for too long can die or become brain damaged from lack of oxygen.
Tear the birth sacs from the newborn puppies, and use an infant nose syringe to clear their noses and mouths. Tie the umbilical cords with dental floss or strong thread about ½ inch from the pups' bodies, and cut the cords with clean scissors above the knot. Give the pups to the mother to clean. Maltese puppies are not as hardy as other dogs, so a little help during and after birth helps ensure more live puppies and a stronger mother.
Ask your vet for advice on how to care for any runts. Runts often require around-the-clock feeding and care until they are strong enough to nurse by themselves.
Don't allow visitors to handle the puppies until the puppies are about 6 weeks old. Wash your hands before handling them yourself, as Maltese pups are prone to infection.
Begin weaning the puppies when they are 4 to 6 weeks old, following the mother's lead as she begins nursing them less. Start feeding them ground-up kibbles, and keep the mother's food separate to prevent the puppies from choking on it. Supplement their diet with weaning milk, as advised by your vet. Do not separate the puppies from their mother until they're at least 12 weeks old.
Choose a vet to handle the delivery, especially if it's your first time breeding Maltese. The vet should have expertise in delivering puppies for Maltese and other small dogs. Even if you're prepared to deliver pups naturally at home, Cesarean births are quite common for Maltese. Maltese deliveries can be difficult for both the mother and the pups, and a good vet can help ensure as many live puppies as possible. Go to an experienced Maltese breeder for detailed advice and information on Maltese delivery, and for instructions on caring for Maltese puppies and pregnant mothers.
Maltese mothers and puppies are fragile and susceptible to illness and injury, so breeding them should only be undertaken by dedicated professional breeders. Change the bedding for the mother and puppies daily to protect them from bacterial infection.