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Westie Vs. Maltese: Breed Differences & Similarities


Last Updated: August 31, 2022 | 10 min read | Leave a Comment

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The West Highland White Terrier and the Maltese are similar-looking dogs, albeit one has silky smooth locks, and the other is a bit more scruffy. But what about their personalities? Well, one is a charmingly sweet canine, and the other is a crazy kid. They have very different personalities, which can make choosing between them much easier than other breeds.

If you’re wondering which small pup should be your next pet, this guide is a must-read. We’ll cover their histories and how it affects their personalities today. Additionally, we dive into grooming, nutrition, exercise differences, and much more.

They are both popular with families across America, but they do need different kinds of families. So, want to find out who is who? Read on to find out more!

Breed Comparison


  • Height 10-11 Inches
  • Weight 15-20 Pounds
  • Temperament Happy, loyal, entertaining
  • Energy Moderate
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 13-15 Years
  • Puppy Prices $800 and Up


  • Height 7-9 Inches
  • Weight Under 7 Pounds
  • Temperament Gentle, playful, charming
  • Energy Moderate
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Puppy Prices $2,000 and Up

Breed History

Researching a canine’s breed history is one of the most important parts of determining whether they are the right breed for you. It can tell you a lot about what they will be like as a family pet and explain why they are the way they are. So, let’s see how the Westie and the Maltese history compare.

West Highland White Terrier

Westie smiling and sitting next to green kiddy pool
Westies are a popular purebred that comes from northwest Scotland.

The West Highland White Terrier is an earth dog that comes from humble beginnings. His exact history is unknown because it wasn’t well documented. But what we do know is that he is one of many Scottish Terriers who farmers created to eradicate pests from their farms. It is believed that he comes from the northwestern part of Scotland. The Poltalloch estate documented the breeding of small white terriers, so they likely originated there.

Westies first appeared in Scottish dog shows in the late 19th century. It is believed that they first came to America in the early 20th century, and they were first shown in the AKC ring in 1906. They are currently the 42nd most popular breed in America. Despite being a working-class dog, he has charmed many celebrities and royalty, including Whoopi Goldberg, Alfred Hitchcock, and Duchess Kate Middleton.


Cute White Dog Lounging on a Couch
The Maltese is known for being incredibly gentle, as they were bred as lapdogs.

The Maltese’s origin traces back to more exotic places, namely Malta. Although his history is also slightly confusing, as many historians believe he hails from Italy. We know that he is an ancient breed and was popular with royalty as far back as 3500 B.C. The Egyptians thought the Maltese were sacred pups with healing powers, so they worshiped them and built tombs.

Sadly, breeders nearly destroyed the Maltese line by attempting to breed them to the size of a squirrel. Thankfully, Chinese fanciers restored the breed by mixing them with similar toy breeds. The saved breed was sent to England and restored to the Maltese we know and love today. The Maltese is slightly more popular than the Westie. He is currently ranked as the 37th most popular dog breed in America.


West Highland White Terrier Vs. Maltese Appearance
The Westie and the Maltese are similar-looking dogs, although they are easy to tell apart.

The Westie is the larger of the two breeds, and he is considered a small-sized dog. He measures between 10 to 11 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. And he weighs between 15 and 20 pounds. Maltese are toy-sized dogs. He measures between 7 and 9 inches tall and weighs no more than 7 pounds. So, if you’re looking for a small dog, the Maltese is the best pup for you.

The Westie is a cheeky and curious-looking chap who always has a bright smile on his face. He has small, pointy ears set wide apart that look foxy. The Westie might be small, but his body and legs are sturdy and powerful. On the other hand, the Maltese is an elegant-looking pooch who has daintier features. His ears fall to the side of his face but are covered in feathering hair, so they are not visible.

The Westie and the Maltese are both white-colored dogs, which is often where the breed confusion sets in. But they have very different coat types. The Westie is a double-coated breed with a harsh outer coat and soft undercoat. The Maltese is a single-coated breed (no undercoat), and his hair is soft, silky, and naturally falls to the floor. The Maltese is a hypoallergenic dog breed, which means he is easier on allergy sufferers. But no dog is entirely hypoallergenic.


West Highland White Terrier Vs. Maltese Temperament
The personalities of the Westie and the Maltese are more different than similar.

It is usually the differences that help families choose between dog breeds. But let’s check out the similarities first. As they are both small dogs, you can expect tons of personality packed into their tiny bodies. They command attention, and you can expect they’ll get it.

They are both loving and affectionate with their families. They are both sweetie pies who adore their favorite humans. This love can lead to separation anxiety, so their families should be around most of the day. If you work long hours, neither of these guys is for you. The Westie could make a great traveling buddy, but the Maltese prefers home comforts for sure.

They are both polite and friendly dogs. However, the Maltese doesn’t extend his love to strangers or other unknown animals. Without proper training, the Maltese can be a headstrong and aloof dog who will bark, scaring strangers away. The Westie is completely different in that he loves everyone and everything he meets (except for rodents, obviously!). If your family is sociable and outgoing, the Westie might make the better choice.

The Westie is the more energetic of the two, and he is full of beans that must be satisfied and burned. The Westie is anything but a lapdog. And then there’s the Maltese, who makes a wonderful lapdog – he is one of the original! The Maltese is fun too. But he is less interested in playing all day and more interested in laying on your lap for total pampering.

They are both friendly and pleasant, and both do well with children and adults alike. The Maltese has an aloof side to his personality. But with treats and kind praise, he’ll be quickly won over by strangers. The Westie is super friendly and will happily roll over for belly rubs and play with anyone who’ll fuss him. They both make great watchdogs as they bark at visitors, so you might want to learn the quiet command.

The Maltese is the more serious of the breeds, and the Westie is the silliest. The Westie likes to be the center of attention and will entertain everyone with his clown antics. Although the Maltese is just as fun, he’s not as clumsy or silly. This guy has got a grownup reputation to uphold, don’t you know! This can make the Maltese more chilled in the home compared to the mad Westie.


West Highland White Terrier Vs. Maltese Exercise
The Westie and the Maltese are different when it comes to their exercise needs.

The Maltese only needs two short walks a day to keep them happy. Their small legs don’t need too much exercise, and they’ll enjoy lots of playtime back at home to wear their toy legs out enough. The Westie needs around 45 minutes of intense exercise every day to burn off those energetic beans.

The Maltese would be happy to walk around the same block most days. Their exercise is more about experiencing new smells, stretching legs, and pee breaks. In contrast, the Westie needs a varied exercise regime to keep them interested and energized. They are very agile and will happily take up any sport that you enjoy. If you let your Westie become bored, he will get into mischief.

The Westie has a very high prey drive, which means he shouldn’t be let off leash in public spaces. On the flip side, Maltese don’t have particularly high prey drives. However, you should be cautious letting any small pup off leash in public or even alone in your yard because birds of prey have taken some toy dogs! Other dogs may also prove too rambunctious for them.


West Highland White Terrier Vs. Maltese Training
The training needs of the Westie and the Maltese are also slightly different.

The Westie is always ready to learn new party tricks and please his master. This makes them relatively simple to train, which is why they make a top choice for first-time owners. Start training early, and reward the Westie with whatever motivates them, usually treats, toys, and praise.

The Maltese is a headstrong canine who can be a little diva-ish. This can make training harder and not an easy ride for new dog owners. The trick for training this pup is to keep training sessions short, sweet, and fun. You also need to resist their puppy dog eyes and not let them get away with naughty behaviors just because they are small. Otherwise, they’ll develop something known as ‘small dog syndrome.’

Socialization is one of the most important aspects of training for both dogs. It teaches them how to interact with the world around them, particularly other dogs, humans, and new situations. Getting this right can transform your pup into a polite pooch. But inadequate socialization can create an unconfident and anxious dog. Mix them both with as many new dogs and situations as possible from an early age.

Crate training is a necessity for both the Westie and the Maltese. They are both equally sensitive doggos who are prone to separation anxiety. Be sure to learn about crate training and invest in a crate perfect for dogs with separation anxiety. It will give them cover that they naturally crave, and it also means they can’t get at your prized possessions when bored and lonely.


Westie Vs. Maltese Health
The Westie and the Maltese are relatively healthy dog breeds who are expected to live well into their double digits.

Like all purebred dog breeds, the Westie and the Maltese are susceptible to certain health conditions as they run in their bloodline. Taking care of your bestie’s health is one of your biggest responsibilities. So, let’s take a look at the health concerns you need to make yourself aware of.

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common problems in the Westie bloodline, so all reputable breeders should evaluate their parent’s hip scores.

Westie armadillo syndrome is rare but unique to Westies. It causes yeast infections across the entire body, and their quality of life is poor. Westies are also prone to poor eye health, and the most common concerns are glaucoma and keratoconjunctivitis sicca.

Patella luxation is relatively common amongst small dog breeds, and both the Westie and the Maltese are prone to it. A floating knee cap causes this, and it can reduce their mobility if not treated. Another shared condition to research is white shaker dog syndrome. It is a rare inherited nervous system disorder. Thankfully, you can manage this with medication.

On top of the shared concerns above, the Maltese should be tested for various cardiac problems. Patent ductus arteriosus is the main cardiac concern, and it is a birth defect of the heart. It can resolve itself as the pup develops, but more often than not, surgery is required if it is serious.

Although not required, breeders are recommended to test their Maltese for congenital liver issues such as liver shunt as cases are higher in this breed than the average.


Westie Vs. Maltese Nutrition
The Maltese will eat less than the Westie because he is smaller.

The Maltese will typically eat between 1/2 and 1 cup of kibble a day, compared to 1 and 1 1/2 cups for the Westie. Never free-feed your dog because these guys will overindulge if allowed. The amount you feed them will be dependent on their size, age, and energy levels. Be sure to follow the package instructions to avoid overfeeding them.

If you choose to feed them kibble, they need one specifically designed for small breeds. The Maltese also has the option of food designed for toy breeds. Never try to save money on poor-quality food. It will not meet your pup’s nutritional needs, and you could end up spending more money on vet bills in the long run. Age-appropriate kibble is also an essential dietary need for both of these dogs.


Westie Vs. Maltese Grooming
The Westie and the Maltese have very different grooming regimes, which may be a deciding factor for some families.

The Westie needs to be brushed once a week with a pin brush to penetrate their harsh outer coat and prevent matting. The Maltese has long, silky hair, which needs daily comb brushing to reduce matting. The Maltese’s grooming regime is much more demanding.

If you choose to keep your dog’s hair short in a teddy bear cut, a professional groomer will probably not be required. But if you choose to keep the traditional coats of either breed, you will benefit from finding a trusted groomer. The Westie needs his hair hand stripped to retain his much-loved texture. And the Maltese requires grooming perfection, which can be time-consuming and tricky.

The Maltese has a single coat that hardly sheds, meaning he is better suited to slight allergy sufferers. The Westie is a moderate all-year-round shedder, meaning he is not suited to allergy sufferers. Both of these white dogs are prone to coat staining, which can be unsightly. So be sure to speak to your vet about the most appropriate way to remove these stains.

Puppy Prices

Westie Vs. Maltese Puppy Prices
The starting price of a Maltese pup is higher than the Westie.

A responsible Westie breeder usually prices its dog starting from $800, compared to a Maltese pup at $2,000. However, if you are looking for a show Maltese, you can expect to pay anywhere between $4,000 and $10,000. This is much more than a show Westie.

If you find either dog priced much lower than this (or much higher!), it is a sign that the breeder is irresponsible. And they are probably only concerned with profit rather than puppy health. Irresponsible breeders, puppy mills, and pet stores rarely do all they can to produce or buy healthy pups, so please avoid them. The Maltese breed is particularly prone to exploitation by puppy mills, so you need to research your breeder before committing to them.

If you can find either of these pups in rescue shelters, the adoption costs tend to be much lower than buying a puppy from a breeder.

Final Thoughts

The West Highland White Terrier and the Maltese are gorgeous white dog breeds that have won the hearts of many dog lovers across the world. And after reading our breed comparison guide, you can probably see why! They are more different than they are similar, which is great when trying to choose between them. Before making a decision, be sure that you can meet their needs. But whatever white pup you choose, you’ll find a little bestie for sure!

two small dogs tan and gray sitting in grass

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