Why a Maltese Can Be Expensive to Buy

“Sticker shock.” A response we all experience when we go around shopping and find something we want, only to look at the price tag and be utterly baffled or astonished at how expensive it is. The only difference with a dog is that there can be a wide range of prices, practices, history, and upbringing for a living breathing thing compared to something churned out of a factory. Not only that, you have to be aware of how much money goes into owning and taking care of the dog, though we’ll cover that in-depth in another article.

How much is a Maltese, and why are they expensive? A purebred Maltese puppy can run anywhere between $700-$3000 typically, with a champion pedigree commanding prices in the upper range of several thousand. Key factors for this price include:

  • Feeding, sheltering and medicine
  • Vet care and training
  • Medical examinations and checks
  • Surgery to deliver the puppies
  • Typically only 2-4 Maltese puppies in a litter

Next, let’s dive into your options of getting a Maltese and compare the cost. You don’t want to rush through this process, as it will save you many long years of pain if you do your due diligence now. Would you save a few hundred now to cheapen your first deal with a shady seller now and deal with the medical expenses later? What about if you don’t need the best possible Maltese as long as it’s healthy? Should you adopt or buy from a breeder?

Adopting Versus Buying

In this article, we are assuming that you, the reader, are someone looking for a pet and an addition to your family and are interested in the cost involved in obtaining one. We will not be providing a complete buyer’s guide or how-to on getting a Maltese but rather an overview of the process with a focus on the financials. Adopting or buying a Maltese is a complicated topic, and we prefer to go into much more detail a future article.

Adopting a Maltese

Your first decision to make when you’ve decided to go for a Maltese is to determine whether or not you wish to adopt a Maltese at a shelter (or from an individual) or to buy one from a seller. If you are adopting a Maltese, you are making the conscious choice to take under your wing a dog that desperately needs a new home and loving owner.

In some countries like Korea and Australia, Maltese dogs (though this also includes mixes) are amongst the top breeds that are abandoned and taken in by shelters. Adopting helps the shelter as they have to invest the ongoing resources to ensure the health of the dog, assuming it will be not euthanized.

Because of this, shelters will price the fee for adopting the dog at a much lower cost compared to breeders and other sellers as they only have to account for the initial veterinarian treatments and rehoming expenses. You are probably going to look at a fee ranging between $0 to $1000, but typically closer to $300 for adults and higher for puppies. Check your local shelter for more information.

The downside is that adopting typically makes your range of choice and selection much more restrictive, and the Maltese you are looking for may not be in prime condition. If you are intent on getting an excellent purebred, then adoption will likely be a difficult path for you to take (about only 25 to 30% in shelters are purebred).

A good shelter will always ensure the dog is healthy and has a suitable temperament for adoption, but they cannot always provide the same level of information about the dog compared to a good breeder. It can be even worse with private adoptions where lost or non-existent vet records are not unheard of.

Dogs taken in by shelters may have experienced significant hardship or unusual cruelty from past owners which could result in behavioral issues. In this regard, adopting a Maltese is a bit like exchanging hands with a used car – a dealer or private seller might do their best to provide the paperwork and information they can but sometimes you never really know what you’re getting yourself into until it is in your hands.

Your other option is to purchase a dog from a pet shop or a breeder.

Pet Shop and Puppy Mills

A pet shop is just a name for a retail shop front that houses various pets on display and will also sell supplies for different types of pets. The Maltese puppies found in pet shops are often sourced from pet mills or puppy mills. Puppy mills are organizations that house animals for the sole purpose of churning out puppies to be sold to unwary buyers. The dam and sires are often kept indoors and have very little social interaction or outdoor activity which is highly detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

It goes without saying that these are typically unethical operations for the dogs themselves and you’re supporting an industry that strives for the profiteering and revenue generation over any genuine care of the Maltese breed itself. Despite this, pet shops do have one or two distinct advantages over breeders.

The first is the sheer availability and accessibility of retail stores that allow prospective owners to simply pop in and have a quick look at the range of pets available. This may be helpful if you are interested in small dogs of a certain color and temperament and want to narrow down your choices. Obviously, this would be of no benefit to someone who has made up their mind that a Maltese (or otherwise) is their breed of choice.

The second benefit is that you can buy the puppy you like provided you have enough cash. There is no vetting process, no checks and no other form of screening involved to ascertain whether or not the puppy is right for the owner or the owner is right for the puppy. Just pay and go. Now, this might sound awfully convenient, and there are definitely people out there who prefer things this way.

However, this basic check is a bit like an interview process – the job candidate and the company must make sure that they are right for each other before proceeding. This does not happen with a pet shop which MAY mean that the owner may be inadequately prepared for the addition on the dog. Thus, this can lead to a higher probability of abandonment down the track. Note that I still consider this an overall “advantage,” but it is important to keep in mind this caveat.

There are plenty of disadvantages to pet shops or rather puppy mills. Dogs are frequently inbred amongst siblings or closely related members which can increase the likelihood of health problems. The parentage of the puppies are unclear, and they are not usually health tested, which spells bad news for your supposed “healthy, purebred” Maltese.

You’ll also never see these parents because the puppies are taken away from them prematurely before they are adequately socialized amongst their litter, not to mention records of their pedigree are rarely kept. Consequently, housebreaking and training can be noticeably more complicated and is worsened by containing the puppy in a cramped, transparent cage at the pet shop until they are purchased.

Ethical Breeders

The price of a Maltese in a pet shop is surprisingly not too far from the average, hobbyist but ethical breeder. The cost will be between $400 to $1500, sometimes more. Put in a little more effort to seek out and find the right Maltese breeder for a similar price as this will net you far greater value and sense of security. The Maltese that you can come by with hobbyist breeders will be a similar price between $600 to $1500, and cheaper for a mixed breed. A reputable, professional breeder selling a Maltese of “show dog potential” will often command a price tag of $1500-$3500 range depending on age and gender (young, female being the priciest and older, males being cheaper). 

Ethical breeders charge more because of the costs involved in making sure the puppy is in prime condition for a new home. They are well adjusted, socialized, vaccinated, groomed and come with the proper paperwork. Ethical breeders can also serve as great mentors, and will usually provide great advice when asked.

They will also to conduct appropriate checks on the prospective owner to make sure the puppy is the right fit for the new home and vice versa. A lot of these breeders are committed and ready to take back the Maltese in the event of abuse or mismanagement, and they do try to keep tabs on the dog once they leave.

All of this means that you can be sure you are getting a healthier, stronger purebred Maltese right for your home. More expensive up front, but less headache and money down the track. And that means you are a happy owner of a happy Maltese. A content owner is less likely to abandon their Maltese, reducing stress on animal shelters which leads to less euthanized dogs and a happier environment overall.

Your actions allow you to vote against unethical practices of dodgy breeders and pet mills with your wallet. Hopefully, it also enables you to sleep better at night assuming you care about the wellbeing of the dogs. And it would for me!

Breeder Fee Breakdown

Regardless of whether you buy from a shop or breeder, there is a cost incurred to you based on how much it cost to breed and rear the puppy. Obviously, this does not directly apply to the option to adopt or rescue though there are certain overlapping costs, e.g., medication, shelter, food and so on.

Breedingbusiness.com has a rather excellent breakdown of the costs associated with breeders here. It is a long table, and the article contains some other, interesting information for you to read. A low-cost breeding program is priced at $1609, a regular one is priced at $3152 (I’m not sure how they came up with $3002), and a high-end one is priced at $8545 (ditto with $8245). As an aside, I’d like to point out that C-sections are somewhat commonplace in smaller dogs due to birthing complications and the Maltese are no exception.

By taking a “regular” or average cost of $3152 for a litter of 4 Maltese puppies, the cost per puppy will amount to approximately $788.  If we look at the three different categories and perform a similar division, then:

  • Yearly expenses – $305 total, or $76.25 per puppy (about 9.7% of the total)
  • Breeding-related expenses – $1155 total, or $288.75 per puppy (about 36.6% of the total)
  • Litter-related expenses – $1692 total, or $432.00 per puppy (about 53.7% of the total)

As you might be able to tell, the breeding business is expensive! The biggest expenses are breeding-related (for the parent dogs) and litter-related expenses (making sure the puppies are healthy and treated) by a considerable margin. Paying off that $1000+ price tag for a well-bred Maltese puppy should be an easier pill to swallow, now that you know what goes into breeding a litter of puppies.

But does that mean that $600 Maltese you bought from your friendly neighborhood Maltese breeder is a garage operation producing defective, el-cheapo mutts? Not at all! You can probably deduce that it won’t be the top of the line pedigree, but as long as the paperwork is there showing that the health checks, vaccinations, and relevant registrations have been done there’s no reason why it won’t be a happy, healthy addition to your family.

Likewise, a higher priced pure-bred champion puppy is not a bad purchase for those who know what they’re looking for. Sometimes, people just want peace of mind when they’re purchasing anything, including when shopping for puppies. Again, just make sure you take the time and effort in researching and making a well-informed purchase. Never be pressured into buying a puppy anywhere and only buy when you are 100% ready to commit.

Owner Initial Cost Breakdown

What we’ve discussed so far is just a comparison of the cost if you were to adopt, buy from a pet shop, buy from a hobbyist breeder or buy from a reputable breeder. We also had a rundown of the costs associated with breeding a puppy and how that passes onto the owner as a fee.

Now you may also be interested in a breakdown of the initial outlay after the recent addition of your brand new family member (congratulations!) Please keep in mind these are just ballpark figures, and that your mileage may vary. Different breeders, shops and, shelters may also take care of different items in the table, and some may also throw in several goodies as a gesture of goodwill.

ExpenseTypical Cost (USD)Comment
Adoption Fee$300See section above for more info
Purchase Fee (pet)$1000See section above for more info
Purchase Fee (premium)$2500See section above for more info
Medical Examination$70Varies depending on the clinic, and also what issues
they unearth when they examine the dog
Dog Registration$25Varies depending on your state or city
Spaying/Neutering$180Varies again depending on the clinic, but there are also
low-cost programs offered which can be found via the
ASPCA database in the link at the bottom of this page
Training$140Based on a price of $70/hour for a 2-hour initial session
Grooming$40Should be on the lower end of grooming fees, as smaller
breeds tend to cost less for grooming
Dog Bed$90The price varies heavily, from ultra el cheapo to
comfortable, orthopedic solutions, to heated beds
Crate$90Not all Maltese owners agree on housing their Maltese
in a crate
Transporting Crate$60Estimate for a mid-range crate
Leash and Collar$30
Toys$15Can get a range of toys depending on the needs of your

NOTE: It cannot be stressed enough that all costs vary and not all items may be relevant to you or your Maltese! Conduct your own research and get quotes directly from trainers, groomers, and vets themselves for the most up to date information.

Further Reading

Erin Auerbach [Washington Post] – “Why I’d never adopt a shelter dog again” – Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/17/why-id-never-adopt-a-shelter-dog-again
Heather Marcoux [Dogster] – “Do You Think $600 Is a Reasonable Adoption Fee for a Dog? ” – Link: https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/adopt-a-dog-adoption-fees
Michele Welton [Your Purebred Puppy] – “AKC Registered Puppies: Are AKC Papers Important?” – Link: https://www.yourpurebredpuppy.com/buying/articles/AKC-registered-puppies.html
ASPCA – “Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Programs” – Link: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/low-cost-spayneuter-programs