As they belong to the same canine group, the Bichon Frise and the Maltese are two very similar dog breeds, as they share ancestors and, therefore, have many common characteristics, such as being excellent pets.
However, there are also numerous physical and behavioral aspects by which both varieties are distinguished from each other, and for that reason, we will review the main differences between the Bichon Frise and the Maltese here.
Although there are discrepancies about the exact origin of the Maltese Bichon, the majority agree that it comes from the Mediterranean basin. Considered one of the oldest dog breeds that exist, the origin of this lapdog dates back to 6000 BC, with the Romans being the ones who brought it to Asia, where it later gave rise to the Pekingese dog.
This canine family emerged from the crossbreeding of the extinct Barbet breed with Mediterranean lapdogs, which gave rise to two groups. On the one hand, the poodles and, on the other hand, the bichons.
In addition to those that concern us today, the Bolognese Bichon, the Habanero Bichon, and the Tenerife Bichon were also originated, the latter being the one that preceded today's Bichon Frise, which managed to avoid extinction thanks to its popularity in France and its export to the United States.
Related: Maltese, Bichon Frise, Havanese and Bolognese Comparaison
APPEARANCE AND PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
Both breeds are small in size and usually don't weigh more than 5 kilos (12 pounds), but in general, the Bichon Frise is somewhat larger than the Maltese. While the Bichon Frise measures between 23 and 30 centimeters (9 to 12 inches) in height and weighs between 3 to 5 kilos (6.6 to 11 pounds), the Maltese measures between 20 and 25 centimeters (8 to 10 inches) in height and weighs between 1.5 to 3 kilos (3.3 to 6.6 pounds).
However, the biggest physical difference between both breeds is undoubtedly the type of coat, which distinguishes them at first glance. The Bichon Frise has a double-layered coat, with an undercoat and an outer coat, made up of strong, dense, and curly hair, similar to that of a poodle.
Generally, the Frise variety wears its hair shorter, and although it can be left long, giving the dog a very fluffy appearance if brushed and trimmed, its length does not reach that of the Maltese coat.
The Maltese has a single, smooth, fine, and straight coat that stands out for its length, resembling that of a long-haired Yorkshire Terrier. As for the color of their coat, both being completely white is one of their similarities, however, sometimes the Maltese can have a slight yellowish or peach-toned shading in some areas.
CHARACTER AND BEHAVIOR
Both breeds are affectionate and family-oriented dogs with great adaptability to their environment, situations, and people, but the Maltese is better at adapting to changes than the Frisé. Similarly, the Maltese has a stronger protective instinct, which can make them jealous and barky without proper socialization.
In that sense, training the Bichon Frise is much easier than with the Bichon Maltese, as the former is a gregarious, playful, intelligent, obedient, and non-aggressive dog, in other words, the perfect pet for someone who has never had a dog.
With the latter, whose temperament is more vivacious, vigilant, and nervous, more perseverance, patience, and even a trainer may be necessary, depending on what one wants to teach it, although no Bichon usually gives problems regarding their behavior, and they are excellent companion animals.
EXERCISE AND NUTRITION
As small dogs, neither of the two Bichons require a high exercise routine. In fact, being such active, nervous, and playful dogs, they do not need additional training.
However, both the Bichon Frise and the Maltese love walks and outdoor play, so it is recommended to spend more time outside with these pets than just the strictly necessary walks.
Regarding food, the Bichon Frise does not need a special diet, but in the case of the Bichon Maltese, attention should be paid to crunchy foods so that they do not suffer dental problems, and overfeeding should be avoided.
CLEANLINESS AND SPECIFIC CARE
The main care required by bichons is that of their hair, which, on the other hand, makes them the pet suitable for allergic people, since they do not shed their hair and are hypoallergenic. Both need frequent brushing and cutting to avoid knots and look good.
However, due to their different characteristics, each variety has some care needs. The curly coat of the Bichon Frise must be brushed daily with a stiff bristle brush so that the hair is spongy.
The ideal is to bathe him once a month with a dry shampoo and, to avoid stains on his silky white hair, it is advisable to trim the hair around the ears and eyes.
As for the rest of the body, it is best to cut the hair with scissors following the contour of your figure.
The Bichon Maltese's hair is very soft so it should be brushed gently and every day with a comb for smooth hair. It is necessary to pay special attention to the cleaning of eyes and beard so that the hair of these areas is not dyed.
In addition, it is also good to collect the hair of the head in a bun or a ponytail so that it does not cover the eyes.
The Maltese coat is spectacular, but not as practical or comfortable for the care it requires, as it must be washed with dry shampoo regularly and dried properly. It will also be necessary to cut the hair of the ears and clean them well.
HEALTHBoth varieties of Bichon, the Bichon Maltese and the Bichon Frise, are typically resilient, long-lived, and healthy breeds. However, they also have certain breed-specific conditions, particularly related to their eyes.
In addition to eye-related issues, the Maltese may also suffer from patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap), distichiasis (extra eyelashes growing inward), hydrocephalus (water on the brain), and entropion (eyelids turning inward).