What are Black Points and Halos on Maltese Dogs?

You may have heard the term black points or halos around Maltese Breed standards and have wondered what this actually refers to. The simplest definition is that black points are the solid black parts of the Maltese including the eyes, paws, nose and lips. Halos are specifically the black part of the eye rims. A more detailed description is below and goes into why people are concerned about the black points on a Maltese show dog as well as showing some examples of dark points and halos on Maltese puppies.

Black Points on Maltese Puppies

There are several standards known as the AKC Breed Standard and the FCI Standard and neither of these will mention Halos as a particular characteristic because it is more of a slang term. But black points are mentioned and are referred to to as the eye rims, paw pads and the dark nose and lips. The most sought after Maltese for shows have black points which are not fading, do not have any other color in them such as pink or orange, and they are a dark solid black.

It should be noted that for the average pet Maltese puppy having solid black points is not critical and can add character and a uniqueness to the Maltese puppy. But if you are looking for a Maltese puppy to train as a show dog and enter dog competitions then these characteristics are going to be important. The high contrast of the snow white fur of the Maltese and the blackness of their eyes, nose and paws is appealing to look at and is highly sought after in the dog competition crowd.

Halos on Maltese Dogs

As mentioned earlier is a term used to describe the black eye rims. With very dark, solid black eye rims it will look like the Maltese puppy is wearing a black eye liner. These solid dark rims are not as common as you would think and although it is a very minor detail it can make a big difference in the show dog competitions.

The reason that Halos are sought after is that because the dark black eye rims make the eyes look much larger than they are because they blend into the dark black eyes of a Maltese dog. If you notice cartoons, cute characters are often drawn with extra large eyes as this is subconsciously a sign of a caring, peaceful persona. The larger dark area on the Maltese due to the extra dark eye rims create this same subconscious idea and people see these Maltese as extra peaceful and cute. This helps with scoring when it comes to the dog shows.

My Maltese Puppy doesn’t have Halos? Is this a problem ?

If you do not intend to put your Maltese into the competitive show dog circuit then there is absolutely no issue with your dog having different color eye rims than black. There is always dogs which are primed and sought after for dog shows and these are always targeted with certain features, and if you intend to start breeding or competing at dog shows with Maltese then the halos and black points are going to be a very important feature, as is the color of the fur. The fur of the Maltese will need to be white like snow and kept in good condition to give it a beautiful shine.

Now as has been said if you want a show dog with black halos and very dark black points you are going to pay extra for your Maltese but if you are the average family or person looking for a puppy to love then these minor imperfections won’t even be noticed and may be adored as something which is unique about your Maltese puppy compared to the rest.

Maltese Breeding and Black Points and Halos

The AKC Breed Standard and the FCI Standard are there as goals for breeders on what will be judged for show dogs. They are a guideline on what dogs will make a great dog show champion and breeders will strive to breed these characteristics. This can impact the gene pool on the puppies long term but as with all babies they are unique and the perfect black points will not be attainable on all Maltese puppies. Breeders will tend to keep the best Maltese with the darkest black points for future breeding and competition and sell off the other Maltese to loving families. They keep those with the darkest black points to try and advance this genetic trait in their future breeding cycles. One of the interesting parts of breeding is that genes from Maltese several generations back can appear in Maltese breed today. For these reason black points are fairly common as they have breed into this small dog breed but the halo rims are still a rarer trait that is harder to find. As breeders continue to seek out these traits it is likely that the black halos on a Maltese puppy will become more common place.

Examples of Halos (Black Eye Rims) in Maltese Puppies

All Maltese will have some color in their eye rims but it isn’t always a deep dark black. The following pictures try to show the difference between a halo which is the dark eye rims and non-halos on Maltese.

This Maltese has Black Points and Halos

The picture above shows a good image of a dog with classic black eye rims which make the eyes look larger. It has the very dark black eyes, dark solid eye rims, known as Halos, and a dark nose and lips.

Another Classic Halo image

The image above is another classic example of good black points and halos for a show dog. The nose, eyes, lips and eye rims are all solid black.

Not a classic show dog with black points but extremely cute nevertheless

This image above shows a dog which does not have the back points and halos. The nose is slightly pink and the eyes rims have a speckle of brown in them. While this dog is indeed adorable, it would not score highly in a dog show based on the AKC and FCI standards. Nevertheless, it is obvious this dog gives a lot of love to its owner and its owner also loves it very much and that is what dog ownership (and owning a Maltese dog) is all about.

What is the AKC Breed Standard and the FCI Standard?

The AKC breed standard is the American Kennel Club breed standards. The FCI standard is the Federation Cynologique Internationale standards but is also known as the World Canine Organization standards. These are standards which have been set for breeders and are used for dog competitions. These standards recognize breeds and provide the details and standards for a pure bred of that breed.

A few of the examples of these standards include, As per the AKC there are only three accepted colors for a Maltese. These are the Standard White (color code S 199) fur and there are two recognized alternatives which are White and Lemon (color code A 211) and white and tan (color code A 217). The standard also says that the lemon and tan colors can only be present on the ears for it to be a purebred Maltese. For the FCI standard the color of White is the preferred color but they also allow a pale ivory/cream color. Traces of orange are also acceptable but in judging there will be points deducted for this discoloration.

The black points are also noted in the standards and are classified as code S 019. This is the standard marking that is given to Maltese for the nose, eye rims, paws and lips if they are solid black. For a show dog this is the expected grading. One thing to note is that some dogs are born with black noses and the color can fade. This is typically due to using a plastic bowl. It is much more preferable to use a stainless steel bowl and it will stop the blackness on the nose from fading. Black and brown eyes are possible within the breed and black eyes are preferred for competition dogs.

Interestingly, the AKC Breed standards do not have a nail color specified for Maltese but the FCI does have a standard. The wording again points out that it “should be black or at least of a dark color”. Once again paws and the nails are one of those black points on a Maltese and a contrasting color which is dark is preferred. While not common, some nails will come in cream or tan color and these will be judged negatively in competition.

Hopefully this article has done a comprehensive and detailed explanation for Maltese Halos and Maltese black points so that you now understand what breeders and dog show competitors are talking about when they reference these characteristics. Remember they are only important for show dogs and breeders and it is not a flaw to not have show quality black points. If there is something which we missed about this topic then let us know in the comments. Does you Maltese have halos ? If so why not send in a picture so that is can be used as an example.


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