Like their parents, morkies are small, energetic toy dogs who love their families. Because they can be vocal and territorial, they also make good watchdogs. Caring for a morkie is pretty straightforward: Consistent, positive training will help them with separation anxiety, they need a moderate amount of regular exercise, and grooming depends on how long you keep their hair. The morkie coat, while typically long, is often kept in a short puppy cut. Morkies are also very low-shedding and have hair, not fur, so they’re hypoallergenic.
Like many of the new “designer breeds,” there’s not a lot of data or records kept on the morkie, but anecdotally at least, their popularity has skyrocketed in the last decade or so. They’ve even been seen out and about with celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Steven Tyler.
Keep in mind that as a mixed breed, there can always be variations in the morkie size and appearance. However, like both the Maltese and the Yorkshire terrier, the morkie is a small dog who generally weighs around 5–7 pounds and measures anywhere from 7–9 inches tall.
Morkies tend to get their coloring from their Yorkshire terrier parent. They can be black, brown, white, or even golden. Their coats tend to be long, though many morkie owners keep their dogs clipped short, and their ears can be either pointed like a Yorkie’s or a floppy like a Maltese’s.
Morkies have small, bright dark eyes that sparkle with inquisitiveness (especially if you happen to be holding something tasty) and little black gumdrop noses. They’re adorable and they know it.
Morkies tend to get their temperaments from their Maltese parent, so they are a bit calmer and more of a lap-style dog, than Yorkies, says Patrick Henry, a Maltese and Yorkshire terrier breeder since 2002. He has been breeding morkies for the last ten years. “That being said, you can get a morkie that might be a little bit more vocal than others and take on more characteristics of the Yorkshire terrier,” he adds.
Because of this vocal tendency, they can make great watchdogs who will alert you to unfamiliar sounds or people. Barking is also a trait you can work on training your dog to avoid when unnecessary, especially if you can put in the time from the moment you bring your morkie home.
Like both parents, morkies are energetic pups with big personalities who love playtime and zooming around the yard. Yorkshire terriers were bred as rodent-hunters, so morkies can inherit a tenacious, athletic streak from that side of their heritage. And from the Maltese, which were bred as companions for thousands of years, morkies get a tendency for loyalty and affection.
“They really love to just have one person that they're attached to,” says Irith Bloom, a certified dog trainer and board member at the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. “Both the Maltese and the Yorkie, they'll tend to pick a person. So a morkie is also likely to have that trait where they bond to mom and they don't care about dad or they don't care about the kids.”
Morkies can get along with children (especially during playtime), but small children should be taught how to treat dogs gently. They also generally get along with other dogs, though always supervise playtime with new canine friends. Morkies are small dogs and can be injured by overzealous roughhousing.
As for companions, they’re fairly flexible, as long as their families can give them plenty of attention and playtime. Active seniors who can take them on walks are wonderful morkie owners, as morkies love all-day attention, and tend to bond to a primary caregiver. College students with flexible schedules who can come home in the middle of the day could also make great morkie owners.
The morkie’s grooming needs are not difficult, but they do require regular upkeep, especially if you’re keeping their coat long. Brush their coats daily to prevent their hair from matting and to remove any debris. Give them a bath every week or so, and if hair is falling into your morkie’s eyes, tie it up or pin it back to avoid eye irritation (bonus points if you use an extra-cute hair accessory).
That being said, there is a grooming shortcut. “From our experience, most customers keep them what they call a puppy cut, which is basically just a shorter hair coat,” Henry says. “And that way they don't have to quite do that daily grooming like you would if you wanted the long flowing coat, like you would see like in a show dog.”
Like any small, active dog, the morkie doesn’t need huge amounts of space, but they do need stimulation. Take them on one or two daily walks, play tug of war, or play fetch with them. Morkies with a particularly Yorkshire terrier personality may also enjoy dog sports like obedience or agility.
Because the morkie does tend to attach very closely to their people (or often, one person), it can be helpful to prepare for some separation anxiety. Bloom recommends teaching them in small increments: “For a dog where you're particularly concerned that they might have home alone issues, start training them right away that small periods of time away from you are okay,” she says. Start by showing them that 30 seconds out of sight is okay, then a minute, and gradually work your way up.
When training a morkie with barking tendencies, it’s especially important to stay consistent. “If the dog is barking at you to get stuff, don't give in, because once you give in once, they will keep doing that forever,” Bloom cautions. She recommends starting by preventing the dog from hearing the barking triggers in the first place by using a white noise machine. The second thing she does is gently (without scolding) remove the dog from the area in which they are hearing the noise. And her third tip is to simply avoid giving in if the dog is using barking to get something, whether that’s a toy or a food bowl. “If they wanted the food bowl, you put the food bowl away,” she says. “If they wanted the toy, you put the toy away.”
Like many other toy breeds, morkies have a relatively long lifespan, around 12 to 15 years. They can exhibit hybrid vigor, the theory that mixed breed dogs are healthier because they don’t inherit as many recessive genetic disorders carried through purebred lines. But as with all dogs, if you want to ensure genetic health, it’s important to work with reputable breeders who screen the parents for common genetic disorders before breeding them. Because both the Maltese and the Yorkie can be prone to luxating patella (or slip knee), be on the lookout for those symptoms, which can be treated with surgery.
Both the Maltese and the Yorkshire terrier are far more prone than other breeds to a condition called liver shunt, a congenital condition in which the liver doesn’t function properly and toxins build up. This condition often affects the runt of the litter. Be sure your puppy’s parents have been bile tested for the condition.
Small dogs are also prone to dental issues, so brush your morkie’s teeth daily with a doggy toothpaste to keep their pearly whites nice and healthy.
Mixed breeds have been around as long as there have been breeds, but it was around the 1980s and 1990s that “designer dogs”—specific mixes between two popular breeds—really got going. Anecdotally, breeders and trainers say the morkie has become especially popular within the last decade or so. Morkies are sometimes also called the “morkshire terrier.”
Despite the relative newness of the morkie, their parents’ heritage goes way, way back. The Maltese is actually an ancient breed dating back to pre-Greek times, when the island of Malta was ruled by the Phoenecians. Aristotle even referred to the dog as “perfectly proportioned.” The Maltese was a popular lap dog and companion to the Roman aristocracy. After the fall of Rome, Chinese breeders kept the Maltese from going extinct. They added a few refining features, and by the time the Maltese returned to Europe, it became hugely popular at dog shows and amongst the gentry.
Meanwhile, the Yorkshire terrier was developed in (yep) Yorkshire, England, during the 1800s by Scottish weavers who moved to northern England. They were originally bred to hunt down rodents and were prized for their tenacity and ability to wriggle into tight spaces. In the late 1800s, as the Yorkie started to be shown in dog shows, it became a popular fashion accessory as a lady’s lapdog. The Yorkshire terrier was brought to the United States and recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885.