Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Sarah Mouton Dowdy

. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM
Updated Sep. 12, 2023
cream-colored morkie dog sitting in grass looking at the camera with her head tilted

In This Article

General Care

A “Morkie” is a cross between a Maltese and a Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie). Sometimes called the Morkshire Terrier, the Morkie is a relatively new mix and is not yet recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Without a breed standard, it can be difficult to make absolute statements regarding the Morkie’s temperament and appearance. However, the two parent breeds have been established with the AKC since the 1800s and serve as helpful templates for making predictions. 

The Maltese is an ancient breed thought to have been brought to the island of Malta by Phoenician conquerors. With their striking coat of silky, long, white hair; compact size; and winsome demeanor, the breed became a favorite of early Greeks and Romans. Even famed philosopher Aristotle praised the dog’s “perfect” proportions. The breed standard describes Maltese as being “among the gentlest mannered of all little dogs,” but also “lively and playful as well as vigorous.” 

The Yorkie’s history is far less expansive, but no less interesting. The breed was developed in the mid-19th century by Scottish immigrant weavers living in Yorkshire, England. Feisty, courageous, and tiny enough to navigate the smallest spaces, Yorkies were tasked with rodent hunting in the region’s textile mills and mines. But after becoming recognized by the AKC in 1885, the breed largely shed its working-dog reputation in favor of becoming the lap dog of fashionable Victorians. 

When these two popular toy breeds combine, you can typically expect an affectionate, playful, and confident Morkie. These pups can thrive in a variety of environments, thanks to their adaptability and petite size. A Morkie, full-grown, is typically 7 pounds or less.

Caring for a Morkie

The Morkie is a crossbreed that carries some contradictions. For example, like most small dogs, Morkies are short in stature but not in personality. The descendants of status symbols and rat hunters, Morkie dogs are spirited and fearless, but also affectionate and gentle.

Furthermore, while they are far from sluggish, Morkies need moderate amounts of exercise, such as a short walk every day. These dogs have a reputation for being a low-shedding breed, but don’t let that fool you into thinking grooming will be a breeze: Those long, silky locks are prone to matting and need to be brushed daily.

With their tiny size, medium exercise needs, friendliness, and trainability, Morkies can be a great choice for apartment dwellers and first-time pet parents who can provide them with close companionship. But because they’re rarely more than 7 pounds, Morkies may not be the best companions for young children or larger pets that can cause them accidental harm. 

Morkie Health Issues

Both Maltese and Yorkshire Terriers are healthy breeds with life expectancies of 11–15 years, and the Morkie’s lifespan is similar. Still, like all dogs, the two breeds are prone to various health conditions that can be passed to their offspring. This highlights the importance of working with a Morkie breeder who’s committed to health over profit and performs genetic testing before breeding. 

The following conditions are common in Maltese, Yorkies, or both: 

Patellar Luxation

When the patella (kneecap) moves outside its normal groove within the femur (thigh bone), this is called patellar luxation (dislocation). The condition is more common in smaller breeds like Maltese and Yorkies. In some dogs it doesn’t cause a problem, but severe cases may require surgery.

Signs of patellar luxation include:

  • Limping

  • Bunny-hopping

  • Popping, cracking knee joint

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a progressive condition in which bacteria accumulate in the mouth, causing damage to the dog’s gums, bones, and other tissues. While the disease is common in all dogs, small and toy breeds (including the Maltese and the Yorkie) are especially prone to the problem. 

Signs of periodontal disease range from irritated gums and bad breath to missing teeth and root exposure. Mild cases may only need a professional dental cleaning, while severely affected teeth must be extracted.

Frequent tooth brushing at home (at least three times a week) and regular professional cleanings are the best way to prevent periodontal disease. 

Portosystemic Shunts

While portosystemic shunts (also called liver shunts) are relatively uncommon, Maltese and Yorkies are among those predisposed to the condition.

A liver shunt is an abnormal blood vessel that connects blood from the digestive tract directly to the circulatory system, without properly going through the liver first. This blood—which contains nutrients, hormones, and waste material—therefore skips the vital detoxification process that happens in the liver.

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Some dogs are good candidates for surgery, and others require medical management (such as medication and diet change).

Signs of portosystemic shunts include:

  • Poor growth

  • Poor appetite or an appetite for unusual items

  • Weight loss

  • Increased thirst and urination

  • Difficulty urinating or blood in the urine

  • Vomiting (may contain blood)

  • Diarrhea (may contain blood)

  • Behavioral changes such as dullness, vacant staring, vision loss, clumsiness, and circling

Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a common congenital heart defect in dogs, and the Maltese is at an increased risk.

The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that is necessary during fetal development to divert blood away from the fetus’ lungs. Shortly after birth, this vessel naturally closes to allow blood to flow through the lungs for oxygenation. But in puppies with PDA, the ductus arteriosus stays open, resulting in a dangerous disruption of normal circulation.

This can lead to heart failure, the signs of which include difficulty breathing, coughing, weakness, and exercise intolerance. Corrective surgery to close the vessel is the treatment of choice, and outcomes are best if it’s done before the dog develops heart failure. 

Tracheal Collapse

The trachea, often called the windpipe, is a tube consisting of C-shaped rings of cartilage covered with a thin membrane that carries air from the mouth and nose to the lungs. If the cartilage weakens or the membrane stretches out, the trachea’s shape flattens.

This is called tracheal collapse, and Yorkshire Terriers carry an increased risk of developing this condition. Medication is typically enough to help most dogs with tracheal collapse if they have clinical signs, but some may require surgery. If the symptoms are not persistent or severe, treatment might not be necessary.

Dogs with tracheal collapse tend to have a recurring cough that sounds like a goose honk that tends to worsen with exercise; heat and humidity; excitement; stress; and eating and drinking. Signs can also include:

  • Retching

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Exercise intolerance

  • Blue-tinged gums

  • Fainting

What To Feed a Morkie

There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for feeding your Morkie dog. You’ll need to work with your veterinarian to develop a feeding plan that’s nutritionally complete and balanced for your pup’s age, weight, and health. Even the size of the kibble is important, as small teeth need small kibble. 

How To Feed a Morkie

Morkie puppies need frequent meals (three or four a day) to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Adult Morkies can be fed less frequently, typically two or three times a day. Your vet can help you determine the best schedule for your dog’s age. 

How Much Should You Feed a Morkie?

The nutrition label on your dog’s food bag includes a feeding guide that gives a general idea of how much you should feed your Morkie based on their weight. But for a more precise answer, ask your veterinarian.

A vet will tailor their recommendation to your dog’s weight, body condition score, lifestyle, and health needs. Remember that treats count—especially in dogs as small as Morkies—so be sure to factor them into your dog’s daily calories. 

Nutritional Tips for Morkies

If your Morkie is eating a complete and balanced diet of dog food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), they shouldn’t need anything extra.

However, nutritional supplements and even prescription diets are sometimes used to treat or prevent certain health conditions. Given the Morkie’s parent breeds’ predisposition for developing periodontal disease, your vet may recommend dental chews as a precaution, though they won’t replace regular tooth brushing!

Talk to your veterinary team before adding anything new to your dog’s diet. 

Behavior and Training Tips for Morkies

When socialized early and appropriately trained, these pint-size pups can thrive in a variety of settings, including apartments. 

Morkie Personality and Temperament

Morkies are confident, affectionate dogs who love their families. While their dainty appearance may lead you to believe that Morkies are decorative lap dogs, they love playing and need daily opportunities to move their energetic bodies and challenge their impressive wits—their Yorkie parent was bred to hunt rodents, after all!

However, their size does warrant extra caution when it comes to young children and other pets. Morkies may look like mere toys to toddlers—or like a squeaky toy to larger dogs.

Morkie Behavior

The Morkie’s confidence, vigilance, and family attachment can sometimes lead to barking that outsizes their 7-pound frame, but training can help keep the peace with these comical watch dogs. Addressing this becomes particularly important if you live in an apartment. 

While their dainty appearance may lead you to believe that Morkies are decorative lap dogs, they love playing and need daily opportunities to move their energetic bodies and challenge their impressive wits.

Morkies are happiest when they’re with their humans. They can get bored, stressed, and anxious when left alone for long periods, resulting in unwanted behaviors, including barking and house-soiling. 

Morkie Training

All dogs go through a critical development period from birth to around 16 weeks old. During this time, they learn how to interact with humans and other animals. Talk to your Morkie breeder about how they approach socialization. If done well, it can pay dividends in adulthood.

Morkies are intelligent dogs, but they can be strong-willed when it comes to training. Consistent positive training that uses rewards instead of punishment is the best way to teach your pup while building the human-animal bond.

If you’re using treats as a reward, however, remember to factor them into your dog’s daily calorie count. Play, toys, and other things your dog enjoys can also be used as rewards.  

Fun Activities for Morkies

  • Short walks

  • Fetch

  • Agility

  • Obedience training

  • Skills training

  • Nose work

Morkie Grooming Guide

Both of the Morkie’s parents are known for their eye-catching silky, long hair. The good news: You won’t have to put a lot of effort into cleaning their hair off your clothes and couch because Morkies don’t shed very much. The tradeoff? You may not need a lint roller, but you will need to use a brush or a comb on their luminous locks every day. 

Skin Care

Good coat care is the foundation of good skin care. Tangles and matting can keep moisture, debris, and other irritants next to your Morkie’s skin, so it’s essential to keep their hair free from problems. 

A Morkie should be bathed regularly, so ask your veterinarian for help when determining a schedule. Keep in mind that bathing your pup too often can strip their skin of healthy oils, and lead to dryness and itchiness. 

Coat Care

Long-haired Morkies need to be brushed or combed every day to prevent tangles or mats from forming. But if caring for long locks feels a bit too daunting, you can give your pup a short haircut that’s easier to manage. 

Eye Care

Regardless of how long you keep your Morkie’s coat, you’ll need to regularly ensure that the hair around their eyes is trimmed so it doesn’t cause irritation.

Ear Care 

Talk to your veterinarian about how often you should clean your Morkie’s ears. If you notice signs of an ear infection (redness, swelling, pain, or bad odor), it’s time to call your vet.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Here are some questions to consider before adding a Morkie puppy to your family:

  1. Can I provide a safe environment for a dog who can be easily injured by young children or other pets?

  2. Can I brush or comb a dog’s coat at least once a day? 

  3. Can I provide regular baths?

  4. Can I brush a dog’s teeth at least three times a week?

  5. Am I home enough to give a dog companionship? 

  6. Do I have the time to provide a dog with mental and physical exercise every day? 

  7. Do I have the skills, patience, and dedication to train a dog with a reputation for stubbornness and barking, using positive reinforcement?

  8. Am I financially prepared to provide veterinary care?  

  9. Can I provide a dog with a loving home for their lifetime, which could be 15 years or more?

If you can answer these questions with an enthusiastic “Yes!” you may be ready to parent a Morkie. 

Morkie FAQs

How long do Morkies live?

The typical Morkie lifespan, as is the case with most small dogs, is long. You can generally expect a life expectancy of 11–15 years. 

How much does a Morkie cost?

The cost of adding a Morkie to your family is typically $800–$3,000. However, you may be able to adopt a rescued Morkie for less. 

How big do Morkies get?

Adult, full-grown Morkies are tiny. These compact companions max out at a weight of 7 pounds and a height of 9 inches. 

Do Morkies shed a lot?

Both parent breeds of the Morkie have hair instead of fur. A perk of this is that they are low on the shedding scale. The downside: Their long, silky locks require daily attention to keep tangling under control. 

Featured Image: Adobe/Anne Richard

Sarah Mouton Dowdy


Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Freelance Writer

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