The Morkie Temperament: What to expect

The Morkie Temperament: What to expect

Morkies are the popular offspring of a purebred Yorkshire Terrier and a purebred Maltese dog. Both these parents are tiny, non-shedding dogs that stay small. But temperament-wise, Yorkies and Maltese are quite different. So what can you expect in a Morkie?

Most of us assume a mix of Yorkshire Terrier and Maltese dog results in the best of both breeds — a loyal companion who’s smart as a Yorkie, and as loving as a Maltese.  The Maltese can soften the Yorkie’s more aggressive side. Meanwhile, the Yorkie can add more brainpower to the Maltese side. 

But what if the mix results in the worst of both breeds? It CAN happen. The Morkie could be aggressive like a Yorkie and hard to housetrain like a Maltese. That’s why it’s so important you’re OK with the pros and cons of each breed.


The Yorkie

Yorkies are active, bright little dogs with very big personalities. In fact, they need plenty of socialization and training to keep that big personality on track or they can become too assertive and even bossy.

Though small, the Yorkshire Terrier is active, loves attention and is protective of his owners. The Yorkie is no lapdog.

The Maltese

Like the Yorkie, the Maltese features a beautiful, flowing coat – but pure white, no other colors are allowed in a purebred Maltese.

Bred thousands of years ago, Maltese dogs were developed to be pampered lapdogs, and they take that job seriously. They are among the most gentle of all dogs and are sweet natured and affectionate. Maltese are the ideal companion – loyal, vigorous and devoted.

a morkie is half and half yorkie and maltese

How smart are Morkies?

Dr. Stanley Coren is a noted animal behaviorist who has ranked intelligence in dogs on 3 different scales:

  • instinctive intelligence: what a dog was bred for. The Yorkie as bred to chase and kill vermin in Victorian England. The Maltese was bred as a prized lapdog of royalty.
  • adaptive intelligence: what a dog can learn to do for himself. Examples include remembering where treats are kept or how to undo a latch.
  • working and obedience intelligence: what a dog can learn in formal training.

Dr. Coren has tested and ranked all 132 recognized breeds; the Yorkie is #27 which is above average; the Maltese is #59 of 132, or just below average. 

Where would the Morkie rank? Of course somewhere between #27 and #59.

Watch out for Small Dog Syndrome in your Morkie

Whether your Morkie is more Yorkie or more Maltese in temperament, there’s one more factor that can influence behavior, and that’s small dog syndrome.

Not to be confused with Canine Anxiety Disorder, small dog syndrome is a learned behavior. Small dog syndrome, or the tendency for tiny dogs to be yappy, untrained, snappy and generally obnoxious, is not something that is natural or common to small breeds by nature. It’s learned behavior that is brought about by the way we owners treat our toy dogs.

As humans, we are programmed by Mother Nature to coddle and take special care of creatures we perceive as ‘babies.’ No surprise, it’s a biological response, and it’s how our race has survived.

The problem is, toy dogs, with their big eyes and tiny size, bring out that same “babying” tendency in us, even when they are adult dogs. So we keep over-compensating for their small size (carrying them everywhere!) and overlooking bad behavior that we would never tolerate in a medium or large size dog.

The good news is, with some understanding of the roots of the problem and active steps to counteract it, you’ll have a happier, healthier and more centered small dog soon.

The #1 Cause of Small Dog Syndrome

If your toy dog is a pain in the neck, he’s probably suffering from small dog syndrome and the problem originates with — YOU!

What small dog syndrome is NOT

  • it’s not a high-spirited, outgoing dog.
  • it’s not a happy, sociable dog.
  • it’s not a high-personality dog.

How to conquer small dog syndrome?

Remember, your Morkie is:

  • first an animal.
  • then a dog.
  • then the breed – a Morkie.
  • then, and only then, your pet named “X.”

Once you understand your role in treating your Morkie like a little person, not a dog, then you can start taking steps to combat the problem including:

  • stop carrying your little dog all over – do you see a 15-year-old human child in a stroller?
  • don’t let your little dog jump up on you – would it be OK if your dog were a Rottweiler?
  • let your dog know with a sharp verbal correction, incessant barking and yapping are not acceptable. Or withdraw your attention to make your point.
  • don’t let your small dog sit on you to “claim you.” As the owner, you set the time for snuggles.
  • ensure your little dog has his own bed and designated quiet area; a corner or an open door crate works well.
  • don’t encourage hysterical behavior by comforting your dog; just ignore it.

Is your Morkie cat-friendly?

Is your Morkie cat-friendly?

maltese puppy and kitten

Maltese ARE cat-friendly… Yorkies, afraid not.

Animal Planet has published a list of 10 most cat-friendly small dogs.  Maltese IS on the list, but the Yorkshire Terrier is not, so chances are 50/50 your Morkie will be cat-friendly.

Generally speaking, cats who haven’t been raised with dogs are afraid of them. And generally speaking, dogs see cats as prey.  So when the cat sees the dog and gets scared, it runs. The dog, sensing prey or at least a game, chases and the cycle begins.

It makes sense that Yorkies are less cat-friendly since they were initially bred to chase rats and mice.  To them, anything in their size range is fair game!

Your first concern has to be for the cat because dogs can hurt and even kill cats but very, very rarely the other way around. It’s not ok for your cat to live in fear, or your dog to live to catch the cat.

But the cat can’t get away with aggressive behavior either; if your cat takes a swipe at the dog, stop it with a loud sound or verbal correction.

Animal experts also advise: don’t comfort the ‘upset’ animal since that’s encouraging and reinforcing insecurity.

To help increase the odds your pets will get along, follow these tips:

  • both animals should be well socialized – that is, used to people and other animals. Introducing your pet to visitors and taking your on walks in public areas both help.
  • introduce your cat and dog very slowly and gradually, starting with just a couple of minutes at a time. One way to do this is to put the cat in a carrier cage and let the dog approach.
  • since dogs respond to verbal praise, give him plenty when he’s calm and quiet with the cat and responding to your commands such as “sit.”
  • give the cat unrestricted house time, with the dog outside
  • make sure the cat has and knows it has, a safe spot to escape from the dog, like a small box under the bed. But don’t let her stay there all the time.
  • never leave them together thinking that they will “sort it out themselves”

One more tip: block the animals from staring each other down; that stare is the animal world’s way of saying, “ya, bring it!”  Snap your fingers, step between them or call out their names to end that ‘killer gaze.’

Today’s illustration can be purchased as a set of greeting cards on Etsy. 

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