Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Silkese
Ruth Ellison /

A small lapdog with a luxuriously long and straight coat, the Silkese is a combination of the charismatic little Australian Silky Terrier and the sprightly Maltese. Part terrier, it’s little wonder that the Silkese has a mind of its own and can be feisty at times. A dog with a happy disposition, it takes a lot to upset a Silkese and they will be quick to put a smile on your face.

A toy dog measuring in at less than 26cm, the Silkese is undeniably petite. While many will have the white fur of their Maltese parent, it’s also possible for them to be brown, grey, black or cream. Their delicate paws, shining brown eyes and black, button nose only serve to add to their ‘teddy bear’ appearance.

About & History

A designer dog that has only recently emerged on the scene, the Silkese is thought to have been developed at the start of the 21st century. During the last five decades there has been a huge rise in the creation of hybrid dogs, particularly smaller breeds with sociable personalities that make them the ideal companion animal.

The Australian Silky Terrier

Australian Silky Terriers may have the looks of a top model with their glossy, long locks but they don’t always exhibit model behaviour. They are no shrinking violet and there’s no doubting their Terrier pedigree. Bearing a close physical resemblance to the English Yorkshire Terrier, Australian Silky Terriers are the result of mixing the Yorkies that were imported to Australia with the local Australian Terrier.

Initially, they were used to hunt vermin and were sturdier and stockier than the Yorkie. It was not until the early 1900s that they were recognised within Australia and their breed standard was devised. Originating from Sydney, their alternate name was the ‘Sydney Silky’ for a long while.

The Maltese

Maltese dogs are small, white cloud-like dogs that have been around for many centuries though little is known about their early history. Most likely originating from a Croatian island previously known as Meleda and now known as Mjlet, the Maltese is actually not from Malta as one would assume!

With links to both the ancient Greeks and the ancient Egyptians, they were thought to have been integral parts of the community and beloved pets. About 300 years ago, the Maltese almost became extinct when breeders attempted to make them even smaller than they already are. Luckily, they survived this misguided effort and are a popular pet dog around the world today.


Silkese Large Photo
Ruth Ellison /

Toy-sized and with an elegant silhouette, the Silkese is a chic designer dog. They have a relatively small, rounded skull with a short forehead, bright eyes and a medium-sized black nose. Their triangular ears may be pendulous or folded in a semi-pricked manner. They are set widely apart and covered in long, straight fur. They have what many breed fanciers describe as a ‘smiling face’. Their neck is short and their body rectangular. Their limbs are straight, ending in small cat-like feet. They have a medium-length tail that curls moderately towards their head.

Fully grown, these dogs reach no more than 25cm though should be taller than 20cm. They will typically weigh between 3.5kg and 5.5kg making them one of the lightest cross-breeds around.

The fur of the Silkese is one of their most appealing features and it can grow to impressive lengths when properly cared for and maintained. While many will inherit the white fur of the Maltese, their coat can be varying shades of creams and browns. Some will also have dark patches of fur on their face, chest or back.

Character & Temperament

A real delight, the Silkese has a happy disposition and enjoys being around people. They are not, however, the most tolerant of dogs and have a limited amount of patience, specifically around young children. They can potentially be snappy and do require supervision, though when given space, they make very loving pets.

Curious and clever, the Silkese does require plenty of interaction and becomes bored easily, especially in their first few years of life. While they may not need a lot of exercise, owners will need to keep their Silkese on side and interested with plenty of training, games and toys.

It’s true that the Silkese can be quite vocal, which may pose an issue for those living in apartments. On top of this, they have retained a high prey drive and cannot typically be homed in the company of small furry animals, such as guinea pigs or hamsters, for this reason.


A dog that enjoys learning new things and takes pleasure in impressing their master, the Silkese can be good fun to train. Even the novice trainer can expect good results in a short period of time and can be sure to impress friends and family with a large repertoire of tricks.

Most experts will advise you crate train your Silkese puppy as this will be a useful tool during their entire life. The crate should become their safe place and they can be trained to go in there when home alone. This can be a good way of reducing stress when home alone and avoiding separation anxiety from developing.


A relatively robust dog that enjoys good health, the Silkese has a lifespan of between 12 and 15 years but is prone to a number of medical conditions that we should keep an eye out for.

Patellar Luxation

When a small dog takes a skip or a hop while out on their walk, they most likely have a luxating patella. While only one leg may be affected, often both are involved. Vets should be able to feel the issue on an orthopaedic exam in a conscious dog and can confirm the diagnosis on X-ray. Those who are in pain are generally advised to go ahead with surgery to correct the defect.

Legg Calve Perthes Disease

Those affected usually show symptoms when less than one year of age and will become gradually lamer over time. Owners will notice a decreased muscle mass in their hind limbs. Most experience a lot of pain and require a surgery called a femoral head and neck osteotomy to resolve their symptoms.

Portosystemic Shunt

An improper flow of blood through the liver means that nutrients are not utilised within the body as they should be and animals suffer with poor growth, reduced appetite and vomiting among other symptoms. Once diagnosed, a patient will typically be medically managed until stable enough for a surgery.

Diabetes Mellitus

Chronically high blood sugar makes dogs extremely thirsty and hungry but despite their ravenous appetite, they will lose weight. Easy to diagnose, affected animals will have abnormally high sugar readings in both their blood and urine.

The majority of those affected have a type of diabetes similar to Type One in humans and are managed with twice daily insulin injections and diet modification.

Mitral Valve Disease

Responsible for roughly 75% of heart disease seen in practice in dogs, mitral valve disease is a common reason for a heart murmur. Starting dogs on medication early on can improve their prognosis and many will survive for years after their initial diagnosis.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)

The most common congenital heart defect seen in dogs, when the ductus arteriosus fails to close after birth, there is an improper flow of blood that can eventually lead to left-sided heart failure. Treating this defect before heart failure occurs can be curative.

Exercise and Activity Levels

This crossbreed does not have a high exercise requirement so makes a good option for those living in urban areas. They don’t need a lot of space and a back garden is not a must. Owners should, however, be sure to bring them on a couple of short walks a day to allow them to get some fresh air and explore new smells.

Playful pooches, the Silkese will happily play along in a game of fetch but is not particularly ball driven. They won’t want to play incessantly but do enjoy a good game or two each day.


Grooming the Silkese is not for the faint of heart and requires both time and dedication. They need to be brushed thoroughly each day but as they do not shed much, they are classified as hypoallergenic. Those with pendulous ears may require that you use an ear cleaner every couple of weeks to remove wax and improve airflow.

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