What do you get when you cross Shih Tzu with a Yorkshire terrier?
Of course the answer is a Shorkie (and no, this isn’t a mix of a shark and a pork pie.)
This adorable little dog with a big personality definitely lives up to the promise of his parents.
With the Shih Tzu also being known as the “lion dog”, and Yorkshire terriers originating from rat hunting dogs, you can put money on this being an action packed little fellow with a charismatic character to boot.
A Shorkie is what’s commonly known as a ‘designer dog’ or ‘hybrid dog’ on account of it being a mix of two purebred parents.
The mating was deliberate in order to create a puppy with traits inherited from both parent breeds.
Hybrid dogs are something of a recent phenomenon that has taken off big time because of the lovely combinations of characters and looks that arise out of these mating.
The original idea was to inject much needed diversity into the genetic pool of purebred dogs that are linked to certain health problems.
Thus the idea of breeding poodle with a Cavalier or a Labrador is to dilute the genes for heart disease (in the Cavie) and hip dysplasia (in the Labrador.)
In the case of the Shorkie, both parent breeds enjoy better health than many purebreds, with the possible exception of a few conditions.
Of course, the most obvious issue is the flat face of the Shih Tzu, which has become increasingly exaggerated over the decades.
By breeding the Shih Tzu with the longer-nosed Yorkshire terrier, the aim is to produce puppies with the delightful characteristics of both breeds, but a slightly longer nose.
This makes breathing easier and so helps the Shorkie adult to cope better in hot weather.
In addition, those big round eyes are better protected from damage, and there skin folds are less deep and therefore at reduced risk of infection.
However, the prospective Shorkie pet parent should be aware that their dog is not considered purebred and as such cannot be registered with the Kennel Club.
Eventually, first generation Shorkies will be bred together to create the next generation.
Only after around seven generations of Shorkie breeding with Shorkie will they even be considered to apply for purebred status.
And a final few words on the topic of hybrids.
Unfortunately, there is nothing in the laws of genetics that stops a puppy from inheriting the worst of characteristics from their parents rather than the best.
In terms of health conditions this could mean a puppy with Yorkshire terrier traits such as:
Similarly the Shih Tzu breed is prone to:
By all means chose a Shorkie but be aware that being a hybrid is no guarantee of owning a healthy and vigorous adult dog
You’re looking to share your life with a canine companion, so why chose a Shorkie?
Let’s turn things on their head and first ask: What is it you want from a dog?
To decide this, take a look at your personal circumstances.
Ask yourself questions such as:
For example, if you live in a third story apartment and can’t commit to two hours of walking a day, then an active German shepherd isn’t for you.
However, this is where the small but perfectly formed Shorkie comes into their own.
With one parent breed known as the “Lion dog” you can expect these little youngsters to be full of regal dignity, be bold, courageous, and loyal.
Indeed, other words that sum up Shorkie puppies are fun-loving, friendly, intelligent and cute…which isn’t a bad list by anybody’s standard!
Their small size also means they adjust very well to apartment life.
They don’t need a lot of space and are perfectly content with a corner of a couch to curl up on (especially if there’s a lap available to keep them warm).
They can also be potty trained to use a dog tray or puppy pads, and given their small size this is perfectly feasible.
Alternatively, they are easy enough to scoop up under an arm to take outside for a toilet break.
The Shorkie has a growing reputation for being a family-friendly dog.
They are generally gregarious and like people, and when well-socialized as pups they learn to be gentle and tolerant.
They do make good family dogs, but with a word of caution with regards to very small children.
With the Shorkie’s teddy bear looks and small size it’s easy for a child to treat a Shorkie like a cuddly toy.
This could end with the dog being accidentally dropped and injured, and so as with any dog it’s essential to supervise children around dogs (including the good natured Shorkie) at all times.
OK, so you decided a Shorkie puppy is perfect for you.
Pause one final time before taking on a life-time commitment.
What does the future hold for you?
A dog is a big commitment.
With good care a Shorkie can live well into their teens, which means looking far into the future and seeing how a dog fits into your plans then.
For example, if you may emigrate, marry, start a family, change states, go to University, retire…how would a dog fit into that picture?
Also, consider the financial commitment that owning a dog represents.
This isn’t just about the purchase price of the puppy but ongoing costs such as food, preventative healthcare, desexing, and being able to cover the cost of veterinary treatment should your fur-family member be sick or injured.
If a Shorkie puppy remains the missing puzzle piece in your life then by all means…go ahead and have fun.
Moving on, let’s look at the height, weight, and life expectancy of the Shorkie dog, to see if they fit into your overall plan.
Remember, even a small dog is a big commitment as they can live well into their teens.
A Shorkie full grown may vary in size, ranging from 7 – 15 lbs. body weight, and standing around 6 – 14 inches at the shoulder.
As a relatively new breed, they haven’t been around long enough to give an average age, but all the signs are good.
Indeed, small dogs tend to live longer than big ones and with both the Shih Tzu and the Yorkshire terrier having a reputation for living into their teens, the signs are even better.
Both parent breeds have long flowing coats, so expect your Shorkie to need regular (daily) grooming to keep that silken fur knot free.
This is essential if you allow their coat to grow long since it will quickly sweep up leaves, twigs, and dust that will matt the coat into an unmanageable mess.
Alternately consider finding a good groomer and trimming your Shorkie in one of the clips that are both practical and pretty, such as the “Teddy bear” or “puppy” clip.
We’ve established the Shorkie is a small dog, but what of their character?
Are they a coach potato or a pocket rocket?
Well, the truth lies somewhere in between.
Take a peek at the parent breeds to get a better insight.
The Yorkshire terrier was originally bred to catch rats in Yorkshire cotton mills during the industrial revolution.
This is no job for the faint-hearted and the Yorkie was bred for their boldness, curiosity, determination, energy, and loyalty.
On the other paw, the Shih Tzu were bred as companion dogs, and named “Little Lions” for their appearance rather than personality.
Their traits include a knack for being happy, affectionate, and loving company.
Bear in mind that the Shorkie’s temperament is a combination of their genetics and socialization (early experiences in life) and a picture starts to emerge of a dog that is energetic but lap-loving, curious and affectionate, bold and happy at the same time.
Whether or not your Shorkie puppy grows into a confident, well-adjust adult largely depends on their socialization by the breeder (more of this shortly) and how your raise them.
As a potential pet parent it’s essential to source a puppy that if raised with love and care.
For the health and well-being of dogs it is important to avoid buying from puppy mills, as these are a thinly disguised trade in dogs based on misery and suffering.
But if the immorality of keeping female dogs in cages with the sole purpose of breeding litter after litter for profit doesn’t tug at your heart strings, then know that the resulting puppies often grow into mal-adjusted adults.
Puppies bought from puppy farms and pet shops (frequently supplied by puppy farms) have next to no exposure to different people, sights, or sounds in early life.
This leaves them lacking in social skills and either anxious or aggressive as a result.
For you the pet parent this means owning a dog that snaps, snarls, barks, or bites when out of their comfort zone – not an exciting prospect.
Indeed, if you mistakenly visit a puppy mill and fall in love with a pup, it’s easy to think of “rescuing” the pup from their awful surroundings.
However, the truth is that this pup will be readily replaced with another, and that the only way to stop this upsetting trade is to not buy the pups and therefore this market in misery dries up.
So how should you go about finding a reputable Shorkie breeder?
The best strategy is word of Mouth: Ask your vet to put you in touch with any Shorkie-owning clients.
Speak to them about where they got their dog and would they recommend that breeder.
Likewise, other good places to find Shorkie owners are the grooming parlor, the dog park, and training classes.
Be wary of puppies you see advertised on the internet.
Do some research and look for a credible website that has pictures of the parent dogs in a home setting.
Then if you do go to visit, make sure to see the mother dog and check she matches up.
Also, when you phone to inquire, don’t mention which breed puppy you are asking after.
A puppy mill has multiple breeds available at any one time, and will need to know which you are after.
Contrast this is a genuine breeder who has one or two breeds at most, and so doesn’t need to know which type you’re inquiring after.
Indeed, always insist on seeing the mother.
Even if the excuse is a convincing one, such as she’s being neutered, walk away.
This is a number one trick of puppy mills, that you can’t see the mother (as she’s kept in unpleasant conditions and is likely terrified of people).
This can even come across as being super helpful if they offer to bring the pup to meet you halfway…but won’t bring the mum as she’s nursing other pups.
But more than that you want to choose a puppy that has had the best start in life.
This means being raised inside a home, so that the moment their eyes and ears open they are familiar with the hubbub of family life and the noises of household appliances.
In addition, a gold standard breeder will make positive efforts to socialize the puppies and introduce them to a variety of different people, sights, sounds, and smells; because what they experience before 18 weeks of age they accept as normal.
And finally, don’t be offended if the breeder quizzes you about your suitability as a Shorkie owner.
A good breeder cares about her pups and would rather keep them than have them go to inappropriate homes …so being nosy is a good thing in this case.
You’ve welcomed the canine cutie that is a Shorkie into your home.
All you need know is to give them lots of love and attention: Right? Well, sort of.
Your Shorkie puppy may be the living embodiment of a teddy bear, but underneath the fur and fluff they’re still a dog.
This means they need to understand how they fit into the household, so that you can all live in harmony.
Whilst it might be tempting to let the little fellow have his own way (after all, he doesn’t take up much room on the coach) down this path lies a snappy adult dog that barks at guests and threatens to bite them.
The alternative is an altogether more rosie picture where your Shorkie welcomes visitors and is happy to participate because they know the rules.
What we’ve just described is a dog suffering from Small Dog Syndrome (SDD).
This happens when a dog is allowed to take liberties because of his small size, which would not be afforded to a larger breed.
It is essential that the Shorkie pet parent takes their responsibilities as a dog owner seriously, and takes their dog to training classes and lays down the ground rules.
This doesn’t mean being harsh or aggressive with the dog, quite the opposite in fact because reward-based training methods are the modern way of dog training.
This involves rewarding your dog’s good behavior, such as sitting when asked, and signaling with a curt “No!” when an action is not appropriate.
Set a target of teaching your Shorkie basic commands such as “Sit,”, “Stay,”, “Down,” “Come!” and “Look”.
If your dog has a rock solid grasp of these commands he will be safer and happier as a result.
Of course potty training is absolutely essential and given the Shih Tzu’s reputation for being a slow learner, it’s important to get onto this right away.
Start the day the puppy comes home, by showing them the toilet spot and being lavish with praise when they happen to use it.
Key to potty training success is teaching the dog where you want them to toilet, and reducing the opportunity to toilet in the wrong place.
Remember a young puppy has a small bladder and can’t hold on for long, so be prepared for some hard work early on – which will rapidly pay off as the ‘penny drops’ so to speak.
Toilet Spot Success
Be it a puppy pad in the corner of the bathroom to a special spot in the yard; don’t leave the puppy guessing as to where you want him to go.
Here are the guidelines to successful potty training:
In addition, minimize the chances of him soiling indoors by:
Even fit healthy puppies need a helping paw to stay that way.
Register your Shorkie puppy with a vet even before you bring the puppy home.
The sooner your puppy starts their vaccinations the better, and then there are other essentials such as anti-worming treatments and protection against parasites such as heartworm.
In addition, speak to your vet about microchipping your Shorkie.
This involves injecting a small microchip (the size of a grain of rice) under the skin near the shoulders.
This acts as a permanent means of ID, so should your Shorkie be lost or stolen, the authorities can scan the dog, pick up the unique registration number, and match it to you on the data base.
So what do you think?
Is a Shorkie for you? After all, what’s not to like.
Dr Sarah Robinson attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a D.V.M. in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats. Sarah has published numerous articles on canine feeding in pet related magazines, veterinary journals and leading natural health web sites.