Chorkie

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Chorkie

The Chorkie is a pint-sized powerhouse, a tiny hybrid with the confidence and attitude of a Dogue de Bordeaux produced by Chihuahua and Yorkshire Terrier parents. This is a lively and playful companion dog that inherits a swagger from both parents: watchful and territorial through its terrier ancestry, it also has the Chihuahua’s fondness for barking (or yapping, to be more accurate!), and so makes an excellent watchdog. Although Chorkies make loving pets, they are not as clingy as some other toy breeds and hybrids, and can bear occasional separation from their owners, especially if provided with another canine playmate.

Because of their tiny size, they are suitable as indoor dogs, and can get most of their required exercise within the four walls of an apartment. However, they do need an owner who can devote time to play on a daily basis, or can become bored and badly behaved. Training is an important aspect of Chorkie ownership, for these tiny dogs are quick to develop high opinions of themselves, and will run riot over a permissive or insecure owner. This crossbreed shares similar health concerns with its parent breeds, and anyone interested in acquiring a Chorkie pup should familiarise themselves with both the Yorkie and the Chihuahua to learn what to expect in terms of health and other characteristics. Healthy Chorkies can be expected to live between 13 and 15 years.

About & History

While accidental cross-breeding may have first produced Yorkshire Terrier/Chihuahua mixes a long time ago, the Chorkie was first “branded” around 20 years ago, and has become a reasonably popular hybrid. Like its parents, it is a truly tiny dog, and breeders should be discouraged from exaggerating this trait, as so-called “teacup” dogs that are much in demand suffer from a wide range of health problems due to underdevelopment of their skeleton and internal organs. Most Chorkies are first-generation crosses from pedigree parents, meaning no two Chorkies are the same in their appearance or behaviour, but because the parent breeds are similar in some ways, certain generalisations can be made.

Apart from having their small size in common, both Yorkies and Chihuahuas are disproportionately confident dogs in their attitude to people and other dogs. They can both also be somewhat snappy and sensitive. This combines with their tendency to try to dominate their owners to mean that they can become difficult to live with unless given proper leadership and guidance. Like any other dog, Chorkies must never be raised to think they are small, unusually cute humans, for this is the path to creating a monster. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be adored and cherished, simply that some signals, such as being carried about or being fed at the kitchen table, convey quite different messages to our pets than we intend.

Appearance

Chorkie Large Photo
switz1873 / Flickr.com

Chorkies generally have the rounded skull of the Chihuahua with the expressive eyes of the Yorkie to give them an incredibly cute appearance. The muzzle is quite fine and tapering and leads to a black nose. Under- or over-shooting of the jaw is common. The ears are relatively large and vary in their carriage from erect to dropped. The body is fine and light, with the bones of the spine, pelvis, and ribs being easily felt when the dog is at its ideal weight.

The limbs are extremely fine-boned, but must be straight and carried vertically when viewed from the front. The coat is soft and fine, and can be any length, largely dependent on that of the Chihuahua parent, which can be smooth- or long-coated. While the Yorkshire Terrier is generally black (or blue) and tan, the Chihuahua has a huge array of possible colours and combinations, and so too does the Chorkie. It usually weighs around 3 kg (7 lb) and is an average of 22 cm (9 in) tall.

Character & Temperament

Chorkies have personality in abundance, but this is not to say that they are suitable for everybody. Their energy, confidence, and assertiveness can make them a challenge to manage, and so they are not ideal for novice owners. With good discipline and socialisation, they are full of fun and make entertaining companions for adults, but seldom enjoy the company of children, who tend to be less predictable and considerate of small dogs.

They can get along well with other small dogs, especially if raised with them, but should never be left unattended with an unfamiliar large dog, as they are apt to start disagreements they are not equipped to handle! Chorkies are extremely vigilant watchdogs, and bark persistently on hearing a disturbance. This can become a problem for some owners, especially in densely populated areas, and should be considered by anyone thinking of purchasing a Chorkie puppy.

Trainability

Photo of Chorkie puppy

Chorkies are intelligent but stubborn, and can be difficult to train. Owners need to provide treats and praise in abundance, and to be patient and persistent to achieve results. House-training can take a long time in some pups, so crate training is highly recommended to speed up the process.

Socialisation of young Chorkies is extremely important, providing positive experiences of meeting new people from puppyhood, and this must continue throughout life, by encouraging friends and visitors to the home to carry a small treat to reward good behaviour on their arrival.

Health

As discussed above, teacup Chorkies are to be avoided, as they are very likely to develop orthopaedic or other problems that reduce their quality of life. All Chorkies are at some risk of developing health problems, especially those that can be inherited from either of the pedigree parents:

  • Collapsing trachea – Weakness along the dorsal wall of the main airway. This is a condition seen in both the Yorkie and Chihuahua, and results in the walls of the trachea collapsing onto each other during rapid or heavy breathing. Usually associated with a very harsh cough that occurs with exercise, excitement, or pulling on the lead. Weight management is important for affected dogs, and some may require surgery.
  • Dental disease – The fine jaws of the Chorkie, which can also fail to align normally, often do not allow adequate space for the dog’s adult teeth. The resultant overcrowding allows bacteria to nest between the teeth, leading to tartar build-up and eventual periodontal infection.
  • Hypoglycaemia – Young Chorkie pups are at particular risk of developing low blood glucose, as bodily reserves and dietary intake fail to keep up with energy demands. Most commonly seen around the time of weaning, affected pups may be lethargic, cold, and may even seizure. Glucose smeared inside the cheeks can be a life-saver when facing this condition at home, and following veterinary advice, some pups may need to be force-fed for several weeks until big enough to fend for themselves.
  • Legg Calvé Perthes disease – Loss of blood supply to the head of the thigh bone in rapidly growing small-breed pups, causing tiny fractures to develop in the weakened structure. The resulting pain causes severe lameness, and surgery is required to facilitate good long-term outcomes.
  • Lens luxation – Common to many terrier breeds. Degeneration of fibres surrounding the lens of the eye can allow the lens to slip from its normal position, with potentially devastating consequences for vision.
  • Patellar luxation – The fine bones of the Chorkie’s hindlimb may not provide adequate guidance to the kneecap as it slides up and down the leg in movement. This allows the kneecap to slide out of position, usually towards the inside of the leg, and causes a marked, intermittent, non-weight bearing lameness.
  • Portosystemic shunt – A congenital problem in which an abnormal blood vessel bypasses the liver, resulting in ill-thrift and lethargy in pups. Can be either medically managed or surgically ligated.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy – A common degenerative condition affecting the eyes of adult dogs that causes varying degrees of sight loss. Of concern in the Yorkshire Terrier, a blood test is available to detect carrier status in dogs before their use in a breeding programme.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Chorkies are energetic, and enjoy playing around the home and garden, but are small enough not to require much other exercise. Around thirty minutes per day, divided into two shorter walks, is ideal for most.

Grooming

Just as the Chorkie’s coat can vary in length, so too do its grooming requirements. Those with short coats may need brushing as little as once or twice a week, but most will need some time devoted to their upkeep every second day. Those with longer coats may need them clipped once every two months, and monthly baths will help to keep them clean and in top condition. This little dog does not wear its nails very quickly, and so these need to be cut around once a month.

If introduced in puppyhood, this may be something a Chorkie will allow its owner to do at home, but many resent the procedure and may need to visit the veterinary clinic or grooming parlour to have this done. Dental care is very important, as most Chorkies begin to suffer tooth loss due to periodontitis by three years of age. Owners should introduce the tooth brush to very young pups, and make brushing a part of the daily routine.

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