Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
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The Corkie is a hybrid dog and is the result of breeding a Cocker Spaniel with a Yorkshire Terrier. The Corkie is a small to medium-sized dog, with a medium-to-long coat. When raised properly, the Corkie makes for a lovely family dog. But (and, it’s a big but), the breed is prone to being over-sensitive, which can lead to snappiness and unpredictability. True enough, when socialised plenty as a pup, trained as an adult, and treated with respect, the ideal Corkie is a charmer and fun to be around.

The overall message being that you get out what you put in with a Corkie. Treat them like a princess and you may end up with a snappy prima donna. But set boundaries and use reward-based training methods and you’ll have a loving and loyal canine companion.

About & History

The English Cocker Spaniel’s most distant relative go back the 14th century, whilst the Yorkshire terrier dates to the 19th century. Their combined offspring, the Corkie, is a relative newcomer, with the first deliberate mating taking place towards the end of the 20th century.

Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel derives their name from the Woodcock (a bird) they flushed out for huntsmen to shoot. Looking to their earliest roots, the spaniels were hunting dogs, used to flush out birds and waterfowl. Some spaniels became naturally more adept at water-borne game, and diverged to become water spaniels, whilst others excelled on land and gave rise to breeds, such as the Springer Spaniel and the Cocker.

The English Cocker Spaniel was said to have crossed to America in 1620, on board the Mayflower. Again, they were used for hunting. However, later on, selective breeding produced a variant, which is the American Cocker Spaniel. These dogs were mainly for showing, and had a slightly different conformation with a more domed head and even longer ears.

Yorkshire Terrier

As the name suggests, the Yorkshire Terrier originated from Yorkshire, England. These were hardy characters with a tough job to do. These tenacious terriers were bred to hunt rats in the cotton mills in order to keep the vermin population down. They were much prized by their proud owners, and valued for the hunting abilities.

The small size of the Yorkshire Terrier meant they could sneak into the house at a time when other hunting dogs were confined to outdoor kennels. In part, this lead to their normalisation within the home, and set them on the road to becoming family favourites.


A small to medium sized dog, a well-adjusted Corkie makes for a good family companion. Both parent breeds have straight silky coats, so the main question with their offspring is how long the coat will grow. In reality, the hair tends to be medium to long, straight, and soft.

With Yorkies traditionally being black and tan, it is the Cocker side of the family that offers the greatest colour diversity. Indeed, Corkies can be: Blue Roan, Tan, Red & White, Red, Black, Black & White, Tan, Silver, and a range of shades in-between.

The Corkie can either have erect or drop ears, depending which parent they favour. They have a reasonable length snout, tipped with a black leather button nose. Their body shape is usually well proportioned to their legs, with a leaning towards being slightly stocky. The tail is medium length and adorned with feathering.

Character & Temperament

The Corkie is a classic case of you get out what you put in. These dogs are small and cute, but they’re also sensitive souls. This means they’re less tolerant of the rough and tumble of family life than some dogs, and can make them feel threatened. Sadly, their response to anxiety can be snappiness, as a means of protecting themselves.

To counteract this tendency means starting young, with the breeder socialising the pups whilst still with the mother. Moving forward, the new owner must make a concerted effort to continue exposing the puppy, in a positive way, to a variety of novel sights, sounds, and smells.

Then as an adult dog, the job of building self-confidence continues. This is done through positive training methods, which assure the dog the owner is in control and there’s no need to worry. In turn, this reduces anxiety and the urge to snap.

Another side of the Corkie character is an inbuilt prey drive going back to their parental heritage. This can make them unreliable around other household pets, so supervision is required at all time.


Both parent breeds – the Cocker Spaniel and Yorkshire Terrier – were originally working breeds. To do their jobs required intelligence, but also some degree of independence. This has implications for a pet Corkie and their willingness to listen to instruction.

On the plus side, there is plenty of brain power, on the minus side, the Corkie likes to make up their own mind. The trick to training is therefore to make the Corkie think that obeying your commands is an excellent thing to do. Hence, the need for the positive reinforcement that reward-based training offers.

But be aware, as the Corkie will quickly realise who is in charge. If only one person does the training, then they may be naughty for the rest of the family. Hence, it’s important that everyone plays a part and consistent rules are applied.


Both the Yorkshire Terrier and the Cocker Spaniel are predisposed to a variety of inheritable health conditions. Which of these traits the Corkie inherits is a matter of probability and chance. Whilst there are no statistics on health problems specifically liking to the Corkie, it’s reasonable to assume those on the list below will be represented.

Patellar Luxation

A more familiar term for patellar luxation is ‘wobbly kneecaps’. This is a condition where the kneecap is unstable and can pop to one side of the kneecap. This causes locking up when taking a step, such that the dog skips on that leg.

Patellar luxation ranges in severity from mild to debilitating. At the bottom end of the scale, all that’s needed is occasional pain relief. However, the worst affected dogs need reconstructive surgery to improve the angle of the knee joint and improve mobility.

Seborrheic Skin Conditions

Both the Yorkie and Cocker are prone to seborrheic skin conditions. This is where the skin turnover is too rapid and so skin cells flake away from the surface too easily. This also causes over-active oil glands, and the coat may feel greasy to the touch. In turn, poor skin health makes secondary infections common, leading to itchiness and discomfort.

There is no cure for seborrheic skin disorders, but therapy can help ease the symptoms. This includes regular bathing with medicated shampoos, food supplements, and medications that down-regulate skin turnover.

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease occurs when the body products too much natural steroid. This causes symptoms, such as thirst, hunger, lack of energy and thin skin.

Cushing’s Disease can be controlled with medication, but these drugs are expensive. Also, the patient needs regular blood tests to check the medications are at a safe level and not swinging the other way, to cause low steroid levels.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus or sugar diabetes is caused by a mismatch between insulin (the hormone that regulates sugar levels) and blood sugar. This leads to raised glucose levels in the blood, causing symptoms, such as thirst, excessive urination, and weight loss.

Left untreated, a diabetic develops complications, such as cataracts, liver damage, and neuropathies. Diabetes is readily controlled by dietary control and regular insulin injections. But this does take considerable dedication and is a financial commitment.


Both parent breeds are prone to weight gain, unless given plenty of exercise. Sadly, obesity is also a risk factor for diabetes, which makes it even more important not to over-feed a Corkie and play with them plenty.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Those cute looks can lull the unwary into thinking this dog is all about snuggles, when in fact, they are active dogs. Think back to those working parent breeds with Yorkies hunting rats and the Cocker flushing out woodchuck, and this begins to make sense.

A Corkie needs at least one hour of active exercise, playing fetch and running off lead in order to keep them happy. Without this, not only will they pile on the pounds and become overweight, but they’ll develop behavioural issues.

A bored Corkie is a noisy Corkie with exercise being to antidote to barking and unwanted destructiveness. Oh, and don’t think leaving the Corkie out in the back garden is exercise enough – to be truly satisfied, they need interactive play with their owner.


Be prepared for parlour visits with a Corkie. That medium length silky fur easily forms knots and tangles. Plus, left untrimmed and the Corkie quickly becomes a shaggy fuzz-ball. Home care is essential with daily brushing recommended. Use a metal comb to separate the fur down to the skin, and a bristle brush to smooth hair and spread natural conditioning oils over the coat.

Another essential part of grooming, which is often overlooked, is tooth brushing. Daily brushing prevents plaque and tartar accumulation. This is important since the Yorkie in particular is prone to dental disease and tooth loss.

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