Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Dorkie
Barely /

The Dorkie is a hirsute hound – a mix between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Dachshund. This is a small breed, but with a big character as befitting the strong personality of both parents. As for the Dorkie’s looks, their Yorkie parentage is strongly evident; with their coats often taking on the familiar black and tan of the Yorkshire Terrier. However, the Dachshund is also hinted at in their proportionally longer back and shorter legs.

A well-socialised Dorkie makes for a charming and characterful canine companion. However, this is a dog that is prepared to stand up for themselves. If threatened or treated with a lack of respect, they may growl or snap. For this reason, as with all dogs, Dorkies should be supervised around children.

About & History

The rise in popularity of hybrid dogs took place towards the end of the 20th century. This involves parent dogs from two different pedigree breeds, being bred together to produce pups that are a blend of both of their characteristics. Thus, although the Dorkie itself is a relative newcomer, their family tree is long and venerable.

The Dachshund

The Dachshund has German origins, and their name translates as the ‘badger hound’. This reflects the job they were bred to carry out: hunting badgers. The breed was developed around about the 1500s, using breeding stock that included the Pinscher, the Braque Français, and the Basset Fauve de Bretagne.

Of course the most distinctive feature of the Dachshund is that long back mounted on short legs. This made them the perfect size for exploring badger sets. Some people even hold that their long flagpole tail was a deliberate trait to use as a means of hauling a dog out of a badger set should they get stuck.

The cheeky personality and quirky looks of the Dachshund made them popular as pets. With Queen Victoria as a fan, their star rose even further, until the Second World War. The breed’s undeniable link to Germany meant they were temporarily ‘unpatriotic’ and numbers waned. But after the war, their charm and character won out again and they were once more welcome as pets.

The Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier has English origins, this time dating back to the early 19th century. With modern Yorkies being hugely popular pets, it’s easy to overlook that these were once a working dog through and through.

The forerunners of the Yorkshire Terrier included breeds, such as the now extinct English Black and Tan Terrier, the extinct Paisley Terrier, the popular Maltese, the Skye Terrier, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, and the Airedale Terrier. The hint as to their role is in all those ‘terrier’ breeds, as these little dogs were bred to be ratters.

Their job was to hunt vermin in Yorkshire wool and cotton mills. These dogs were tenacious and courageous, and made a game companion trotting alongside the heel of the mill-workers. Indeed, they accompanied their master home and so endeared themselves that they also became pets. Of course the modern Yorkshire Terrier is more lapdog than ratdog, but even so, their tenacious character still lurks beneath those long silky locks.


Dorkie Large Photo
Paul Barbee /

The Dorkie tends to have the looks and coat of a Yorkshire Terrier, but with the elongated body of the Dachshund. They have a good-sized snout, black leather nose, and drop ears. Look at that cute face and it easy to spot the Yorkie heritage.

Their body is somewhat stretched and their legs a little truncated, all finished off with a long flag-pole tail swaged with feathering. The coat colour is more usually black and tan or brown and tan, although red and blue colour variations exist depending on their parents. These are generally medium-to-long coated dogs, the exact length dependant on whether the Dachshund parent was short or long coated.

Character & Temperament

Both parent breeds are strong-minded and apt to think for themselves. This can make for a stubborn dog that has an opinion on matters. On the plus side, this makes them characterful and charming, but on the minus side, can lead to bad behaviour, such as snappiness.

When socialised well as a puppy and gently taught how to behave, however, the Dorkie is a veritable angel-in-a-fur coat of a family dog. But even with a well-behaved Dorkie you can’t rest on your laurels. They need clear boundaries so they are in no doubt as to what is and isn’t allowed. They also firm but fair handling, so they understand their place in the household and don’t get too bossy or above themselves.

And, finally, these little dogs have a big voice. They know how to bark and aren’t afraid to do so. Again, on the plus side, they make a surprisingly good guard dog, but at the same time might cause you to fall out with the neighbours.


Photo of Dorkie puppy
Orin Zebest /

Dorkies are prepared to push boundaries to see what they can get away with. The savvy Dorkie owner is aware of this and uses reward-based training to motivate their dog to behave well.

Reward-based training is simply a means of teaching the dog that good behaviour earns a reward, whereas inappropriate behaviour is not. A clever dog like the Dorkie soon realizes that co-operation is more profitable than disobedience, and behaves accordingly.

As with any dog, harsh punitive training methods are unwarranted and counter-productive. With a bossy dog, such as the Dorkie, it will bring out the worst in them and lead to bad temper.


There are no formal statistics relating to Dorkie health problems. However, their parent breeds are strongly linked to a number of conditions. There is a mistake to think that hybrid dogs are healthier than the parent breeds, since this is down to probability and the laws of genetics. Yes, on one hand a hybrid could be lucky and escape parental traits for illness, but on the other they could inherit double trouble.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation, or wobbly kneecaps, is a problem in common for both parent breeds. This refers to a lack of stability that allows the kneecap (patella) to pop to one side. This causes a mechanical locking of the limb such that the dog skips a step.

Mild cases need little more than occasional pain relief. But for those most severely affected, reconstructive surgery of the knee leads to greatly improved mobility.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

It’s no surprise that the Dachshund’s long back has the potential to cause problems for the Dorkie. Think of that long spine as equivalent to bridge spanning a river. If the river is very wide, the bridge is prone to sag in the middle and put the structure under strain, especially in a breed that has a long back.

Symptoms range from back pain of varying severity, through to paralysis. In the most severe cases, surgery is required to give the patient a chance of regaining sensation in their limbs, but this cannot be guaranteed.

Portosystemic Shunts (PSS)

Sadly, both the Yorkie and Dachshund have a tendency to portosystemic shunts, which makes it statistically more likely in a Dorkie.

A PSS refers to a blood vessel that shunts blood past the liver. This blood vessel is present in the foetus but is supposed to close shortly after birth. If it fails to do so, blood bypasses the liver where it should be detoxed. The result is an accumulation of natural toxins within the body, which cause neurological signs. These symptoms are worst shortly after eating, and range from heavy salivation to seizures.

Medical treatment can alleviate the symptoms but not cure the condition. In specialist hands, the shunt can be tied off, but this is technically very demanding and isn’t always 100% successful.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is a trait of the Yorkshire Terrier. The trachea, also known as the windpipe, is composed of cartilage rings braced across the top with a spring ligament. If this ligament is too slack, the windpipe lacks sufficient rigidity and tends to flatten out.

To understand the significance, think of a hosepipe. When you step on a hosepipe water no longer flows. Likewise, with a collapsed windpipe, air can’t pass along, leaving the dog short of breath.

Symptoms of a collapsing trachea range from a harsh honking noise to fainting episodes. It’s possible to surgically correct the problem using a stent, but this procedure is not without risk and is costly.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Dorkie does have a tendency to gain weight, so regular physical activity is essential. They need to be active, however, at the same time, those little legs can’t cover a huge distance. A good compromise is to aim for two good walks a day, of around half to three-quarters of an hour. Some off-leash time is ideal, when the Dorkie is encouraged to sprint and chase with a lively game of ball.

Be aware that a bright dog like the Dorkie needs plenty of mental stimulation. This can take the form of fun, obedience training sessions, since they will love the one-to-one attention they get from their owner. Other suggestions to occupy a Dorkie include laying scent trails for them or using puzzle feeders.


The Dorkie coat needs a moderate amount of attention. Basic grooming necessities include a metal comb, to separate the hair down to the skin, and a brush, which spreads natural conditioning oils over the coat.

Depending on which parent the Dorkie’s coat takes after, some may require regular parlour trips for a clip and brush up to keep them spruce and tidy.

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