King Charles Yorkie

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult King Charles Yorkie
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The King Charlies Yorkie is a hybrid dog, a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Yorkshire Terrier. They also go by the names of Yorkalier, York-a-Lier, and Cava-Yorkie. With a reputation for being good natured, they are a great option for the first-time dog owner (but are prone to barking).

The King Charles Yorkie is a small to medium-sized dog with heart-stealing good looks and a patient personality. They are truly a breed almost without fault, except their love of barking. Loving, loyal, funny, clever, and gentle, these fur-friends make great family dogs and may even get along with the cat. Just be prepared to dedicate time to daily grooming and don’t skip on the exercise, just because they are a smaller dog.

About & History

The King Charles Yorkie is a newcomer on the scene, with the first hybrids appearing with the new century. However, both parent breeds have long and illustrious histories.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is known for their associations with King Charles II, who was fanatical about the breed. Their roots in smaller toy spaniels, favoured by ladies at the English Tudor court and the breed popularity peaked King Charles I and II, who were both fans. However, when William III came to the throne, other breeds supplanted their place.

The Cavalier ducked out of the limelight for a while, until the 18th century when the Duke of Marlborough took an interest in them. He bred the dogs to improve their sporting qualities, and developed the distinctive Blenheim coat colour (chestnut and white) named after his residence, Blenheim Palace.

Sadly in the 20th century, the popularity of the Cavalier has been their undoing. Interbreeding with a limited gene pool has made problems, such as heart disease and syringomyelia, the rule rather than the exception, which major welfare implications for the breed.

The Yorkshire Terrier

The clue to the Yorkshire Terrier's heritage is in their name. They are a true terrier, in that they were bred to hunt rats, mice, and vermin. Around the time of the industrial revolution, their job of work was in the Yorkshire mills, where these small dogs lived at home with their master, who then took their dog to work beside them in the mill.

The charming nature of these small dogs was recognised and they became Victorian pets. In the 1860s, one particular male dog, known as Huddersfield Ben, was particularly popular as a sire and is responsible for founding the dog as known today. Eventually, in the 1870s, the breed officially became known as the Yorkshire Terrier, and found favour with Queen Victoria herself.


The King Charles Yorkie is a sweet-looking fellow of small to medium size. It is the nature of hybrid dogs that in the same litter there may be pups who distinctly resemble a Cavalier or a Yorkie, and some that are a true mix.

The King Charles Yorkie has a slightly rounded skull with a moderate size snout finished with a black leathery nose. Attention is often drawn to their eyes by the presence of tan-coloured ‘eyebrows’.

Their ears may be dropped (like the Cavalier) or slightly pricked (like the Yorkie), but always covered in a generous amount of fur. This is also true of their tail, which is straight and waggy, and festooned with feathering. The King Charles Yorkie has a long, soft, silky coat, which may be the classic black and tan associated with the Yorkie, or a combination of ruby, black and tan, or even tricolour.

Character & Temperament

The King Charles Yorkie are loyal, loving, and eager to please, and a great family dog. They have many other excellent qualities, such as being gentle and patient and may even get along with cats. One potential downside is these furry four-leggers love to bark. This can make for grumbly neighbours if you live in a flat or apartment.


Don’t be deceived by that sweet face! The King Charles Yorkie is clever and mischievous unless their energy is channelled by training.

Your King Charles Yorkie will lap up the attention of one-to-one reward-based training, and love you all the more for it. This training method utilises praise and reward to motivate the dog, making it a fun time for all. Not only will this help keep a King Charles Yorkie on the straight-and-narrow, but it gives their mind a good workout and prevents boredom.


There is little data pertaining specifically to King Charles Yorkie health. However, the parent breeds are at increased risk of developing certain health problems, which could also apply to their offspring.

Mitral Valve Disease

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a high probability of heart disease. This takes the form of a leaky heart valve (the mitral valve) in the left side of the heart. Whilst a heart murmur doesn’t indicate heart failure, over time, the condition can worsen and develop into congestive heart failure.

Excellent medications are available, proven to postpone the onset of heart failure. However, their effectiveness depends on starting the treatment at the right time. To identify this sweet spot requires regular vet checks and an ultrasound scan to confirm heart enlargement.

Portosystemic Shunt

A portosystemic shunt (PSS) refers to a blood vessels that shunts blood past the foetal liver in the womb. Once the puppy is born, this shunt should close down so that blood is routed through the liver to be detoxed.

When the shunt fails to close, the dog becomes ‘toxic’ after eating. Symptoms include drooling uncontrollably, a ‘vacant’ mental state, and sometimes seizures and collapse. Specialist surgical correction is available but is costly. In cases where the condition is mild or surgery is not an option, medical management helps but the dog’s life expectancy may be reduced.

Patellar Luxation

The patella or kneecap sits over the knee, providing a fulcrum for the thigh muscles to pull on. Patellar luxation refers to slippage of the kneecap, so when the thigh muscles contract the kneecap is pulled off to one side.

Symptoms include the dog skipping steps on a back leg or lameness. Mildly affected dogs may need occasional pain relief, whereas the worst cases require corrective surgery to restore their mobility.

Syringomyelia & Chiari-like Malformation

This is a distressing condition affecting the brain and spinal cord, which is strongly linked to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This is the result of a mismatch between the size of the brain, which is too big to fit in the skull cavity. Other abnormalities can also develop, resulting in pockets of fluid forming within the spinal cord.

Sadly, this can be an extremely painful condition. Whilst there are medical options for pain relief, there is no cure. In an ideal world, the parents should be screened for this condition and only healthy dogs used for breeding.

Dry Eye

Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, results from a lack of tear fluid production. The cause of this is thought to be the immune system attacking the glands that produce tear fluid.

Dry eye can be controlled with the regular use of artificial tears and ointment to suppress the immune system in the eye. However, the latter is costly and monthly treatment can be pricey.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The King Charles Yorkie may be a cuddly character, but spare a thought for his ancestry. The King Charles Cavalier is a spaniel (originally retriever dogs), whilst the ‘terrier’ in Yorkshire Terrier is all about hunting vermin. This adds up to a dog that likes the comfortable things in life, but is also up for adventure.

Despite their small to medium size, the King Charles Yorkie needs to get out and about for daily exercise. Of course this doesn’t have to be extreme, but he will benefit from at least one hour each day spent walking, playing, or sniffing. It’s fine to split this exercise into two, 30 minute walks, just be sure to provide some off-lead time for the dog to properly stretch his legs and get out of breath through play.


Both parent breeds have long silky coats, and their offspring is no exception. The King Charles Yorkie is not a heavy shedder, but that soft hair does need regular combing and brushing to prevent knots forming. Special attention should be paid to areas where fur rubs against fur, such as behind the ears, under the tail, and the armpits, since this is where matts often start.

The King Charles Yorkie needs regular parlour trips but it’s best to avoid bathing too frequently, since this strips out the natural oils. As with all dogs, daily tooth brushing is advisable to prevent dental disease.

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