Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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The Norkie is an incredibly rare hybrid dog that only exists in very small numbers internationally today. Combining the spirited and curious nature of the Norfolk Terrier with the affectionate personality of the Yorkshire Terrier, it is only a matter of time before the Norkie’s population size will increase. These small dogs are relatively easy to train and are always eager to please their master.

Rarely reaching heights of over 25cm, the Norkie is one of the smallest designer dogs available on the market. They have wiry bodies and short legs – attributes that would have served their parents well in their rat hunting days. Those with longer coats require quite a lot of grooming though they do not tend to shed very much.

About & History

The Norkie is only just emerging onto the designer dog scene and is still incredibly rare. Due to this, we have limited information on the breed’s history. They are a product of mixing the Norfolk Terrier with the Yorkshire Terrier – two English Terriers that were both originally developed within the 1800s. As both dogs were traditionally used as ratters, they have quite similar temperaments and appearances, meaning the Norkie already has quite a uniform look and personality.

The Norfolk Terrier

The Norfolk Terrier is very similar to the Norwich Terrier and they were once one and the same breed. However, through the years, they developed into two distinct breeds: one with pendulous ears (the Norfolk) and the other with erect ears (the Norwich). For several centuries, these terriers have been working in Great Britain, flushing out a variety of prey, including foxes and badgers, and keeping control of the local vermin levels.

Of course, today’s Norfolk Terrier has retained its hunting instincts and prey drive but has been bred to fit in more as a family pet and to be less dedicated to its work. It was a man named Frank Jones that eventually established and standardised the breed and the old name for the Norfolk terrier was actually the Jones Terrier. The Kennel Club accepted the breed in the year 1932.

The Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier is an especially successful breed that is well known internationally and has several celebrity owners. This toy dog was established in Yorkshire, England, and despite its diminutive frame and delicate bone structure, the breed was primarily used as a ratter in mines and other places – a job which it performed well.

It descended from a mix of similar Terriers, such as the Skye Terrier and the Black and Tan Terrier. There has been a trend towards breeding Yorkies that are smaller and smaller and breeders often use the controversial term ‘teacup’ to describe particularly small individuals. While one of the smallest dog breeds in the world, these little guys are known for their larger than life personalities and do not let their size hold them back!


A small dog that measures between 20cm and 25cm and weighs from 2.5kg to 5kg, the Norkie is diminutive but slightly more robust than its Yorkshire Terrier parent. Their body is proportionate and compact, rectangular in shape with short legs. They should have a small face with a neat muzzle and dark brown eyes that are circular in shape. Their ears are set high on their head and may stand erect like the Yorkie are drop sweetly down like the Norfolk Terrier. Their nose is patent black and relatively big, taking centre stage on their petite face. Their tail is moderately long and may be held upright or to the side.

The coat of the Norkie may be harsh and medium in length like the Norfolk Terrier or long and silky like the Yorkie. In reality, most possess fur that falls somewhere in the middle of the two. When not groomed short, their coat can look quite shaggy and unkempt. Many individuals will have black and tan fur, though some will have a wheaten or red coat.

Character & Temperament

It is typically the personality of the Norkie that endears them to potential owners. They rely on human companionship for their happiness and absolutely love to be around people. They are highly affectionate and loving and will bond strongly with the entire family, sometimes choosing one person in particular as their ‘favourite’. They are quite content acting as lap dogs and will never say no to a cuddle.

Curious and brave, the Norkie approaches the world at full pace and is rarely fearful or cautious. They are highly adaptable and can do well in both urban and rural environments. They are typically tolerant of children but some individuals can be snappy if over-handled and it is always best to monitor this small breed when around younger children who may treat them as teddy bears rather than animals.

As is true of a number of small breeds, ‘small dog syndrome’ can become an issue in the Norkie. Affected dogs can be over-excitable, yappy and often do not listen well to instruction. While they may tolerate their family, they can be unaccepting of other people and may growl and snap at them for no real reason. Owners must understand that though the Norkie is small and incredibly cute, it must learn to abide by the same rules as all other dogs and bad behaviour should not be tolerated. Consistent training and regular play and exercise can prevent this syndrome from developing.


A smart and intuitive dog, the Norkie can do well in its training sessions, even with an unexperienced owner. They can master a wide range of tasks quickly and work best when rewarded for their efforts with plenty of vocal praise.

Training sessions in the great outdoors can pose a challenge in some, particularly if there are rats and squirrels about. Easily distracted, owners may wish to consider using fenced-in gardens as their training centres and should keep sessions short and fun.


The tiny size of the Norkie is linked to several health issues and there are a variety of conditions that must be closely monitored for within this small but growing population.

Porto-Systemic Shunt

A Porto-Systemic Shunt is an abnormal vein that transports blood from the intestines to the rest of the body before the liver has had a chance to filter and process it. As these dogs are not processing food as they should, they tend to be under-weight and small compared to their litter mates.

They may also exhibit gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and neurological signs like ataxia and seizure activity. Diagnosis is not always simple and usually involves a combination of bloodwork, imaging and scintigraphy. Surgery is the treatment of choice and about 85% of dogs tend to do very well afterwards.

Mitral Valve Disease

A progressive heart condition that affects the valve which separates the left atrium and left ventricle within the heart, affected dogs will have a heart murmur that will get louder as time goes on. Inevitably, this condition will result in heart failure. Nowadays, modern medicine means that many animals are managed for years and years on medication, maintaining a good quality of life.

Eye Conditions

There are a number of conditions that the Norkie can inherit that affect their eyes and vision, including Glaucoma, Primary Lens Luxation, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Breeders are thus advised to use the relevant eye schemes available to ensure that breeding animals will not be passing on these debilitating conditions to their offspring.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A real benefit of the Norkie is that they do not require a large amount of space or exercise. While they are active little chaps, for most, a 30-minute vigorous walk or hike is enough to keep them satisfied each day. Owners should supplement this short walk with a number of play sessions and should try to keep their dog mentally engaged by providing them with plenty of fun and varied activities to do.


The grooming requirements of the Norkie will depend on which parent breed it inherits its coat from and also on whether owners opt to keep their fur long or trim it regularly for convenience. Silky, long coats will need daily brushing to prevent tangles, while shorter coats will need brushing far less frequently than this.

It is important that the teeth of the Norkie are brushed on a daily basis to remove any plaque that has accumulated throughout the day and to reduce the risk of periodontal disease. Their small jaw size means that they are prone to overcrowded mouths and bad teeth. Owners can also keep teeth healthy by feeding dry kibble rather than wet, meaty diets.

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