Regular readers know that I’m not generally a fan of “designer” breeds, and I have a particular dislike for breeders that take ridiculously small dogs and try to make them even smaller, leading to health complications and suffering on the part of the animal (see Why You Should Walk Away From Teacup Dogs).
That said, it would appear that the trend is here to stay, and I’m not so full of myself as to think that my musings, in my humble blog, are going to stop people from paying outrageous amounts for dogs that, not all that long ago, would have been simply given away. Back in the day, Chipoos, Yorkiepoos, Pekapoos and the like were the results of accidental breedings, and considered to be undesirable and largely unsalable. Today, though, they command prices often in excess of what you would pay for a purebred animal.
I stand by everything I said in A Chorkie is a Mix, Not a Breed! However, I have to acknowledge that this particular mix is very popular. So in this post, I’m going to go into more detail on the Chorkie. Once you finish reading, you can decide whether this type of dog is right for you and your family. My goal here is simply to let you know what you’re getting into with a Chorkie, and I’ll do my best to leave my personal bias out of it.
A cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Chihuahua may go by many names – Yorkiechi, Chiyorkie, Yorkiehuahua – but the preferred appellation seems to be Chorkie, so that’s what I’m going to stick with. Of course this is not a purebred dog, so if you see an ad for “purebred Chorkies,” keep in mind that there is no such thing. It is a cross, and not recognized as a breed by the AKC.
Chorkies are small dogs, standing usually no taller than 9 inches at the withers, and weighing at most a bit under 10 pounds. The Chorkie is typically easy to train, doesn’t shed much, and is of average intelligence when compared with other dog breeds. They adapt well to apartment living, and make good pets for elderly people who might not get out much. However, they can be very yappy, and are not typically good with children. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but these are things you should keep in mind if you are considering a Chorkie.
The Chorkie is a fairly recent development in dog breeding, with the deliberate crossing of Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas in the 1990s. Surprisingly, they became very popular, and attempts have been made to have the Chorkie recognized as a breed. The AKC and other breed clubs speedily quashed the idea, saying essentially that no matter how good the breeding stock, the Chorkie was not going to be acknowledged. Having been summarily rejected, Chorkie breeders developed their own “breed” clubs, dedicated to ensuring responsible breeding. If you are considering a Chorkie, I would definitely recommend buying from a breeder who is a member of such a club – there are far too many people out there breeding with no concern whatsoever for the health of the resulting puppies, and as a result, too many Chorkies with serious defects. The Chorkie being a cross, there is really no way of knowing exactly what you’re going to get, but people who genuinely care about these little dogs will not breed for defects like abnormally small size, and will be willing to provide you with health clearances showing that the parents are free of conditions that are known to be problematic in the Yorkshire Terrier and the Chihuahua.
Chorkies come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Some Chorkies are solid and compact, while others may be more slender and long-legged. Neither is better than the other, and it’s really a matter of personal preference when it comes to which type is more pleasing.
Chorkies can have straight coats, or a very fluffy appearance. Either variety is low-shedding. The coat can be black, brown or a combination of the two, red, grey, tan, white or merle. Although merle Chorkies are very pretty dogs, they can be prone to deafness, eye problems, and other disorders, and are therefore best avoided.
Chorkies typically have pleasing temperaments, and love to cuddle. However, they are prone to separation anxiety, so if you’re the type of person who leads a very active life outside the home, a Chorkie may not be the right choice for you. This isn’t necessarily a fault, though – in fact, it’s one of the factors that makes the Chorkie such a good choice for the elderly, and also for families that have older children and one stay-home parent.
Chorkies are eager to learn, and not all that difficult to train. However, they’re not always a good choice for first-time dog owners since they can be stubborn, and if not properly socialized, can be aggressive toward people and other animals. While it might seem charming to watch your Chorkie try to face down the neighbor’s Rottweiler, it could lead to a very bad outcome.
It’s important to socialize your Chorkie early on, to people and to other animals before any tendency toward dominance manifests in your dog. A well-socialized Chorkie will usually be fine with other animals, and cooperative with humans.
You should keep in mind, though, that your little buddy is half Yorkshire Terrier, and therefore might feel inclined to chase other animals like squirrels or your neighbor’s cat. Obedience training is very important if you’re going to curtail this behavior. Some Chorkies never fully overcome the urge to chase, and are best kept on leash when you’re out and about. The last thing you want is for your dog to run into traffic! Chorkies love to play outdoors, though, and one of the best ways to keep your buddy safe is by using a high-walled dog playpen that gives him plenty of room to move around, but keeps him from venturing into unsafe territory. Make sure, too, that he has a variety of size-appropriate toys to keep him from getting bored.
Of course, your Chorkie is going to be happiest when playing with you, so make sure to spend plenty of time with him. If you have children, be sure that they know that rough play is not a good idea – a Chorkie is a small dog, and can be easily hurt.
Chorkies are very prone to separation anxiety, as I’ve already mentioned. These little dogs need to be with their humans, and should not be left alone for long periods. Prolonged time alone can result in yappiness and destruction. It’s not that your little guy wants to be a bad dog; it’s just that barking and tearing stuff up is his way of alleviating the stress he feels due to being left alone.
Of course some Chorkies bark like crazy just because they enjoy doing it. This behavior needs to be gently corrected early on. This is usually easily accomplished with a kind voice and a few treats. When the dog is barking, say “Quiet” gently but firmly. Keep saying “Quiet” at regular intervals. When the dog finally stops barking, give him a treat. Soon your small friend will get the idea that when he stops barking, he gets a treat. The down side to this is that yourChorkie, being a pretty smart dog, might just start yapping because he knows that once he shuts his cute little face, you’ll give him something good. If that happens, simply ignore the barking. He’ll clue in soon enough.
Chorkies enjoy most forms of exercise, but they’re very low-maintenance when it comes to having their need for activity met. A couple of brisk walks a day will be all that’s needed, and if that’s not possible, vigorous exercise at home will do the trick. Even a small apartment looks very big to something the size of a Chorkie, and they’ll happily chase a ball from one end of a room to the other until they’re worn out.
If you’re outdoorsy, your Chorkie will love going places with you. Be careful where you choose to exercise your Chorkie, though – water is not necessarily his friend.
Some Chorkies are enthusiastic swimmers, and others not so much. It’s never a good idea to force a water-shy dog into a body of water, because contrary to the popular belief that any dog will swim if he has to, dogs have been known to panic and drown. And because of the Chorkie’s small size, even if he loves to swim, it’s best to avoid fast-moving water – it’s easy for these little dogs to get swept away. He might be only too happy to get into that rushing brook, but he’s your responsibility, and you have to know what’s best for him.
Um… NO. Just no. I know that you’ve heard all those stories about how any dog is a deterrent to an invader, but that’s only true to a certain extent. Sure, a burglar would probably prefer to avoid any premises where a dog is known to live, because the noise made by the dog could alert neighbors to what’s going on. But if you’re not dealing with someone who just wants your stuff – there’s actually someone out there who wants to cause you physical harm – a Chorkie is going to be useless.
If you have any concerns about your physical safety (say for instance an abusive ex who has vowed to kill you), then you want something like an English Mastiff, a Rottweiler, or a Doberman that can take your attacker down quickly and without difficulty. If you rely on a Chorkie, you’re probably both going to end up hurt, or worse. Sometimes, the old saying (you know the one I’m talking about) isn’t accurate – in some situations, it really IS the size of the dog in the fight.
Chorkies are not at the top of the intelligence scale when it comes to dogs, but they’re not at the bottom either. They’re smart and eager to learn, and you can’t start training too early.
The biggest problem with training a Chorkie isn’t the dog – it’s the owner. Because Chorkies are so cute and cuddly, people tend to let them get away with things, and what’s cute as the dickens now might not be so adorable later.
This is often the case with small dogs. A friend of mine has a Shih Tzu, and when her dog was a puppy, she thought it was just cute beyond words the way he’d guard his food. It probably was pretty cute, until the dog got a bit older and my friend ended up with a nasty puncture wound in the webbing between her thumb and index finger. It got even less cute when the dog began biting her elderly mother.
It doesn’t matter how small a dog is, aggression can be dangerous. So if you’re a Chorkie owner, keep in mind that you need to train your little fella the same way you would train a much larger dog – in such a way as to prevent aggression and dominance issues.
Also keep in mind that Chorkies, like most dogs, respond best to positive reinforcement, not to harsh training methods. Any dog that’s mishandled can end up being fearful, and fear often leads to aggression.
I’ve already suggested that a Chorkie isn’t the best choice for people who have young children. Putting a Chorkie in a home with young kids can be a recipe for disaster. First off, it’s hard to explain to a toddler that he or she has to be very careful with such a small dog. Little ones play rough, and the dog could easily be hurt. A hurt dog is likely to react, and the child could be bitten.
I really wouldn’t even recommend a Chorkie for families with older children, simply because of the size of the dog and the poor impulse control in some teens. Another friend of mine had a Great Dane that was demanding attention for her teenage daughter. The daughter had just about enough of the dog’s persistent demands, and picked up a makeup mirror and broke it over the dog’s head. The Dane was fine, but you can imagine that there could have been a very different outcome with a dog as small as a Chorkie.
If you have kids, and you’re determined to adopt a Chorkie, I’d recommend supervising both the dog and the kids. Actually, I’d take it a step further and say that you should consider another, larger type of dog. However, as Woody Allen famously said of his relationship (shudder!) with Soon Yi Previn, “The heart wants what it wants.” If you have kids, and your heart is crying out for a Chorkie, far be it from me to try to stop you.
But please, please, exercise due caution.
You can expect your Chorkie to live between 10-15 years, if properly nourished and cared for. Feed a good quality small breed dog food, make sure to keep your tiny friend’s shots up to date, and see your veterinarian for a checkup twice a year.
The theory that cross-breeding eliminates the health issues that might plague either parent does not hold water. Some issues might be bred out, but any dog, of any breed or mix, is going to be susceptible to various health problems, and the Chorkie is no exception.
Some of the most common health problems in Chorkies are hypoglycemia, dental problems, and a propensity toward hereditary eye diseases like progressive retinal atrophy and primary lens luxation. The good news is that all these conditions are treatable.
As I previously stated, a responsible breeder should be able to show you clearances for the most common health problems. This doesn’t mean that they’re saying your Chorkie pup will never develop these conditions; it just means that the parents didn’t. If the breeder is unwilling to show you clearances, you should reconsider buying a puppy from that breeder. With the increased demand for small crossbreeds, more and more puppy mills have cropped up, and a reluctance to show health clearances could be an indication that you are dealing with a puppy mill. If you don’t know what a puppy mill is, check out my post, 5 Reasons Why Puppy Mills Must Be Stopped.
Other red flags that can give you a tip-off that you might be dealing with a puppy mill include a reluctance on the part of the breeder to let you see the parents, or to let you come to his or her home and view the litter. You should always be able to at least see the mother. If you can’t see the father, that might not necessarily be a red flag – often, breeders will take a bitch to an off-site male. But if you can’t see the mother and the rest of the litter, then run, don’t walk, in the opposite direction – something is very wrong. If a breeder wants to meet you in a parking lot or any location other than his or her breeding facility, that’s another tip-off that something isn’t on the level. Again, you should bail.
Any time I’ve bred Janice and Leroy, I’ve welcomed people into my home. In fact, I’ve insisted that they come and see my dogs, and their progeny. And the flip side on a litter visit is also true – any time a person showed a disinterest in coming to see the litter, I’ve said “Thanks for your inquiry, but no thanks.” Good breeders want you to see the litter and meet the parents, and people who are likely to provide a good home for a new puppy want to do just that.
A bad breeder will want you to take your Chorkie home at a ridiculously young age. Most large breeds, like my Boxers, are best kept with the mother until they are 10 weeks old, although some breeders will let them go at 8 weeks. My opinion is that 8 weeks is the bare minimum for any breed, but some breeders of small dogs will tell you that because of the size, 6 weeks or even 4 is early enough.
It’s not. A puppy that leaves its mother earlier than 8 weeks is almost assured to develop socialization problems, because those first 8 weeks are the time when he learns how to be a dog. Puppies that are left with the mother long enough usually end up being well socialized animals and ready for human contact. Under 8 weeks, they’re not getting what they need in terms of canine socialization. Think of it this way – would you send a 4-year-old kid off to boarding school and expect him to turn out normal?
Of course you wouldn’t. You’d know that he needed time to be at home with his Mom and Dad, and just be a kid for a while. So why would you expect a too-soon-taken puppy to be well adjusted?
So once at least 8 weeks has passed, you can go and get your Chorkie puppy. It’s usually best to pick him up when you know that you’ll be able to help him settle in. You should also set up your home in a puppy-friendly fashion. Make sure that he has a quiet place to get all the sleep that he needs, puppy-proof your house for electrical wires and other hazards (basically do the same as you would for a toddler), and make sure that other family members give him the “quiet time” he needs. Often, a new puppy can be overwhelmed because family members are just so excited to have him there – remember that he’s just been taken away from his mother and his littermates, and everything else that he finds familiar. Be calm and patient when introducing him to his new environment.
I’ve already mentioned toys and a playpen, but you might also want to consider investing in a small dog crate. I like the wire ones better than the ones with solid sides and a wire front, because you can give your dog as much or as little privacy as he wants. If your Chorkie is a bit shy, you can always drape a blanket over the back and sides until he feels more comfortable, but you can’t exactly get rid of solid sides.
A baby gate that fits between doors or at the top of the stairs is also a good idea – you can keep your Chorkie out of areas you’d prefer that he not occupy, and keep him safe when you’re not able to watch him.
Of course you’ll also need size-appropriate food and water bowls. A metal bowl is very easy to clean, and you should easily be able to find one in an appropriate size.
Nail clippers are essential grooming tools, as is a good small dog grooming brush.
Finally, unless you’re like me and let your dogs sleep on your bed with you (which might not be the best idea with something the size of a Chorkie if you’re a restless sleeper and prone to tossing and turning throughout the night), a dog bed is essential.
Now, on the subject of the bed, let me just point this out – your little buddy is going to be very tired when you finally get him home, and he’ll probably be feeling overwhelmed. The first thing he’s likely to want is a nap. So if your house is a place of loud music, laughter and other noise, dial it down a bit and let your new arrival rest. Too much noise could stress him, and you want his first impression of your home to be welcoming.
So you’ve got your little Chorkie, and you want to do the best for him. The most important thing you can do is make sure that his vaccinations are up to date. I recently heard of a dog owner who thought that parvo shots were optional. Her dog developed parvo, almost died, and required more than a thousand dollars’ worth of veterinary treatment.Even with treatment, that dog is never going to be completely healthy, will likely require a lot of veterinary care over the course of his life, and his life will be shortened for lack of a shot that costs about $30.
Get your dog his shots. Please.
I touched on this earlier, but if you’re contemplating buying a Chorkie, keep in mind that you may very well end up spending more than you would on a purebred dog. It’s simple supply and demand – breeders ask a lot for Chorkies because a lot of people want them. So think carefully about whether you really want this trendy mix, or whether you’d be happier with a purebred Yorkshire Terrier or Chihuahua that might very well cost you less than a Chorkie.
Also, watch for scams. You can expect that a reputable breeder will want you to put some money down for your Chorkie pup, but if you haven’t even seen the dog, don’t cough up the money. There are way too many online scams advertising dogs that don’t even exist. If you can’t actually see your puppy – and I mean in person, not in a photograph – there is a very good chance that you’re being scammed.
Also make sure that one parent is a Yorkshire Terrier, and the other is a Chihuahua. If a breeder tells you that your puppy is coming from “purebred Chorkies,” find another breeder, because there is no such thing. And besides, using Chorkies to make other Chorkies has historically been unsuccessful, with the puppies being substandard and prone to all manner of health issues.
Would I buy a Chorkie? No. I wouldn’t do it because I consider these crosses to be ridiculously over-priced. And because I always try to be completely honest with you, I’ll add the caveat that I’m not really all that fond of little dogs. I don’t exactly dislike them, but I don’t see small dogs as being a good fit in my life.
My main concern is that there are too many breeders out there who are breeding for defects – abnormally tiny dogs that veterinarians don’t even want to work on because the size of the organs are so small that when surgery is needed, it’s fraught with danger. So if you absolutely must have a Chorkie, at least make sure that the parents are a decent size – no smaller than 8 pounds, preferably. No responsible breeder would give you a Chorkie smaller than that, and buying one that’s smaller is just going to lead to heartbreak when health problems inevitably occur.
Remember, too, that with a crossbreed, you can never be truly sure of what you’re going to end up with. Most of the time, it’s the luck of the draw. You might end up with a perfectly delightful little creature that will bring you joy for many years. Or you might be in for a total nightmare when it comes to health issues and vet bills. When it comes to the Chorkie, it’s buyer beware, and all the more reason for you to make sure to see the parents.
I’m actually the last person who should advise you on which dog to choose, since my preference has always been Boxers, and Boxers are very prone to a number of health issues. I knew that going in, though. And I want you to do the same if you’re considering a Chorkie – keep in mind that they are not always the healthiest dogs in the entire world, and that when health issues in a Chorkie do occur, they can set you back a fair pile of money. That said, though, I’ll defer to Woody Allen again – the heart wants what it wants, and if your heart wants a Chorkie, go for it. Just make sure to buy from a good breeder, and socialize your little buddy early on, and you should enjoy many happy years with your Chorkie.