Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shorkie Time

At the request of Steffy from Priceless Pups...

Meet the Shorkie. That's a Yorkie/Shih-tzu - not Sheltie. ;)

(Where are all the plus-sized muttpuppies at? Somebody find me a nice big hybrid to pick apart. They get a bonus point in the pros section if they're big enough for me to wrestle with.)

Anyway, the Shorkie. While they're not a poodle hybrid, they are rapidly taking off as a designer breed. In fact, they seem to be selling like hotcakes... Let's find out why!

THE PROS: God help me, they're so cute. Look at the cute! Look at it!!

They are low-shedding, and this we can say with some degree of certainty as both parent breeds are also relatively low shedders. Mind you, since I've never met a Shorkie myself, I'm not sure how this works out, as the Yorkie sheds so little because it has hair, and the Shih-tzu can thank its double coat. I'm struggling to imagine how these come together, but I'm sure it works out okay for little Shorkie.

Yorkies were, of course, working terriers before they hit the show ring; but Shih-tzus have always been companion dogs. A well-socialized Shorkie should be content to curl up in your lap with you, and just chill out and be affectionate.

Oh, and they should be quite brave. Which, let's face it, is better than timid.

THE CONS: Okay, a redaction: Shorkies are cute, except when they're not. (YOWCH at that last one!)

Some owners are saying their Shorkies were easily trained, but both parent breeds can be somewhat difficult, so that's a look-out as well.

That fearlessless can be an issue, too. Sometimes it's good for a dog to know that he's small enough to eat in two bites. This is actually a problem you see in writing, too - when a writer is trying to make out that their character is all buff and manly, they call him fearless. "Fearless" actually means "stupid".

But on the other hand, a fearful dog is even worse. And this one can happen a lot in toy breeds. It's extremely important to socialize a small dog young so that he isn't afraid of things later. Get him accustomed to children, other dogs, small animals, and both men and women. Let him be a puppy and run around and stick his nose in things and get into mischief. I can't stress this enough! The trouble with being a small dog is that you are so very small - small enough to be tucked under Mummy's arm whenever the whim strikes her, or to make her think you need protecting, or to be treated like a purse. When a puppy gets the chance to sniff butts and make friends with a bigger dog, he learns that bigger dogs are okay. When his owners are always snatching him up the second another canine appears on the horizon, he never gets the chance to learn on his own, and fear of the unknown can cause some major aggression later. Fear aggression is the worst to break a dog of. Worse than dominance aggression. Ever notice how the smaller the dog is, the snappier it seems to be? The smaller a dog is, the less it gets treated like a dog. It's not a breed thing, I promise. It all comes down to socialization - this goes for all breeds. Every puppy needs to wrestle and play and explore and get into trouble.

That said, the Shorkie does not necessarily require a dog-savvy owner. I imagine that they can make good family pets, which is what we like. BUT, people who are interested in a toy dog should know what special considerations toys need in order to raise a balanced dog. Because nobody likes an ankle-biter.

You breed small, you risk patellar luxation. Health screening is always good.

Shih-tzus are brachycephalic. Yorkies are not. But this doesn't mean that the puppy won't be. (Don't make me show you the underbite again.) Another problem we get with Shih-tzus is exposure keratopathy syndrome - when the eyes are particularly prominent, the dog can't blink properly, and their eyes end up exposed and uncomfortable. The outcome can be nasty. As with the jaws, there's no guarantee of breeding this feature out, so you certainly want to steer clear of parents with exaggerated facial features. Both breeds come with their share of eye problems, though, including entropion, that nasty turning-in of the eyelashes, and cataracts.

And lastly, another trouble of breeding small: hydrocephalus, which can hit up both parent breeds.

So, all things considered, the Shorkie is not a bad hybrid. But it is fairly superfluous, considering the Shih-tzu (and a half-dozen other small woolly breeds) can serve every function the Shorkie can. From my perspective they look like another fad breed. That being said, they do possess some unique appeal, and if you can find a breeder who does all the health screening and that oh so important socialization, you could wind up with a very pleasant and lovable lap dog.


GoLightly said...

Darn, they ARE cute...
Too cute.
It would be nice to see a yorkie not being treated as a purse.
I've seen too many tiny terrors. They are all getting to be too teensy-weensy. Find me a real dog!
But my next dog will definitely be smaller, again. Hmmm.

Neighbour Work Dog Sega, the Yorkie/Jack? is just a little flaming tyrant, except with Flip. Submits all over Flip, who growls, haughtily, superiorly. She grew up with Flip next door, so they know each other well.
I'll post a pic on my pathetic blog, of the two. Two cute.
Sega tried to roar & terrorize Blaze yesterday, Blaze was so good not to eat her:)
She just froze, and lowered her head, and wagged her tail. As if to say, yeah, okay, suuure you can.

Terrifying terriers:)

great post!

water_bearer said...

Every puppy needs to wrestle and play and explore and get into trouble.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaamen sista!

I do believe when this is not done, this is where bravery becomes fearlessness and being a natural terrier becomes biting anything at ankle level. It IS tempting to pick them up, especially if it takes all day for them to cross the street and the light is turning red, but little dogs often get the shaft in socialization. Just because they're handled all the time, that doesn't mean that they're socialized properly. Quality time, not quantity time, as my parents used to say.

That said, I agree that this is a superfluous breed. You know how I feel about that. There are already breeds that exist to fill this niche for a non-shedding lap dog, and most of them are a hell of a lot cuter. Not all of them are genetic messes. I would much rather see some of those breeds crossed to get rid of those problems but still retain the look of whichever parent breed that needs perfecting. After all, it's not like these breeds were bred for centuries to do a very specific working job. Companion dog is pretty easy to create, and the smaller the dog, the faster and easier are the physical traits to alter. In other words, the smaller the dog and the less specialized the breed's job, the more I am for outcrossing. There still has to be a good program, a good goal, and definitely good record keeping though. Breeding for small and cute is not a good goal.

Some of the larger hybrids that bug me most are:

Goldmations or Goldmation Retrievers (recognized by both the American Canine Hybrid Club AND the Designer Dogs Kennel Club - WTF?)
They are as you've probably already guessed, a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Dalmation. I don't have enough room here to enumerate all the potential health problems these dogs might have.

Golden Mountain Dogs - Goldens crossed with Bernese Mountain Dogs. See comment above about room.

Euro Mountain Sheparnese - First of all, DUMB NAME. Second, a cross between a Berner and a GSD? Hmmm. If you're really selective with the worst stock out there, you might just be able to create a dog who is both crippled and dying of lymphosarcoma by the age of two.

Bullmasador - also a pretty dumb name for a cross between a Bullmastiff and a Lab. Personally, I like "Labstiff" better, but I'll admit it does sound kind of dirty. I'm not sure how I feel about this cross either. Could go either way. In the hands of a controlled program, it might work out well for at least the Bullmastiff. Otherwise, it's just a big friggin dog. Does probably get rid of that stupid loose lower lip problem that is my enemy.

As far as size goes, you can't get much bigger than a Great Saint or Saint Dane, being a cross between a St. Bernard and a Great Dane of course. Probably also dies young after a lifetime of drooling and dysplasia.

For an even shorter lifespan, let's try the St. Berner which is what you think it is.
I have yet to see a cross between a Bernese Mtn. Dog and a Great Dane, but that's probably because they don't live long enough to get a picture of them.

For big AND superfluous, we have the Muscle Mastiff, which in a nod to redundancy also has a superfluous name. Calling it Bordeau Mastiff isn't a whole lot better either. It's a Mastiff and a Dogue de Bordeaux cross. If it was a Mastiff crossed with a Sommelier, then we might be onto something. Alas, no such luck.
Good grief Charlie Brown.

saraghfitz said...

I think you'd find if you had a little Shorkie, you'd fairly quickly fall in love.
You're right, they do good companion dogs. However, they've retained enough Yorkie to ensure that our garden (which backs onto a farm) is free from rats.
They're also non shedding (I know, I can't figure it out either), except that their fur is very fine, although they seem to have a lot of it.
OK, now the cons - she's my first dog, and while I knew enough to make sure she got out on her leash a lot, and sniffed plenty of other dogs bums, she was in the house with me a lot, which means that she's fairly much afraid of her own shadow. We're working on it.
Other con - she needs to be washed and conditioned every fortnight without fail, otherwise you have dreadlocks. Brushing needs to happen every other day, and her fur needs trimming at least once a month.
All that said, she's affectionate, loyal, and friendly (as long as you're not too loud - in which case she'll hide behind the nearest person she knows until you go away). She'll bark and growl at anyone coming up the drive who isn't greeted as a friend. If it's someone she knows or someone I know, she'll roll onto her back for a belly rub.
She's one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met, and almost everyone I know has their name on a list for if she ever has puppies (if I can ever find another male Shorkie in Ireland who isn't from the same parents as her!)