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.