Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie) Dog Breed Information: The Good, the Bad, and the Adorable

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The venerable Yorkshire terrier is a small dog that’s native to England. It’s one of the toy breeds of dogs, and they’re known for long coats, loyalty, companionship, and being extremely vocal. 

They are regal in their bearing and appreciate the comfort of companionship and pampering. 

Despite their relatively small frame, they are a bit of a handful and take a knowing hand to keep healthy, social, and well-behaved. 

Breed Overview

The Yorkshire Terrier is typically between seven and eight inches tall when fully grown, weighing about seven pounds. 

Their coat ranges from black and tan to gold and black and may have hints of blue and gold mixed in. They are known for their hypoallergenic nature, meaning that they’re much less likely to cause allergies than most other dogs.

Regardless of color and pattern, their coat is typically quite silky and can grow very long, requiring routine grooming. A lifespan of twelve to fifteen years is typical, and the breed is synonymous with energy and affection. 

Along with that exuberance comes a reputation for excessive vocalization that takes a bit of training to minimize.

History of the Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkie, as the Yorkshire terrier is known, has roots that extend back to the migration of Scots to England in the 1800s. 

These Scottish weavers had an affinity for various terriers in their native country, where the dogs spent their time mitigating the rodent populations of their textile mills. 

These terriers had a natural ability to chase, and their small stature made them quite adept at squeezing into narrow passageways after vermin. 

When the Scots arrived in England’s Yorkshire with dogs like the Dandie Dinmont and the Skye terrier in tow, it took only a few successive generations to establish the new Yorkshire terrier breed. 

Before the turn of the next century, the Kennel Club of England recognized it, and slowly but surely, the dog’s reputation grew into one of a lapdog rather than a ratter.

Characteristics of the Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkie has an interesting pedigree, drawn on its working dog roots and developed through a reputation as a fashion accessory for the rich and famous. 

The American Kennel Club recognized Yorkies even before their British counterparts, and the breed is immensely popular in both countries, though often slightly misunderstood. 

To keep a Yorkie healthy, keep in mind that these little dogs have outsized personalities, keen hearing, and a desire for socialization that can snowball into poor manners when not handled properly. 

They also have a relatively high demand for grooming, primarily due to their long hair. 

Breed Appearance

The vast majority of Yorkies are black and tan. Their coloring varies by individual and may have notes of steely blue and gold. The coat is distinctively human-like and often allowed to grow quite long, accentuating its silkiness. 

The AKC recognizes four distinct standard colors:

Standard colorRegistration Code (AKC)
Black and tan018
Blue and gold041
Blue and tan044
Black and gold 234

Temperament

The typical Yorkie has a bit of an outsized personality, and they can be quite stubborn and individualistic.

Training is not always easy, and they can resist even basic cues for house-breaking. They’re willful, so it will take some focused, thoughtful energy to direct their behavior. When discussing the typical temperament of this true terrier breed, consider these common traits:

  • Bossy
  • Tenacious
  • Brave
  • Affectionate
  • Playful
  • Friendly
  • Feisty
  • Vocal 
  • Engaged

Personality

Of course, each Yorkie will have a bit of its own personality, but traditionally, each individual dog in this breed has a lot of it. 

They are enthusiastic companions who are eager to please and tag along on adventures. That means they’re likely to offer plenty of opportunities for laughter and fun, but they can be a little clingy. 

Their diminutive size doesn’t always carry over to their personality, and the average Yorkie thinks it’s the biggest dog on the block. It’s important to let your terrier express itself but that you instill limits via training and a bit of discipline.  

Living Needs

To enjoy their daily life, Yorkies require stimulation. While exercise handles the physical side, their mental health is important too. While they are a favorite for urbanites dwelling in small apartments, they won’t do well sitting in a cage all day. 

They need vigorous stimulation and plenty of healthy outlets. Otherwise, you’re more likely to see them acting out. 

Life Expectancy

An average Yorkie will live for between eleven and fifteen years, making them fairly long-lived. 

Some specimens may even live sixteen or seventeen years. As they age, keep an eye out for health issues related to their knees, eyes, or heart. 

Yorkshire Terrier Care

Caring for a Yorkshire terrier is essential, and you have to do so in a measured and routine way. 

Training & Exercise Needs 

A healthy Yorkie wants a lot of interaction, routine exercise, and some changing scenery. So, you should be able to provide at least two daily walks and routine opportunities to run. 

The pace of your daily exercise should be vigorous, and your Yorkie will endure plenty of steps on their tiny legs before they get tired. 

For bursts of more intense activity, chasing a ball in the yard or even down a long hallway will suffice, but don’t be surprised if your Yorkie gets bored relatively quickly. 

However, the more you can show them that their activities please you, the more they will work to make you happy. It’s in their DNA to please their master, so when you train them to exercise, it has a two-fold effect of keeping them both healthy and calm. 

Without that level of exercise and stimulation, you risk having your Yorkie become overly excitable, poorly behaved, and bored. They’re also exceedingly open and receptive to the presence of strangers, so hiring a dog walker is an option if you’re too busy for daily exercise. 

Especially when they’re puppies, Yorkies require gentle and routine socialization. Reassure them calmly during new experiences, and they’re likely to get quite comfortable very quickly. 

There is bound to be a bit of a learning curve for both puppy and owner, but when things coalesce, these toy dogs will develop healthy outlets for burning off their excess energy. 

Yorkies can also perform exceedingly well in organized dog sports, ability training, and obedience contests. These activities are beneficial and will engage both their physical and mental sides. 

Grooming  

Grooming a Yorkie is a pretty labor-intensive job. But, once you get the hang of it and establish a routine, it’s not that hard. Most of the labor stems from having to treat their human-like hair with the attention it deserves. 

That starts with a bath approximately every seven days. During the weekly routine, be sure to check their ears for any signs of infection, like excessive discharge. 

They don’t shed very much, which can be a blessing and a curse. If you desire your Yorkie to wear their hair fairly long, you’ll need to brush it vigorously each day, or it will quickly become knotted, matted, and generally messy. 

Left unchecked, long hair can become unhealthy quickly. The dogs are short, and very quickly, their silky mane will drag on surfaces, bringing up dirt and dust and making a big mess. 

So, many owners compromise by leaving the hair longish but having the dog groomed professionally every few weeks. You can also trim their hair at home, and the use of a hairband or hair clip can help keep long hair out of their eyes while retaining a showy appearance. 

Nail trims will be a monthly activity, though the frequency of this will vary by the individual, their activity level, and your preferences.

Finally, plan to brush your Yorkie’s teeth at least three or four times per week. 

Health

Like all dog breeds, Yorkies have some hereditary health issues to be aware of. The biggest one is the risk of a ‘trick knee,’ a loose patellar tendon. You can limit the chances of your Yorkie developing this issue by restricting them from jumping from high furniture during puppyhood. 

In general, Yorkies are healthy dogs, but you should understand the risks of a few hereditary issues and diseases and make sure that your breeder is screening for them. They include: 

  • Loose knee caps (Patellar luxation)
  • Liver disorders 
  • Collapsing trachea
  • Eye issues
  • Heart disease
  • Vertebra and disc issues

Diet and Nutrition

When considering food for your Yorkie, don’t forget to account for their small size. You should look for a kibble that’s tailor-made for small breeds that is nutritionally balanced and high-quality. 

Even when training, it’s essential to limit the total caloric intake to coincide with their general activity level. Your vet can help you fine-tune your dog’s diet. But keep in mind that their stubbornness and willfulness will likely tempt you to over-reward your Yorkie’s good behaviors. 

Keeping that in mind will help you balance the frequency and volume of rewards with your dog’s exercise and overall health. 

FAQ

Some questions about Yorkies come up all the time. 

Are Yorkshire Terriers good with families?

Yorkshires don’t always mix well with little kids. That’s because precocious children can be a little too rough with Yorkies, and they can end up acting out, getting overly excited, or even nipping. 

If your kids are old enough to treat your dog gently, they can help train it. 

Are Yorkshire Terriers ok for families with other pets?

Yorkies do just fine with familiar dogs and pets, like cats. So, if your other pets are friendly and well-behaved, and you can expose them to your Yorkie in a reassuring manner, everything will work out just fine. 

Are Yorkshire Terriers aggressive?

Yorkshire terriers are not overly aggressive and tend to be quite friendly and docile. But when exposed to an unfamiliar stimulus, or a large, aggressive dog they don’t know, they may try to act a lot bigger than they are. 

Are Yorkies a good family dog?

Yorkies are a great companion dog, especially for families that have limited space or strength to deal with a large dog. For instance, if you’re small and don’t want to tug on a large breed’s leash, a Yorkshire terrier is ideal. They’re also well-suited to apartment living. 

Do Yorkshire Terriers bark a lot?

Yorkies love to bark or vocalize. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can become annoying. So, you need to do all you can to socialize them and familiarize them with their environment, so they’re less likely to bark in surprise. 

Why shouldn’t you get a Yorkshire Terrier?

The reasons why you shouldn’t get a Yorkie tend to focus on proper socialization, exercise, and grooming. These tend to be time-consuming tasks with this particular breed. 

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