Background and History
The Yorkshire Terrier is breed which really does put the Terrier into the Toy Dog Group. This little dog hails from the West Riding of Yorkshire in England during the 19th century.
This was at the behest of mill owners and miners. They saw the virtues of terriers across the border in Scotland in clearing mines and mills of vermin. Thus they developed their own version. The Yorkie proved an excellent ratter. But was also used to hunt and remove larger prey such as badgers and foxes. This required the indomitable spirit of the Terrier who, as any owner will know, are not easily intimidated by larger opposition.
A variety of Terrier breeds were used in creating the Yorkshire Terrier. This includes: the Scottish Terrier, Skye Terrier and Paisley Terrier. Also the Black and Tan Terrier (further supported by the fact that this remains a common color of this breed). A dog called Huddersfield Ben is generally acknowledged the founding dog of the breed in around 1865.
With its silky coat and adorable cuteness it was not long before this Terrier was shaking off its working class roots. It soon left the the mills and mines to become the adored companion of the Victorian ladies in England.
The Yorkie is one of the first breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1878. Since then it has climbed feistily and tenaciously up the charts. It is now consistently featured in the top 10 breeds according to the AKC rankings. According to 2020 registration data it stands tall (admittedly on small legs) at the 13th most popular breed in the United States .
Character and Temperament
Terriers really don’t care about their size. Yorkshire Terriers are the epitome of this. Among the smallest of terriers they showcase the fearless Terrier (link) spirit. If you need any further evidence of this look no further than the Yorkie who takes on a coyote in defense of her family .
The Yorkie is also a good little watch-dog and will bark an alarm if unknown people approach the house. Like other small dogs they can be yappy. On occasions they can also be aggressive to unfamiliar dogs as is the wont of the feisty Terrier breeds. But this can be reduced through good early socializing training. Part of this socialization should be to get them used to visitors as early as possible and to attend puppy socialization classes.
These dogs also love to be off the leash. This could be because of some residual prey-chasing instinct. But they generally respond well to training. Recall training is very successful with this breed using appropriate positive reinforcement. They are intelligent and can generally learn a range of commands.
The Yorkshire Terrier is very energetic and lively. They need one good walk each day and enjoy interactive play. These dogs can get on with smaller pets such as cats, but they will need to be introduced as early as possible.
A good level of exercise will help the Yorkie manage separation anxiety. Along with the majority of toy dogs this breed can suffer acutely with this. Unfortunately this can prompt unwanted yapping and destructive behaviors. Other suggested methods to help with this can be found here.
They are excellent family dogs and like to be at the center of everything. But be aware that some of this breed can be occasionally snappy if not treated with absolute respect. So children must learn to treat this little dog with absolute respect at the outset.
For the different stages in a puppy and adult dog’s development please click here.
Link to other breeds: The Biewer Yorkshire Terrier is a piebald offshoot of the Yorkshire Terrier. The founding dog was born to two Yorkies in Germany in 1984. They were recently recognized as a breed by the AKC in 2021.
The Yorkshire Terrier is a very sharp and quick learner. They are capable of being trained to a very good standard and can master a range of commands. As Terriers, they can sometimes be distracted and sometimes operate selective deafness when off the leash. This can be mitigated by consistent recall training.
This Terrier can sometimes be nervous around other dogs and this can occasionally develop into an aggressive response. It is highly recommended that consistent socialization should take place to mitigate or prevent this behavior.
These companion dogs do need a companion around most of the time. The Yorkshire Terrier suffers terribly with separation anxiety and training should be put in place as early as possible to lessen their anxiety and any consequent destructive behaviors in the house.
The Yorkshire Terrier will benefit from a brisk walk each day of around 20 to 30 minutes. But these little dogs are also happy to trot along for lengthy walks. They are intelligent and physically active so will also need interactive and as much mental stimulation as possible.
In keeping with the Terrier temperament a yard or garden is ideal to give these inquisitive little dogs an opportunity to explore independently in a safe, enclosed space.
Underneath the silky coat lies the leanly compact body of the Terrier designed to kill vermin. The Yorkshire Terrier has a straight back leading to a tail which is generally held above the body. This contributes to the sense of a confident demeanor.
As does the fact that this Terrier generally holds its head up high both literally and metaphorically. This head is small, and set with small, brown oval eyes. The rounded head is crowned with pert triangular ears.
The Yorkshire Terrier is generally around 8 to 9 inches (20-23cm) tall. The breeds weight must not exceed 7lb (3.1kg).
Coat and Grooming
The coat of the Yorkshire Terrier is not only silkily elegant. But it is also hypoallergenic and shedding is minimal. The Yorkie does require daily grooming to avoid tangling or matting. If the coat is kept shorter then 2 or 3 times a week will suffice.
Particular attention should be paid to cleaning facial hair. This can get unkempt and matted following eating.
Lifespan and Health
These dogs tend to have very good longevity and their life-span is around 14-17 years old.
The Yorkshire Terrier can be prone to hepatitis where the liver becomes inflamed. Dental problems can also sometimes occur including tooth decay and gum disease. The Yorkie can also suffer spinal problems and loose knee joints. Finally older dogs can also develop cataracts.