• For novice owners
  • Apartment living
  • Exercise needs
  • Family friendly
  • Stranger friendly
  • Dog friendly
  • Overall health
  • Amount of shedding
  • Grooming needs
  • Ease of training
  • Prey drive
  • Watchdog ability

Yorkshire Terrier Origin: What were Yorkies bred for?

Yorkshire Terriers, affectionately known as Yorkies, are a relatively modern breed. Creation started around the 1850s by Scottish weavers and miners who found themselves facing an ever growing rat population. During these times, commoners were prohibited from owning large breeds, which led to the need for a diminutive working dog who maintained the notoriously spunky terrier attitude. Many terriers were interbred and scaled down to produce what was known as the Broken-haired Scotch Terrier. When their Scottish owners moved to Yorkshire in Northern England, the Broken-haired Scotch Terriers joined them, continuing their work as ratters.

These Scottish immigrants continued to breed their little ratters with local terriers, and after notable success at local dog shows, the breed became known as the Yorkshire Terrier – named for the area where it saw the bulk of its improvement. It didn’t take long for the Yorkshire Terrier to gain the attention of local upper-class women. Even back then, the Yorkshire Terrier was a popular accessory, spending most of the day in the laps and bags of their high-born owners.

The breeds used to develop the Yorkshire Terrier were largely kept secret, to protect their breeders’ livelihoods. As a result, fanciers have only been able to speculate who their ancestors may be. Suggestions include the Waterside, Paisley, Clydesdale and Skye Terriers, most of which have gone extinct or been absorbed by other modern breeds.

By the 1870s, the Yorkshire Terrier had made its way to the U.S., and while the reception was cold for the first few decades, Yorkies saw a consistent rise in popularity from the 1950s. By 1995 the Yorkshire Terrier found itself on the AKC’s list of the top-ten most popular breeds and has remained there ’til this day.

 

Appearance

Yorkshire Terriers are a long-haired, compact breed of toy terrier with a black nose, small ears and a sharp, intelligent expression.

picture of yorkshire terrier

Yorkshire Terrier sizes; How big do Yorkies get?

By FCI standards, fully grown Yorkshire Terriers are ideally 7 lbs (3.2 kg) or less. While there is no mention of height in the Yorkie breed standard, they are often between 6-9 in (15-23 cm).

There is an emerging trend for Yorkshire Terriers under 4 lbs being bred and sold, referred to as Teacup Yorkies. Sadly, increased incidence of health problems have been associated with these dogs – we go into this a bit further down.

If you’d like to view the full-length AKC breed standard for the Yorkshire Terrier, click here.

 

Yorkie Temperament

There is no mention of temperament in the breed standard for Yorkshire Terriers, however, they are known for their spunky disposition, often being described as feisty, inquisitive and “conveying an important air”. 

Like most breeds, Yorkshire Terriers thrive on attention, which means they adore the company of people. Unfortunately, as a result, Yorkies can suffer if left alone – separation anxiety is a common occurrence in the breed.

Generally considered to be sensitive and fragile dogs, fair, force-free methods of training such as positive reinforcement are heavily advised. While Yorkshire Terriers are bright and relatively easy to train, they are notoriously challenging to housebreak. It is essential that any attempts to house-train be consistent from day one, to help them form good habits. Strongly consider crate training, and adding a dog door if you can, to set your pup up for success.

yorkshire terrier personalityYorkies do best with older families, singles or couples. They are generally not suitable for homes with young children, due to their tiny size, short tempers and fragile bodies. Reputable breeders are known to deny puppies to families with children under the age of 8 for this very reason. Supervision around children is always recommended, regardless of breed.

Yorkshire Terriers are excellent watchdogs. Thanks to their alert nature, Yorkies are constantly aware of their surroundings and will be the first to let you know if you have a visitor. Not especially friendly towards strangers, it’s imperative that you socialise your Yorkshire Terrier extensively while it’s young, exposing them to safe people, places and sounds. These experiences can help your Yorkie pup develop into a well-adjusted adult, and prevent them becoming overly protective, territorial or fearful.

Yorkies don’t always get along well with other animals. True to their terrier nature, Yorkies can be combative and scrappy, boldly confronting dogs ten times their size. As a result, Yorkshire Terriers risk seriously injuring themselves if things take a turn for the worse. Even if your Yorkie is social, their fragility always puts them at a disadvantage when meeting strange, unpredictable dogs. Toy breed owners are always advised to keep their dogs leashed, or well under control to keep them safe.

Owners of all breeds are urged to socialise and expose their pups to a number of people, sounds, children, animals, surfaces and other scenarios while they’re young, curious and impressionable. Ensure their experiences are safe and positive, to prevent negative associations later on.

 

Energy and exercise needs

Despite their typical use as lap dogs, Yorkshire Terriers are far from lazy! They are very active indoors and thrive on attention and stimulation. Some Yorkies may tire themselves out running around your house or apartment, while others would need regular brisk walks, and exposure to the outside world.

Without enough physical and mental exercise, Yorkies find their own ways to amuse themselves, usually in ways you (and your neighbours) wouldn’t end appreciating.

Yorkshire Terriers are prone to tracheal collapse, or collapsing windpipe. Many veterinarians recommend that toy breed owners walk their dogs on harnesses to prevent direct pressure on the trachea when out walking.

 

Coat

Yorkshire Terrier colours

Yorkshire Terrier colors

Yorkshire Terrier with a Show cut – Dagur Brynjólfsson/CC

Yorkies have four sets of recognised colours:

  • black & tan
  • black & gold
  • blue & tan
  • blue & gold  

All Yorkshire Terrier puppies are born black and tan, changing their coat colour over their next 2 years.

The coat texture is a hallmark of the breed – glossy, fine and silky, with hair perfectly straight.

Do Yorkies shed?

A Yorkie’s coat is made of hair that grows somewhat indefinitely (like humans), with strands occasionally falling out to make room for new hairs. As a result, Yorkshire Terriers are considered to be low shedders and may suit owners who suffer from allergies. This will vary from individual to individual, however.

Grooming needs

The Yorkshire Terrier’s luxurious coat is high maintenance. Groom daily to prevent matting, distribute oils and keep the coat clean. If you are not showing your Yorkshire Terrier, consider having their hair clipped to make grooming easier.

Bathe weekly, but avoid harsh shampoos. Instead, opt for gentle dog-specific shampoos, to preserve natural protective oils on the skin.

Inspect ears, nails and teeth as part of your regular grooming routine, maintaining as needed. Like many other small breeds, Yorkshire Terriers are prone to dental issues. Brush your Yorkie’s teeth regularly (2+ timers per week), and consider providing dental chews like these to help prevent tooth decay and tartar build up.

 

Yorkshire Terrier haircuts

If you would like your Yorkie’s hair cut, it’s best to wait until their adult coat has come in. Wait until they’re a year old if you can’t quite tell what stage their coat is at, to play it safe.

The shorter the haircut, the less time and effort needed for upkeep. Consider your lifestyle, and the day-to-day activities of your Yorkie to find the best haircut for your situation.

Popular cuts include:

The Show Cut

This cut (shown above) is aimed at owners who are competing in conformation and is very high maintenance, requiring hours of grooming each week.

The Puppy Cut

The hair is cut to a uniform length all over the body, while the face and tail are trimmed to round off the look. This is one of the most popular cuts across all small dog breeds and is among the lowest maintenance.

The Square Puppy Cut

Similar to the puppy cut, but the face is trimmed to have a more boxy look.

The Flared Cut

Hair is shaved on most of the body, sparing the front legs, back legs and face.

The Westie Cut

The hair on the body is trimmed, or sometimes even shaved depending on preference, while the face is left longer and rounded.

 

Yorkshire Terrier haircuts

Yorkshire Terrier haircuts from left to right: Puppy, Square, Flared, Westie – DEZIDOR/CC

 

Health

While generally a healthy breed, Yorkshire Terriers are known to suffer from a few conditions, including:

  • Dental diseases – Such as periodontal disease, and subsequent bacterial infection leading to heart and kidney issues.
  • Patellar Luxation – periodic dislocation of the kneecap, often worsening with age.
  • Collapsed trachea
  • Legg–Calvé–Perthes syndrome: degeneration of the top of the femur (thigh bone)
  • Hypoplasia of dens: A congenital deformity that leads to spinal cord damage.
  • Porto-systemic shunt: Blood bypasses the liver, allowing it to circulate without detoxification.

Many of these conditions are heritable, and thus avoidable if only screened and cleared Yorkshire Terriers are bred from. By choosing a breeder who conducts relevant screenings and health clearances, and only breeds physically and temperamentally sound Yorkies, you are dramatically improving your chances of having a strong, happy, healthy Yorkshire Terrier of your own.

Yorkshire Terrier expected lifespan

On average, Yorkshire Terriers live 12-15 years, although some live much longer.

 

Quirks

Don’t let their size or eternal puppy cuteness fool you – Yorkies are true terriers!

yorkshire terrier personalityWithout fair and consistent rules to follow, they are prone to terrorising your household. Many Yorkie owners fall into the trap of letting their pup get away with anything and everything in the beginning because they’re so darn adorable (“it’s harmless!”). By letting little things slide as puppies, like nipping, barking or house soiling, these owners are setting themselves up for hard times ahead. When their puppy is older, and the habits have formed, these behaviours can be tough to break and train out. Yorkie owners need to be sensible and consistent.

Like many terriers, Yorkies not generally friendly towards other animals, especially on their home soil. They can be bossy, territorial and scrappy, which can be disastrous if they meet the wrong opponent.

Like other terriers, Yorkshire Terriers can be short tempered, which makes them ill-suited to homes with young children, who can’t help being clumsy or uncoordinated.

Yorkshire Terriers can bark, and bark, and bark! Teach them from an early age to hush on command, or better yet, not to bark at every little thing. While some owners don’t mind the yapping, most neighbours aren’t quite so understanding.  

Separation anxiety is a common issue in Yorkies, so if you’re planning on leaving your dog alone for many hours during the day, you may have better luck with a different, more independent, breed.

 

Types of Yorkshire Terriers

Teacup Yorkshire Terriers

Teacup Yorkies are not an official breed or title. The term Teacup is given to Yorkshire Terriers who remain under 4 lbs (1.8 kg) when fully grown. Unsuspecting buyers fall for the promise of a permanent puppy, but sadly the reckless breeding of undersized dogs (often runts) to produce miniature puppies has largely resulted in sickly offspring riddled with congenital diseases, structural deformities and dramatically reduced lifespans.

Supporting breeders of Teacup breeds perpetuates the suffering, as puppies born through undersized parents have higher incidences of respiratory issues, heart defects, liver shunts, brain abnormalities and more.

Of course, not everyone who buys a Teacup Yorkie will experience the heartache (and vet bills!) of a chronically ill pet, but discerning buyers may appreciate being aware of what they’re potentially getting themselves into.

Biewer Terriers

Technically considered a separate breed, Biewer Terriers owe their creation to two Yorkshire Terriers who were mated in 1984. Both Yorkies contained recessive (hidden) alleles for the piebald gene, giving the resultant puppies a tricolour appearance. The new breed was formed, as tri-colour Yorkies were not permitted in the official breed standard of the time.

Yorkshire Terriers and Biewer Terriers are largely similar, having roughly the same heights, weights, hair type, temperament and lifespan. Biewer Terriers are considered a rare breed in the U.S. however, and buyers are recommended to proceed with caution, as many illegitimate breeders are only too happy to sucker an unsuspecting buyer into spending $2000+ on a fake Biewer (often these ‘Biewers’ are just crosses between Yorkies and Shih Tzus).

 

Interesting Yorkshire Terriers facts

  • Yorkshire Terriers were the 7th most popular dog breed in the United States in 2015!
  • The smallest dog in recorded history was a Yorkshire Terrier named Sylvia. She was 2.5 in (6.4 cm) tall at the shoulder, 3.5 in (8.9 cm) from nose to tail and weighed just 4 oz. (113.4g). Sadly, she only lived to two years old.
  • You can tell more or less how much a Yorkie will weigh at maturity when they’re just 3 months old. Merely double their weight at 3mos, and you’ll have a pretty reliable indication of their adult mass.
  • A Yorkshire Terrier by the name of Smoky served in World War II and is credited with being the first ever therapy dog. 

 

Buying a Yorkshire Terrier from a breeder

If you’d like to get a purebred Yorkshire Terrier as a puppy, be sure to look only at reputable breeders who care for the welfare of their puppies. You can determine whether a breeder is reputable by observing whether they go through the effort of health testing their breeding stock for hereditary conditions like those mentioned above, and only breed dogs who are physically healthy, and emotionally sound.

They should also be involved in particular avenues with their dogs – be it conformation, hunting, obedience, service, therapy, or any other activity that showcases their dogs’ temperament and suitability for work and breeding.

Often puppies from reputable breeders cost more money upfront due to the breeder’s high expenses. However, poorly bred dogs from breeders who do not conduct health screening can have hidden costs in the form of silent (at the time of purchase) health and mental conditions that should never have been allowed to be passed on. This can be heartbreaking, and terribly expensive to deal with as an owner, on top of causing unnecessary suffering and a shortened lifespan for the dog.

Yorkshire Terrier Rescue

As one of the most popular breeds around, Yorkies and Yorkie-mixes are not hard to find in rescues and shelters. If you would like to adopt a Yorkshire Terrier in need of a new home, search for Yorkie rescue organisations in your area. Alternatively, you could take a look on pet-rehoming websites like Petfinder.

 


References and recommended reading:

  • O’Neill, D., Church, D., McGreevy, P., Thomson, P., & Brodbelt, D. (2013). Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal, 198(3), 638-643.
  • Smith, C. S. (2010). The everything Yorkshire Terrier book: A complete guide to raising, training, and caring for your Yorkie. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
  • Dog Breed Health. A Guide To Genetic Health Issues for Dog Breeds: Yorkshire Terrier. Retrieved from http://www.dogbreedhealth.com/yorkshire-terrier/
  • AKC – The Dog’s Champion. American Kennel Club. Retrieved from http://www.akc.org
  • Wynne, William A. “Yorkie Doodle Dandy: 4 Pound Yorkshire Terrier Hero of World War II”. Retrieved from http://www.smokywardog.com/index.php