What are Yorkshire Terrier's like?
Small enough to live anywhere but brimming with big personalities, the Yorkshire Terrier looks tiny and sweet, but they are fun and feisty pups sure to keep any family on their toes. (Not least because you need to be careful you don’t trip on them.) This toy-sized breed doesn’t need a lot of space, food, or exercise, but they have a lot of love and character in that tiny body.
Yorkies are renowned for being a big dog trapped in the body of a little dog. They might seem dainty and elegant, but Yorkies are brave, playful, lively and alert and happen to have a nose for mischief.
They make great companions as they are incredibly loving, and are even good choices for families with older children. Despite their size, they are a pretty active and playful breed.
Although they are easy to keep because they don’t need tons of exercise or a lot of food, they do still need daily walks and a lot of grooming to keep their long, silky tresses in good condition.
Owners who keep their dog’s hair long should expect to spend time brushing their pooch every day, but many owners make things simpler by giving their Yorkshire Terrier a haircut, making grooming much more manageable.
The history of the Yorkshire Terrier
The exact history of the Yorkshire Terrier is unclear, but the breed emerged in the mid to late 1800s in northern England, particularly the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Ancestors of the Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkie has many possible ancestors, and to this day there is some debate about what other breeds were used to create this tiny terrier. Some theorise that Maltese dogs are mixed in there somewhere, but the proof is limited.
However, it’s agreed that this terrier was the result of breeding Black and Tan Terriers and Scotch dogs.
The Black and Tan Terrier is now an extinct breed, but had a huge impact on many modern breeds. Although, it was actually more a type of dog rather than a defined breed and unsurprisingly, they were characterised by the black and tan colours of their coat.
Meanwhile, “Scotch dogs” doesn’t refer to Scottish breeds like Westies, it just means dogs from Scotland. As many Scottish miners and mill workers moved south to find work, they brought their dogs with them. These were then bred with local terrier breeds to create small but brave dogs that could accompany them into the mills and mines.
Which Scotch dogs were bred into the Yorkshire Terrier is uncertain. It’s believed that the Paisley Terrier played a part in creating the Yorkie.
The Paisley Terrier is also extinct, but looked like a smaller version of the Skye Terrier with a long, silky coat which closely resembles the fur of modern Yorkies. The influence of Scottish dogs was so great that for years Yorkies were called “Broken Haired Scotch Terriers”.
However, breeders in this period didn’t keep records, and many were simply working class weavers and miners breeding a mix of terriers together to create effective ratting dogs.
What Yorkshire Terriers were bred for
Yorkshire Terriers, like many terrier breeds, were bred to be used as ratters. Their small size and tenacious character meant that they would go into any nook or cranny in search of vermin. The dogs quickly earned a reputation for their rat hunting abilities, and they were frequently used in mills and mines to control the rodent population.
Yorkies would head underground with miners because they were small enough to be put in a bag or pocket while the miner went down the shaft, and were super at eradicating pests. They could easily chase prey in small spaces and were brave enough to work in dark and damp conditions without a worry.
However, the Yorkie was arguably more well known for working in the wool and cotton mills. Because they are small, fast, and incredibly agile they could run under the machinery at a lightning pace. They also didn’t have a habit of chasing threads and damaging cloth like cats did. The dog’s bravery and agility also meant there were tales of dogs being placed on the rafters to chase rats and mice.
However, the Yorkshire Terrier’s prey drive and bravery caught the eye of hunters who began using the dog to chase prey like badgers, rabbits, and foxes out of their burrows. The pint-sized pooch would be carried in the hunter’s bag until they needed to run into the underground dens and flush prey out.
This background in hunting and pest control has left it’s stamp on the Yorkshire Terrier today. Most Yorkies are courageous little pups, and won’t be afraid to face up to much bigger dogs.
They also have a surprising prey drive, and go “mutts” over squeaky toys since the sound is comparable to a dying rodent. (Why did you think so many dogs liked them?)
Where are Yorkshire Terriers from
Unsurprisingly, the Yorkshire Terrier is so named because much of the development of the breed took place in Yorkshire.
A lot of terrier breeds find their origins in the North of England and in Scotland, with many regions developing their own ratting breeds which blossomed amidst the industrial revolution.
Yorkshire Terriers especially were found in Yorkshire and Lancashire where there was an abundance of mines and mills where they used to work. However, much of the development of the breed happened in Yorkshire, and so the county eventually lent its name to the pooch.
Defined by one dog
By the late 1860s, the Yorkshire Terrier as a breed was still being developed. Then, along came Huddersfield Ben.
This top dog won numerous shows and ratting competitions, proving he had great skills and amazing looks. Although small, he had a huge presence, and is universally acknowledged as the foundation of the Yorkshire Terrier breed despite his short life.
This popular stud dog was evidently very busy, because he near single-handedly sired all of the foundation stock of the Yorkshire Terrier and is known as “the father of the breed”.
Swift passage through social circles
Although the Yorkie, like most terriers, was linked with the working classes it soon became pup-ular with high society.
This was partly due to their use in hunting, and also because their small size and elegant looks won the hearts of many wealthy women who began keeping them as companions and show dogs.
By the 1870s, Yorkshire Terriers had made their way to the United States, and the American Kennel Club recorded their first Yorkie in 1885.
Meanwhile, the UK Kennel Club didn’t recognise the breed until the next year.
Now a distinct breed, the Yorkshire Terrier soared in popularity, especially as an elegant companion, and was bred smaller and smaller to suit it’s new role.
Yorkshire Terrier stats
Typically, a Yorkshire Terrier should be about 21cm tall and weigh no more than 3.17kg. However, this breed is quite inconsistent in their size, and breed standards have since removed their minimum weight requirement for the breed.
The usual stats for a Yorkshire Terrier are:
Small enough to live anywhere but brimming with big personalities, the Yorkshire Terrier looks tiny and sweet, but they are fun and feisty pups sure to keep any family on their toes. (Not least because you need to be careful you don’t trip on them.)
This toy-sized breed doesn’t need a lot of space, food, or exercise, but they have a lot of love and character in that tiny body.
|Size||Small (Toy-sized)||Small (Toy-sized)|
|Average Height (Withers)||20-22.8 cm||20-22.8 cm|
|Average Weight||1.8-3.2 kg||1.8-3.2kg|
|Lifespan||12-15 years||12-15 years|
Yorkshire Terrier weight & size
As we mentioned, Yorkies can be pretty inconsistent in size. There are a number of dogs both smaller and larger than normal for the breed. Some Yorkies can weigh as much as 4.5kg while others, often known as “teacup” Yorkies, can be even smaller than 1.8kg.
Equally this means Yorkies can vary in height dramatically. Some of the smaller dogs on record can be as small as 15cm tall, while the larger examples of the breed can be almost double that height.
Teacup Yorkshire Terriers
Much like a Teacup Chihuahua, a Teacup Yorkshire Terrier is just a dog that is smaller than average. They are not a separate variety or a different breed. Typically, dogs sold as “teacup” Yorkies weigh less than 1.8kg.
Although pup-ular, plenty of canine professionals are wary of the practice of breeding such tiny dogs as it can have an adverse impact on their health.
It also means there is no such thing as a pure breed Teacup Yorkshire Terrier, as they are not their own breed and as such can’t compete in dog shows.
Yorkshire Terrier facts
One heroic therapy dog
Smoky the Yorkie was found in the jungle by an American soldier, and went on to fly 12 rescue and recon missions, survived a typhoon and 150 air raids, and even parachuted.
She wes also credited with saving her owner's life by alerting him to incoming fire, as well as the lives of a whole base of soldiers when she ran a communications cable through a tiny tunnel, more than living up to her ratting and mining ancestors.
Smoky also spent hours learning tricks to entertain the men and dishing out her endless doggy love. It was no surprise when she became a therapy dog after the war. The first one in the world, in fact.
The beginning of a whole new breed
Despite white, tan and blue colouration being outside the breed standard for Yorkies, they do occur. It’s caused by a recessive piebald gene, and one couple decided to selectively breed Yorkies to bring out this unusual colouring.
As recently as 2014, the American Kennel Club provisionally accepted their new tri-colour breed, the Biewer Terrier. (Named after the breeders, Werner and Gertrud Biewer.)
They’re one of the most pup-ular breeds in the world, so it’s no surprise that Yorkies are big on Instagram and have many famous followers.
One of their most illustrious admirers was Audrey Hepburn, and her Yorkie even appeared in one of her films.
Yorkshire Terrier puppies
Given their small size, great care should be taken with Yorkshire Terrier puppies to ensure they aren’t injured. They can also suffer with hypoglycemia due to their high metabolism and small size, so you will need to stay on top of their feeding schedule.
You will want to begin socialising and training your puppy as soon as possible. Socialisation can help to prevent your puppy barking whenever they see other dogs. Meanwhile, Yorkies are quick learners but can be stubborn, which is why starting early is advised, particularly house training.
This is because Yorkshire Terriers take longer than average to be house trained, which has a lot to do with their small size. (You can’t hold it in long when you only have a little bladder!)
When is a Yorkie fully grown?
Your Yorkshire Terrier should be their full size by the time they are one year old. However, they can continue to put on weight for a few months after this, just make sure they aren't becoming overweight. At this age, they should also make the transition from puppy food to adult food.
Meanwhile, your pooch might change colour as they get older. Your Yorkie’s coat will likely fade as they age, and most consider that a Yorkshire Terrier won’t show their true colours until they are three years old.
Yorkshire Terrier temperament
The typical Yorkshire Terrier temperament is lively, loving, brave, and independent. These dogs are a rare blend of courageous and confident with friendly and affectionate, making them great pets for a variety of households.
It also means your pooch can probably cope with being alone for a little while, but still love spending time with you whenever they can.
Their ratting background makes them quick-witted and alert, so your pooch will love to spend time playing with you or enjoying various puzzle games or doggy sports. They might be small, but these pups love a challenge.
The fact they are so switched-on does mean they are surprisingly successful watchdogs, but obviously, they aren’t good guardians. (They’re not exactly a menacing pooch.) Just be aware that this does mean your dog might have a tendency to bark, and will likely show some prey drive.
Like many terriers, Yorkies do have a tendency to have sass and a stubborn streak. But despite being self-assured, they can still develop separation anxiety. They are a companion breed, and although they aren’t the softest lapdog, they are sociable and enjoy attention.
Overall, you’ll find that your Yorkshire Terrier has a personality that seems far too big for them. They have the tenacity of larger terriers, and will always be keen to head out on adventures with you.
Yet they will still show you affection and love of most toy-sized breeds and be perfectly content to cuddle up with you in the evening.
Is a Yorkie a good family dog?
A Yorkie can make an amazing pet for families with older children. However, if you have young kids, you need to be careful.
This is because the Yorkshire Terrier’s bold and stubborn nature might make them liable to snap at anyone that upsets them. Equally, this small dog is more likely to be injured by small children if they don’t know how to handle the dog correctly.
Although these dogs might think they’re bigger, they are still small and fragile and can be easily hurt when playing with children or bigger dogs. But, provided your Yorkshire Terrier is well socialised and your children know how to safely handle the dog, they can all get along perfectly.
In general, Yorkshire Terriers are advised for older families. They are especially pup-ular with older people who relish the companionship of this charming little dog.
Are Yorkshire Terriers easy to train?
As with many terriers and toy breeds, Yorkshire Terriers are self-assured and can have a stubborn streak. This means you will need to be patient and persistent when training them.
Yorkies are eager to work though thanks to their history as ratters, so many take to training well. Equally, they are loving little dogs and are eager to please their owners, which further improves their enthusiasm and willingness to work. Overall, they shouldn’t be a challenge to train.
As for housetraining, it might take a little longer than average. Your Yorkie is perfectly capable of being housetrained, but they are only little dogs so have very small bladders, so they can only hold things in for so long and need regular toilet breaks.
Do Yorkshire Terriers bark a lot?
Yes, Yorkshire Terriers have a reputation for being yappy. This has a lot to do with the fact they are very alert, and will bark at anything untoward or that they think could be a threat.
They are territorial too, which contributes to their watchfulness and guarding, which combined with their excellent hearing, means your pooch might be barking at things happening nearby you can’t hear.
In short, Yorkshire Terriers are pretty vocal. However, with proper training, you should be able to give them a command to quieten them so it doesn’t get out of control.
Can a Yorkie be left alone?
Because Yorkshire Terriers are generally very confident, it means that they can deal with being alone for a little while.
Adult Yorkies can be left for about 4-6 hours, but ideally less. Puppies meanwhile should not be alone for longer than 2 hours, as they need very regular toilet breaks and long periods of separation can impact them and lead to problems like separation anxiety.
Despite their usually bold nature, Yorkies are loving, sociable dogs so long periods of time alone can lower their mood and make them anxious, which may lead to destructive behaviour.
A dog’s character varies between individuals, so how long you can leave your dog will also depend on their own personality and what sort of training you have done with them.
Yorkshire Terrier appearance
Yorkshire Terriers are easy to spot thanks to their small size, characteristic colours, and their long silky fur.
Naturally, a Yorkie will have very long fur, but many owners choose to keep their fur clipped short as it is more manageable and gives the dog a puppy-like appearance. They also should be a shade of gold or tan with a black or blue saddle.
Usually, a Yorkshire Terrier will have upright ears. However, it is possible that some pups will have floppy ears. It’s uncommon but does occur within the breed. It’s simply because some pup’s ears are too big for them to be able to stand them upright, or they are too heavy to hold up because of an abundance of fur.
Although your Yorkie will always be small, they should still look quite steady and compact. Their bodies are slightly longer than they are tall, and they should have a straight back. As well as their elegant hair, Yorkies should have an “important air” according to the Kennel Club. So these teeny terriers walk tall!
Long hair Yorkshire terrier vs short hair Yorkshire Terrier
Although commonly asked and googled, there is no such thing as a short hair Yorkshire Terrier. Although you might have seen plenty of adorable Yorkies with short hair out and about, that’s the result of grooming and not a different kind of dog. (Although some cross breeds can have shorter hair.)
Most people choose to keep their Yorkie’s hair short as it is easier to manage, and requires less brushing than if their hair was left au naturel. Similarly, some dogs do not have the usual silky fur and instead have softer hair. These softer coats should be kept short because their fur is more likely to matt and break.
Meanwhile, the breed standard is the long hair Yorkshire Terrier. Their fur continues to grow throughout their life, rather like human hair. This means when left uncut, their fur can easily reach the floor in silky trains.
Yorkies that are displayed at dog shows sport these long, luscious locks to great appeal. But this long hair does require daily brushing and very regular bathing.
Yorkshire Terrier colours
Yorkshire Terriers have a very limited colour palette, which helps to make the breed very recognisable.
The standard Yorkshire Terrier colours are:
|Gold and Black||Gold and Blue|
|Tan and Black||Tan and Blue|
Although this might sound like a limited range of colours, there’s actually a lot of variety between dogs. This is because the exact shades of each colour vary. For instance, their blue hair might be anything between a silver right up to a dark, deep grey.
There are other colours of Yorkshire Terrier out there, although they are uncommon because by breed standards they are undesirable. These dogs include all-tan Yorkies who don’t have the characteristic dark saddle marking.
Others may even have white markings caused by a piebald gene somewhere in their DNA. According to the Kennel Club, a Yorkie can have a small white star on their chest as long as it’s no longer than an inch.
Yorkshire Terrier lifespan & lifestyle
How much exercise does a Yorkshire Terrier need?
Although small in size and happy to live in apartments, Yorkshire Terriers are energetic and still require daily walking. In general, Yorkies need at least one half-hour long walk every day.
However, the breed is known to be active and love being busy. Many pups prefer more opportunities to exercise and play. You should vary the length of walkies according to your dog’s individual needs.
So if you have a little lapdog, they might only need a brisk walk around the block to keep them active, while other pooches with more terrier tendencies might need stimulation games and longer strolls.
How long does a Yorkshire Terrier live for?
The average Yorkshire Terrier lifespan is around 12-15 years, but it’s not uncommon to find some dogs live into their late teens. The best way of maximising your Yorkshire Terrier’s lifespan is to make sure they’re exercised regularly and fed a healthy diet.
The oldest dog ever recorded in the UK was a Yorkshire Terrier called Jack, who didn’t look his age despite hitting the grand old age of 25. Even then, his life was tragically cut short, so there’s no telling how much longer he might have lived for.
What health problems do Yorkshire Terriers have?
On the whole, Yorkshire Terriers are a healthy breed of dog. Although there are a few hereditary conditions to look out for, many of their health problems are due to their small size, or are common canine illnesses.
Some common Yorkshire Terrier health problems are:
- Tracheal Collapse
- Luxating Patella
- Teeth problems
- Eye problems
- Blood circulation issues
Tracheal collapse is common in many small breeds, as their trachea is smaller and more vulnerable. Equally, there is more pressure on their necks, which are small but have to support a large, heavy head.
Tracheal collapse is usually treatable, but severe cases can be life threatening. Their fragile windpipes do mean that you should walk your Yorkie on a harness rather than a collar.
Another condition common in small breeds is luxating patella, or dislocating knees. Because of this, you should ensure your dog doesn’t jump up or down from anywhere too high, which puts a lot of sudden stress on their joints.
Toy dogs, including Yorkshire Terriers, are often plagued by dental problems. This is because of their small jaws, which often are barely big enough for all their teeth.
Your Yorkie could have an overcrowded jaw, and may not be able to shed their puppy teeth correctly. Overcrowding can also cause problems like gum disease because food gets stuck between their teeth and can’t be easily dislodged.
Although cancer isn’t common among most toy-sized dogs, it is the second highest cause of death amongst Yorkshire Terriers. Sadly, the risk of cancer in any dog increases with age.
However, it is important to stress that half of canine cancers are treatable if found early, and the risks of cancer in any dog are dramatically reduced when they are fed a good diet, specifically, one with fresh cruciferous vegetables.
Obese dogs are also at a greater risk of cancer, so keeping your dog a healthy weight will help too.
Atopy means your pooch is more likely to develop allergies or skin conditions due to their genetics. Many Yorkies are known to have itchy skin or sensitive stomachs, and this could be because of an allergy.
Your vet will advise you on the best way to manage their condition and soothe any irritation. It is most commonly managed through bathing in medicated shampoo, and eating a healthy diet rich in fatty acids that nourish the skin. (Plus avoiding any ingredients your pup is allergic to.)
Yorkies can suffer from a few eye problems. Many older Yorkies develop cataracts, and sadly is simply a typical age-related illness.
Yorkies also suffer from dry eyes and infection. One way to help is to keep their eyes clean and trimming their hair short around their eyes to help stop their hair from causing any irritation.
Yorkshire Terriers are also prone to some hereditary conditions such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, but responsible breeders should only breed healthy dogs to limit the likelihood of future generations having issues.
Blood circulation problems
Yorkshire Terriers can be affected by problems like Liver Shunt and Legg-Perthes Disease. Liver Shunt is caused by insufficient blood flow to the liver, which leads to the liver failing to filter their blood properly. Meanwhile, Legg-Perthes is when blood doesn’t flow to the hip joint correctly, causing it to break down. Both of these issues are hereditary.
How to groom a Yorkshire Terrier
When welcoming a Yorkie into your family, you should be aware that they have high grooming needs. This dog’s long silky fur looks impressive but it’s just like human hair and tangles easily. Many owners cut their terrier’s hair short to make their mane easier to manage.
If you keep your Yorkshire Terrier’s hair long, you will need to brush their hair three times a week minimum, but ideally, you will brush them every day. You will also need to trim their hair to stop it affecting their movement, and prevent your dog’s feet getting tangled or tripping on their trailing fur.
You will also have to tie the hair on their head or trim it to stop it from falling into their eyes. Their luscious locks need regular bathing too, with a wash every month at least but usually more often.
Meanwhile, a Yorkie with a haircut is much easier to groom. A Yorkshire Terrier’s grooming requirements are very different if their fur is cut short, as you only need to brush them every week or two. They will only need a bath whenever they are dirty, or every 3 months at least.
Whenever your dog’s hair starts getting longer, you should brush it more often and bathe them more regularly. Even with a short haircut, you will need to trim the hair around your dog’s eyes and tail to prevent irritation to their eyes, and to keep their bottoms clean.
Yorkshire Terrier grooming styles
There are many different Yorkshire Terrier haircuts, but the most common is the “puppy cut”. This is where the fur is trimmed short (1 to 1.5 inches) and the hair on their head is kept slightly longer.
As the name implies, this gives a very puppyish appearance. The similar “teddy bear cut” also emphasises your Yorkies cute features, keeping their fur short all over but grooming to make their ears look rounder. When combined with their dark brown eyes and button noses, this hairstyle really does make a Yorkie look like a cuddly toy!
The “Schnauzer trim” is another popular Yorkshire Terrier haircut. It mimics the look of a Schnauzer, with moustaches and longer hair on their bellies and legs, while the fur on their back and sides is cut short.
Dogs being displayed in the show ring sport the “show cut” though. This is where their silky fur is left to grow long, forming skirts of hair that trail on the floor. These cuts are uncommon in pets though as they require a huge amount of care.
Do Yorkshire Terriers shed?
Hardly! A Yorkshire Terrier’s fur grows continually throughout their life, and their fur is like human hair, so they shed about as much as you do. Plus, Yorkies only have a single coat.
Because they do not have an undercoat, they shed very little compared to most breeds. Additionally, regular bathing and brushing will further reduce the number of stray hairs around your house.
Are Yorkshire Terriers hypoallergenic?
Yorkshire Terriers are considered a hypoallergenic breed. This is largely due to the fact that they shed very little hair and less dander than average.
However, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic, and allergies can be caused by either fur, dander, or drool and varies between individual dogs as well as breeds.
If you have an allergy you might find a Yorkie doesn’t cause pup-set. To see if a Yorkie is suitable for you, the best thing to do is to spend time with the breed to see if they trigger your sensitivities.
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