Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie)

Portrait of Yorkshire Terrier sitting
Compassionate Eye Foundation/David Leahy/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Yorkshire Terriers, commonly called Yorkies, are little dogs with big personalities. They are also one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States and the sixth-most-popular worldwide. Though technically categorized in the toy group, they take on many terrier traits as well, especially in personality.

Yorkies tend to be very vocal, protective and loyal. Despite their small size, they make excellent guard dogs.

At heart, Yorkies are wonderful companions that love to be pampered and snuggle up to their loved ones.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Toy
  • Size: 5 to 7 pounds
  • Coat and Color: The standard color combinations are black and gold, black and tan, blue and gold, and blue and tan. Puppies may not display their final coat color until age 3 or older. Yorkshire terriers have a long, straight, and silky coat.
  • Life Expectancy: 13 to 16 years

Characteristics of the Yorkshire Terrier

Affection LevelHigh
FriendlinessMedium
Kid-FriendlyLow
Pet-FriendlyMedium
Exercise NeedsHigh
PlayfulnessHigh
Energy LevelHigh
TrainabilityMedium
IntelligenceMedium
Tendency to BarkMedium
Amount of SheddingLow

History of the Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire terriers can be traced back to the migration of weavers from Scotland to Yorkshire, England, in the mid-19th century. They were developed through breeding the Waterside terrier with various other terriers.

While used as working dogs by weavers to control rodents, they became quite fashionable during Victorian times. The trendiness of this breed is still notable today, as Yorkies are one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

A Yorkie named Smoky was found by an American soldier in the jungles of Papua New Guinea in World War II.

She provided a heroic service by dragging communications cable through a 60-foot long culvert that was only 8 inches wide. She later worked as a therapy dog for wounded soldiers and has several memorials dedicated to her. Her owner wrote her story into the book, "Yorkie Doodle Dandy." 

Yorkshire Terrier Care

Yorkies are more than just lap dogs. This breed can actually be quite vocal and stubborn at times. Early training and socialization with people and other dogs are very important for the Yorkie and will help keep that “big personality” from getting out-of-control. A well-trained Yorkie is much more attentive to its owner. Proper training also makes it easier to handle your Yorkie at places like the veterinarian.

It is often noted that a Yorkshire terrier is unlikely to do well in a household with small children. The problems come both with rough handling of a small dog by kids and by the dog's reaction in nipping when provoked. Yorkies may also get into displays of dominance around other dogs and are often not afraid of taking on larger dogs, which can be dangerous.

A Yorkie will not do well in a household where he is left alone most of the day. He needs lots of attention and does best when kept near his human companion.

Otherwise, he may display separation anxiety and develop bad habits.

Yorkies are well suited to apartment living due to their small size. However, they are not couch potatoes. Yorkies active dogs that still need regular exercise. Daily walks should keep the average Yorkie happy and healthy, though many Yorkies need to run and play hard from time to time. Be sure to monitor your dog's behavior on or off leash as Yorkies like to chase things and pick fights with dogs large and small.

They are not well-suited to extreme temperatures, hot or cold, and so they should be indoor dogs. You may want to take a Yorkie for a walk in the coolest part of the day in hot weather and provide a sweater during cold weather.

Yorkies have silky, continuously growing hair which should be brushed regularly if kept long.

Many Yorkie owners choose to keep their hair cut short (usually by a groomer every several weeks). Either way, Yorkies require a moderate amount of routine grooming. A Yorkie may have so much long hair on its face that it needs a hairband to keep it out of the way while eating, or it may be trimmed.

Because they don't shed as much as some other breeds, the Yorkie is often called hypoallergenic. However, what triggers allergies is the dog's dander or saliva, and a Yorkie may still provoke an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive.

Yorkshire terriers are known to be difficult to housebreak, so expect a bit of a struggle until you have success. Keep plenty of puppy pads handy during this long process. Your dog may refuse to go outside in the rain and you may need a covered area for potty breaks.

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to develop hereditary conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Patellar luxation: This is looseness of the kneecap that can result in dislocation. While the knee will often pop back into place, surgery may be required in severe conditions.
  • Collapsing trachea: Yorkies are prone to this condition that can get worse with age. The dog may display a chronic cough.
  • Portosystemic shunts (PSS): This is a defect in the blood flow between the liver and the body. It is usually detected before two years of age and can be managed by surgery and diet.
  • Intervertebral disc disease: Herniated discs in the back can be the result of a predisposition or injury.

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your Yorkshire terrier twice a day for a total of 1/2 to 2/4 cup of dry dog food. Be sure to be consistent in refusing to share your food with your dog. This breed is known to experience digestive upsets such as vomiting and diarrhea when they have such treats.

Free-feeding or giving your dog bites from your plate isn't recommended or you could end up with an overweight dog. This predisposes the dog to a shorter lifespan and other health conditions. Discuss any weight gain with your veterinarian to get recommendations for a feeding schedule, specialty dog food, and exercise needs.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any breed, if you think the Yorkshire terrier is right for you, be sure to do plenty of research before obtaining one. Talk to other Yorkshire terrier owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

You may want to learn more about these similar dog breeds:

You can also explore many other dog breeds to find the right one.