Common Traits of Yorkies

What could fit inside a coffee mug but still thinks it's tough enough to guard a whole house? A typical Yorkshire terrier, that's what. While each individual dog may have its own personality, the Yorkie is known for being a tenacious terrier that might not be big in stature, but is huge in terms of loyalty, energy, bravery, playfulness, and cuddliness.

Cute dog sitting in grass
Common Traits of Yorkies
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Yorkshire terrier appearance

Yorkies are one of the smallest breeds of dogs, according to Hills Pet, standing at six or seven inches tall and weighing only 2 to 7 pounds. Males tend to be slightly larger than the females, but they are still tiny compared to most other dogs.

They have a small head with an average-sized, proportional muzzle. Their v-shaped ears are set high and stand tall, giving the pup an alert look. The pups usually have docked tails cropped to half their natural length, according to AKC breed standards. Cropped or not, the tail is carried a little higher than their compact, straight spines.

The Yorkie coat

The Yorkshire terrier is perhaps best known for its long, hypoallergenic coat that may be silky, wiry, or soft. It feels more like human hair than what you usually expect dog fur to feel like. Whatever the texture, the hair can grow all the way to the ground and needs to be brushed daily to prevent tangling and matting.

The hair may be groomed in a number of ways. You can keep it long to either enhance its beauty or short in what's known as a "puppy cut" that will make it easier to care for. The hair on the head must be given particular attention, so either cut it short or tie it into a topknot above the eyes to prevent it from irritating the eyes.

The coat can be either two or three colors, which may include black, tan, gold, blue, and white. Most Yorkshire terriers have two colors and are generally black and tan or gold and blue, but some, known as parti Yorkies, have three colors in any combination of shades.

Attachment to humans

Many sources claim that Yorkies are one of the dog breeds that attach to one person only and do not get close with anyone else. Yet plenty of other sources state the opposite and claim that the friendly Yorkshire terrier can bond equally well with a number of family members.

Perhaps the best explanation for this disagreement between so many experts (aside from the fact that every dog is different) is the one given by Gorjess Pets breeders, which says that while male Yorkies tend to bond with only one person, females can bond with multiple owners.

That's certainly something to keep in mind when adopting a dog so you can ensure you get a pooch that is only loyal to you, or one that will be a good pet for the whole family depending on your own individual needs.

Protecting the family

Whether or not the Yorkie is attached to only one owner or a whole family, they are notoriously loyal and incredibly protective of their owners. This is likely due to their terrier ancestry. If they were larger, they would likely make great guard dogs for families and homes.

Unfortunately, a seven-pound (at most) dog isn't likely to scare someone away very easily so, at best, the Yorkshire terrier can make a decent watch dog, barking incessantly when a stranger comes near her loved ones.

Curbing aggressive behaviors

Animal Wised says that while Yorkies are not generally aggressive, a handful of the dogs are sometimes aggressive for a variety of reasons including abuse or trauma at a young age. If your dog shows aggressive behaviors, it is important to take steps to curb this bad conduct, even if your tiny pup is unlikely to do much damage to anyone.

The first step to stopping aggressive behavior is to uncover the root cause, whether it is due to fear, protection of resources, or another reason. From there, you can work to help train the dog past its psychological issues through de-sensitization or positive reinforcement in order to prevent it from acting aggressively.

In order to help prevent a Yorkshire terrier puppy from acting aggressively in the first place, it is important to expose your puppy to a wide array of situations, people, pets, and locations to help it feel comfortable no matter what or who it encounters.

How smart are Yorkies?

Small dogs are often not known for being the smartest pups, but Yorkshire terriers are an exception. In fact, according to The Smart Canine, in one of the most widely accepted studies of intelligence by breed, canine psychologist Stanley Coren discovered that Yorkies ranked 27th out of 100 breeds.

This put them squarely in the top third of smart pooches, tied with the puli and right behind the Chesapeake Bay retriever. Some of the only small dogs that ranked above them were the Papillion, miniature schnauzer, schipperke, and Pomeranian.

This means they will successfully obey a known command 70 percent of the time on their first attempt and can learn a new command within 15 to 25 repetitions.

Training a Yorkie

While you should always start training your pup early no matter what the breed, the intelligent nature of the Yorkshire terrier means that your dog will do particularly well with training. Neglecting to train your pup could lead to bad behaviors when it tries to entertain itself and thinks of all kinds of troublesome things to do at home or when you are out.

Their intelligence and loyalty mean they will do very well when it comes to agility or obedience training and other activities designed to keep the pup entertained. Of course, they can also be stubborn, so it is important to establish your dominance from the beginning, or you risk your dog not wanting to listen to you no matter how smart he is.

Training is particularly important when it comes to helping to prevent excessive barking and for potty training. Start training your Yorkie not to bark from an early age, or you may have very irritated neighbors since barking is a big instinctual behavior in this breed that is hard to stop without a lot of training. Also, while otherwise quick learners, Yorkies are a little resistant when it comes to potty training. Again, these lessons need to be started early and be taught with a firm, consistent approach.

General Yorkie temperament

Yorkies are surprisingly brave for such a little breed and are up for adventure, whether that means going on wilderness walks or just running errands with their owner. Their outgoing, adventurous personalities have earned them the nickname "the tomboy toy" according to the AKC. This makes sense given that they were originally bred as rat-catching dogs.

In fact, one of the most famous military dogs of World War II was a Yorkshire terrier named Smoky, who saved soldiers' lives by dragging a communications cable through a 60-foot-long, 8-inch-wide drainage culvert. Smoky is also considered to be the first therapy dog after she visited wounded soldiers in hospitals to cheer them up during their recovery. This is a vocation many Yorkies continue to practice to this day.

Affection and attention

After their start as a ratting dog, the breed was soon adopted as lapdogs of the Victorian elite. As their popularity grew, their size shrank. This explains why the Yorkshire terrier may be brave but still clings so tightly to its owner, constantly seeking attention and affection.

Perhaps this unique blend of bravery, loyalty, and affection is why the dog is so popular, ranking as the AKC's ninth most popular dog in America in 2017, the only dog under 20 pounds to make it on the top 10 list.

Yorkies love affection and enjoy play sessions, grooming, and cuddles. They long for their owner's attention and do not do well if left alone for long periods of time. Yorkie 911 Rescue says your Yorkshire terrier will almost certainly want to share the bed with you, and despite its long fur, it will get cold easily, so if you leave it to sleep in its own bed, make sure it has lots of blankets.

Yorkie exercise needs

Yorkshire terriers have a lot of energy, like to be kept busy, and need a good workout twice a day, but given their size, this can translate to nothing more than a few short walks or quick sessions of chasing a ball in the backyard. These little exercise requirements mean Yorkies can be excellent apartment dogs, but special care needs to be taken to potty train your pooch and stop it from barking.

On the other hand, they are not good outside dogs and, in fact, their small size makes them hard to keep in a yard (their terrier roots means they're still great diggers despite their size). They are easy prey to predators like birds or coyotes. Their small size and popularity also make them common targets of theft.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that because the dogs are prone to getting cold, they need sweaters or coats when going outdoors in cool weather.

Yorkie health problems

Yorkies are relatively healthy dogs and have a longer than average lifespan, living 11 to 15 years on average, according to the AKC. That being said, like all breeds, they are prone to certain health problems. Canine Journal says the most common health issues in Yorkshire terriers are:

  • Adverse reactions to vaccines
  • Bladder stones
  • Bronchitis
  • Cataracts
  • Collapsed trachea
  • Hypoplasia of dens (a spinal cord issue)
  • Legg-Calve-Parthes disease (thigh bone degeneration)
  • Luxating patella (kneecap dislocation)
  • Lymphangiectasia (a condition affecting the lymph system)
  • Portosystemic shunt (a liver condition)
  • Retinal dysplasia (a vision disorder)
  • Skin allergies

Due to their tiny size and fragile bones, they can also be injured by their owners, especially children. Take care to always be aware of where your Yorkshire terrier is at any given time, so you do not sit or step on the tiny pup. Always watch children around the dog because they can easily play too roughly and cause injuries to the little dogs.