Not surprisingly, the diminutive Yorkshire terrier tends to display a teeny-weeny bit of what's known as "small dog syndrome," like the even tinier Chihuahua, who is equally feisty — both are known to challenge much larger dogs. Brash, bossy, and confident in spades, the spirited Yorkie may be small in stature, but has a big, loving heart and an even bigger personality, earning the nickname, "the tomboy toy" due to its spunky and engaging ways.
All this attitude wrapped up in an itty-bitty package is not only fascinating, but cuter than the dickens. Bursting with charisma to spare, this 7-pound toy dynamo has captivated thousands of American hearts for years and ranks #10 in popularity of the American Kennel Club's 193 registered dog breeds in 2018.
So, if you've been bitten by the Yorkie bug, or shall we say smitten, how can you tell if you're adopting a purebred or a non-purebred Yorkie? Well, the devil, or in this case, Yorkie, is in the details. That is, the details of the Yorkshire terrier breed standard as defined by the AKC, the largest dog breed registry in the world founded in 1884. How closely a Yorkie meets or diverges from the breed standard can help you narrow down the ideal, champion-bound Yorkie show dog, a purebred that does not meet the criteria for breeding, or a Yorkie that is not purebred.
Yorkshire terrier from a breeder
If you decide to go the breeder route for your pure Yorkie, you will implicitly know your puppy is purebred since you will have done your homework by thoroughly researching Yorkshire terrier breeders and choosing a reputable, qualified breeder registered with the AKC. When you visit the breeder, you will meet the pup's parents, receive bona fide pedigrees of at least three generations of only pure-blood Yorkies, and get health guarantees in writing. The best breeders have contracts stating that, if at any time during the dog's lifetime, you cannot provide a home, they will take him back.
The shelter Yorkie
Usually, if you want to give a forever home to a shelter or rescue dog, you are prepared to adopt a dog of mixed ancestry to become your new family member, and in the case of Yorkies, you can expect a wonderful assortment of Yorkie lookalikes, each more adorable and engaging than the next.
Some may look almost exactly like a purebred, and to the untrained eye, could pass as one. But only if you're a judge of dog shows, a Yorkshire terrier breeder, or an authority on Yorkies will you most likely know at a glance. Otherwise, for the layperson, it's often difficult to tell a purebred from a non-purebred Yorkie if a dog has inherited the best of the breed from, say, one parent, or whose both parents are crossbreeds.
At a shelter, for example, along with all those adorable mutts vying for your attention, doing their best to snag a forever home, you sometimes discover a sweet, little dog, who at first glimpse, looks to be a pure Yorkie. Yes, purebred Yorkies are often found in shelters, rescues, and, of course, breed-specific rescues.
Identifying a non-purebred Yorkie
Here is how you may be able to identify a non-purebred Yorkie from a purebred Yorkie the easy way. Grab the AKC Yorkshire terrier breed standard and learn the nitty-gritty of the Yorkshire terrier breed. That said, keep in mind that not every purebred dog is a specimen for breeding. Responsible breeders are dedicated to preserving the breed integrity and improving it and select only males and females that possess the best qualities of the breed standard. To identify a purebred Yorkie, you're looking for Yorkies that meet the breed standard in a substantial number of traits.
A more in-depth approach to learning how to identify a purebred Yorkie versus a non-purebred Yorkie is to get out and meet purebred Yorkies at dog shows. Study how they move, their luxurious silky coats and rich blue and tan colors, and pay attention to their overall demeanor, and how different ones vary in each trait. Discover what breeders are trying to achieve in the ideal Yorkie, and what defines the best representatives of the breed from the standpoint of conformation, appearance, temperament, and color.
And in the process of your research, you will be intrigued by the rich history of this incomparable wee breed developed by Scottish weavers who immigrated to the northern English counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire in the mid-1800s. Originating from the Scottish "waterside terriers" the weavers brought with them, the Yorkie was bred to Lilliputian proportions to pursue rodents into all the nooks and crannies of the counties' textile mills, and did double duty as "ratters" in the coal mines, too.
Originally known as "broken-haired Scotch terriers," "broken-haired toy terriers," or simply, the "toy terrier," the Yorkshire terrier came to America in the 1870s and the first Yorkie, a female named "Belle," was registered by the AKC in 1885, along with 14 other breeds, only one year after the registry was established.
Picture perfect Yorkie
Perfection for a Yorkshire terrier means fulfilling the AKC breed standard. While countless purebred Yorkies may meet the criteria, countless other purebred Yorkies do not. Identifying a non-purebred Yorkie when you are adopting a dog with unknown ancestry, can best be accomplished through checking off all the standards the dog meets, and making a judgement call about the results. So, for example, if the Yorkie you are attempting to identify as non-purebred exhibits most of the traits in the standard, it's a safe bet she's a purebred Yorkie, but perhaps not the "ideal."
If your Yorkie is nowhere near meeting any of the breed standards, she's most likely not purebred but may have one parent who was purebred, or both were crossbreeds. Yorkshire terriers have distinct traits with strong, defining physical features, personality, and temperament that can easily be passed on through generations of crossbreeding. So, typically a non-purebred Yorkie can look and act like a purebred.
Comparison to Yorkie breed standard
If you are comparing a pure Yorkie adult to the AKC breed standard, first things first — she must weigh 7 pounds max. The next crucial standard is color, and this is a precise requirement not for the color-blind. Yorkie puppies are black and tan. Adult dogs must be blue, but not silver-blue nor a blue that is mingled with fawn, bronzy, or black hairs, but rather a dark, steel-blue and tan, but the tan must be a rich tan that is darker at the roots than in the middle with no sooty black hair intermingled and shading into lighter tan at the tips. It matters greatly that the distribution of this blue and tan hair is perfectly in tune with the standard.
Of course, a purebred Yorkie's glossy, straight coat is amazing and the quality, texture, and quantity of coat are of prime importance, says the breed standard.
These three key traits alone should be dead giveaways in identifying a non-purebred Yorkie, but if in doubt, the Yorkie's body should also be well-proportioned and very compact with a rather short back, with the height at the shoulder level with the rump. Refer to the official AKC Yorkshire terrier breed standard for further traits by which you can size up whether your Yorkie is non-purebred or purebred.
Finding your Yorkie soulmate
Perhaps the little guy you have your heart set on at your local shelter is indeed a purebred Yorkie after all, or you'll find he falls just short of the purebred standards, or perhaps doesn't measure up at all and is not purebred. In any case, you'll know when you find your pure Yorkie or Yorkshire terrier lookalike soulmate, because he'll pick you, so it really doesn't make much difference if he's purebred, or not, after all.