Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire terriers (or Yorkies) steal the show everywhere they go with their long, fine, and silky coats. However, don't let their glamorous coat fool you, this breed was originally used to catch rats in mills. Despite their size, these dogs are fearless, courageous, and are highly energetic. They are affectionate with their family, but can be suspicious of strangers, and will bark at strangers and intruders.

Yorkshire Terrier Headshot
Yorkshire Terrier. Original image by user itarife on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Yorkshire Terrier breed is also commonly known by the names Yorkie.

Popularity: Very popular

Life expectancy: 12 - 16 years

Breed group: Toy Dogs (AKC), Toy Dogs (KC), Terriers Dogs (FCI)

Size: Tiny

Male Female
Height 8 - 9 in 8 - 8 in
Weight 2 - 4 lbs 4 - 15 lbs

Coat:

Colors: Black and Tan, Blue

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Not a heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Very high

Good with children: Not really

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: Average

Exercise needs: High

Tolerates being alone: Not really

Hunting drive: Low

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: Yes

Hypoallergenic breed: Yes

Drooling: Very low

Barking: Average

General health: Good

Cost to keep: Low

History

The Yorkshire Terrier originated in Yorkshire in northern England. During the Industrial Revolution (mid-19th century), Scottish workers from Scotland came to Yorkshire in search of work and brought with them several different varieties of small terriers (Clydesdale and Paisley Terriers).

These dogs were larger than the Yorkshire Terrier we know today. These terriers were probably mixed with other terrier types (and maybe other types of breeds). Initially called “Scotch Terriers” because of their origin, they were renamed Yorkshire Terrier as the breed evolved significantly in Yorkshire.

Initially, almost every terrier type dog with a long coat (blue on the body and fawn/silver colored head) was considered a Yorkshire Terrier. The breed standard as we know it today was defined in the late 1860’s, based on a popular show dog called “Huddersfield Ben”. The first Yorkshires in the US appeared in the early 1870’s and they first recognized as a breed by the AKC in 1885.

Appearance

Yorkshire Terriers are well proportioned, compact little dogs. Their self-confidence is reflected in their appearance. It’s a common sight to them strutting through the house in sassy little steps, with their heads held high.
Typical characteristics are:


  • Small and rather flat head with medium sized muzzle. Dark, sparkling eyes with an intelligent expression. Small, erect V-shaped ears, not too far apart.

  • Compact body, with a rather short back. Straight back, with height at the shoulder equal to the height at the rump.

  • Tail docked to medium length, carried slightly higher than the back.

  • Glossy long coat, fine and silky in texture. Hair on muzzle and the head is very long.

  • Colors: blue/tan, black/tan, black/gold and blue/gold. From the back of the neck to the base of the tail, the coat should have the darker color, on the head, chest, and legs, the hair should have the brighter color.

Temperament

Intelligence/ Trainability

The Yorkshire Terrier is highly intelligent little dog and is eager to please. They are attention seekers and respond well to positive reinforcement training. Training is easy, which makes them a good fit for novice dog owners.

Like many small breeds, Yorkies can be difficult to housetrain. Consistent training is necessary. Due to their size, “accidents” are small, and easy to clean so it’s tempting to let it slide. Don’t - it will just take longer before your dog is housetrained.

Due to their suspicious nature, they will bark at unfamiliar sounds and strangers. It’s important to teach them when it is appropriate to bark and when it is not.

As Yorkshire terriers are pretty small and tend to overestimate their size, owners can become over protective. If your Yorkie gets the impression that the outside world is a dangerous place he might become a little bit fearful and neurotic.

Activity

Although they are tiny, Yorkies are energetic little dogs and need a certain amount of daily exercise. A 30 minute walk around the block will do fine. As terrier, they love to run around the garden or dog park to let off some steam.

Provide daily play sessions, these intelligent dogs need some kind of mental stimulation to be really happy. Learning small tricks or performing in agility or obedience will help keep these little attention seekers happy and content. If a Yorkie is not stimulated he will likely show his boredom and frustration with unpleasant behavior like barking, chewing, or other destructive behavior.

Special attention should be given to puppies. Avoid jumping up and down furniture and running up and down the stairs, as their bones and joints are still growing and too much exercise can induce problems later on.

Independence

This affectionate little breed loves and needs to be with its family. If left alone for too long they can become anxious or bored. They shouldn't be left alone for long periods.

Protective

Due to their suspicious nature, they will bark when strangers are visiting the house. Given their size, they are not very well suited as guard dogs, but make excellent "alert dogs".

Living Conditions

If you provide enough physical and mental exercise a Yorkie will do be fine in all types of homes. They can live equally as well in an apartment, a home in the country, and anything in between.

Yorkshire Terriers are not very well adapted to colder climates. Like most toy breeds, they have a high ratio of body surface to weight so they will cool down much faster than bigger dogs. Cold rain and wet snow will be absorbed by their coat, amplifying the cooling effect. When temperatures drop below 45F (7°C) you should use functional clothing to protect them from the cold. Use a good quality balm to protect the paws and the nose.

If the air is too dry, the coat can become damaged – this can be solved by


  • Increasing the humidity in the air

  • Using a light, qualitative leave-in conditioner

Children and Other Pets

Due to their size, Yorkshire terriers are not well suited for small children and toddlers.


  • Small children and toddlers can’t be expected to know how to properly handle the dog. They might drop them, step on them, or squeeze them too tight.

  • Yorkies can be snappy if startled or teased.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. Consequently, it’s quite possible you can’t spend enough time with your dog which may leave him frustrated.


Older children, who have learned how to properly treat their dog should be ok. Remember that no dog, whatever the breed, should be left unattended with young children.

A Yorkshire Terrier can live peacefully with other dogs and pets if he learned to do so as a puppy.
Special care is needed if a new pet is introduced in the house – as a terrier, he might feel the need to challenge the newcomer. Yorkies are completely unaware of their size, and might challenge dogs that are much larger.

Because of a strong prey drive, Yorkies, like most terriers do not exist well with small, furry pets like rabbits.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Yorkshire Terrier is between 12 - 16 years. Like all breeds, the Yorkshire Terrier is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Yorkshire Terrier is prone to these diseases:
  • Portosystemic Shunt (PSS) (hereditary)
  • Reverse sneezing (hereditary)
  • Collapsed Trachea (hereditary)
  • Hypoglycemia (hereditary)
  • Patellar Luxation (hereditary) : Patellar luxation is a very common orthopedic disorder in dogs. A patellar luxation occurs when a dog’s kneecap (patella) is dislocated or slips out of its normal position. More info»
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (hereditary) : Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of inherited degenerative eye disorders, which lead to loss of vision. PRA affects both eyes simultaneously and is not painful More info»

Grooming

Unlike many other dogs, Yorkshire Terriers shed very little. But, they still require quite a bit of grooming. Their long silky coat is made up of hair rather than fur and grows continuously. To keep their coat in top condition it needs to be brushed daily to prevent tangles and matts (a light, high quality conditioner spray can help). Grooming is easier if you keep the coat trimmed short, but even then, they need to be brushed every day.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness, or a foul smell that could indicate an infection and cleaned when needed with ear cleaning fluid. If hairs are growing in the ears, pluck them out (or ask your groomer to do it for you).

To keep the coat in top condition Yorkies need to have a bath every week. Wet the coat with lukewarm water, apply the shampoo and gently run your fingers through the coat to remove the dirt. Make sure you rinse the coat thoroughly so no shampoo remains. If you use a dryer, spray the coat with conditioner to prevent split ends when drying.

Yorkies don't usually wear their nails down on their own, Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older.

Like many small breeds, Yorkies are prone to dental problems. They tend to form a lot of plaque on their teeth. If you don’t brush their teeth regularly, the plaque becomes tartar which can lead to tooth problems, at a very young age. Yorkshire Terriers tend to keep their puppy teeth. When they are around 5 months old, check the teeth regularly. If an adult tooth is pushing through while the puppy tooth is still in place consult a vet. Retained puppy teeth can cause tooth decay when they are adults. Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and adapted dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

Feeding

Small breeds like Yorkshire Terriers don't require a large amount of food. Recommended daily amount: 1/2 to 3/4 cups of high-quality dry kibble, divided into two meals. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less.

Yorkshire Terriers can be finicky eaters and very sensitive to food changes. When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems. Eating problems can also be the result of teeth decay – if your dog is having any problems eating, make sure to take him to the vet for a checkup.

Special attention is needed when feeding puppies. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a burden but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.
Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

Make sure that your dog is not becoming overweight. Obese dogs suffer can suffer from all kinds of health conditions. If you can’t feel the ribs when you move your hands over his sides, he needs to be put on a diet.

Costs

The price of Yorkshire Terrier puppy can vary depending on source – but count on 600-900 US$ (and more) if you buy one from a respected breeder.
Estimated costs of the first year : $600 to $1400 for the first year (excluding the acquisition cost)


  • Veterinary care: $100 – $350

  • Vaccines/parasite treatments: $100 – $200

  • Spay or neuter: $150 – $250

  • Food: $50 – $100

  • Miscellaneous expenses, including collar, leash, crate, bowls, toys, grooming supplies, boarding and obedience training: $200 – $500


Estimated costs next years: $350 to $950 per year

  • Veterinary care: $100 – $350

  • Vaccines/parasite treatments: $100 – $200

  • Food: $50 – $100

  • Miscellaneous expenses: $100 – $300


These figures are estimates only (and do not include additional expenses related to illness, injury, travel), and veterinary costs are likely to increase when your dog ages.