Yorkshire Terriers are small, intelligent dogs with very loving characters. Originally developed in Yorkshire, as the name suggests, they were bred to control rat populations in cotton mills and coal mines. Today they are kept solely as companions although they still retain their strong terrier character. Yorkies should be compact and square but well proportioned in appearance and are renowned for their long, silky coats. If allowed to grow they can require intensive grooming, but for companion dogs, the coat can be clipped short and is easy to maintain.
The Yorkshire Terrier is extremely affectionate and curious, but can be overprotective and may become snappy if allowed to behave in this way. The breed is easy to train and especially quick to learn, so recall and house training is not a problem. They do not require large amounts of walking, but should be exercised and provided with plenty of mental stimulation. Yorkshire Terriers are surprisingly strong for their size but can suffer from some health problems.
About & History
The Yorkshire Terrier, or Yorkie as it is otherwise known is a small breed of dog belonging to the toy group. It originates from the same area of Yorkshire as the Airedale Terrier and was developed during the 1800’s from several breeds including the now extinct Black and Tan Terrier, the Broken-Haired Scotch Terrier, the Waterside Terrier, the Paisley Terrier and the Skye Terrier amongst others. Despite its small size and graceful looks, the Yorkshire Terrier was initially bred as a working dog to help control the rat populations in the cotton mills and coal mines of the are. These origins are often reflected in the strong characters that these little dogs possess alongside their hunting instinct.
Today the Yorkshire Terrier is a popular breed around the world and is seldom kept for any purpose other than companionship, where their intelligent, loyal and loving characters provide excellent company.
Some people use the term ‘teacup’ to refer to Yorkshire Terriers which are extremely small, weighing less than 1.8 kg as an adult. This classification is not recognised by the UK or other Kennel Clubs and is used by breeders to appeal to current trends for very small dogs with juvenile features. Deliberately breeding dogs for these characteristics is irresponsible, as there are many associated health problems and ‘teacup’ dogs often have a reduced life expectancy.
There are various different coat colour combinations which the UK Kennel Club accepts for registration of Yorkshire Terriers:
- Black & Tan
- Black Blue & Tan
- Blue & Tan
- Blue Steel & Tan
- Steel Blue
- Steel Blue & Tan
- Steel Blue, Black & Tan
- Steel Grey & Tan
Yorkies can weigh up a maximum of 3.2 kg. They should appear compact and tidy with a square but well proportioned body and upright carriage. They have a long silky coat, but no undercoat. The neck should have length and lead to shoulders that are laid back. The front legs should be straight and typically covered with tan coloured hair, which is darker at the roots. The body should be compact with a level back leading to muscular, sturdy, straight hind legs again covered by tan coloured hair. Feet should be round with black nails. Their tails should be covered with plenty of hair and carried slightly higher than the level of the back.
Yorkies have a small, flat head, and their skull should not be rounded. Their muzzle should not be too long with a black nose and they should have a scissor bite with evenly arranged teeth and jaws. They should have dark, sharp, expressive, medium sized eyes, which are not prominent and dark eyelids. Ears should be V-shaped and small and carried upright, covered with short tan coloured hair.
Yorkshire Terriers should have a free, flowing gait with plenty of drive. Their front and hind legs should have a straight action and their topline should remain level while they are moving. Their long hair should never hinder their movement.
Character & Temperament
The Yorkshire Terrier is a curious, alert, and intelligent little dog, which is also extremely affectionate. The breed should transmit an air of importance, and can have strong terrier characters, often being overprotective despite their size. They can be snappy so do not always make ideal dogs for families with children, but this is often a case of education, and if a puppy is used to well educated children from a young age they can happily form part of the family. With regards to character, family line is important and some lines may be easier going than others.
Yorkshire Terriers enjoy and need plenty of company but are also secure little dogs and therefore not especially prone to separation anxiety if properly accustomed to being left alone for short periods from a young age. Yorkies normally get on well with other dogs but may prefer to play with smaller dogs similar to their own size. Their size means they are not typically used as guard dogs, but they do often like to bark, so will raise the alarm if anything unusual is going on.
Yorkshire Terriers are clever and extremely quick to learn, whilst also liking to please their owners. This means all types of training are usually quickly absorbed and relatively easy. However, this ability for learning can also apply to bad behaviours so it is important not to unknowingly reinforce these. As they are small people often find their bad habits/behaviours amusing and repeated failure to do anything about them can lead to serious behavioural problems and snappy dogs. Good recall is not typically a problem, as they like to stay near their owners, although Yorkies can be prone to chasing other small animals and cats if their hunting instincts kick in.
Yorkshire Terriers typically have a lifespan of at least 12 years, but often live for considerably longer. Despite their size Yorkies are relatively strong, tough little dogs and the UK Kennel Club does not currently require breeders to participate in any screening or DNA testing schemes for diseases affecting the breed. However, they can suffer from some of the following health problems:
- Primary Lens Luxation (PLL) – A condition where one of the ligaments which keeps the lens of the eye in position is defective. This can eventually lead to movement of the lens to varying degrees. If a dog carries the defect it often occurs at around 4 – 5 years of age. This can subsequently cause glaucoma and vision loss, as well as being painful. Surgery is needed to strop progression of the condition.
- Hereditary Cataracts (HC) – Cataracts are when the lens becomes opaque, disturbing normal vision and often leading to blindness. Treatment requires surgery.
- Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA) – This can refer to various conditions affecting the retina, which can be classed as either developmental or degenerative. Developmental types occur in young dogs and have a more rapid progression, whereas degenerative types occur in older dogs and have a slower progression.
Exercise and Activity Levels
Yorkies do not require large amounts of exercise and around 30 - 45 minutes of walking a day should be more than enough to keep them happy and healthy. In addition, they enjoy spending time playing with toys and in a garden if available. Although they do not have high exercise requirements, it is important that they are walked, as a lack of exercise can lead to behavioural problems, and their working origins as rat catchers should be taken into account. As with any dog, Yorkshire Terriers enjoy spending some time off the lead but this is not essential and they therefore make ideal dogs for city and urban environments.
The Yorkie is famous for is famous for its beautiful, fine, silky coat. This is traditionally left long and should be glossy and hang straight, and should be parted down the back of the dog from its nose to its tail. When allowed to grow long it requires daily brushing and may need regular bathing to keep it in good condition. The Yorkshire Terrier does not have an undercoat and barely sheds other then when brushed. For ease of care in most non-showing environments the coat can be kept short by clipping a couple of times a year and occasional brushing in between.
Famous Yorkshire Terriers
Numerous celebrities own Yorkshire Terriers, but some examples of Yorkshire Terriers in popular culture include:
- Toto, the dog from the original book of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Mr Famous from the film Funny Face
- Moses from the film Meet the Fockers
- Hootie from the movie Urban Legend
- Pickles from the film Daltry Calhoun
- Boi from the film High School Musical 2
- Mignon from the television series Green Acres
- Smoky, the Yorkshire Terrier owned by William Wynne, who made him part of his troop in World War II
Some popular Yorkshire Terrier cross-breeds include:
- Borkie – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Beagle
- Chorkie – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Chihuahua
- Corkie – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Cocker Spaniel
- Dorkie – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Dachshund
- King Charles Yorkie – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Morkie – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Maltese
- Shorkie Tzu – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Shih Tzu
- Yoranian – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Pomeranian
- Yorkipoo – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Poodle
- Yorkinese – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Pekingese
- Yorkie Russell – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Jack Russell Terrier
- Yorkillon – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Papillon
- Snorkie – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Miniature Schnauzer
- Pugshire – Cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Pug