Yorkshire Terrier Temperament: Empathetic, loyal and spunky at times
We're so glad you found our blog post about this curious, handy-sized and fascinating Yorkshire Terrier. You are in for a treat.
The Yorkie temperament has so many quirks that it can be hard to put a finger on it. However, many owners vow that these little dogs have prominent personalities and will surprise and make you smile daily. As a result, they have won the hearts of the American city-dwelling population, where they regularly top the list of the most popular dog breeds.
So if you'd like to learn more about the Yorkshire Terrier's temperament and origin and if this dog is the right choice for your lifestyle, read on!
History of the Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier, or "Yorkie" as their loving supporters call them, was initially bred to hunt vermin and rats before they found their way into the laps of aristocratic ladies. One could say this handy-sized dog has worked its way up the social ladder by being the perfect companion dog.
As the name suggests, the Yorkshire Terrier was first bred in the county of Yorkshire in Northern England. However, the breed's origin from Scottish breeds can be traced back to the mid-1800s. They were then known as "Broken Haired Scotch Terriers" and later "Toy Terrier" before they were awarded their current name in 1874 and registered with the British Kennel Club.
During the industrial revolution, miners from Scotland brought little terrier breeds with them on their work travels to England. These dogs "worked" in mines and clothing mills to keep pests away. But they were a terrier known for many talents. Hunters also used them to trap animals in dens and burrows. Hunting smaller wild animals, the Yorkies' courageous and gutsy temperament was a big plus.
It is believed that three main Scottish breeds contributed to the Yorkshire Terrier that we know today. The Skye Terrier, The Paisley and the Clydesdale. The last two are extinct, and the Skye Terrier is on the UK vulnerable dog list. But the Yorkie escaped this fate. Furthermore, the Maltese and the Black and Tan Terrier also contributed to the bloodline.
Almost all Yorkshire Terriers of today can trace their roots to one foundation, Huddersfield Ben. Born in 1865, Ben was a show dog and an acclaimed ratter dog. And he was the most sought-after stud dog of his time.
With the official registration to the British Kennel Club, the Yorkie got catapulted in a "slumdog-millionaire" fashion from working class to aristocratic lap dog. And all because of their little frame, inquisitive nature and unique, friendly temperament.
Since then, their popularity has been relatively steady if we disregard the two world wars. For that matter, the upkeep of a Yorkie and other dog breeds took a back seat. But we could always rely on dog lovers to keep their favourite breed going.
The UK Kennel Club recognises the below breed colours for the Yorkie:
Black & Tan
Black Blue & Tan
Blue & Tan
Blue Steel & Tan
Steel Blue & Tan
Steel Blue Black & Tan
Steel Grey & Tan
Yorkshire Terriers registration in the UK 2023
The registration numbers with the UK Kennel Club are lower year to date than in 2021. 99 Yorkies have been registered in Q2 2022. The total registrations in 2022 came to 495 Yorkies.
Source: https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/2406/quarterly-breed-stats-toys.pdf updated March 2023
Now that we have learnt so much about the Yorkies' history let's have a closer look at the temperament of this toy dog breed.
What is the Temperament of the Yorkshire Terrier?
Despite being small, it's claimed that they have big personalities, and no two Yorkies are the same. However, a few common traits are shared across the breed. Their courageous nature is one of them. They're much sturdier than they look and will not blink in the eye of danger or when their loving owner seems in trouble. They seem to have kept their feisty instincts from their ancestors while not losing the companion breed aspect.
Yorkies make for an excellent watchdog and have great attention to detail. Don't let any food fall on the floor, as your Yorkie will likely be all over it quickly. These dogs are very switched on and are faster than they look.
Changes in the environment or suspicious behaviour will be recognized promptly. If you're looking for a strong guard dog, we recommend looking more into the Dobermann section.
Their size makes them perfect even for smaller apartments as their little frame can fit into any corner. Yorkies are also great for people who travel a lot. Due to their compact size, you can take them anywhere, which is not often possible if you have a larger breed. In addition, the Yorkie has a highly adaptable nature and is usually not shy of a changing environment.
Yorkies make for great companions in any circumstances. Your empathetic Yorkie will be with you if you are sad or happy. Spending time with you is their favourite thing in the world. Being with their owner is crucial for a Yorkie, and they don't like being left alone for too long. Yorkshire Terriers are very intelligent, and they understand human emotions very well. This understanding is one of the main reasons the Yorkie excels as a companion dog.
The Yorkshire Terrier doesn't require much exercise compared with a Labrador. A 30 min steady walk in the park and some playtime at home will meet their daily exercise needs. But even longer walks are not a massive problem as the Yorkie will happily Trott beside you. They love ball games or a soft game of tug of war with a dog rope toy.
If you're very houseproud, the Yorkie is also a great choice. They're a low-shedding breed, and you will vacuum less than with a Golden Retriever. But be aware that some Yorkies need longer to be housetrained. And even in older years, accidents might still happen with this breed. So a laminated floor might be the preferred option, especially if you'd like to be the proud owner of several Yorkies.
Yorkies are also affectionate barkers. They love their voice to be heard, which can get out of control if you have more than one Yorkie. Early and consistent training on the "quiet" command could be a godsend for your neighbours. They also tend to bark regularly on walks at other dogs.
Yorkshire Terriers need daily grooming. A Yorkie that went 1 day without its grooming routine will look as if they've never been groomed a day in life rather quickly. Plan in around 15 mins per day plus a weekly bath. Having spare time for a dog should always be the first consideration when getting a dog.
Yorkies also have a "big dog syndrome". They will not be shy around bigger dogs, so you need to be alert if you're around untrained bigger dogs. But this dog doesn't realise their small frame and can easily get injured. Rough playing with bigger dogs or jumping from higher places can risk their tendons and ligaments. This can be dangerous paired with their sometimes bossy and territorial temperament.
Never use harsh training methods on a Yorkie; they prefer gentle, consistent, patient training methods with positive re-enforcement.
Yorkies are not shy around strangers and have big hearts. If they feel a visitor is not a threat, they will quickly show their companionable and loving side. Socialisation is quite crucial from an early age. Expose your Yorkie to different situations and people, and you will never have a problem with this breed. Yorkies are naturally inquisitive and like being exposed to different situations.
Let's now have a look at some common Yorkshire Terrier questions.
Can a Yorkshire Terrier live with cats?
Yes, a Yorkie and a cat can become friends. A well-trained Yorkie will have little issue accepting a cat as their best friend if you introduce the two slowly, especially in the kitten or puppy stage. Yorkies wouldn't see the cat as vermin or a pest as both animals are similar in size. Yorkies can be energetic and territorial at times, so giving both animals their own space and letting them get to know each other at their own pace is essential.
If you have socialised your Yorkie from an early age and exposed them to different situations, you can increase your chances of this pairing working out. You should still expect some adjustment period for both of your pets. If introducing two adult pets, plan for an extended adjustment period and let both pets get used to their smells. It is recommended to keep them separated during this period.
Are Yorkshire Terriers good with children?
Yorkshire Terriers are great with older children. However, it's vital to lay out some ground rules with younger children.
Yorkies can be territorial, don't tolerate nonsense and have a fearless character. They also attach a lot of love to their primary owner and could become jealous of a younger new addition to the family.
Early training is crucial. A well-trained Yorkshire Terrier will react better in difficult situations; teaching them gentle commands and time-out management will also help. Conversely, the child needs to understand that the Yorkie is no toy and can't be picked up or pulled roughly. The Yorkie should have its own dedicated space away from the child. Including your child in your Yorkie training sessions, feeding time, and playtime strengthens the bond and builds trust.
There are a lot of other breeds that might be better suited if you have younger children, like a Border Terrier or a Poodle.
When are Yorkshire Terriers fully grown?
Yorkies are considered fully grown, usually when they turn 12 months. According to breed standards, their final adult weight should be 7 pounds (3.2kg) as a maximum, and their height at withers is between six and seven inches. A Teacup Yorkie has all the breed temperament of a regular Yorkie but is considered teacup sized if they weigh 4 pounds or less (2.2kg).
Yorkshire Terrier Temperament in a nutshell
People-orientated, loyal and biddable
Early socialisation can benefit this breed to reduce barking and territorial behaviour
Are surprisingly very quick to trust strangers and open their hearts to people
Inquisitive and naturally interested in everything that is going on around them
"Large dog syndrome" can sometimes leave them in risky situations
Potential diseases in the Yorkshire Terrier Temperament
As with many smaller breeds, Yorkies have a longer lifespan than bigger dogs ranging between 13-16 years. The longest-living Yorkie was Bonnie, who lived for 28 years!
There are some Yorkshire Terrier-specific diseases that this little dog can be prone to. Of course, it doesn't mean that your dog will acquire these. But it's always important to be mindful of breed-related health issues to spot problems early and prolong your pup's life.
Hypoglycemia: an abnormally low level of blood sugar that will require an effective diet management
Legg-Perthes Disease: a hip joint problem due to reduced blood flow. Usually requires pain management and surgery.
Retinal Dysplasia: an inherited disease that affects vision and causes your Yorkie to have blind spots in their vision
Kneecap Dislocation: problems with the knee joint as the kneecap pops out too often. It's a congenital health problem.
Collapsed Trachea: narrower airway that affects the windpipe and makes breathing harder. It involves many toy breeds like the Pomeranian, Chihuahuas and Maltese. A lot of coughing, gagging and wheezing sounds can be a symptom.
Yorkshire Terrier fun fact
No Yorkshire Terrier temperament blog post would be complete without the probably most famous Yorkie that ever lived: Smokey.
Smokey was found in New Guinea at a roadside; Underfed, scraggly and scrawny. The soldier Bill Wayne bought her for $6.44 from the rescuer and began her beautiful journey into the hearts of many wounded soldiers.
Bill Wayne often referred to her as "an instrument of love".
He used his spare time to train her the funniest tricks, and her exposure to many different situations made her the perfect companion and therapy dog for traumatised soldiers. She lightened up the room, made soldiers laugh and changed many people's mental outlooks. In many ways, she paved the way for the first therapy dogs, whose healing abilities were not only acknowledged but also harnessed to significant effect.
Smokey died at 14, living her best life and doing good for the world.
"To follow soon"
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Conclusion: Is the Yorkshire Terrier a good dog for me?
The Yorkshire Terrier temperament makes them an excellent dog for the right owner. They are loving, loyal and self-confident dogs, and you will never experience a dull moment with them. Their emotional intelligence and empathy toward their owner make them the perfect companion dog.
Their funny personalities can light up a room, and they have big hearts.
As a potential future owner, you should have enough time to dedicate to your Yorkie's grooming routine and daily exercise requirements. If you have young unruly children, you might consider choosing a different dog breed until your children are a bit older. Alternatively, ensure you have enough time to supervise interactions and teach your children how to approach your little Yorkie.
Yorkshire Terrier Summary Breed Info box
Tendency to drool
Tendency to bark
Tendency to dig