Teeny, tiny, and super loveable…It’s hard to resist the charms of a Yorkshire Terrier.
Despite being one of the most miniature breeds in the world, their boisterous personalities are proof that big things come in small packages. But, where do Yorkies come from?
During the 1800s, the United Kingdom was in the middle of its Industrial Revolution. As a result, laborers from Scotland were immigrating to Yorkshire in droves, bringing various Terrier breeds as loyal companions.
As the population increased, so did pest problems. Rats infested the textile factories, taking up residence in the walls and crevices of old buildings.
Scottish workers who were already familiar with the Terrier’s tenacity and fearlessness saw an opportunity to combine the best traits of other breeds into a new pup that had pocket-sized portability.
Yorkies quickly proved themselves worthy as skilled ratters, chasing down vermin at breakneck speeds. Once they’d backed their prey into a corner, this brave breed refused to walk away from the fight.
Because of their fearlessness and courage, miners and small-game hunters would keep their Yorkies in their pockets (literally!).
This eventually evolved into their reputation as constant companions in the form of “handbag dogs,” a trait that soon sparked the interest of upper-crust society.
From there, Yorkies soon become renowned for their beauty as well as their brains and brawn. The AKC officially added them to the lineup in 1885 and skyrocketed in popularity across North America and the United Kingdom.
According to the American Kennel Club’s annual rankings, the Yorkie is the 13th most popular dog breed.
The Yorkie, like many Terriers, is a proud member of the Toy group. These dainty dogs reach an average adult weight of 4-7 pounds, though they tend to think of themselves as the biggest breed on the block.
Giant Yorkies stand taller than 9 inches at the shoulder and weigh more than 7 pounds. However, it’s not uncommon for a taller Yorkie to reach 9-10 pounds.
Miniature or Teacup Yorkies weigh less than 4 pounds but are particularly prone to health concerns because of their weakened bones and fragile immune systems.
With a perky topknot and ultra-luxurious coat, Yorkies are undeniably an adorable breed.
Yorkies have a unique facial structure, with short snouts and large, sparkling black eyes. Their pointed ears disclose their constant curiosity, standing proudly upright to catch even the smallest of sounds.
Their most distinctive feature is their straight, silky coat. It’s more similar to human hair than dog fur, so it requires regular brushing to avoid knots and tangles.
For the classic “Yorkie look,” owners will often grow their pup’s hair out to floor-length, complete with a jaunty little ribbon on top of their heads to keep their gorgeous tresses from inhibiting their view.
Typically, Yorkies coats come in some combination of blue-silver, gold, tan, and black. All purebred puppies are born with black and tan coats. The tan shade can lighten to a golden color or a glistening silver blue as they get older.
Yorkie Personality and Temperament
As if a Yorkie’s sweet little face and enviable locks weren’t enough, they have an incredible personality even more endearing than their signature style.
Yorkies exude absolute confidence and are more than happy to pick a fight with any breed, regardless of size. As a result, they are often described as “Tomboyish” because, despite their prissy appearance, they’re more than willing to get their paws dirty.
That confidence makes them excellent guard dogs. Yorkies with proper training will only turn on the “yappiness” when they are suspicious of strangers or think their family is in danger.
Like all Terriers, Yorkies are incredibly smart and tend to be busybodies. If their owners don’t give their pups a productive outlet, these bitty busybodies are more than happy to find their own.
That cunning cleverness has a positive effect, too. They’ll also delight owners by quickly picking up on tricks.
Yorkies can be very stubborn, especially when it comes to housetraining. Because they are so headstrong, it will take dedication before your Yorkie is willing to comply with the “No puddles on the rug” rule (or any other rule, for that matter).
Even the most bullheaded Yorkie can become a loving companion and attentive friend with enough love, attention, and direction.
Health and Lifespan of a Yorkshire Terrier
Well-loved Yorkies typically live for 12-15 years, but there are some potential health concerns that the breed is more prone to.
Their small size and lightning-fast metabolism leave them vulnerable to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. So make sure that they eat several small meals a day to help stave off the condition.
Yorkies also have dental issues, especially when it comes to losing their baby teeth.
Their adult teeth will start pushing through, crowding their gumline and leading to dental disease.
They are also prone to luxating patella, or “loose kneecaps.” Their knees can dislocate, eventually leading to arthritis as they age. Severe knee issues may require surgery to fix.
Caring for Your Yorkie
Yorkies are well known for their silky, luxurious coats, but all that cuteness requires regular maintenance. Even if you keep your pup’s hair-like coat cut short in the classic “Teddy Bear” trim, he’ll still need periodic touch-ups and daily brushing.
The good news, though, is that their lush mane is hypoallergenic!
Unlike many other dogs, like Labrador Retrievers or Huskies, Yorkies don’t have a seasonal shed. They also don’t have an undercoat, which is a trigger for the sniffles in allergy sufferers.
Yorkies need mental and physical exertion to stay healthy. They are wonderful with agility tricks, as well as scent-based “hunting” games.
For example, a Yorkie would happily seek out a hidden treat from a series of overturned bowls or sniff out where you’ve hidden their beloved plush toy.
Be sure that they get at least 30 minutes of activity a day, including walking around the park or simply playing a rousing game of backyard fetch.
Are Yorkshire Terriers Right for Your Lifestyle?
The Yorkshire Terrier is a perfect little companion, especially in families with children over 10. However, they can easily startle, so toddlers and younger children who tend to play a little rough can make your puppy anxious.
They make for lively apartment dogs and are a favorite for city-dwellers. Just be sure that you’ve put the time into training so the neighbors aren’t bombarded by barking every time there’s a thump on the stairs.
Finally, Yorkshire Terriers are prone to separation anxiety. While they don’t necessarily want to be coddled, they do love attention. So if you must have a Yorkie, but work long hours, get them a playmate. Many owners purchase their puppies in pairs for this reason.
Yorkies are brilliant, active, and have a distinctive zeal for life that has captured dog lovers’ hearts for over 200 years.
If you’re seriously considering a Yorkie, be sure to check your local humane society and animal shelter. They aren’t a typical pound dog, but you might get lucky and find your new best friend without paying breeder prices.