Often called the Yorkie and the Broken-Hair Scotch Terrier, the Yorkshire Terrier is a well known, small dog that has been used as a fashion accessory since the 1800s. This breed has a charming disposition, making it an excellent companion and Yorkies often compete as show dogs. A popular breed across the world, Yorkshire Terriers often look like they are on wheels when they walk and run, since their low coat often covers their feet. While they are small in size, they are known for being bossy, lively and fearless.
Originally, the Yorkshire Terrier was bred to hunt and kill rodents, such as rats, in cotton mills and mines in northern England’s county Yorkshire, which is how they got their name. Their line traces back to a small, bluish-gray, long coated dog that generally only weighed 10 pounds, which was known as a Waterside Terrier. In the mid 1800s, Scottish laborers migrated into England looking for work and they brought their Scottish terriers with them. The Scottish Terriers were crossed with the local Waterside Terriers, which resulted in the Broken-Haired Scotch Terrier, which made its reputation as an excellent ratter in coal mines and textile factories. Other crosses no doubt occurred, and somewhere along the way, what is known as the Yorkshire Terrier eventually emerged.
The first known appearance of a Yorkie was in 1861 at a benched dog show that took place in England. Four years later, in 1865, Huddersfeld Ben, a dog, was born and is thought to be the foundation sire of this popular breed. In 1886, the Kennel Club in England recognized the Yorkshire Terrier. After they were recognized, they quickly became popular as fashion accessories for ladies in high society. They were easily portable and they were bred to be a bit smaller, providing a small companion dog that was easy to carry around or to play with indoors.
Soon, Yorkshire Terriers were brought to the United States and in 1885, the American Kennel Club began recognizing the breed as a part of its Toy Group. Since 1878, this breed has been shown within the United States, and they are still shown often today.
The Yorkshire Terrier has a small, compact body that is well proportioned. They have a long, silky coat that is usually gold and steel blue. However, when the puppies are born, they are born with black coats that have tan points. After a year, they develop their adult coat. The adult coat is straight, fine and should be very glossy. Since the hair on the face often grows long, a bow is often used to pull back the topknot of hair between the ears. Their hair naturally parts down their back and flows naturally down the sides. They have a flat head with a muzzle of medium length. Their ears are erect, triangular and small and they boast a black button nose and dark, bright eyes. Generally, their tails are docked to be about half of the tail’s original length. These small dogs generally grow to about 7.5 inches tall at their shoulder and should weigh less than 7 pounds.
The temperament of each Yorkshire Terrier largely depends on the way they’re raised. Some have diva personalities, requiring royal, preferential treatment, while others are plucky and spirited. They love attention and they don’t like to be left alone. In fact, many Yorkies follow their owners around, even if they simply leave the room. Yorkshire Terriers have a natural suspicion of new people and may bark or snap at people. For this reason, socialization at a young age is extremely important. In some cases, these dogs may regularly yap at every sound and sight, so it’s important to train them to obey the command to stop the barking. These dogs often deal with Separation Anxiety, since they become very attached to their owners. Leaving them alone for long periods of time is not recommended.
Since these dogs are terriers, they do have an independent streak, which may make them a little harder to train than other dogs. It’s best to start training young, using short sessions with plenty of treats and praise. Depending on the dog, house training can be simple or very difficult. It may take some time to fully house break a Yorkshire Terrier, and canine litter boxes and puppy pads are often used.
Yorkshire Terriers with soft hair often deal with tangles, so it is important to brush their coat at least once a day. Regular brushing keeps their coat clean and prevents problems with matting. Yorkies with silky hair don’t need to be brushed as often, although they still should be brushed about three times weekly, even though their hair doesn’t tangle as often as dogs with soft hair. Unless owners are showing the dog, clipping the coat may be a practical way to reduce some of the grooming requirements. Their small ears are prone to infection, so ears need to be checked and cleansed regularly. Smaller dogs, such as the Yorkshire Terrier, are more likely to end up with dental problems as they age, so it is important to brush a Yorkie’s teeth a minimum of once weekly. It’s also best to give these dogs regular nail trims unless they naturally wear down their toenails on their own.
In most cases, Yorkshire Terriers are not used for working roles outside of being a companion. The one exception is the famous war dog, Smoky, a dog found by a U.S. soldier during World War 2. She was awarded multiple battle stars, went on 12 combat missions and even was thought to save the life of the soldier who found her. He claimed that she warned him of shells incoming on a transport ship, guiding him away from the fire that hit multiple men nearby.
The Yorkshire Terrier generally lives to be 12-15 years old. Some of the more common health problems seen in this breed include cataracts, bronchitis, hypoglycemia, patellar luxation, collapsing trachea, keratitis, bladder stones, hair loss, elbow dysplasia, retinal detachment, chronic dry eye, endocardiosis and progressive retinal atrophy. Since Yorkies are so small, they often have a low tolerance for anesthesia. Skin allergies are another common problem. Yorkies less than three pounds may not live as long, since they are easily injured and may have chronic problems with vomiting and diarrhea.