Yorkshire Terrier Breed Profile

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KC Group Toy

Size Small

Weight Up to 3.2kg (7lb)

Height 20 – 23cm (8 – 9in)

Average lifespan Up to 15 years

Good with children? Yes

Good guard dogs? Would bark

Moulting level Low

Grooming Heavy

Exercise requirement Little

Jogging partner Short runs

Temperament Friendly, affectionate, mischievous

Editors Pick Yes

Yorkshire Terrier Breed Profile

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One of the most recognisable of dog breeds, the Yorkshire Terrier rose from humble, working beginnings to become an icon of glamour and indulgence, says Julie Hill.

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History of the Yorkshire Terrier

The breed dates back as far as the 1800s and owes its origins to the old working Black and Tan Terrier, with infusions of Maltese and Skye Terrier blood.

It is thought that Scottish labourers travelling to work in the mines and cotton mills of Yorkshire brought their terriers with them, and these provided the basis of the breed. A dog named Huddersfield Ben, born in 1865, is credited as the foundation of the breed. The story goes that labourers in Yorkshire would stand their dogs on boxes in the pub to keep the sawdust out of their coats — and Yorkshire Terriers still stand on a box in the show ring today, and are the only breed to do so.

The placid, small-built dogs soon became popular with ladies as house pets. The breed was officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1886, and The Yorkshire Terrier Club, one of the oldest breed clubs in the UK, was founded in 1898.

Yorkshire Terriers have proved very popular among celebrities, with A-listers including Natalie Portman, Whitney Houston, Joan Rivers, and Britney Spears all owning Yorkies during their lives.

You can also spot many Yorkshire Terriers in popular films, including the terrier belonging to Mrs Coady in the 1988 John Cleese film, ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, and Sharpay Evans’ pet dog, Boi, in hit teen flick, ‘High School Musical’.

Yorkshire Terrier character

Yorkshire Terriers may be tiny, but these dogs have big personalities — and don’t they just know how fabulous they are! These little pocket rockets have so much to offer. One of the smallest breeds of dog, not only are Yorkies incredibly loving, but they can enjoy plenty of activities and excitement with their favourite humans. They’re very lovable and cheeky. They absolutely love attention, and the more time spent with them, the bigger the bond between you will be. They love to play chase or fetch.

Health concerns associated with the Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terriers can be prone to cataracts, which tend to develop as they get older, from around 13 years and over. Smaller dogs have smaller joints, and can therefore have joint issues and knee problems as they get older, especially the so-called ‘teacup’ Yorkies. As Yorkies are naturally smaller and live longer, they can suffer from age-related issues, more so than larger dogs. 

What lifestyle suits the Yorkshire Terrier?

In the modern home, these are very affectionate dogs who can live quite happily as a one-dog family, with several other Yorkies, or with different breeds both large and small. But they still retain their terrier features; some will tackle rodents with enthusiasm, and they have even been known to catch birds.

They’re good with children and many dote on new babies in a family, but as with any other breed, children should not be allowed to tease them. 

Show Yorkshire Terriers are famous for their glamorous coats.

Grooming a Yorkshire Terrier

Short-haired Yorkshire Terriers are quite low maintenance to look after, if you keep their fur clipped, they won’t need much grooming — maybe once or twice a week, with regular baths.

If you get a long-haired Yorkie, you’ll need to give his coat a daily brush, or have him clipped regularly. The Yorkie coat is very fine — much like human hair — so needs extra care and attention if you intend to keep it long, and especially if you intend to show your dog.

For more grooming tips click here. 

Training a Yorkshire Terrier

They can be very determined little dogs, but training is relatively easy. They love exercise, play, and can run at high speeds. They love walks, and although a small dog, can walk for miles if that is what the owner does. Despite thier small stature, the Yorkshire Terrier is brilliant at activities such as agility and obedience, with many classes offering ‘mini agility’ for smaller dogs.

Yorkies will bark when people come into the house but, as with any breed, you can train them into better behaviour — but if you let them yap, they will! It’s down to the owner to train them and let them know who’s boss.

Q&A with a Yorkshire Terrier owner

Owner: Elissa Wiltshire, Rugby, Warwickshire.

Jo Pollard’s Alfie is cheeky and excitable.

Why did you pick this breed?

“Having only had big dogs before, we wanted a small dog, but one that would be active and capable of long walks.”

What have been your biggest challenges with your dog? 

“Dealing with other people’s perception of Yorkies. So many people think of them as scared, yappy, snappy little handbag dogs, but they are true terriers, bred to hunt rats, and if given the chance can be true to their heritage. Wookie swims, will walk for miles whatever the weather, loves to fetch a ball, and hunt.” 

Has your dog turned out as you expected?

“Wookie has totally blown all our expectations out of the water. We’d hoped she would be loving, energetic, and fun to have around, but she is so much more than that. She is intelligent, enthusiastic, willing to have a go at anything, and always has a wagging tail.” 

Any ongoing issues?

“No issues of any kind.” 

Any advice to other potential owners of this breed?

“Yorkies are small, more fragile than big dogs, but within their size limitations, they are tough, intelligent, energetic little dogs. They may well surprise you in what they are capable of. They are perfection in one small package; happy to walk all day, then snuggle down on your lap at night.”

How easy is she to care for?

“Wookie is easy to care for. We keep her coat short, as it’s more comfortable for her, and to ensure it’s clean and mat-free. I clip her myself, not because I don’t want to pay for a groomer, but because she trusts me and is happy for me to do it. She has  a proper bath once a month, and loves being brushed.” 

How have you found training your dog? 

“People assume we’ve spent hours training her and it makes us feel like frauds, because we haven’t. She was the easiest dog I have ever house-trained. We got her at eight weeks old and by the end of the first week she knew to go outside for the toilet.” 

What activities do you and your dog most like to share?

“Walking, especially long rambles of five miles plus, where she can examine hedgerows for furry things, chase rabbits and squirrels, and use her nose.”