Introduction to the Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terriers, or “Yorkies,” as they are affectionately known, are real terriers though they come in a Toy package.

Once hardworking dogs who hunted rats in English factories, the Yorkie was too beautiful to stay in the textile mills. High society loved the beautiful little dogs with the long, silky coats and Yorkies have been beloved pets ever since.

Brave and determined, but very loving, Yorkies make excellent pets for many people. Their small size makes them a very good choice for many people who live in apartments in the city.

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History of the Yorkshire Terrier

The British Isles have always been home to terriers who were used as ratters and to kill vermin on farms. Following the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century there were also plenty of rats in the new factories. It’s not surprising that terriers were also called upon to hunt and kill rats in the factories. That’s when the Yorkshire Terrier arrived.

However, the Yorkie owes his existence to an earlier dog called the Waterside Terrier. This was a small dog with a longish coat that was blue-gray in color.

Waterside Terriers weighed between 6 and 20 pounds – usually around 10 pounds. The Waterside Terriers had been created by crossing the old rough-coated Black and Tan English Terrier that was found around Manchester with Paisley and Clydesdale Terriers – dogs that don’t exist these days. (Paisley Terriers were a small version of Skye Terriers which have a very long coat. Paisley is a town in Scotland.) Weavers brought the Waterside Terrier to Yorkshire from Scotland when they emigrated there in the mid 19th century. Once in Yorkshire, the Waterside Terrier was bred to suit the task required to run through and under the factories to hunt and kill rats. But the dogs were so beautiful that they attracted the notice of people of wealth who wanted to keep them as pampered pets. Yorkies left the factories and gave up their job as vermin hunters to become beloved companions. But they are still terriers at heart.

A dog named Huddersfield Ben, born around 1865, was an extremely influential sire and is regarded as the father of the breed. He was popular for his looks, his ratting abilities, and for the quality of offspring he sired.

The new breed was first called the “broken-haired Scotch Terrier” but this name was changed to the Yorkshire Terrier in 1870 after the dogs started being exhibited at dog shows. The first Yorkie born in the U.S. was in 1872. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1885. Today Yorkies are one of the most popular breeds in the United States. They have been one of the Top Ten most popular breeds for over a decade and are today ranked number 6 out of over 180 breeds.

Yorkshire Terrier Health Related Issues

The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America has a very comprehensive health page with links to lots of articles and web sites.  They cover everything from ticks to liver disease. Anyone interested in Yorkies should check their site and read the articles. You should also talk to a breeder and ask questions about the breed and its health issues. Ask about the health of their dogs, the health tests they have had done, and what health guarantees they provide in their contract.

The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America recommends that any dog considered for breeding have the following health tests done:

Because of their very small size, Yorkshire Terrier puppies can sometimes have problems with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The puppies may not have enough muscle mass to be able to store enough glucose to regulate their blood sugar between meals. This can sometimes also occur in adult Yorkies. Yorkshire Terrier puppies need to have multiple small meals during the day. Adult Yorkies also need three or four meals per day. You can give puppies and adult Yorkies treats or snack between meals to help keep their blood sugar level steadier. Puppies or dogs may need Nutrical or a little corn syrup if they seem to be exhibiting symptoms of low blood sugar. In severe cases, you will need to take the puppy or dog to the vet. If hypoglycemia is not reversed, the puppy or dog can die.

Yorkies can be subject to a condition called Portosytemic shunt. This is a congenital condition in which the portal vein that carries blood to the liver to be cleaned is malformed. Because it is malformed, some of the “dirty” blood bypasses the liver and poisons the other organs in the body with the toxins that are in the blood. A dog with this condition might be smaller than normal, have no appetite, have poor muscle development, poor coordination, gastrointestinal problems, not learn as fast as normal. He could even become blind or have seizures after eating. In many cases portosytemic shunt can be repaired with surgery that fixes the malformed portal vein.

Yorkies can also experience luxating patellas. This condition is something like a slipped kneecap in a human. It usually occurs when the dog is moving and the joint will lock up in an extended position. It is momentarily painful but as soon as the muscles relax the joint will move back into the normal position. A luxating patella can vary from a minor problem that happens once to a chronic problem with some dogs. In severe cases the treatment is usually surgery. Dogs usually recover quickly following surgery.

Legg-Calves-Perthes syndrome is a condition in which the top of the thigh bone (the femur) degenerates. It probably happens because there is not enough blood circulating around the hip joint. The bone at the top of the femur eventually collapses and the cartilage surrounding it will crack and become deformed. The syndrome usually occurs when a Yorkie is between 5 and 8 months of age. Symptoms include limping, pain, and lameness. Surgery is usually required to remove the affected bone but once it is removed, muscle will hold the femur in place and new tissue will form to keep the bones from rubbing against each other. The leg will be slightly shorter than the opposite leg but most dogs return to virtually normal use of their leg.

Hypoplasia of dens refers to a condition involving the second cervical vertebra and some damage to the spinal cord. The neck and spine do not form the normal pivot point for the dog’s neck. The condition can occur at any age. It can be a mild condition or very serious.

Yorkies are also subject to distichiasis. This means that they can have eyelashes growing where they should not grow, which can cause irritation to the eye. In the worst cases, the cornea can be scratch or form corneal ulcers. Your vet can remove the abnormal eyelash(es) manually or with minor surgery. Yorkies can also have problems with cataracts and dry eye which is why the breed club recommends that dogs used for breeding have their eyes check regularly.

Yorkies can also experience a problem called tracheal collapse. In this condition the walls of the trachea seem to be weakened – possibly from pulling against a leash. Many people recommend harnesses for small dogs like Yorkies to keep them from pulling on a leash and hurting their throats/necks. The first sign of possible tracheal collapse is a harsh cough that sounds like a goose honking. The cough can become constant. In advanced cases the dog may require surgery to help repair the collapsed trachea.

Yorkies can also have bad teeth and a delicate digestive system. Like many small breeds, their teeth can be subject to crowding. Because of their very small size owners need to be especially careful about injuries and accidents with the breed. Even a slight fall or someone tripping over the dog can be very dangerous to a dog that weighs 4 to 7 pounds.

Yorkshire Terrier Temperament

Ask any Yorkshire Terrier owner and they will tell you that the breed’s temperament is one of the most endearing things about them. Yorkies may be small but they have lots of personality. The Yorkshire Terrier is active, curious, and they love attention. They are also surprisingly feisty and ready to defend their owners, their homes, and the ground they stand on. They don’t know they are small dogs or, if they know, they don’t care. Yorkies are perfectly willing to get in the face of a much bigger dog. But you should not allow that to happen. Yorkie owners often think it’s cute to allow a tiny little dog to tackle a big dog and bark at him. Big dogs and their owners think it’s a lot less cute. Don’t risk running into a grumpy big dog who might hurt your Yorkie. Keep him on leash when you are out where he might encounter larger dogs and people.

Otherwise, Yorkshire Terriers make good pets for many people. They are small and adaptable. They can get along with other pets of similar size, though it is not recommended that they play or interact much with larger animals because they can be easily injured. Yorkies don’t require much exercise but they enjoy daily walks.

Yorkshire Terrier Grooming

Yorkshire Terriers are tan and blue. They have a long, straight, silky coat. Keeping the coat long and in good condition takes a lot of care. The Yorkies you see at dog shows with beautiful coats receive meticulous coat care. The coat is bathed, lightly oiled, and the ends are wrapped in papers to prevent the hair from breaking. The papers are checked and adjusted and the dog is bathed and groomed again before the show. This goes on throughout a dog’s show career.

Retired showdogs and dogs kept as pets can also keep a long coat but they don’t have to have this much attention to the coat. It is still necessary to brush the coat regularly and keep the ends trimmed so they don’t become straggly. Both pets and showdogs with long coats typically have a small bow in their “top knot” – the hair swept up above their eyes. It is kept in place with a small rubber band. The bow is simply a nice touch.

Some owners prefer to keep their pet Yorkie’s coat cut short. The coat is easier to care for this way, though you will still have to brush it as it grows out. You can take your Yorkie to a pet groomer and tell them you want it cut in a pet style.

As with other dogs, you will need to trim your Yorkie’s nails and check his ears regularly. Clean them as needed. Yorkies can have problems with their teeth, like many Toy breeds, so brush them regularly.

In the United States and in Canada, Yorkies have their tails docked. This is something that breeders take care of with their veterinarians when puppies are 2-3 days old.

Yorkshire Terrier Fun Facts

  • The Yorkshire Terrier was used to help create the lovely Silky Terrier from Australia in the late 19th century. A number of Yorkies were brought to Australia and bred to Australian Terriers to try to improve their coats. The result was a new breed – the Silky Terrier.
  • “Teacup” is not an official Yorkie size or type. It usually refers to a dog that will be less than 4 pounds as an adult. Most breeders avoid breeding dogs of this size because they can be subject to additional health problems.
  • Ch. Ozmilion Mystification was the first Yorkshire Terrier to win Best In Show at Crufts in England in 1997. Crufts is the largest annual dog show in the world, lasting several days.
  • The Yorkshire Terrier Smoky was a war dog and World War II hero. Owned by William Wynne of Cleveland, Ohio, Smoky was found in a foxhole in the jungle in New Guinea while Wynne was serving with the 5th Air Force in the Pacific. Smoky was 7 inches high and weighed 4 pounds. Many people credit Smoky with reviving interest in Yorkies at a time when they were mostly forgotten. For two years Smoky backpacked through the jungle and accompanied her master on his combat flights. She lived with him in the jungle in New Guinea and Rock Islands. She slept in a tent on his blanket and shared his rations, occasionally eating some Spam. Smoky was given credit for 12 combat missions she was awarded eight battle stars. She made it through 150 air raids in New Guinea and survived a typhoon in Okinawa. She even had her own parachute. Wynne gave Smoky credit for saving his life by warning him of incoming shells when fire hit eight men next to them. He called her his “angel from a foxhole.” Smoky – and Wynne – survived the war and Smoky died when she was about 14. There is a life-size bronze statue of her sitting in a GI helmet where she is buried in Lakewood, Ohio.

Common Yorkshire Terrier Mixes

Yorkies have been a popular breed for designer dogs and mixes. Some of the hybrid dogs that feature a Yorkie parent include:

  • Yorkie-poos (Yorkshire Terrier and Poodle Mix)
  • Bichon Yorkie (Bichon Frise and Yorkie Mix)
  • Boston Yorkie (Boston Terrier and Yorkie Mix)
  • Yorkie Pin (Miniature Pinscher and Yorkie Mix)
  • Yorkie Russell (Jack Russell Terrier and Yorkie Mix)
  • Yorkie-ton (Coton de Tulear and Yorkie Mix)
  • Yorkillon (Papillon and Yorkie Mix)
  • Yorkinese (Pekingese and Yorkie Mix)
  • Yorktese or Morkie (Maltese and Yorkie Mix)

and many more. If you can imagine a small breed crossed with a Yorkshire Terrier, you can probably find the mix somewhere.

Yorkshire Terrier FAQ’s

What is a Yorkshire Terrier’s Life Expectancy?

Yorkies tend to have a long life expectancy. Many of them live into their teen years. They can live from 13 to 16 years.

Are Yorkshire Terriers easy to train?

It depends who you ask. Many small breeds can be hard to housetrain but this may be due to the fact that owners are not very strict with them. Trained by a person who insists on good behavior, a Yorkie can be easy to train. However, many people treat Yorkies and other small dogs like babies and they can become spoiled which leads to bratty behavior. If you socialize your Yorkie and train him with positive reinforcement as you would a larger dog, you should be able to train him without any trouble.

Do Yorkshire Terriers shed a lot of hair?

No, Yorkies do not shed a lot. They have a single coat that is similar to human hair. They do not have the downy undercoat that many breeds have. No dogs are really hypoallergenic. Despite what many people think, it’s not about the hair or fur on a dog, it’s about the dander. If you have allergies to dog dander, you might be able to live with a Yorkie. You should meet the particular dog and see how you react to him.

Here is a list of dogs that are most often recommended to people with allergies to dog dander. Wirehaired dogs and hairless dogs are usually your best bet.

Do Yorkshire Terriers make good apartment pets?

Yorkies make wonderful apartment pets. They are small and they can adapt to live in lots of different situations. Some Yorkies will bark more than others, especially as a warning, but most of them are quiet and peaceful at home.

Are Yorkshire Terriers good with Children?

Yorkies are usually not recommended for very small children. This is mostly because the dogs are so small (4-7 pounds). They can easily be hurt or even killed by rough play. They can also be somewhat aggressive with small kids if their terrier nature is aroused. Many breeders will not place a Yorkie puppy in a home with small children. However, Yorkies make very good pets in homes with older kids and teens.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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