Yorkshire Terrier - Breed Introduction
Ranking second only to the Chihuahua in terms of its small size, the Yorkshire Terrier also ranks second in breed popularity. The Yorkie is one of the most prevalent purebreds in Great Britain, and is very popular in North America and other parts of Europe as well. With its long, silky hair often done up in ribbons, it is also one of the most pampered breeds.
The Yorkshire Terrier is classified as a toy dog. The Yorkie averages 8 to 9 inches (20.3 to 22.9 centimeters) in height and weighs 3 to 7 pounds (1.4 to 3.2 kilograms).
History of Breed
The Yorkie’s spunky nature can be attributed to the fact that it once earned its keep catching rats in the coal mines and cotton mills of Yorkshire, England, in the 19th century. Although their exact origin is unknown, Yorkshire Terriers are thought to be a cross of several other types of terriers, including the Black and Tan, the Skye, the Paisley, and the Clydesdale.
Once called the Broken-Haired Scotch Terrier, the breed was renamed the Yorkshire Terrier in the mid-1800s. Yorkshire Terriers were once much larger than their modern offspring. Some speculate that their size was reduced through crosses with the Maltese, while others theorize that selective breeding of only the smallest individuals resulted in today’s toy dogs.
Although this little ratter was initially popular among the working class, by the 1880s the Yorkie had moved out of the mines and mills and into the laps of the wealthy, where they became the darlings of Victorian-era English ladies.
Color and Coat
There are no variations in the coats and colors of Yorkshire Terriers. Only one model is available. Although the Yorkie is born black and tan, the black hair gradually turns to a steel blue as the puppy matures.
The topside of the Yorkie is steel blue from the top of the skull to the tip of the tail. Everything else, including the underside, is tan. The tan hair is its darkest at the roots and lightest at the tips.
The Yorkie’s hair is very fine, silky, flat, and straight. It is also very long. The Yorkie’s straight, thin legs may be totally hidden by the length of the dog’s hair.
Personality and Temperament
Described as perpetual two-year-olds, Yorkshire Terriers are boisterous little busy-bodies that make loving companion dogs. Yorkies are spirited characters, and are not easily intimidated. They have the tenacity to stand up to intruders, making them good watchdogs, in spite of their size. They also have a tendency to bark.
While excessive breeding has produced some Yorkies who are nervous and meek, they are the minority. The typical Yorkshire Terrier is a dynamo, and it’s not difficult to imagine this little fireball keeping rodents on the run.
Many owners tend to spoil these adorable little creatures, but Yorkshire Terriers can be stubborn and manipulative, and thus need discipline. Yorkies are trainable and willing to learn, as long as they’re dealt with firmly, fairly and consistently.
The playful Yorkie needs about 30 to 40 minutes of exercise daily. Thanks to their small size, these dogs can get the exercise they need indoors, but they also benefit from short, vigorous walks to vent their energy.
Puppy play groups are a good idea for young Yorkies, as they teach them to socialize with both children and adults, and to respect the size and strength of larger dogs. Though generally good-tempered, Yorkies don’t like rough play and should be supervised around children and other animals.
If provoked by unruly children, they’re not above responding with a sharp nip. Yorkies have a tendency to assume they’re in charge, and will challenge other dogs regardless of size, seemingly unaware that they’re no match for a Doberman or a Great Dane. Thus, these dogs are not a good match for families with other pets or young children.
Yorkies don’t require much space, making them ideal for apartment dwellers. The feisty, assertive Yorkshire Terrier demands attention, and makes an ideal companion for the adult who is willing to give it.
Not lacking in self-assurance, the Yorkshire Terrier is a natural in the show ring, where it always commands attention. Dogs of this breed should be compact with square proportions and a perfectly straight top line. They should stand on solid, straight legs, and the head should be carried high.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Yorkie is its hair. Show dogs should have long, straight, silky, glossy hair. It should be parted down the center of the back and should hang straight to the floor. The long hair on the head may be parted, tied into a bow, or arranged in a topknot, held up with a ribbon or an elastic band. A common fault is a “skunk mark” where the muzzle and forehead meet.
The head of the Yorkie is small and flat, and the medium-long muzzle is tapered with a small, black, button nose. The eyes should be round and black, with an intelligent, alert expression. The Yorkie should have prick ears, which means they should stand erect naturally.
They should be small and set quite high, but not too far apart. The tail may be docked or undocked, but if docked, it should be of medium length and carried slightly higher than the back. The dew claws are usually removed.
Typical Health Concerns
Unfortunately, a legacy of prolonged miniaturization has made the Yorkshire Terrier prone to a number of health problems. These include windpipe abnormalities, dislocated kneecaps, and eye problems, such as cataracts. They tend to develop bad teeth due to their tiny, overcrowded mouths, and often suffer from gum disease.
Because the Yorkie is so small to begin with, obesity can be a serious problem, and can lead to diabetes, joint problems, and kidney failure. However, this can be prevented by paying strict attention to the dog’s diet.
A lot of time and attention is required to show this breed’s coat off to its best advantage, and professional grooming may be preferred. Daily brushing is required to prevent matting of the coat and breakage of the hair.
Yorkies that are kept as companions rather than as show dogs are normally clipped to a more manageable, shaggy length, but they then need the protection of a sweater in cold weather. The hair over the eyes can either be brushed to the sides or clipped.
Yorkshire Terriers do very little shedding. In fact, some people who suffer from pet allergies have found that they’re able to tolerate the coat of the Yorkshire Terrier, as long as the texture isn’t too cottony.
Country of Origin
Great Britain is considered the country of origin for the Yorkshire Terrier. (See “History of Breed,” above, for more details.)
Average Life Span
The life span of the Yorkshire Terrier generally ranges from 12 to 18 years, with 14 years being the average.