The Yorkshire Terrier is a fairly young breed. As the name suggests, they originated in Yorkshire, England in the 19th century. Terrier breeds including the Skye Terrier and Dandie Dinmont Terrier were brought to the area from Scotland, and were bred with local Yorkshire terriers to produce a working dog to control rats and mice in the clothing mills. The result was a confident and active breed of little dog that was very good at its job.
The original Yorkshire Terrier was bigger than today’s dog, but over the years, they have been selectively bred for small size. This has resulted in the charming little companion dog that we are familiar with.
This breed reached the United States in 1872, and was first recognized by the AKC in 1885. They have been used in recent years in the creation of “designer” cross breeds such as the Yorkiepoo (Yorkshire Terrier x Toy Poodle)
The Yorkshire Terrier is tiny, and only grows to a height of 6 inches (17cm) at the shoulder. They don’t weigh much either, only 7lbs (3kg).
Apart from their diminutive size, their other most striking feature is their coat. Long, silky and dark blue, it cascades down each side of their body from a center parting, and almost reaches the floor. The hair on their head is usually tied up in a bow, which makes them look just charming. The blue coat contrasts nicely with the rich tan color of the hair on their legs and head.
The Yorkie’s tail is usually docked, but in some parts of the world this is illegal. The undocked tail is feathered, and carried high over the back.
These little dogs don’t know they are small! They are confident, brave and very loyal to their owner. In spite of their size and appearance, they have the terrier personality and can be stubborn and suspicious of unfamiliar people and dogs.
One of the biggest issues with the Yorkshire Terrier is that because they are small, and so very beautiful, they are often not treated like a dog. They are indulged, and get away with being naughty. This can lead to jealousy, anxiety, and even aggression. A Yorkie’s owner must never forget that beneath that stunning coat lies a real dog that needs training, boundaries, and a firm but fair leader.
There are several health issues that can affect these lovely little dogs.
Yorkshire Terriers have a small mouth, but the same number of teeth as any other dog. Even though those teeth are tiny, it is still very crowded in there. The result is an increased risk of tartar accumulation and dental disease.
They can be affected by Legg Perthe’s disease, which causes hip pain. They may also develop luxating patellas, also known as loose kneecaps. These conditions can make walking painful. Both Legg Perthe’s disease and luxating patellas can be corrected surgically.
These dogs may also be born with a portosystemic shunt, which is an abnormality of the blood flow to the liver. Blood is shunted past the liver, so it isn’t cleaned and detoxified. The toxins in the blood can cause behavioral problems, seizures and even death. Again, surgery can resolve the problem, as the shunt is tied off and the blood is then forced to go through the liver.
This dog can be hard work! Their coat needs to be combed and brushed every day to prevent it becoming knotted and tangled. This is a lovely way to spend time bonding with your dog. If you have a busy lifestyle, you may want to have your Yorkie clipped all over to make them easier to care for.
Exercise is not an issue with Yorkshire Terriers, because they don’t need much; often a play in the yard is enough for them. However they still enjoy going for a walk so they can investigate the sights, sounds and smells of their neighborhood. Even if they do go for regular walks, their toenails don’t seem to wear down by themselves, and will need clipping on a regular basis.
These little dogs don’t eat much either, and are very inexpensive to feed. Don’t be tempted to feed them gourmet food because of their aristocratic appearance. They will do just fine on a good quality kibble.
One of the main issues with Yorkshire Terriers is dental disease due to crowding of teeth in that little mouth. This means that you need to brush their teeth daily, or better still, twice daily. This will remove any plaque from their teeth, and prevent them developing dental disease. Don’t use a human toothpaste on your Yorkie’s teeth; it is too frothy and they don’t usually like the minty flavor. You can purchase a toothpaste for dogs at your veterinarian’s office, and use either a finger toothbrush or a small headed toothbrush to clean their teeth.
The Yorkshire Terrier is not a dog for those who work long hours outside the home, as they need more interaction with their families, and don’t like to spend long periods of time alone. They are also not the best choice of breed if you have very young children at home. The dog may get stepped on or dropped by active, exuberant children. They may also be a little too assertive with children who just want to love and hug them too much, and may snap.
If you live in an apartment, these tiny dogs are ideal for you. They don’t take up much space, and aren’t likely to knock things over as they wander throughout your home. They are also thought to shed less than other breeds which can mean less sweeping up after them. This may also make them a good choice for allergy sufferers, but because they still shed skin cells and dander, they may still cause allergic reactions in sensitive people.
Small dogs tend to have longer lifespans than large breeds, and this is certainly true of the Yorkshire Terrier. You will enjoy the affection of these delightful little companion dogs for around 15 years.