The Yorkshire Terrier: Why Is the Yorkie So Popular?

Yorkshire Terrier Dog

Impulsive, Sparky, Courageous

Bold, affectionate, bright and fearless are words often used to describe the Yorkshire Terrier’s personality. They enjoy adventures as well as snuggles, but they still maintain the terrier part of their temperament, which means they can be feisty and vocal. Possessing a very dominant character, they will not hesitate to stand up for their rights, even if it means attacking a dog twice their size.

A small Yorkshire Terrier peeking out from behind a wooden log
Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier – Temperament

Each Yorkshire Terrier has a distinct personality, but they generally gravitate towards one of two different characters. 

Some are cuddly and won’t be happy unless snuggled on your lap.  They are somewhat more laid back in nature but still love to play. 

Others are more curious and need more exercise and outdoor time. These are generally the more adventure loving members of the breed and will love a daily walk with you.

Yorkies, as they are known, do well with older children and kids that have been taught how to handle tiny dogs. 

At seven pounds or less, they can be delicate if not treated properly and injuries can occur. That is why most breeders will not sell Yorkshire Terrier puppies to families with small children.

They are on the active side so a good romp in the yard or a daily walk will help keep them from getting bored.  They are also very people friendly, so isolating a Yorkie for extended periods of time is not recommended.

Yorkshire Terrier – Breed History

There is still a debate about which breeds contributed to what we know as the modern Yorkie.

Among the more likely contenders include:

Toy Manchester Terrier


Skye Terrier

Dandie Dinmont Terrier

and two extinct breeds, the Paisley Terrier and the Clydesdale Terrier.

It’s likely that these two extinct breeds along with the Skye terrier gave the Yorkie his long coat along with the Maltese. The Manchester donated to the colors we see on the Yorkies today. 

Even though the origins of the breed stretch back far into British history, the real story of their emergence dates to the Industrial Revolution.

People began migrating to urban centers to find work. During this time,  there was also an influx of Scots moving to Yorkshire where they would work in mills. They carried their dogs with them. 

It would seem that Scottish weavers had a fondness for long coated small terriers including the Skye, Clydesdale, and Paisley terriers all of which were anywhere between  8 and 20 pounds. 

These dogs were good for keeping rats and other rodents out of the shops and homes.  They bred their dogs to be smaller, fierce and feisty. Around this time, there was much diversity in size and coat. Some of the terrier’s coats were rough where others were more smooth and silky.

Yorkies proved to be excellent ratters in the English woolen mills. But as the time when on, they became more of a companion dog. Breeders began to select for a smaller size. Then, in 1865, a dog emerged named Huddersfield Ben, who was to become the father of the Yorkshire terrier.

He only lived 6 years and was tragically killed by the wheels of a carriage. He made his mark on the breed. Even though he was much heavier than today’s Yorkies, he managed to sire many a litter of puppies that weighed under 7 pounds.  

In the 1870s, people began calling these dogs “Yorkshire Terriers”, after their original home. 

In the late 1800s, dog shows became popular and many people began showing these dogs and keeping them as pets. 

Once dog shows became popular, it was important for breeders to assure that dogs they produced would conform to the standard.  In 1873, the newly formed Kennel Club was established and the Yorkshire Terrier was one of the very first breeds to be recognized.

By 1872, Yorkshire Terriers had made their way to the U.S., where they rapidly became favorites of the upper class. By the 1950s, the breed was well established in the United States. 

Today,this breed is very popular and in 2014, the Yorkshire Terrier was ranked number 6 in popularity in the United States by the American Kennel Club.

Around the year 2000, the Yorkshire Terrier became involved with the Maltese breed when professional dog breeders started to create the Morkie hybrid breed. This was an attempt to combine the best traits of the 2 breeds, and the resulting Morkie is a very cute and endearing little dog, with its own quirks.

A Yorkshire Terrier sitting down facing the camera, with a red bow in its hair
Yorkshire Terrier

Vital Statistics

Weight:  4-7 lb   3.1 kg

Height:   8 in   20 cm

Life Expectancy: 13-16 years


Black and Gold,  Blue, and Gold

Ease of Training

As a bright breed, Yorkies are generally easy to train. Positive praise, attention, and food rewards work well. 

They are a little stubborn so many repetitions of core obedience commands may need to be done. 

Some Yorkies are great off leash, but since they are terriers and have that terrier mentality, they shouldn’t be left off leash until they have a firm recall.  They are small and fast and if something catches their eye, you can lose your little guy in an instant.  

The major difficulty with this breed tends to result when people give into their cute mannerisms and forget to teach basic manners. 

A Yorkshire Terrier puppy lying down, looking at the camera, against a white background
Yorkshire Terrier Puppy


Little dogs don’t always see themselves as small in stature and end up getting themselves into trouble when they try to take on much larger dogs. 

Yorkshire Terriers generally get along well with other little dogs and are friendly with people. They are, however, known to prefer other Yorkies over all other breeds.

One thing they do have going for them in the protection department is their vocal cords. Most Yorkies will sound the alarm if they hear something out of the ordinary or if someone comes to the door. 

Watch dogs they are, but guard dogs, not a chance. At four pounds, they pose little threat to anyone wishing to break in, especially if the intruder comes armed with a tasty bone tossed way. 

If a watchdog is what you need, the Yorkshire Terrier will serve in the role diligently, but do not expect him to protect you.

Even if he did decide to take on a would-be criminal, their tiny mouths are not likely to land a lethal bite (although it would probably be rather painful).


A Yorkshire Terrier being groomed, with a person's hands holding scissors and a comb
Yorkies require much grooming to keep them looking good.

Yorkies have a single glossy fine-textured coat that does not shed much.  You may not notice shedding at all, but dead hairs are continually being replaced with new ones. 

These dead hairs remain in the coat and can turn into mats or tangles if not brushed frequently.  Yorkshire Terriers require regular brushing to keep mats from forming in their long silky coats. Several times a week or daily brushing, if the coat is kept long is needed.  

Many owners prefer the short, puppy cut which is much easier to maintain.  A professional grooming about every 2 months will keep the Yorkie looking neat and tidy.  Excessive hair around the tips of their ears is also trimmed short.

Some people will also keep their hair short, but allow the hair on the head to grow long.  Just as in dogs shown in conformation, this hair is pulled together in a single topknot tied up with a band and an optional bow to keep hair out of their eyes. 

Show dogs are never trimmed except for the tips of the ears and the paw pads.  Their hair continues to grow and will reach the floor after a couple of years.  The mustache and beard will also continue to grow. 

Most other grooming tasks are typical of other breeds:  nail clipping, teeth brushing, bathing, trimming the hair from the foot pads, and expressing the anal glands if needed.

Most of these tasks can be done at the time of professional grooming except teeth brushing.  Dogs’ teeth should regularly be brushed, especially Yorkies. 

This breed is prone to dental problems and tartar can accumulate quickly.  Professional dentistry is usually needed at least several times during the life of your pet.

Two Yorkshire Terrier puppies
Yorkie puppies are not born with erect ears. Sometimes taping them is required to allow them to stand up.

Health Considerations

Most Yorkies live long, healthy lives. Just like all other dog breeds, there are some diseases that are common to this breed. Many of these diseases are also very common in small breed dogs.

Portosystemic (liver) shunt

Some Yorkies are born with this potentially fatal congenital condition in which the blood bypasses the liver.

Specifically, blood flows around the liver instead of the usual path.  Without the necessary proteins and other nutrients, the Yorkie ends up being smaller and weaker than normal. They cannot get rid of the toxins that would normally be filtered out by the liver, so toxins build up and cause seizures. The puppy also shows digestive problems. 

Symptoms include Loss of Weight, Poor appetite, Listlessness, Weakness, Fixed gaze, Seizures, Disoriented actions such as the dog walking in circles and not responding to commands. Kidney problems include excessive thirst and frequent urination.

Legg-Perthes Disease

This is a degeneration of the dog’s hip joint (also called avascular necrosis of the femoral head and neck). 

The symptoms begin to appear between the ages of 4 and 11 months and include pain, degeneration of the muscle and limping. Many dogs with Legg-Perthes will get relief with surgery.

Luxating Patella

Dogs with luxating patella have kneecaps that slip in and out of place. Like most conditions, this one can vary in severity. Indicators vary and can include kneecaps moving when the vet handles it, kneecaps slipping out of place when the dog walks or runs and kneecaps slipping out of place so often as to cause lameness.  The most severe is when the kneecap slides out and stays out.


Hypoglycemia or Low blood sugar is a major concern especially in small Yorkie puppies.  This is common in any tiny size dog breed. Most episodes are caused by not eating regularly, but stress, strenuous activity or even digestive upset can bring on symptoms.  

Symptoms include confusion, shivering or shaking, staggering gait and sleepiness. In the worst cases, seizures may occur followed by coma or even death. 

Luckily, there is a natural remedy but it requires that you react quickly to increase his blood sugar level. A few drops of Karo® syrup is all that is needed to help your Yorkies. 

Alternately, it is a good idea to keep a tube of Nutri – Cal Puppy Nutritional Supplement Gel  or other high caloric supplement on hand for emergencies.   If the puppy is not responding, you will need to get the dog to a vet immediately.

Collapsing Trachea

The trachea or windpipe periodically narrows or closes on itself causing shortness of breath, a honking cough, and fatigue. The condition worsens when the dog is exposed to strenuous exercise, heat, humidity or when he is overly excited. This condition occurs when the cartilage which forms the support of the trachea begins to weaken.

To treat this condition, vets will prescribe supplements such as glucosamine, to strengthen the cartilage and manage a cough.  One simple way to protect your dog is always to use a harness instead of a collar when walking the dog.

Retained Baby Teeth

Yorkie’s often don’t lose their baby teeth on their own and these teeth must be extracted around six or seven months. Many vets will remove baby teeth when they spay or neuter the puppy. 


Dogs that need a thyroid supplement have a dull coat, hair loss, and weight gain. They also are sluggish and have an intolerance to the cold. 

Sometimes dogs that have chronic skin disorders may also have suffered from hypothyroidism.

Heart Disease

Some Yorkies have valves in the heart that fail to close properly, causing the blood to flow back into the chambers.

Bladder Stones

Some Middle-aged Yorkies are prone to bladder “stones”.

Symptoms include difficulty going to the bathroom, restricted urine flow, excessive thirst and blood in the urine. Treatment involves surgery to remove the stones.

Famous Yorkies

Pasha, Tricia Nixon Cox’s pet Yorkie, lived in the White House during the presidency of Richard Nixon.   

Huddersfield Ben (1865 – 1871), a champion show dog; is credited with being the foundation sire for the Yorkshire Terrier

Smoky, was a famous World War II hero who parachuted out of airplanes and went on over 100 missions. After his retirement from the military, he visited VA hospitals to cheer up veterans. 

The old TV show,  Green Acres, Eva Gabor’s character (Lisa Douglas) owned a Yorkshire Terrier named Mignon (1965-1971)

Reference and Further Reading

For more information on the Yorkshire Terrier we recommend you visit the American Kennel Club where you can download the breed standard for that organization.

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