Yorkshire Terrier Temperament: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em
Yorkshire Terrier Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2018
There are two schools of thought on the Yorkshire Terrier: (1) he is a vigorous terrier; (2) he is a delicate toy dog made for pampering. The owner's view of him has much to do with how an individual dog turns out.
For certain, the Yorkie is lively and inquisitive, physically and mentally quick, and spends much time trotting (or dashing) around checking things out.
Larger dogs may view him as a delicacy, so he must always be leashed or fenced for his own protection; in addition, he can be an excitable chaser of birds and butterflies.
A lover of comfort, the Yorkshire Terrier enjoys cuddling on laps and snuggling into soft pillows.
Keen of eye and sharp of tongue, he won't fail to announce strangers, often in a high-pitched voice. Early socialization is required so that he doesn't become too shrill.
Though he can be bossy and scrappy with other dogs, especially larger ones, Yorkies coexist well with other pets, but are typically overwhelmed by the roughhousing and mischief of small children. This is especially true of the smallest Yorkies -- larger individuals are sturdier.
Some Yorkshire Terriers are bright and quick to learn, while others are rather willful and opinionated. Yorkies often dislike walking on a leash and may dart to and fro until taught how to behave.
Housebreaking is notoriously difficult with Yorkshire Terriers, especially in cold or wet weather. Consider an indoor litter box, or a doggy door leading out into a small covered potty yard.
Barking must be controlled from day one, and this spunky little fellow often must be taught that possessiveness of his food and toys is a no-no.
If you want a dog who...
- Is small, fine-boned, elegant, easy to carry, and doesn't take up much space
- Sheds very lightly (one of the best breeds for allergy sufferers)
- Is lively and inquisitive, and moves swiftly with light-footed grace
- Doesn't need a lot of exercise
- Makes a keen watchdog -- won't fail to announce strangers
- Is peaceful with other pets
A Yorkshire Terrier may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The fragility of toy breeds (see below)
- The fine line you need to walk with toy breeds, where you need to protect their safety, yet require them to stand on their own four feet and be well-behaved
- Notorious housebreaking difficulties
- Regular brushing and combing, or regularly trimming the coat short
- Suspiciousness, shrillness, and highstrung temperaments in some lines, or when babied or spoiled or not socialized enough or made to behave
- Excitable chasing instincts
Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.
- You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Yorkshire Terriers have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
- If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
- Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Yorkshire Terrier to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.
More traits and characteristics of Yorkshire Terriers
If I was considering a Yorkshire Terrier, I would be most concerned about...
- Grooming. Without frequent brushing and combing, Yorkshire Terriers become a matted mess. If you can't commit to the brushing, you have to commit to frequent trimming to keep the coat short, neat, and healthy. You can even shear the coat very short with clippers and then you won't need to brush it at all. Personally I love this sheared cut because it's so easy to care for and makes a Yorkshire Terrier look like a cute puppy throughout his life!
- Fragility. Too many people acquire a toy breed without understanding how incredibly fragile a toy breed is. You can seriously injure a Yorkshire Terrier by stepping on him or by sitting on him when he's curled under a blanket or pillow, where he frequently likes to sleep. And Yorkies can seriously injure or kill themselves by leaping from your arms or off the back of your sofa. A larger dog can grab a Yorkshire Terrier and break his neck with one quick shake. Owning a toy breed means constant supervision and surveillance of what's going on around your tiny dog. Yorkshire Terriers must always be kept on-leash -- they are just too easy to injure when not under your complete control.
Yorkies are not suited to young children, no matter how well-meaning the child. Children cannot help being clumsy, and that a child meant well is little solace to a Yorkshire Terrier who has been accidentally stepped on, sat on, rolled on, squeezed, or dropped onto the patio. Most Yorkies feel overwhelmed by the loud voices and quick movements that children can't help making -- and stress and fearfulness (even defensive biting) may be the result.
- Housebreaking issues. As a behavioral consultant, I put the Yorkshire Terrier on my Top 5 List of "Hardest Breeds to Housebreak." If you live in a cold or rainy climate, housebreaking will be especially difficult, because Yorkies hate both the cold and the rain. A COVERED potty area is strongly recommended. Sometimes a doggy door is necessary so your Yorkshire Terrier can run outside the moment he feels the urge in his tiny bladder. Read more on housebreaking your Yorkshire Terrier.
- Providing enough socialization. Some Yorkies are friendly and outgoing, but many have the standoffish or suspicious nature of a true terrier. Thus, Yorkshire Terriers need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their suspicion can become shrillness, or even nastiness.
- Barking. With their keen senses, Yorkies make excellent watchdogs. However, this can make them too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them before this tendency becomes an established habit. If that training is to be successful, your Yorkshire Terrier needs to respect you so that he stops barking when you tell him to.
- Serious health problems. Many Yorkshire Terriers live a good long life, but unfortunately this breed is very prone to a severe liver disease called liver shunt. Other health concerns include knee problems that can require expensive surgery, plus eye diseases. Read more about Yorkshire Terrier Health.
To help you train and care for your dog
Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.
The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.
To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.