In hopes that I can give my readers some insight into dog breeds’ personalities, I am featuring a couple of different breeds each week. I will give a little history about the breed, i.e., what they were bred to do, talk about their personalities, and provide advice on the lifestyle needs of the breed. Remember, as I always say, every dog is an individual. Some dogs will exactly fit the breed characteristics while others may be nothing like it.

Want a teeny-tiny dog with a big personality? Then the Yorkshire Terrier, or Yorkie, could be the dog for you. Yorkies are supposed to weigh about 7 pounds although I’ve seen quite a few who are heavier. Yorkies have beautiful tan, black, and gray coats which can grow to be quite long, touching the ground. Because they have hair not fur, Yorkies must be groomed regularly. (The distinction between hair and fur is that hair grows and needs to be cut or else it will grow and grow; fur only grows to a certain length and stops there.) They are considered to be hypo-allergenic due to their hair.

The Yorkie originated in England in the 1860s, bred by Scots who had moved to England and brought the Scotch Terrier (not the Scottie that we know of today) with them. The Yorkie is thought to be a combination of the Scotch Terrier, the Paisley Terrier, and possibly the Maltese. Their original purpose was to catch mice and rats in cotton and wool mills, as their owners worked there. Like all terriers, they have that tenacious instinct to hunt and kill. Watch Yorkies with a squeaky toy and you’ll see them shake it to death! The Yorkie came to the United States in 1872 and was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1885. Recent AKC censuses have shown that Yorkies are the third most popular dog in the U.S. next to the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever.

If you are considering a Yorkie, know that they have a potential lifespan of 17-20 years! That’s quite a commitment. The Yorkie is a sweet, affectionate little dog who will be a devoted companion. They have spunky, fun personalities and love to play. They are a high energy dog and require lots of play time. They remain active for much of their lives. I know of two Yorkies who are 11 years old and they play as if they were 2 years old. And there is no ignoring them when they want to play. They will bark, whine, drop their toys in your lap…anything to get your attention. They really are tenacious.

The Yorkie is a typical terrier, very strong-willed, independent, and can be quite stubborn. Early socialization and obedience training is very important or else the Yorkie can become fearful of strangers, possessive of his owner, and aggressive to other dogs. They can be very yappy and give the appearance of not being friendly. Early training can help curb this behavior.

Housetraining is a common issue with Yorkies. They can be very difficult to consistently housetrain. The combination of their love of life, stubbornness, and small bladders may be contributing factors. When they go outside to “do their business,” they get so distracted by everything around them that they “forget” to do their business. Consequently, Yorkie owners must be patient, allowing the dog a lot of time to explore their world and then take care of business. A regular, frequent schedule of potty breaks is recommended. Also, Yorkies have tiny bladders which may contribute to housetraining problems. It is not advisable to leave a Yorkie alone for extended periods of time due to this issue. If you work all day, it’s best to hire a pet sitter to take your dog out during the day. Crate training is highly suggested as well but never leave a dog in a crate for more than four hours at a time without a break.

Yorkies can be very intelligent which is a good thing when you are training your dog. They catch on quickly. However, don’t allow your Yorkie to train you. A smart, spoiled Yorkie will learn how to be the boss rather quickly and before you know it, he will be in charge and calling the shots. As we know, that situation can lead to behavior issues with your dog: Separation anxiety, aggression, excessive barking, attention seeking, to name a few.

With all of their terrier traits of high energy, independence, stubbornness and tenacity, remember that they are still little dogs. Their size alone makes them fragile. They are not recommended for a home with small children.

Because of their popularity and small size, puppy mills like to breed Yorkies. You will frequently see them in pet stores, advertized in the newspaper and the Internet by so-called breeders which are actually puppy mills in disguise. Many crosses of the Yorkie are also very popular, bred by puppy mills as well: Morkies (Maltese/Yorkie) and Yorkie-Poos (Yorkie/Poodle mix) are the most common. If considering getting a Yorkie, please find a reputable breeder by contacting a breeder who is a member of the American Kennel Club. Just having AKC papers is meaningless nowadays!