The Yorkshire Terrier, affectionately known as the Yorkie, is more than just a purse dog with a pretty face. This toy breed boasts a personality that’s larger than life and a heart full of courage. A former ratter turned beloved lapdog, the Yorkie remains one of the most popular breeds, charming people with its vivacity and elegance.
General Info About the Breed
The Yorkshire Terrier, a member of the toy group, is a diminutive breed that carries itself with a confident, almost regal, demeanor. Despite its small size, the Yorkie has a big personality, marked by its bravery, loyalty, and affectionate nature. These dogs are known for their long, silky coats and their suitability to apartment living.
History and Origins of the Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier, affectionately known as the Yorkie, boasts a rich history that begins in the mid-19th century in the county of Yorkshire, northern England. The breed was developed during the Industrial Revolution when Scottish workers brought several different terrier breeds to England, mixing them with local terrier types.
Among the breeds thought to have contributed to the Yorkie’s lineage are the now-extinct Clydesdale (or Paisley) Terrier, a small blue-gray dog that was used for ratting and the Waterside Terrier, with its long coat of blue or gray color. Other breeds, like the Skye Terrier and even the Maltese, may have been part of the Yorkie’s early development.
The Working-Class Dog
Originally, Yorkies were much larger than today’s breed and were used for catching rats in mines and mills, where rodent infestations were a significant problem. They were also used for hunting small animals. Their small size allowed them to squeeze into tight spaces, making them perfect for such tasks.
Evolution into a Companion Dog
Over time, Yorkies became popular with the ladies of the day, transitioning from a working-class dog to a fashionable companion for high society, which led to selective breeding for smaller size and longer, silkier coats. This was a status symbol during Victorian times, and the breed became known for its elegance and beauty.
The Father of the Breed: Huddersfield Ben
One particular dog, known as Huddersfield Ben, born in 1865, is considered the foundation sire of the modern Yorkshire Terrier. Owned by Mary Ann Foster, Ben was a champion rat catcher and is credited with refining the breed into its current form. He had an excellent pedigree and sired many offspring, setting the standard for the breed’s appearance.
Recognition and Popularity
The Yorkshire Terrier was recognized by the Kennel Club in 1886, and as its popularity grew, it made its way across the Atlantic. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885. After World War II, American servicemen returning home brought Yorkies with them, and the breed’s popularity soared in the United States.
Today’s Yorkie, while no longer a ratting dog, still retains much of the courage and tenacity of its ancestors, albeit in a much smaller and more polished package. Its rich history as both a working dog and a beloved pet of the upper classes contributes to its complex and engaging character. The Yorkshire Terrier continues to be one of the most popular toy breeds in the United States and around the world, cherished for its companionship and its luxurious blue and tan coat.
Size Characteristics of the Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire Terriers are classified as a toy breed due to their small size, but they pack a lot of personality into their petite frames. Here are the key size characteristics of the Yorkshire Terrier:
A typical Yorkshire Terrier stands about 7 to 8 inches tall at the shoulder. Their small stature contributes to their popularity as a companion animal, especially suited for urban living where space may be at a premium.
Yorkies are lightweight dogs, typically weighing in at around 4 to 7 pounds when fully grown. Breed standards generally prefer that the dogs should not exceed 7 pounds, as maintaining a smaller size is ideal for this breed’s standard and overall health.
Despite their small size, Yorkshire Terriers should not appear fragile. They have a well-proportioned and compact body structure that exhibits a good balance between bone structure and muscle tone, which gives them their characteristic sprightly and buoyant gait.
Yorkies are slightly longer than tall, giving them a well-balanced appearance. They should have a level back and a well-held head, which adds to their confident and self-assured demeanor.
While they are light, Yorkies possess a solid bone density for their size, which supports their surprisingly robust physical capabilities. They are agile and quick, able to participate in activities like agility training that require jumping and running.
The Yorkshire Terrier’s crowning glory is its fine, straight, and silky coat, which comes in a steel blue and tan color. The breed’s coat is famously hypoallergenic, making them a popular choice for allergy sufferers. Yorkies have a small head with a short muzzle, bright, intelligent eyes, and a pair of V-shaped ears that stand erect.
Overall, the Yorkshire Terrier should present a neat, compact, and well-proportioned body with a confident carriage. Their size is a defining characteristic of the breed, but it belies the boldness and tenacity that are hallmark traits of the Yorkie temperament.
Exercise Requirements and Energy Level
Despite their tiny legs, Yorkies have a fair amount of energy. They don’t require extensive exercise but do need regular playtime and walks to keep them healthy and prevent boredom. Their energy level is suitable for their size, and they can usually get a good amount of exercise even in a small space.
Grooming Requirements of the Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier’s beautiful, silky coat is one of the breed’s defining features, but it also requires regular and thorough grooming. Here’s what you need to know to keep a Yorkie looking its best.
Yorkies have a fine, silky coat that grows continuously and can become quite long. They do not have an undercoat, which means they shed very little, but their hair can easily become tangled or matted without proper care.
- Daily Brushing: To keep their coat smooth and free of mats, Yorkies require daily brushing. A pin brush or a soft bristle brush is typically recommended, and you should be gentle to avoid breaking their fine hair.
- Detangling Spray: Before brushing, using a detangling spray can help prevent breakage and make the process more comfortable for your dog.
Yorkies should be bathed every two to four weeks to keep their coat clean and healthy. Use a high-quality dog shampoo and conditioner to maintain the natural oils in their skin and coat.
- Bath Time: Be sure to rinse out all the soap thoroughly, as any residue can cause skin irritation. It’s also important to avoid getting water into their ears, which can lead to infections.
- Drying: After bathing, gently pat your Yorkie dry with a towel and use a hairdryer on a low heat setting to dry their coat completely, brushing as you go to prevent tangles.
Many Yorkie owners keep their pets in a “puppy cut” or “teddy bear cut,” which is a short, manageable style that reduces the need for daily maintenance.
- Professional Grooming: For those who prefer a longer coat, regular visits to a professional groomer every 4-6 weeks are essential to keep the coat trimmed and tidy.
Ear, Nail, and Dental Care
In addition to coat care, regular grooming should include ear cleaning, nail trimming, and dental care:
- Ears: Check your Yorkie’s ears regularly for dirt, wax, or signs of infection. Gently wipe the ears clean with a cotton ball dampened with a dog-approved ear cleaner.
- Nails: Yorkies’ nails should be trimmed regularly to prevent discomfort and problems walking. If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor, they’re too long.
- Teeth: Brush your Yorkie’s teeth several times a week to prevent tartar buildup and gum disease. Dental chews and regular cleanings by a veterinarian can also help maintain dental health.
Because of their long facial hair, Yorkies often get hair in their eyes, which can cause irritation or infection:
- Face Trimming: Keeping the hair trimmed around the eyes will help prevent problems. Many owners use a topknot or bow to keep the hair out of their Yorkie’s eyes.
- Daily Cleaning: Wiping the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth can help prevent staining and keep the eyes clear.
Grooming is an essential aspect of caring for a Yorkshire Terrier. Not only does it keep them looking their best, but it also offers an opportunity for owners to check for any signs of skin issues or parasites and strengthens the bond between pet and owner.
Notable Dogs From the Breed
One of the most famous Yorkshire Terriers was Smoky, a World War II hero that served with the 5th Air Force in the Pacific. Another notable Yorkie is Huddersfield Ben, born in 1865, known as the father of the breed and a champion show dog.
Comparable breeds to the Yorkshire Terrier include other small terriers like the Silky Terrier, which shares the Yorkie’s fine coat and dynamic personality, and the Toy Poodle, which matches the Yorkie’s intelligence and hypoallergenic coat.
General Summary of the Breed
In essence, the Yorkshire Terrier is a small dog with a tenacious spirit, a loving heart, and a beautiful, hypoallergenic coat. They are adaptable, making them suitable for various lifestyles, from city apartments to country homes, as long as they have company and stimulation. With their rich history and undeniably charming nature, Yorkies continue to capture the hearts of dog lovers.