AT A GLANCE: The Yorkshire terrier
- Energetic, brave, and busy
- Considered a hypoallergenic breed
- Sparkling, mischievous eyes
- Long-flowing hair, unless it is kept clipped short, in blue and tan
- Naturally beautiful, long, curling tails most often seen, encouraged, and admired in countries where tail docking is illegal
- Average lifespan of 14 to 16 years
Physical characteristics of the Yorkshire terrierYorkshire terriers have fur that grows continually and, left alone, their coat will reach the floor, giving these diminutive dogs the appearance of gliding on air as they trot along on hidden feet. Though Yorkshire terriers are born with black fur, which gradually fades to blue and tan as adults.
Personality and temperament of the Yorkshire terrier
Yorkshire terriers are a product of the working class in 1800s England, where they were originally scrappy ratters. Though they are lap dogs today, they are still true terriers at heart. Never one to back down from a fight, what Yorkies lack in size, they make up for in grit. They may be aggressive toward unknown humans and animals alike, and they never shy away from a confrontation, despite their small size. They are loving and loyal to their owners, and eager to alert their owners to danger, but can be trained against excessive barking.
Most Yorkshire terriers who are well-socialized and trained as puppies are obedient, adaptable, playful dogs who love attention from people and are good with children. Their loyalty and protective nature make them a good addition for families willing to socialize and train them.
Common health concerns for the Yorkshire terrierYorkshire terriers are a family favorite, but they are prone to a few health conditions, which are often related to breeding for small size and look rather than good health. These include:
Patellar luxation, or dislocation of the kneecap, or patella, is common among toy and small-breed dogs. Patellar luxation causes intermittent lameness; when the patella is out of place, affected dogs will limp or hold up the limb. When the patella slides back into its correct place, the lameness resolves. Continued luxation will result in degenerative joint disease, pain, and decreased mobility.
Extrahepatic portosystemic shunt
In this condition, blood is shunted around the liver. Because the liver removes toxins from the blood, dogs with portosystemic shunts have excess toxins circulating in their blood. Clinical signs generally emerge by 6 months of age and include failure to gain weight, vomiting, and hepatic encephalopathy.
The trachea, or windpipe, carries air to the lungs and is made up of cartilaginous rings that hold the trachea open. In some breeds, including the Yorkie, the cartilage rings become weak and the trachea flattens during respiration
Also known as aseptic necrosis of the femoral head, Legg-Calve-Perthes is a common disease in small-breed dogs involving the ball of the ball-and-socket hip joint. The blood supply to the ball is cut off, causing necrosis and bone death. This condition is painful and will cause lameness in the affected leg(s).
Other health concerns include:
- Cryptorchidism (i.e., undescended testicle[s])
- Dental disease
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye
- Pediatric hypoglycemia
Caring for the Yorkshire terrier
Like humans, Yorkshire terriers have continually growing hair, so their grooming requirements are more elaborate than many breeds. If allowed to grow out, their silky coats can easily reach the ground, giving them a regal look. Long coats will need daily brushing.
A Yorkie whose coat is kept short retains a youthful puppy-like appearance. Shorter coats are easier to maintain, with grooming needed only about every six weeks. Nails should be trimmed twice monthly, regardless of hair-coat length.
Because Yorkies are prone to dental disease, home dental care is a must. Their teeth should be brushed daily, and owners should consider giving dental chews or feeding a prescription dental diet, as well. Yorkies should also have their teeth professionally cleaned by a veterinarian when indicated.
Yorkshire terriers are high-energy, but indoor activities can often satisfy their exercise needs, making them well-suited to apartment or city life. However, although they won’t need to burn energy with rigorous daily exercise, Yorkies do relish playing with their owners and taking leisurely daily walks.
The Yorkshire terrier is the perfect dog for you if:
- You have the time to devote to your dog’s dental care
- You love traveling with your pets
- You live in an apartment
- You want a small dog with a strong personality
- You want a long-haired breed and aren’t afraid of coat maintenance
- You want a hypo-allergenic dog breed