What is a Yorkshire Terrier?

  • By: Mick Whitefield
  • Time to read: 10 min.

One of the most popular breed of terrier lap dog is the Yorkie or Yorkshire Terrier. It has been a favourite breed since the Victorian era and has rarely lost any of its popularity.

What is a Yorkshire terrier? The Yorkshire terrier is the smallest terrier breed recognised by the KC (UK) and the AKC (USA). The Yorkshire terrier descends directly from the Broken Haired Scottish terrier also known as the Toy Terrier.  A small breed of dog originally bred for chasing mice and rats they have now turned into a very popular family lapdog particularly with the elderly. Huddersfield Ben is the original sire to the yorkie breed, so named after the town in which he was born in Huddersfield in the County of Yorkshire in England. The dog was a prizewinning show dog and a champion ratter. In 1874 the breed was given the official breed name of Yorkshire terrier with the KC and recognized by the AKC in 1878.

Quick Facts about the Yorkshire Terrier

Has a Lifespan of 12 to 15 years
Height at the Shoulder is 7 to 8 inches or 18 to 20cm
Weight for Males and Females is 6 to 8lbs or about 3kg
Recognized by the KC and the AKC as a Toy group breed

What Does the Yorkshire Terrier Look Like

Yorkies have a very light slim frame often with scruffy hair when cut short but can have a long silky elegant coat when allowed to grow and is brushed well. The hair tends to be fine and softly luxuriant to the touch.

Yorkie 2

Depending upon which expert you talk to Yorkies are not always considered as Hypoallergenic. I think that you may as well consider them to be unless you have any severe allergies, they shed very little hair and if groomed well will shed none.

Yorkie Hair
Typical Yorkie

Heads are generally held high with lively intelligent deep set eyes set to the front and Upside-down v-shaped ears which can stand erect or fold flat dependent upon their mood. A straight back with a fine boned tail that is usually positioned upward. A slim chest and waist.

Yorkie On A Log

Legs are fine boned and seemingly long for their height with small fine padded feet both front and back with small fine but strong claws, usually black. A small square shaped head with a strong stout but fine boned nose, a black tipped nose and a strong jaw, usually with well-defined teeth.

Colours of the Yorkshire Terrier

There are a variety of rich colours and those accepted by the KC are
              A Steel Grey and Tan
              A Steel Blue and Tan
              Steel Blue
              A Steel Blue Black and Tan

Then the more common
              Black and Tan
              Black Blue and Tan
              Blue and Tan

There is also the Question – What is a Mini Yorkie?

Most people are familiar with Yorkshire terriers however not everyone knows about the Mini Yorkie and how they relate to their normal sized relatives.

Breeders realized that whilst there was a large demand for yorkies, there was also on occasions an even bigger demand for smaller yorkies, thus mini yorkies or Teacup Yorkies were bred to be cute and small (as if puppies) their whole lives. They weigh about 1lb or just 0.5kg, they really can fit into a handbag although this is not advisable for the safety of the dog.

Yorkiepoo Pup Original
Teacup Yorkie sitting in a bucket.

If you are considering looking for a Teacup Yorkie then beware, regular size yorkies and mini yorkies as puppies look exactly the same so it can be very hard to tell the difference. When you’re attempting to buy a mini yorkie, make sure you see the parents.

Characteristics of the Yorkshire Terrier

Loyal, fun loving, relaxed, patient, intelligent, sociable, cheeky.

In general, yorkies tend to be very loyal and will often develop a strong bond with their owners. They are generally I very fun loving and intelligent breed and extremely willing to please their owners. They are very patient and will happily sit while you brush them, put bows in their hair or dress them up for Christmas.


I see many reports writing that they can be very stubborn which can occasionally make them a little difficult to train, however my experience of yorkies at Top Lap Dogs .com is that I think this is sometimes down to the owners being soft on their cute little fur bags and occasionally down to ignorance when it comes to the actual training techniques.

This has probably come about because most of the owners I have known of yorkies have tended to be on the elderly side and as such the owner has not been agile enough to train a dog in the manner that it should be.

The one Yorkshire I’ve known that is with a younger family, is an extremely intelligent resourceful and clever little fella and is very good at taking commands and performing tricks.

These dogs are usually very relaxed, the odd one or two that I have seen with a tendency to be a little bit hyper and not trained very well with bad behavior has in my opinion been down to the owner. Tearing at people’s ankles and growling at strangers. Don’t blame the dog if it’s being a little tearaway, take a good look at the owner and how it treats their furball.

 They do like other dogs and other household pets, they do however have a tendency toward barking or growling at noises outside their homes which you could say makes them good alarm dogs, not good guard dogs though, they’re a little bit small for that.

Yorkshire Terriers as Therapy Dogs

Yorkie Hair
Yorkies are Attentive Therapy Dogs

Yorkies make great therapy dogs, for the elderly they are great company, for the frail they are very light so do not cause any bruising or stress when sitting on their laps. They will love being fussed so they are great for helping people feel relaxed and comforted. They are usually very attentive dogs, so for those who are petting them, they generally create a good feeling.

Are Yorkies Hypoallergenic?

A common question, to which experts will tell you that no dog is hypoallergenic. Don’t listen to that, Yorkshire Terriers have hair that is exceedingly like human hair due to the characteristic of their hair, they are much less likely to make people develop an allergy. Unless you have a severe allergy then I would suggest that you consider Yorkies to be hypoallergenic.

If you wish to be absolutely certain find someone with a Yorkie and spend some time with them.

Training your Yorkshire Terrier

Training your yorkie is a question of being firm with your little bundle of fur. These dogs are very intelligent and attentive so should be easy to train and if they are given the time and correct training they are very quick to learn.

Because they are clever, if you are complacent in your instruction, they will take the mickey which is why some people consider them difficult to train.

Start at a young age with potty training as a must and they will quickly learn that what you say or show them is what they must do. Then other instructions will come easily. Because they are clever little dogs learning tricks and getting attention from you will be rewarding for them.

Get the training correct from the start and the rest will be easy.

Exercising your Yorkshire Terrier

You will only need to exercise your yorkie for about half an hour walk once or twice a day to keep them fit. If walking outside is not an option or difficult for you then make games for them indoors. This will exercise them physically and stimulate them mentally which is something these dogs do need.

Yorkie Exercising
Exercise is crucial for any dog

Puzzles and games for these guys is crucial or they can become hypersensitive to external sounds and will then begin to yap at every passing car or stranger they see through the window.

Yorkies and Kids

Yorkies are obviously delicate so please keep a wary eye on young children who could cause them damage simply through ignorance of the fact that these dogs are not very robust. Outside of this if your children need a friend or companion these dogs will happily be there and will preen over the fuss and attention your children will give them.

Feeding your Yorkshire Terrier

Like all dogs overfeeding can cause problems, because they are attentive it can be easy to give them human food or too many treats. It is unusual for yorkies to get overweight but where they do get problems is gaining skin conditions and this is often down to an incorrect diet or occasionally getting possessive over food and snatching food out of your hand which again is down to you.

Treats for these guys need to be the correct type of food. Many dog treats come in small sizes.

Health Problems for your Yorkshire Terrier

In general, these dogs have a long and healthy life without major health problems but because they are pure bred there are always the usual known pure breed problems.

The main ones to be aware of are:

  1. Retinal Dysplasia
  2. Eye Infections
  3. Dental issues
  4. Skin Problems

The rest are very common with most small pure breeds and they are

  • Luxating Patella
  • Portosytemic Shunt
  • Legg-Perthes Disease
  • Collapsed Trachea
  1. Retinal Dysplasia is a bilateral degeneration of the eye or eyes retina. It can cause partial sight loss or complete blindness. This complaint is usually spotted by your vet, however if you take a flash photograph of your dog and you notice a strange discolouration in the photo then get them checked out.
  2. Eye Infections are commonplace as their eyes tend to be a little bulbous. A streaming or tearing eye can usually be easily treated, wipe the eye gently with clean nonabrasive cloth or baby wipes rather than tissue and if continuous seek advice from your veterinarian.
  3. Dental Issues for yorkies tend to be an overcrowding of teeth and thus misshapen jawline and/or a misalignment of teeth. This can obviously lead to plaque problems or eating problems, but most of these issues can be dealt with fairly easily.
  4. Skin problems that occur for a yorkie are often related to diet, occasionally nerves. Giving your dog too much human food or too many treats can cause digestive problems and this can show as a skin disorder possibly due to the incorrect vitamin and mineral elements within the diet. If your dog is nervous you need to change its surroundings and how it is treated. Whichever it is talk to your vet.

There is much more information about the other conditions online or if the condition is highlighted then click on it for further information.

History of the Yorkshire Terrier

Several terrier breeds led to what was eventually known as the Yorkshire Terrier. First known as the Broken Haired Scotch Terrier and also as the Toy Terrier it was eventually given its Yorkshire title in 1874.

As with many terrier breeds it was used for controlling vermin and was often referred to as the “Ratter”, used by miners and mill workers through the 1800’s in England.

During this time the most famous was a Yorkshire Terrier called Huddersfield Ben. He is the recognised foundation sire to the breed, named after the area he was born in – Huddersfield, Yorkshire.

The owner was one M.A. Foster who was well known for winning more than 70 dog shows with his yorkie breed dogs. Huddersfield Ben was his stud dog and consistently led to the bitches he sired producing large litters of dogs that were under 5lbs.

It must have been tiring work because Ben passed at aged just 6 years old, but his impact on the development of this breed was enormous.

The Yorkshire Terrier breed made its way across the Atlantic to be officially recognised in 1878 by the AKC in America.

Despite being the darling of the working class for its popularity in its work for ratting, it also became a firm favourite of the upper classes in English society and at this point it clearly also became a lapdog.

One celebrity yorkie lived through the second world war serving as a war dog in the 5th Air Force in the Pacific. Found in a shell hole by a serving American William Wynne she became part of the troop, accompanying them on over 150 air raids and 12 sea missions she was lauded for helping the signal corps by carrying a telegraph wire through a 70 ft long 8” pipe.

After the war she spent time with her owner visiting veterans’ hospitals acting as a Therapy Dog.

Conclusion about the Yorkshire Terrier

Here at TopLapDogs.com I think it would be difficult to criticise this affectionate and lively little dog. If you as the owner of this fun ball of fur are any good with dogs, then you will have a dog that is suitable for you whether you are 9 or 90.

Provided that you take care with the dogs’ diet, exercise, mental wellbeing and grooming you will have very few problems.

First time owners should not be scared either, this little dog is very easy to take care of and will give you years of pleasure.

This information post forms part of Top Lap Dogs A to Z of Lap Dog Breeds

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