Yorkshire Terriers

Discover the breed characteristics of the Yorkshire Terrier.

By Marion Lane |

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Yorkshire Terriers

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The Yorkie's tiny size and long, silky coat are its most unique physical characteristics, but it's the terrier in the breed that gives the Yorkie its big dog outlook on life. As glamorous as the Yorkie is today, it was originally developed to kill rats in the mines and mills of Yorkshire, England. Cornered rats will turn and fight fiercely, so the dogs that hunted them had to be agile, tough and fearless. To this day, most Yorkies are willing to take on Rottweilers on street corners, often needing to be dragged away by their owners.

Terriers were expected to do their own killing, rather than wait for a human with a gun to show up, so terriers and their descendants tend to be independent warriors that live and die by their own wits. As unassisted hunters, they developed a unique method of seizing and shaking their prey to break its neck; don't be surprised to see your Yorkie apply this technique to sundry small, floppy objects. Excited, persistent barking is also a terrier trait: This was how the dog's owner was able to locate his dog as it hunted underground.

Unlike the breeds with very long backs, wide-set legs and pushed-in faces, the Yorkie is a well-proportioned dog, which means it is well-suited to an active lifestyle. Beware, though, that Yorkies' small bodies can store only limited amounts of energy, so frequent snacks are needed, and cold, wet weather should be avoided.

A healthy, well-conditioned Yorkie can do pretty much anything that a larger dog can do, though probably not in a floor-length coat. Many Yorkie owners are loathe to cut their pets' coats until they've spent an afternoon undoing the coat damage from five fast minutes of outdoor frolics.

Cute as a button, a Yorkie nevertheless possesses the full range of canine behaviors. It's a social creature that wants to know where it fits into the household pack; it will bark at outsiders (Yorkies make excellent watchdogs); it can be either friendly and outgoing, or unfriendly and aloof (largely based on how you train it); and it will chew, dig, scratch and roll in smelly dead things whenever it possibly can. Yorkies have the same capacity as the next dog to become spoiled, uncooperative, disagreeable and even aggressive. Basic training for Yorkies, therefore, is the same as for any dog.

Housetraining: Even though Yorkies can easily be trained to eliminate on newspapers or in litterboxes, papertraining makes it altogether too easy to forget to take your dog outdoors on a regular basis. There's so much more to walking your dog than letting it relieve itself. Walks are wonderful exercise; they improve digestion, circulation and attitude while they offer a chance to meet and greet, sniff and explore. As an added bonus, frequent walking on rough ground keeps nails worn down.

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