Yorkshire Terriers, fondly nicknamed Yorkies, are a popular pet for their adorable appearance and small size. For the right owner, a Yorkie can be a perfect apartment pet. These dogs originated in Yorkshire, England sometime in the mid-1800s. While many breeds in this era were bred by the gentry for show purposes and as status symbols, the Yorkie was the result of breeding small terriers from working-class Scottish immigrants. The Yorkshire Terrier is not considered the smallest dog breed, though specimens of the breed are among the world's smallest dogs in history. They came to North America in 1885, and have since become one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, despite a decline in popularity during the 1940s.
Size and activity level
These petite little dogs weigh in at anywhere from three pounds to about eight pounds. Typical terriers, Yorkies are always on the go and require lots of exercise and stimulation. Left to their own devices for too long, a Yorkshire Terrier may bark excessively or chew inappropriately. However, given daily walks as well as new sights and smells, the Yorkie is alert and inquisitive, enjoying every minute of the activity. For this reason, they should only have owners who have plenty of time to spend with them and enjoy being on the go.
Yorkies may be tiny, but they have the tenacious personality characteristic of terriers. This means that they are bold and outgoing, and tend to be far less nervous than other dogs their size. They don't necessarily realize their size, though, and need to be watched closely around cats, other dogs, squirrels and other large rodents. If a Yorkie succeeds in challenging one of these creatures, it could be injured easily.
The Yorkshire Terrier breed is characterized by their long, silky coat. Dogs that are kept solely as pets may have their hair clipped for easier grooming, but show animals wear their hair floor-length. The result is a beautiful, graceful-looking dog with their paws all but invisible. A side effect is that their coat tangles easily, needs frequent washing and daily combing. If you're careful when you comb your Yorkie and do so consistently from a young age, this could be a calming bonding experience for both you and your dog. On the other hand, a dog that doesn't like to be combed will be very difficult to care for, and may require frequent professional grooming.
Health and life span
Possibly due to the aggressive selective breeding required to achieve such small sizes, the Yorkshire Terrier breed is plagued with a number of genetic disorders. These can include relatively minor conditions such as distichiae (eyelashes growing too close to the eye, causing irritation and ulceration) and disorders of the legs and hips that can lead to lameness and difficulty walking. More serious conditions include tracheal collapse, hypoglycemia, or the malformation of the portal vein that leads to the liver; any of these can lead to severe disability or death.
Despite the serious potential genetic diseases, Yorkies obtained from responsible breeders who have done genetic testing are considered healthy and vigorous animals. These dogs are expected to live up to 17 years (though life spans are significantly shorter for dogs three pounds and under), and rarely fall ill if cared for properly.