Yorkshire Terrier: From Ratcatcher to Doggy Diva

Staged photo of a pampered Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkshire Terrier is a great example of upward mobility. Originally bred for the lowly task of hunting rats in 19th Century clothing mills, Yorkies are now among the most pampered dogs on the planet.

Thanks to their dainty size and gorgeous silky hair, these working class terriers have moved up to doggy diva status. Many of the breed scarcely touch the ground, preferring instead to travel by purse – or in the loving arms of their owners.

To be fair, Yorkies aren’t all spoiled rotten. After all, if they were nothing more than accessories for the fashion conscious, they wouldn’t be one of the most popular dog breeds on the planet, now would they? The fact that these pups are small, adaptable, and fun-loving probably has as much to do with their success as their devastatingly precious looks.

Yorkshire Terriers at a Glance

Size7 pounds max
Life Expectancy12-16 years
Overall HealthFair, with issues due to small size
Grooming RequirementsMedium-High, depending on cut
Exercise RequirementsMedium
Barking TendencyHigh
Digging TendencyMedium
Good With Children?Varies
Good With Other Dogs?Varies
Prey Drive/Tendency to ChaseMedium
Overall Terrier-tudeDiva Level


Don’t let their fancy looks fool you – Yorkies are terriers through and through. If you’re looking for a mellow lap dog, you might want to turn your attention elsewhere.

Like all terriers, Yorkies are active and retain their urge to hunt (even if it’s directed toward things they’re not supposed to hunt). They also tend to be proud and assertive little dogs, though maybe not quite as outright confrontational as other terrier breeds.

Cute Yorkshire Terrier from the side
These adorable lap dogs are surprisingly spirited – at least for those who don’t know terriers.

While many people are naturally attracted to Yorkies due to their formidable cuteness, there’s also plenty to be said for the breed’s smart and scrappy personality. However, as with many terriers, they need socialization with people and other dogs at an early age. Without it, they’re prone to being nippy, barky, and overprotective.

Health & Life Expectancy

The life span of a Yorkshire Terrier generally falls in the range of 12-16 years. With proper care and some luck, these little guys can really get up there in years.

Like all breeds, Yorkshire Terriers have their health issues. They’re somewhat fragile and prone to injury (keep that in mind if you have young children who play rough). Because of their small size, they also may not tolerate anesthesia well.

Yorkshire Terrier puppy sitting on a tree stump
Yorkies can live 15 years or longer, but are prone to some health issues due to their small size.

Other health issues particular to this breed include constipation, diarrhea, and general tummy problems. With a Yorkie, you should generally stick with one dog food brand (preferably dry, as Yorkie also have teeth problems). Keep the table scraps to a minimum.

Yorkshire Terrier Mixes

Given how beloved Yorkies are, it’s no surprise that they’re an ingredient in a lot of designer breeds. Here’s a list of the most popular Yorkshire Terrier mixes, with their cute designer breed names.

Breed Mixed With Yorkshire TerrierResulting Designer Dog Breed
Australian TerrierAustralian Yorkshire Terrier
Bichon FriseYorkie Chon
Boston TerrierBoston Yorkie
Brussels GriffonGriffonshire
Cairn TerrierCarkie
Cavalier King Charles SpanielKing Charles Yorkie
Chinese CrestedCrustie
Cocker SpanielCorkie
Coton de TulearYorkie-ton
Golden RetrieverGoldenshire
Jack Russell TerrierYorkie Russell
Japanese ChinJarkie
Lhasa ApsoYorkie Apso
Miniature PinscherYorkie Pin
Miniature SchnauzerSnorkie
Norwich TerrierYorwich
PomeranianYorkie Pom
PoodleYorkie Poo
Rat TerrierRatshire
Scottish TerrierScorkie
Shih TzuShorkie
Toy Fox TerrierTorkie
West Highland White TerrierFourche Terrier

In addition, there’s also a miniature version of the breed that tops out at four pounds. However, so-called Teacup Yorkies are likely too small for their own good. Many of the health problems listed above are exacerbated in this teeny pups.

5 Terribly Interesting Facts About Yorkies

The Yorkie is the most popular terrier breed, bar none, and one of the most popular of all dog breeds. Here are some fascinating facts that every Yorkshire Terrier owner should know.


The Yorkie has working class origins, with their ancestors being brought to England in the 1800s by poor Scottish immigrants seeking a better life. Those dogs bred with English terriers to create the foundation for the Yorkshire Terrier we know today.


A dog named Huddersfield Ben is known as the father of the breed. This prototype for modern Yorkies was a two-way threat, excelling in both rat killing contests and dog shows in 1860s England. Though he only lived to the age of six, he was a highly sought after stud dog who sired many puppies.

An old portrait of Huddersfield Ben, father of the Yorkshire Terrier.


While the Yorkies of yore were given the harsh task of exterminating rats in garment factories, it wasn’t long before the breed found itself in the lap of luxury. A book published around the turn of the 20th Century says of the Yorkshire Terrier: “many owners… put cotton or linen stockings on his hind feet to protect his precious coat when he scratches himself.”


Some of the Yorkie’s current popularity is owed to Smoky, one of the most improbable (and cutest!) heroes of World War II. The four-pound female Yorkie was discovered by American soldiers in an abandoned foxhole in New Guinea, and eventually landed in the care of one Corporal Bill Wynne. Smoky served as a watch dog during the war, while also keeping the troops entertained with her many tricks. Returning to the U.S. with her owner, she became a celebrity, and even had her own TV show for a time.

Smoky the World War II Hero Dog
Photo of Smoky with her owner, Corporal Bill Wynne. Smoky’s adventures in World War II led to a resurgence in the popularity of Yorkies.


Somewhat confusingly, the AKC places the Yorkshire Terrier in the Toy Group rather than the Terrier Group. While the Yorkie shares blood and heritage with terriers, it also has a long history as a pampered companion dog, and may be partly descended from another popular toy breed, the Maltese.

Owning a Yorkshire Terrier

The tiny Yorkshire can fit into almost anyone’s life. Because of their size, they’re relatively easy to exercise even if you live in an apartment. A few things to look out for:

Barking. Like a lot of terriers, Yorkies tend to be yappers – which is great if you’re in the market for a watch dog, but could be annoying otherwise.

Grooming. If you want to keep the Yorkie’s hair long, you’ll need to brush it frequently to prevent matting. Most Yorkshire Terrier owners simply keep the hair clipped short. To avoid expensive grooming bills, you might want to go the do-it-yourself route and pick up your own grooming kit.

Photo of a long-haired Yorkshire Terrier with a bow on her head
With their fine, human-like hair, Yorkies practically beg to be dolled up.

Shedding. Despite what you might think, these pups do not shed a lot. There’s some disagreement about whether they should be classified as hypoallergenic, but people with sensitivities or allergies may find them easier to tolerate than other breeds.

Yorkie Style. For those who like to doll up their pooches with fabulous clothes and hairstyles, the Yorkshire Terrier is a natural choice. Many owners enjoy dressing them with bows, dresses, tuxedos, and Halloween costumes.

A Yorkshire Terrier dressed in a tuxedo
Yes, dressing Yorkies in tuxedos is a real thing

Still interested in getting a Yorkshire Terrier? If you’re looking for a puppy, there are plenty of reputable breeders to choose from. At the same time, there are many disreputable breeders looking to cash in on the breed’s popularity. To make sure you get a healthy dog, do your homework and be skeptical of pricing that seems too good to be true.

If you can manage it, an even better choice is to adopt a Yorkie through a shelter or rescue organization. Because there are so many Yorkies in circulation, the odds of find one to adopt are pretty good.