A Brave Beauty
The Yorkshire terrier is perhaps best known for its fur.
Its famous long, straight silky coat is often seen primped and tied back in a fancy top knot, and adorned with a colorful bow (usually for the girls).
And while there's good reason to fuss so much over this dog's 'do, it isn't the only thing that makes the Yorkshire terrier so highly sought after.
During the mid-1850s, Scottish workers looking for employment in cotton mills and mines in Yorkshire, England, brought with them a variety of terrier dogs to use as pest control. Some of these rat- and mouse-catching terrier breeds included the Skye terrier and the now-extinct paisley and Clydesdale terriers.
As these dogs grew to become pets more than hunters, the breeders in Yorkshire focused on perfecting the appearance of this new type of dog. Selective breeding created today's modern Yorkshire terrier, which can have either a long "shiny" coat or a short, "soft" coat.
By the 1860s, the Yorkshire terrier was a popular lap dog and in 1878 was one of the first 25 dog breeds to be recognized by the American Kennel Association.
Yorkshire terriers tend to believe they're actually large dogs. With a reputation for being eager, loyal to their families and clever minded, these small dogs are big on adventure and show little fear.
Along with their bravado comes a great deal of affection, particularly from Yorkshire terrier puppies, who are known to cuddle excessively during the first several years of their lives.
Intelligent and active, this dog breed strives to be more than just a lap dog. Training is recommended to curb any inclination to become yappy and aggressive toward strangers. They are known to respond very well to training, although potty training may take longer with this sometimes stubborn breed.
Yorkies born with a short, soft coat require less brushing.
The Yorkshire terrier's defining features include its small size and steel blue and tan coat. The average Yorkshire terrier weighs 7 pounds and is six inches tall.
If your Yorkie has a silky long coat, daily grooming and a monthly bath is required in order to maintain a healthy texture. Trimming is sometimes necessary as well. Yorkshire terrier owners who tend to show their dogs in contests will go so far as to lightly oil their dog's coat, then wrap the coat in rice or tissue paper after bathing. Adjustments to the rice paper must be made weekly, so this requires a great deal of commitment to maintain.
Because the coat covering the Yorkie's head is so long it is sometimes necessary to pull it back with a hair apparatus in order to maximize the dog's visibility and prevent it from dragging in the food bowl. While some owners simply trim the fur, others prefer to get creative and fanciful with colored hair bands and bows.
It can take as long as three years for a Yorkshire terrier puppy's coat to reach its final steel blue and tan color. Until then, Yorkie puppies tend to have a black coat with tan tips and sometimes a white "star" on their chest and/or toes that typically fade with age.
While many Web sites and sources suggest that the Yorkshire terrier has a hypoallergenic coat, it should be recognized that no one dog is truly capable of being hypoallergenic.
The difference between coats from one dog breed to the next is the amount of dander (dead skin) and fur it tends to shed. Allergic reactions to dogs are due mainly allergens (proteins) found in saliva and to a lesser extent dander or the urine of dogs.
That being said, the Yorkshire terrier sheds a great deal less on average than many dog breeds. They tend to shed nearly exclusively following a bath or grooming. Of course, there is no guarantee that you or someone in your family will not develop allergies to this particular dog breed.
Yorkshire terriers can suffer from a variety of health conditions. While these may be common medical conditions, your Yorkshire terrier will not necessarily develop those listed below.
- Bladder stones are produced if excess minerals and other waste products solidify or crystallize in the dog's urinary bladder. The stones typically appear in dogs less than 6 years of age and are often the result of portosytemic shunts in Yorkies. Just as in humans, bladder stones cause a great deal of pain for dogs who have them. Immediate care is required by a veterinarian to prevent complications such as severe infection and kidney failure. While the bladder stones can reoccur, dietary modifications are helpful in reducing the incidence of recurrence.
- Congenital hydrocephalus is caused by birth defects of the brain's drainage system and is not uncommon in the breed. Mild hydrocephalus, manifested by a dome shaped skull with a pronounced “soft spot,” does not appear to cause serious clinical problems in many dogs. Severe hydrocephalus may cause depression, loss of coordinated movement, eye abnormalities, vision problems, seizures, and skull enlargement.
- Congenital patellar luxation is caused by anatomical defects of the bones that make up the knee joint. It is manifested by the kneecap (patella) slipping in and out of its normal location in the knee. Mildly affected dogs may carry the leg for 2 or 3 steps while walking. Severely affected dogs may become severely lame and refuse to use their rear legs. Surgical correction of this condition is very rewarding.
- Distichiasis occurs when eyelashes grow in the wrong place on the eyelid and cause an eye irritation which may result in scarred corneas.
- Hypoglycemia happens when a Yorkie puppy's blood sugar is too low. This may be caused by a habitually long period of time between meals. Other environmental factors can exacerbate this condition, including stress, fatigue, a cold environment, poor nutrition or a bacterial infection, parasite or portosystemic shunt. Immediate treatment is required because the condition can be fatal.
- Hypoplasia of dens occurs when there is a congenital abnormality in the dog's 2nd cervical vertebra, leading instability and spinal cord damage. Symptoms may occur at any age; signs include neck pain and sometimes quadriplegia.
- Legg–Calvé–Perthes disease is caused by degeneration of the femoral head of the thigh bone due to poor circulation. The disorder typically appears when the Yorkie is young; signs include pain and lameness of the rear leg. Surgery is necessary to alleviate pain and the lameness associated with the disorder.
- Portosystemic shunt is a congenital malformation of the liver vasculature that results in blood bypassing the liver where toxins and nutrients absorbed from the intestines are normally metabolized prior to entering the circulation. The buildup of “toxins” in the unfiltered blood is responsible for the clinical signs that include small stature, loss of appetite, inadequate muscle development, poor coordination, behavioral abnormalities and seizures.
- Retinal dysplasia refers to abnormal development of the retina. It may be due to an inherited defect or damage caused by a viral infection such as canine herpesvirus or other viral disorders. The result is abnormal development of the retina which could lead to poor vision and sometimes complete blindness.
- Tracheal collapse is caused by poor development and weakening of the trachea walls, becoming more severe with the dog's age. Since this condition is typically aggravated by a Yorkie pulling against his collar, it is recommended that a harness be used instead to prevent irritation and coughing. Chronic irritation and coughing may cause complications, including chronic lung disease and right sided heart enlargement.