The Yorkshire Terrier is a great dog breed, and one of the most popular, even by the American Kennel Club’s standards. It makes sense why so many people flock to Yorkies. They are small and compact, incredibly affectionate, and exceptionally adorable to boot. Yes, the Yorkie may be the perfect family dog, but how smart are Yorkies? And if they are, how smart are they?
While there are several metrics to measure intelligence, you may be pleased to hear that your Yorkies are considered intelligent dogs by almost every measurable metric, and even by a few metrics that are harder to quantify. In some circumstances, Yorkies may even be too intelligent for their own good. Either way, the answer to the question “are Yorkies smart dogs” ends up being a fairly resounding yes.
Yorkie Breed Overview
Yorkies are one of the smallest breeds around, only growing to around 7 or 8 inches and only weighing in the neighborhood of 6 to 7 pounds. Their micro size makes them great for almost any household, but don’t confuse their small size for being perfect for small spaces. Yorkies are high-energy dogs that are incredibly playful and need a lot of interaction to keep their fast-paced, intelligent dog brains satisfied.
Yorkies are long-haired dogs with silky fur, but they shed surprisingly little, despite all the hair. They do require a fair amount of grooming though, at least daily combing.
Yorkies are natural guard dogs, big on alerting the family if there is an intruder, but this also makes them fairly yappy dogs, barking fairly constantly. You’ll need to be used to a fairly noisy dog because even when trained, Yorkies feel the need to warn their owners of any intrusion or anything that seems out of place.
A major reason for this is how affectionate and attached Yorkies are to humans. They are very loving dogs that bond quickly and permanently with a family. They are great with children as well, but they have a tendency to get a little jealous of other dogs, so Yorkies tend to be more ideal in single-pet homes.
How Smart Are Yorkies?
Are Yorkies smart? When determining if dogs are smart, there are a few different factors to consider. Human-animal psychologist Stanley Coren created a three-pronged system to measure dogs’ intelligence, evaluating their IQ based on:
- Work and Obedience Capacity
Instinctiveness refers to a dog’s ability to do a job on instinct with very little training, like the way an Australian Shepherd seems predisposed to herd sheep or a Jack Russel’s natural ability to hunt rodents. Yorkies show instinctive intelligence in their own hunting abilities. Yorkies were originally used to catch rats in warehouses and clothing mills, and their desire and natural ability to hunt small rodents still persists today. This shows intelligence not just because they naturally chase rats, but Yorkies tend to show a natural skill at it, being able to track and predict the path of the rodent for effective catching.
Adaptiveness is defined as the dog’s ability to adapt to its environment. Some dogs can thrive in almost any environment, while some need very specific locations and climates to be at their best physical and mental health. While this kind of intelligence can vary wildly from Yorkie to Yorkie, the American Kennel Club actually rates Yorkies as being incredibly high on the adaptability chart, able to survive and thrive in a variety of climates and locations.
The only problem with Instinctive and Adaptive intelligence is that they are difficult to quantify, but the intelligence identifier, the capacity for work and obedience, is much more quantifiable. Essentially, dogs are ranked and placed into categories based on how many repetitions it takes for a dog to learn a command and the rate at which the dog successfully obeys a command. Stanley Coren, working with the AKC (American Kennel Club)and the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club), ran this test on over 90 pure breeds and ranked them. Yorkies did really well, ranking 27th out of 90 breeds of intelligent dogs. They were one of the few smaller breeds to be considered highly intelligent dogs, being labeled as above-average working dogs. This meant that a Yorkie could generally learn a command after 15 to 25 repetitions and would successfully obey the command 75% of the time.
While they may not be the most intelligent dogs, Yorkies are smart dogs with a great capacity for learning and obedience.
Can Yorkies Be Easily Trained?
Since Yorkies are incredibly smart dogs, they are very capable of being trained to be just about anything you want them to be. Again, the AKC rates them very highly as adaptable dogs, and their score as above-average working dogs quantifiably shows that they can be incredibly obedient.
However, this does not mean that training them is exceptionally easy. You have a few factors working against you when training a Yorkie:
- Yorkies are high energy, so getting them to calm down to focus on a new command or task can be challenging.
- Yorkies require lots of attention and mental stimulation, so you are going to need to be there with them a lot. Yorkies are not great at being left alone, and they can be a bit destructive when they are bored.
- While Yorkies are loving and affectionate, they can also be a bit stubborn (often a consequence of high intelligence).
So, while the capacity to learn is definitely there, Yorkies to present some unique challenges when it comes to training. However, these challenges can be minimized with a few simple tips.
Ways to Increase a Yorkie’s Intelligence
If you want to increase your Yorkie’s intelligence and obedience, here are a few things to do:
- Be patient. Yorkies are easily distracted, so keep in mind that you will have to refocus them when training.
- Start with simple, one-word commands. Yorkies are capable of understanding plenty, but since their little minds are running at 100 miles per hour, they are likely to get confused if your commands are too complicated.
- Have training sessions in empty, quiet rooms. Yorkies love to play, it’s part of what makes them great pets, but when it comes to training, they need to be focused on your commands. The more distractions, the harder it will be to train your Yorkie, so try to find a quiet place and make sure all the toys are put away.
- Establish dominance and control as early as possible. Yorkies are stubborn, and if they think they can walk all over you, they will. However, they are also very eager to please and be shown affection, so as long as you can establish that you are the one in charge as early as possible, you’ll find them much easier to work with.
- Give them challenging puzzle toys. They may not look like it, but Yorkies were bred to hunt. Their brains crave the stimulation of the hunt, the tracking, sniffing out, and predicting the path of their prey. Give them puzzle-based toys that allow them to use those skills. Not only will they have more fun with them, but they will also be more mentally stimulated, increasing their intelligence.
How Smart Are Yorkies As Compared Other Breeds?
Out of 90 breeds of purebred dogs, Yorkies ranked 27th. While this isn’t the top 10, Yorkies are considered in the top third of most pure dog breeds that are recognized by the AKC and CKC. Most of the dogs that ranked higher than the Yorkie tended to be larger dogs with very breed-specific jobs, like Sheepdogs and Border Collies. So, while many other dogs score higher in intelligence than the Yorkie, the Yorkie is one of the smarter small dogs, outranking Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, and Chihuahuas.
While not the absolute smartest dogs, Yorkies are highly intelligent dogs that are a great mixture of clever and affectionate. Since most of the more intelligent dogs are large dogs that may not be adaptable to most home environments, the Yorkie provides a perfect mixture of fun, adaptability, and trainability. This is one of the primary reasons why the Yorkie is a perfect family dog, not just because of its loving nature, but also because of its intelligence.
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