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Yorkie Behavior & Temperament

Overview of Temperament and Personality

The Yorkshire Terrier is one of the most popular dogs, not only because of their very cute appearance, but also because of their unique and charming personalities.

While, in general, the Yorkie is a very happy and amusing companion, each dog does have their very own unique personalities. Each Yorkie will have their own little traits and quirks. Ranked #17 out of 90 in regard to intelligence, this breed can learn quite a bit if an owner invests the time.

Let's discuss general known temperament traits and what shapes the personality of this dog breed.
Yorkshire Terrier Temperament in General

The Yorkie is known for their:
  • Intelligence - Above average for canines- generally easy to house train when using proper methods
  • Courage
  • Independence
  • Energy - most are up for exercise or play time any time!
Yorkie behavior
Sadie, 7 months old
Photo courtesy of Paige B.
As with many toy breeds, the Yorkie does not seem to know just how small they are! The Yorkie's personality towards people outside of the home vary greatly, from barking at every stranger to other Yorkies that greet each one with kisses. 
Yorkie half under blanket
Bella Garcia, 1 year old
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Velazquez
Shaping The Yorkie's Personality

The first 3 months of a Yorkie's life greatly influences the dog's personality, temperament and behavior. It is the breeder of the dog who takes a great role in shaping the dog's behavior and if in their new home before 3 months old, their owner will continue the great influence during these first 3 months. Many Yorkie behavioral problems are due to a failure to receive proper care when very young.

What element is the most important in helping to create a happy, friendly, outgoing dog?

Socialization. This is the key to shaping personality and teaching a dog what the world is all about. A Yorkie will be well adjusted when growing up with regular household noises. This will include all that a dog will encounter with their new family, from the TV to the washing machine to the doorbell ringing.

Part of caring for a Yorkie involves gradually allowing the pup to become accustomed to human voices and touch is vital. The difference between a dog raised in a wire cage with rarely a human touch to a dog raised in the living room with cuddles, kisses and play time is enormous. When a dog is held, bathed, groomed, cuddled and played with during the first 3 months, this creates a puppy that is comfortable with people and the world around him or her.  If after receiving all puppy shots, that pup is introduced to new people, brought to new places and put in various safe situations in a gradual way, he is on his way to being a self-confident dog.
While the personality is most influenced during this very young puppy stage, a dog of just about any age can be shaped by the environment that he is in.
What type of Home Encourages a Well Behaved Yorkie?

At any age, there are elements in the home that will help a Yorkshire Terrier be well behaved and happy. The key is to provide an environment which makes the dog feel safe and allows the dog to know where they fall in the "pack".

Let's first discuss the environment. What will encourage a dog to be well balanced?

Having a daily schedule. Dogs are most happy when they know what to expect and when. This offers them security and the feeling of knowing that they are loved. A Yorkie should have each day consist of:
  • A Waking time (A day runs smoother when your dog wakes at the same time as you do)
  • Feeding times (Following proper feeding schedules keeps a dog happy and establishes you as the leader)
  • Grooming times (for brushings, baths, dental care and nail care)
  • Exercise times (for robust bursts of exercise)
  • Walking times (for lighter exercise and to have the opportunity to explore the neighborhood with you)
  • Play times (both independent with their dog toys and interaction play time with you and other family members)
  • Quiet time (for naps and to relax after exercising, etc)
  • Bed time (knowing what time they are expected to relax and retreat to their bed helps to keep everyone happy)
Who is the Leader?

The Yorkshire Terrier breed is known for their independence, but this does not mean that this dog wants to live on its own, even could or would be happy doing so!

All dog breeds have a deep instinct to be in a pack. Long ago, dogs lived in packs and it was always clear who the leader of the pack was. When a dog does not fully understand who the leader is, this can cause great emotional stress to the dog. Each day becomes a struggle of having to test to see who is in charge.

The owner of a Yorkie, to have a well behaved dog, must lovingly show that they are the leader of the home. An owner does this in many ways. When an owner feeds the Yorkie, performs grooming needs, takes the dog for walks (and remains in control of the walk), plays with the dog (when the dog rolls over to expose their belly, they are showing that they understand their human owner is the leader), and, importantly, trains the Yorkie to obey commands...these are all ways of showing the Yorkie that the human in in charge and the dog is a loved and cherished family member.

Some owners unknowingly allow a Yorkie to be the leader. Not assuming that such a small dog would even assume that they would be leader, an owner can allow this to happen by:
  • Not teaching commands
  • Giving in to begging
  • Not standing firm when they require the dog to listen
A Yorkie can take advantage of this...and it leads to behavioral issues. The best way to keep the home running smoothly is to establish the "order of the pack" from day 1.
Quirks and Odd Behavior

Many owners are confused about a Yorkie's behavior. Let's discuss in detail the sometimes amusing and sometimes confusing Yorkie behavior issues such as rolling in the grass, being overly shy, hyperventilating and more! See More:


The Yorke has a bit of a reputation for being a "Digger". While not all Yorkies love to dig, many do. This has been instilled into the breed since its first days in England. However, with a bit of understanding and simple training techniques, you can train your dog to stop digging. See more: Yorkie Digging Behavior.
You may also wish to see: Aggression
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