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Yorkie Intelligence

Figuring Out Just How Smart Yorkshire Terriers Are

When it comes to determining Yorkie intelligence, there is actually a very respectable guide for doing so. Many owners will find resource information that tends to generalize the breed and one often finds that while looking for information regarding any purebred, you will read the same things over and over:

Easy to train…Alert…A very smart dog.

However, this section is dedicated to actual facts with professional opinions to determine just how smart this breed is compared to other dogs.

The resource that is one of the most respected in regard to this topic is a book by the title of “The Intelligence of Dogs”, written by a professor of psychology named Stanley Coren in 1994.

He worked at the University of British Columbia, which is located in Vancouver. Well known in his field, his findings are looked when measuring the intellect of purebred canines.
Yorkshire Terrier Intelligence
Sadie Mae, 1 year, 2 months old
Photo courtesy of Michaela Smith
His method of defining intelligence was to divide dogs into 3 groups of intelligence:

1) Instinctive
2) Adaptive
3) Working and Obedience

The first, instinctive, refers to a breed’s ability to perform tasks that it was bred to do. Examples are the Sheepdog in regard to herding…The Beagle in regard to hunting, etc. In other words, how well does the dog perform in regard to aspects that are considered to be instinct… strong urges in the bloodline of the dog.

The 2nd is about a dog’s capability to solve problems on his own.

The 3rd refers to a dog’s skill to learn from humans.
To test as many different dog breeds as possible, including the Yorkshire Terrier, Professor Coren had the cooperation of the AKC (American Kennel Club) and the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club). Both organizations agreed to send out questionnaires to show obedience judges. 199 judges in all took the time to evaluate all purebred dogs that they judged during their years in the show ring.  
Yorkie intelligence
Princess, 2 and 1/2 years old
Photo courtesy of Rebi Laudick
When looking at the final results, Prof. Coren found that the results were quite similar from all 199 judges involved. Due to the level of agreement in regard to intelligence and the number of professionals who were involved in their assessments, the findings are now referred as the top resource for this topic.

90 different purebreds were listed out. They were grouped into different levels of aptitude:

1. The Smartest Dogs – This group generally understands a new command with less than 5 repetitions and obey the first command 95% of the time (or better)

2. Excellent Working Dogs – This group of dogs generally understands new commands after a person repeats them 5 to 15 times…And the dog obeys the first command 85% of the time (or better)

3. Above Average Working Dogs- Those in this set generally learn new commands after a human repeats it 15 to 25 times and will obey the first command 70% of the time (or better).
Yorkie Intelligence – Where Does the Yorkshire Terrier Stand?
Out of 90 different breeds, the Yorkie places at # 27, in the category of above average intelligence, tying with Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the Puli. 
This means that the Yorkie, overall, will learn a new command after 15 to 25 repetitions. And this means that in general, once a command is learned, a Yorkie will obey it the first time it is spoken, 70% of the time. 

Now, one must understand that this is a sweeping statement. There are plenty of Yorkies that will learn a new word or command after only 5 attempts by their owner…And some will need days to learn something new.

There are many elements that can block the learning process…And this includes distractions, the method that the person uses to teach, the state that the dog is in (hungry, tired, etc.)

So, by no means is the Yorkshire Terrier one of the least intelligent dogs. While not ranking very high on this guide, this breed is smart. They bond quickly with their humans, they are protective, a puppy can be house-trained in just a few weeks and a Yorkie will soak up knowledge for their entire lives.

The more a dog is exposed to new elements, the more that they will learn. Left alone at home, there is little stimulation and little chance to absorb new information.
smart Yorkshire Terrier
Cappy Gagliano, 6 years old
Photo courtesy of Hilda
When given lots of attention, socialization with both humans and other animals, time spent practicing new skills and when spoken to often, a Yorkie can have a high degree of intelligence. 
Quiz to Check How Smart Your Yorkie Is

Here's a fun little test to see how clever your Yorkshire Terrier is. Since much of this has to do with learned skills, this is more accurate for adult dogs that are at least at the 1 year mark:

Jot down your answers to the following 5 questions and then check below once you are done:

1) If your Yorkie finds that his water dish is empty, he then:

A: Lies down beside it and stays quiet
B: Gets your attention by barking
C: Picks up the bowl with his mouth and brings it over to you

2) How many toys can your Yorkshire Terrier identify by name (you call out the name of a particular toy and he brings it to you)?

A: None
B: One or two
C: Just about all of them

3) If you take your Yorkie for walk at just about the same time each day, what usually happens:

A: You have to find him, interrupt what he's doing and bring him for the walk
B: He starts to act a bit restless and seems to know it's time to go
C: He has mouthed his leash and/or is waiting for me by the door

4) How long did it take your Yorkshire Terrier to learn to sit (with consistent training)?

A: He hasn't quite learned it yet (and you've tried teaching him and he is at least one year old)
B: 3 months or longer
C: 2 months or less

5) I can tell what type of mood my Yorkie is in, just by his/her facial expression:

A: Not really; he/she has the same expression no matter what
B: Only with severe moods such as being overly frustrated or exceedingly excited
C: Quite often. My Yorkie has expressions for many emotions and is very easy to read

Okay, time to check your answers...

If you have mostly A's, Yorkie didn't score very high. This can happen if a dog doesn't have enough one-on-one time with his owners and/or is under-stimulated. Trying playing some bonding games together, work on some commands just for fun and take time at least once every 2 weeks to explore a new outside area. It can also help to have a consistent schedule in regard to feedings and walks. 

If you have mostly B's, your Yorkie placed as smart. You're doing a great job in teaching your dog. Since things are going well, why not teach him to understand even more words (toys are the easiest) and work on one extra command just for fun.

If you have mostly C's your Yorkie is displaying a high level of intelligence, cleverness and intuitive thinking. 
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