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When a Yorkshire Terrier is Acting Moody


When taken care of properly, dogs in general are pretty upbeat animals and we can almost always count on them to make us smile and lend to a happy, vibrant household. So when a Yorkie starts to act moody for no apparent reason owners are quick to notice and quick to wonder what is causing changes in temperament.

Studies have shown that canines have the capacity to show emotion equivalent to 2.5 to 3 year old humans, and therefore are quite able to express excitement, distress, contentment, disgust (this one surprises many people), fear, anger, joy, suspicion, shyness and affection/love.  

And this means that our Yorkshire Terriers can become sullen or irritable or stop showing expressions of joy and contentment, which leads to the puppy or dog to be labeled as being moody.

This section will go over:
  • Signs & Symptoms 
  • The top reasons why a Yorkie may act moody
  • Gender reasons - why male and female Yorkies may have mood swings
  • Ways to bring your Yorkie out of a slump
  • When it is time to contact the veterinarian
  • Acute vs chronic moodiness
Signs that a Yorkie is Having Mood Issues

It's normal for dogs to have times of being more quiet when they are tired and behaving more energetic when they are excited; however in regard to having what would be considered a problem with being moody, a dog will display one or more of the following symptoms (please keep in mind that these are also indications of an injury or illness and more will be discussed ahead in that regard):

Sullen or depressed behavior - There may be negative body language; the puppy or dog may not wag his tail, not show any physical signs of being happy and/or walk slower than normal or even 'hang his head'. If the dog is missing an animal friend or a human owner, he may search the house while appearing to be depressed. 

Decreased interaction - It's very common for owners to believe that their Yorkie is mad at them when in fact the dog is struggling with a problem since the Yorkshire Terrier may act withdrawn. He may not want to play games that he once enjoyed such as fetch or Hide n' Seek, may not want to cuddle on the couch and even may not come when called. In some cases, the puppy or dog may hide behind furniture to rest instead of curling up in his favorite spot. 

Changes in appetite - Eating less than normal often goes hand in hand with moody behavior. Owners report that their Yorkie may only pick at his food or outright refuse to eat. 
Yorkie moodiness
Kelvin, 20 months old
Photo courtesy of Kelly, Edward and Ava James
Agitation - The puppy or dog may appear to be in a bad mood; he may growl if approached too closely or if an owner tries to pick him up. The Yorkie may also show a low tolerance for other pets or even noises that he previously had no problem with. 

Changes in sleeping patterns- This may include having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. For others, there may be excessively sleeping and more naps than normal.

Whimpering - Some dogs will softly whine or whimper when feeling down, as if they are softly crying. 

Reasons Why a Yorkshire Terrier may Be Moody - Both Genders

There are several common reasons for this sort of change in a dog's disposition: 

1) A change in environment - While some dogs will quickly adapt to new situations and routines, one of the most common causes for a Yorkie suddenly acting strangely quiet or acting grumpy is a change to what he is used to. This may include the loss of another pet (in most cases this is another animal that was living in the house, however in some cases this may be the disappearance of a dog that was played with on a regular basis such as a friend or neighbor's dog), or the loss of a human family member.

Moving to a new house or a big upset in a dog's routine (owner changes from day to night work shift, etc.) may also cause him to react negatively. 

How to help: In the event of the loss of another pet or a human family member, the saying 'time will heal' is often the case. Owners should expect that a Yorkshire Terrier needs to move through the grief process similar to how everyone else will need to cope as well. This is of course, a very difficult time for everyone and since there can be a general sad vibe in the house, it's not an easy hurdle to overcome.

The Yorkie's daily schedule should be followed as much as possible, since dogs do find comfort in familiarity. In addition, one of the best methods to help a sad dog is to offer a new experience. Many moody and gloomy pets will not show much enthusiasm for their normal walk, but will perk up when introduced to something novel. Bringing your Yorkie to an 'easy' walk hiking trail, taking him into the local pet store to have a look around or even exploring the shores of the ocean or a lake together can help. These are all stimulating activities that cause a dog to move his focus to something new and when done on a regular basis, can give him something to look forward to.

There are pros and cons of offering a puppy or dog a shirt or other article of clothing that holds the scent of a missing guardian (or the toys of another dog that has passed on)… in one regard this can give a dog some comfort, however on the other hand it can prolong the grieving process. Many dogs do better when reminders are slowly removed so that they can start to gradually come out of their moods. 

If you are thinking about bringing a new puppy or dog into the house to offer a new friend to your Yorkie, this should only be done once the mourning process is over and the dog has proven to have a better mind set. Changes such as this, when done too early, can exasperate a dog sullen mood by causing more stress. Depending on how close the bond was and how much time when spent with the owner or other pet, the time needed to recover generally ranges from 1 to 3 months. 

If your Yorkshire Terrier has been moody since moving to a new home, do keep in mind that it is normal for there to be a period of adjustment. Dogs are creatures of habit and it can be disturbing to them to have everything switched around and seemingly thrown up in the air. Maintaining some sense of fluency such as having the Yorkie's food and water bowls in the kitchen corner near the slider and the bed in the living room near the sofa can help make the transition smoother. Take time to lead the dog through the house each day until he is comfortable and also walk the perimeter of the house so that he can start to gain a good idea of what constitutes his territory. 
Yorkshire Terrier up on bed
Wolfgang Amadeus Duffner, 6 years old
Photo courtesy of Sarah Duffner
2) Not enough exercise - This is a commonly overlooked problem, however as soon as owners realize that this may be the reason for a Yorkie's moodiness, it is usually easily and quickly resolved. Exercise does so much for a dog and if a Yorkshire Terrier goes even more than just a few days without this, it can alter his mood. When taken out for 1 to 2 brisk walks per day (lasting at least 20 minutes), this allows a dog to release pent-up energy. Similar to how a human develops cabin fever when home too much, canines often suffer from this as well. In addition, being forced to limit his canine senses can have an effect on mood; dogs are happier creatures when they see new sights, hear new noises and smell interesting scents; none of this happens when stuck in the house.
How to help: The most common reasons for a decrease in exercise are time management and weather. In regard to time, it's normal to feel that there is never enough of it to do all that needs to be done, however when tasks are prioritized and/or if tasks are divided among all family members, there should be room in a 16 hour waking day for 40 minutes of 20 minute walks even if this means getting up a tad earlier or changing dinner to a half hour later. Setting alarm reminders and/or keeping track of whose job it is to walk the dog each day can help keep things on schedule. 
3) Lack of mental stimulation - Dogs led far less complicated lives than we do, however it's a good idea to not be too compliance in regard to providing your Yorkie with an interesting life. Can a dog just sit around all day? Sure, he can, however he would much rather have set times of fun, interactive play and some challenges as well. Simply put, dogs can become quite bored with a boring life and when they relive this repetition for weeks or even months, it can most certainly lead to moderate to severe bad moods. 

How to help: First, you'll want to look at your Yorkshire Terrier's overall schedule and it can be helpful to jot this down so that you can really see the big picture. Write down feeding times, when baths are given, when grooming such as brushing and nail trimming is done, the times that walks are taken and any other tasks that would be part of a normal week. You may then see that your Yorkie has quite a bit of down time. While you do not need to fill your dog's day with excitement around the clock, some scheduled times of 'canine fun' can be just the thing to bring a sullen dog out of his funk and feeling better. 

An activity that dogs find enjoyable and that allows dogs to use their incredible senses is to seek out food via scent. (A new toy that has one swipe of peanut butter on it can also be used once the dog learns to search on command). Whether done indoor or outside (outdoors is more challenging and dogs love this), foraging for a treat gives a Yorkie a nice break from monotony and gives the dog a sense of accomplishment (and a yummy reward) when done.
Be sure to offer lots of excited encouragement if your Yorkie is not used to being asked to find something and as he gets better at the game, keep it challenging by making the treat/toy harder to find. 

Another strategy is to play puzzle games together. These are canine maze games meant for owner and dog to interact for a goal to be reached. Via levers pushed with paws or buttons pressed with the nose, hidden treats are released when a dog learns what to do with his owner's help. 

4) The winter blues - Canines can suffer from SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) just as we can. It is a type of seasonal depression that creeps in as the days become shorter and the dog's body has less exposure to sunlight hours. This affects the production of both melatonin and serotonin which play a role in mood, sleep and appetite. An interesting study done in the UK showed that 40% of dogs appear moodier in the winter months and more than 50% slept more than warmer months. 

Since many owners also walk their dogs less during cold and/or stormy weather, if a Yorkshire Terrier seems to get moody each winter, this is often a 'double whammy' of a problem. 

How to help: If your Yorkie shows quite a bit of moodiness in the winter, there are a few things that you can do as well as prepare yourself to start doing them again the following autumn to try and help prevent this sort of seasonal mood disorder. Increased exposure to sunlight is the main treatment and this can involve more walks and/or outings which may need to be timed differently than normal to be outdoors when the sun is brightest as well as more lighting inside.

Owners should access if they themselves are dressing appropriately to comfortably stay outside with their dogs and many Yorkies do best when a lined vest or warm sweater is placed on them before heading out into temperatures that are 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. For frozen surfaces, protect the paws with a quality paw balm. 

*** For super cute clothes, recommended superior paw wax & fun interactive games to offer fun to a bored dog, look to both 'Clothes', 'Toys - Owner & Yorkie Together' and 'Grooming' in the Yorkie Specialty Shoppe

Encouraging your dog to rest or play near a window does aide to a small degree and for pets that have quite severe winter blues, speaking to your Yorkie's veterinarian regarding the use of a certified light box for 15 to 30 minutes per day may be needed to help a dog emerge from this sort of mood disorder since lamps and other indoor lighting do very little to help with this issue. 
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5) Health issues - All of the above signs of being moody are also indications of an injury or illness. Essentially, anytime that a puppy or dog is feeling sick this can affect his mood. And the thing to remember is that a down mood may be the first sign before anything else manifests. A Yorkshire Terrier may have a low grade fever and/or be suffering from internal pain (and if he is eating less that is a symptom in and of itself)… it may not be until later that the dog will exhibit other more obvious signs of illness such as limping or coughing and by then you've missed the early window to have the condition diagnosed early.  

For this reason, it is recommended to bring your Yorkie in for a full and complete checkup regardless of when the last visit was or whether or not there are other symptoms.

Hypoglycemia and parasites are concerns with young puppies, canine cognitive disorder is always a concern with senior dogs and just about every other health issue from abnormal kidney function to diabetes to a UTI may be the cause of moodiness in a Yorkie of any age. The 3 top health issues seen with this breed are patellar luxation, Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, (both of these cause pain; though limping is almost always present) and prtosystemic shunts (abnormal blood flow in the liver of which changes in behavior are one of the signs).

Since treatment is more effective and prognosis is better the earlier a condition is detected, moodiness that does not fit an environmental or life style factor or that which lasts for more than one week should be brought to the attention of the vet. 
Gender Specific Moodiness

Females - For females that are not spayed and therefore enter in and out of heat cycles, it is not uncommon for there to be mood swings due to changing hormone levels. A female may act moody well before there are any physical signs of heat such as a swollen vulva or discharge. In addition, it is thought that female dogs do experience abdominal cramping since contractions are taking place, which can also lead to changes in behavior including acting clingy or withdrawn.

For depressed moods that seem to develop in conjunction with entering heat, it's best to make the puppy or dog as comfortable as possible. Placing a warm heating pad on your Yorkie's bed may help with cramping (always keep this on the low setting, stay in the same room to supervise and offer this for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off). 

A female Yorkie may also display some aggression issues during the heat cycle. This may include barking, nipping and/or growling at certain triggers or even physical fighting with another female dog in the household. It is best to limit exposure to known triggers and to separate dogs if there is a history of altercations. 
female Yorkshire Terrier moodiness
Tabitha , 3 years old
Photo courtesy of Ty & Tiffany Howard 
Females can also have exceedingly strong urges to mate once they enter the fertile phase of heat and this can cause a female Yorkshire Terrier to make escape attempts during this time. If a female does have urges to mate, she may act very restless at home, appear agitated and/or be disobedient. 

Spaying a female has a lot of benefits other than the obvious ones of ending the heat cycle and stopping any possible future unplanned pregnancies; it improves behavior, eliminates hormone related mood changes, reduces the risk of pyometra (1 in 4 un-spayed dogs develop this type of infection of the uterus), mastitis (infection of the mammary glands), uterine and breast cancer. 
male Yorkshire Terrier jumping
Toby, 8 months old
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Steele
Males - Intact males can have a range of behavior issues that are related to mating urges, which unlike females, can occur at all times, year-round. An un-neutered male Yorkshire Terrier may display aggression, anxiety, frustration and/or obsessive compulsive behavior. He may try and hump other dogs (both females and intact males) and either beg to go outside or try to escape.

There is little that can be done to calm down a souped-up frustrated male Yorkie, since his urges are exceedingly strong despite his tiny stature. If there are no plans to use the dog as a stud, you may want to give serious thought to having him neutered. Having a male dog fixed often cures marking issues, reduces aggression or dominance behavior, often helps with hormone related moodiness that includes acting antsy or anxious, can stop humping problems and even can reduce his odds of being attacked by another male dog (unfixed males are more of a target for aggressive dogs). It also reduces the risk of prostate issues and prevents testicular cancer (7% of unfixed males will develop this).
When to Bring Your Yorkie to the Vet for Moodiness

Without other symptoms, the decision is often based off of acute VS chronic moodiness and if steps to treat environment or lifestyle triggers do not offer enough relief. Since dogs can have slight mood swings, personal preferences (which cannot always be met) and can have temporary reactions to certain triggers, random and infrequent moodiness is often nothing to be concerned about.
If your Yorkie has a marked change in mood that lasts for more than 3 days and there is no clear cut reason as to why (such as a move to a new house or the loss of a loved one), it is suggested to bring him/her to the vet for a full examination. This should include a urinalysis, CBC (complete blood count) and full physical. 

Some red flags that may accompany mood changes that require immediate veterinary treatment include but are not limited to: not eating to the point of losing weight, fever, coughing, trouble breathing, major changes in sleep, intolerance to exercise and signs of pain. 
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