Yorkies and the Quest for the Perfect Family Dog

Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM

Yorkie with a boy

Yorkshire terriers are intelligent, independent, courageous, and confident.

These petite canines are an energetic breed, often ready to play at the drop of a hat.

Their small size and playful demeanor make them seem like ideal family dogs.

Still, there is far more to consider before settling on a Yorkie.

Yorkies make excellent family dogs in homes with older children. Children, however, must be taught how to treat and handle Yorkies properly, as they do not tolerate prodding, poking, tugging, or excessive handling. Babies, toddlers, and young children may not be an ideal match for this small breed.

With my background as a veterinary doctor, I’ll look into everything about Yorkies. While on your quest for the perfect family dog, you’ll want to consider how the breed deals with children, their size, space requirements, potential aggression, and more.

Read on to learn more about Yorkies and how they will fit in your family.

Are Yorkies Good With Kids?

Some people believe that since Yorkies are a small breed, they’re ideal for homes with children—after all, they can’t knock children over with their size.

However, their small size is a huge factor in why Yorkies may not be ideal for homes with small children. 

This section will discuss how Yorkies fare in homes with babies, toddlers, and older children.

Babies

Yorkie on a pregnant woman

Raising a Yorkie alongside a newborn seems like an ideal way to socialize the two and get them used to one another, but you must take precautions.

Yorkies may become aggravated by babies and young children, leading to growling and snapping.

Remember, they do not display these behaviors out of aggression but out of self-protection.

A puppy’s growth stages significantly impact their behavior as any traumatic experiences from 8 to 11 weeks can affect them for life.

This includes trauma from loud sounds (i.e., a baby’s cries), being tugged on, pulled, or any other negative encounter.

As they age, a Yorkie will begin to test boundaries. Biting behavior may begin during adolescence and must be discouraged immediately.

Yorkshire terriers are more prone to sound anxiety than other breeds, and any loud, unexpected sounds can lead to anxiety.

A fearful dog is a potentially aggressive dog. While not inherently vicious, reputable breeders and rescues will not typically place a Yorkshire terrier in a home with babies.

Helping Your Yorkie Adjust to a New Baby

Babies need a lot of love and attention, which could potentially cause a Yorkie to show jealousy.

Christine Harris, a psychologist, experimented with her colleague to assess jealousy in canines. 

In the experiment, 78% of dogs, including Yorkshire terriers, would attempt to stop their owner from showing attention to a fake, stuffed dog.

The study suggested that dogs do, in fact, show jealousy and that they may attempt to break that bond.

A Yorkie may see a baby as a rival as opposed to a family member.

That is not to say that it is impossible to raise a Yorkie with a baby.

When trained and socialized correctly, a Yorkie can be a faithful and tolerant companion. Even still, it’s necessary to supervise these dainty canines around babies at all times. 

Toddlers

Yorkie with a toddler

Yorkies are energetic. While they can keep up with even the most hyper of children, younger children can easily injure a Yorkie.

Toddlers tend to be clumsy, and off-balance and a child could severely harm a 7-pound (3.18 kg) Yorkie if he trips over or falls on them.

As with babies, Yorkies need constant supervision around small children.

Training and socialization are the keys to a successful relationship between Yorkies and young children.

They can get along, but both the child and dog must have very clear boundaries and respect training.

Older Kids

Well-trained Yorkshire terriers are generally tolerant of older children, assuming the kids are respectful of the dog.

Yorkies will still need a designated space in the home where they can go if they feel the need to get away from any commotion.

This is for the safety of the dog as well as the child.

Many rescues and reputable breeders will happily place a Yorkie in a home with older children.

Teaching children the proper way to care for and handle a Yorkie is just as important as obedience training for the dog.

With time, effort, training, and socialization, Yorkies can make excellent companions for older children.

Is the Yorkie the Right Size for Your Family?

Yorkies are small breed dogs, standing at around 7 or 8 inches (18 cm to 20 cm) and weighing about 7 pounds (3 kg) on average.

Because of their small size, they are prone to injury from falls, stairs, and improper handling.

Due to the risk of injury, adults in the home should expect to handle all of the regular duties, including bathing, walking, and grooming.

Older children may be taught these tasks, but supervision is necessary until they’re more experienced.

Adults should never delegate these jobs to younger children.

Stairs and other high surfaces are potential hazards for Yorkies, so you should utilize baby gates to block access to these areas.

When on beds or couches, do not allow Yorkies to jump down on their own.

There are dog stairs or ramps available that would enable Yorkies to get on and off furniture safely.

Because of their small size, Yorkies have tiny bladders. As a result, they are notoriously difficult to housebreak.

They cannot hold urine in for a long time, so accidents are inevitable.

Older children can get involved in housebreaking by leashing the Yorkie and taking them outside to relieve themselves.

How Much Living Space Does the Yorkie Need?

Yorkies are small, so they adapt well to small living spaces. Apartments, condos, and homes with small yards are acceptable for these miniature canines.

Playing fetch in the living room and walks around the block are good exercises for Yorkshire terriers—be careful in crowds.

Carrying a Yorkie is recommended in public, as their small size makes it easy for them to be stepped on.

Regular interaction with humans is an absolute necessity for this breed.

They are incredibly social creatures and rely heavily on love, affection, and attention.

They are indoor dogs, through-and-through. Their long coat can become dirty, tangled, and matted if left outdoors for long periods without grooming.

More importantly, they are more susceptible to the elements due to their small stature.

Can Yorkies Cause Allergies?

Yorkies do not shed like other breeds, but hair is typically lost through brushing and bathing.

This reduced shedding has alluded to the idea that Yorkshire terriers are “hypoallergenic.”

However, it is not usually a dog’s fur or hair that causes an allergic reaction. More often, it is a dog’s dander and saliva

In short, yes, Yorkies can cause allergic reactions. Those with dog allergies should probably avoid owning a dog altogether.

Woman kidding a yorkie

Do They Bark a Lot?

Yorkshire terriers are very vocal, which makes them excellent for guarding the home and alerting owners of intruders.

However, in families with young children or babies, excessive barking can be a nuisance.

Fortunately, unnecessary barking can be “trained out” of a Yorkie with obedience training and regular exercise.

Are Yorkies Aggressive?

Yorkshire terriers are not considered aggressive by nature.

However, as with any dog, they may snap, growl, or bite if they’re frightened, surprised, or aggravated, even if unintentionally.

Young children, especially, should be watched around Yorkies.

Children should never be allowed to do the following to your Yorkshire terrier:

  • Pull on their hair
  • Tug on their tails
  • “Ride” them like a horse
  • Squeeze them
  • Pick them up
  • Yell at them
  • Hit or kick them

These behaviors in children should be corrected immediately.

Yorkies have a protective nature. Without proper training, this can lead to aggression towards strangers or other individuals they deem a threat.

Socialization from a young age is necessary to avoid these situations.

How you let your Yorkie behave has a significant impact on how they develop.

Unfortunately, small dogs tend to get a pass when it comes to poor behavior.

But, just because they’re tiny doesn’t mean that they should be able to jump on people, bark at your friends, or snap at others.

These are dominant behaviors, and without correction, your terrier will rule the household.

Yorkie

You can train any unwanted behaviors out of a Yorkie with consistent socialization, daily exercise, obedience training, and positive reinforcement.

Fortunately, they are intelligent, quick to catch on, and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train.

What About Families With Seniors?

A well-trained Yorkie might be a suitable companion for homes with seniors. Still, it depends more on the senior than the dog.

Individuals who have trouble with mobility could be at more risk of injury with a small dog.

While a Yorkie is unlikely to trample anyone, they may get under seniors’ feet, causing trips and falls.

If not properly trained, a Yorkie may also jump on them and cause an already unbalanced individual to topple over.

Another factor to consider is that Yorkies are somewhat high-maintenance in terms of grooming.

They need a home where their daily needs will be met, including daily hair and teeth brushing, as they’re susceptible to matting and periodontal disease.

Additionally, Yorkies are prone to health issues. They should be placed in a home with an owner that can take care of their veterinary health needs.

For self-sufficient seniors of sound mind, a Yorkie could make an ideal companion.

Keep in mind that Yorkies can live to be 17-years-old. For this reason, many rescues feel that it is best to home senior Yorkies with senior citizens.

How Do They Get Along With Other Dogs?

As mentioned earlier in this post, Yorkies are very social animals. Their need for interaction is so strong that many suffer from separation anxiety.

Many owners will get two Yorkshire terriers so that they can keep one another company.

With that said, yes, Yorkies generally do well with other dogs. 

Two yorkies

The most harmonious pairing seems to be a male and a female of the same breed.

Spaying and neutering will help tone down any unwanted hormone-fueled situations.

Yorkies can get along with other dog breeds, although large breed dogs can injure Yorkies during play.

Yorkies have a strong prey drive, so with animals such as cats, there must be proper introduction and socialization to prevent negative encounters.

Introducing a Yorkie to a cat while they’re both still young is ideal.

Yorkies also tend to do better in homes where cats are already well-established versus bringing a new cat into your Yorkie’s home.

Conclusion

All-in-all, Yorkshire terriers have the potential to be incredible family companions.

They are small, energetic, playful, and intelligent. However, their small size makes them more susceptible to injury, and their hair makes them somewhat high maintenance.

All of these are factors that You should consider before adopting a Yorkie into your family.

Training and socialization are the keys to creating and maintaining a harmonious environment between your family and your Yorkie—and training isn’t limited to just the dog!

All household members, children included, must know how to treat and handle a Yorkshire terrier.

2 yorkies with birthday hats

References

  • Ucdavis.edu: Critical Periods in Puppy Development
  • Anxiety.org: Why and How Dogs Can Suffer From Anxiety Disorders
  • National Geographic: Dogs Get Jealous Too
  • Broadview University: Which Dog Should I Adopt If I Have Kids?
  • American Kennel Club: Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie) Dog Breed Information
  • American Pet Registry: Yorkshire Terrier
  • Service Dog Certifications: Can a Yorkie Be a Service Dog?
  • The New York Times: Nonallergenic Dog? Not Really
  • Countryside Veterinary Clinic: Yorkshire Terrier
  • Yorkie Rescue Houston: Seniors For Seniors Adoption Policy

Click here to read my one-page Yorkie parent’s guide

Marcelle Landestoy

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