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Are Yorkshire Terriers Smart?

Are Yorkshire Terriers Smart?

Do you have a Yorkshire Terrier or are you thinking of getting one? Are you wondering how smart they are as a dog breed? Here’s everything you need to know about the intelligence of Yorkshire Terriers!

Are Yorkshire Terriers Smart? Yes, Yorkshire Terriers are smart with above average intelligence. According to the Stanley Coren study, Yorkshire Terriers are the 27th most intelligent dog breed out of 138 breeds tested. Not only are they intellectually smart, but they’re emotionally smart too.

Read on to find out how a Yorkshire Terriers intelligence is measured, how they did in the Stanley Coren experiment, and whether you can train them to be smarter!

Never use the advice in this article as a substitute for professional veterinary advice or treatment. I am NOT a Vet, qualified dog trainer or dog behaviourist. This article is based on research, personal opinion and experience of owning dogs over the last 12+ years. 

Are Yorkshire Terriers Intelligent?

Yes, Yorkshire Terriers are intelligent dogs! Although they’re small, they have big brains and are smarter than you might think. 

In 1994, a professor of psychology called Stanley Coren published his book ‘The Intelligence Of Dogs’. In this study, he recorded his findings after testing the intelligence of 138 different dog breeds. 

He found Yorkshire Terriers to be the 27th most intelligent breed out of 138 tested breeds. This classifies them as having ‘above average intelligence.’ 

Not bad for a dog that only weighs 7lbs! 

How Is A Yorkshire Terrier’s Intelligence Measured?

In the Stanley Coren experiment, he tested how quickly Yorkshire Terriers were able to learn a new behaviour.

To measure this, he looked at the amount of repetitions needed before the command was known. The more repetitions required, the lower down the rankings that dog breed would go. 

He also looked at how well each dog responded the first time to a command.

If they performed the command well the first time they were asked, they would be considered of higher intelligence.

If it took them more attempts to respond, they would move further down the intelligence list.

How Did Yorkshire Terriers Do In Stanley Coren’s Experiment?

Yorkshire Terriers came 27th out of 138 in Stanley Coren’s experiment. They required between 15 and 25 repetitions before fully understanding a new command.

When faced with a command they already knew, they responded at least 70% of the time when being asked just once. 

They share joint 27th place with the Hungarian Puli and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Both are much larger than Yorkshire Terriers and have been bred for different reasons, so it’s interesting they’re considered to share the same level of intelligence. 

Yorkshire Terrier with head tilted sideways on a bright orange background with a speech bubble that says 'Do you think I'm smart?'
Smart Yorkshire Terrier

Is My Yorkshire Terrier Smarter Than The Experiment Says? 

Accurately measuring a Yorkshire Terrier’s intelligence can be difficult. It depends on the individual dog, their health, their level of training, their environment, their personality and how motivated they are to perform the task. 

Chances are, your Yorkshire Terrier could be even smarter than the Coren experiment suggests. Although the experiment is relatively accurate, it doesn’t necessarily cater for every dog equally.

If you judged your Yorkshire Terrier’s ability to be a guide dog or watch over livestock, it’s likely they wouldn’t do very well.

This isn’t because they’re unintelligent! It’s simply because these are not behaviours they’re naturally good at. 

However, if you tested them on how well they could catch and kill a rat, they’d probably do much better! After all, they’ve been bred as ‘ratters’ since the 1870s.

Although they’re most commonly companion dogs now, many still have the ability to catch and kill rats and other rodents. 

Is A Yorkshire Terrier’s Intelligence All Genetic?

Stanley Coren found that a Yorkshire Terrier’s intelligence is 51% genetic and 49% environmental. This is a fairly even split.

So, if a Yorkshire Terrier, whose intelligence is ‘above average’, found themselves in an unsuitable environment, then their intelligence would be affected. 

This isn’t because they mentally get less smart, it’s because their needs are not being met.

If they’re hungry, cold, tired, scared, unmotivated or anxious, then it’s likely they won’t respond to commands as well. 

How Do I Motivate My Yorkshire Terrier To Learn?

Yorkshire Terriers learn best when they’re being trained using positive reinforcement.

For this, you need to find what motivates them most of all. Usually, this will be a really tasty treat, but some Yorkshire Terriers might prefer a toy. 

Training treats should be very small and ideally soft. You want your Yorkshire Terrier to be able to eat them quickly so they don’t interrupt the training too much.

Things like tiny cubes of cheese or chicken can be good options in moderation, but anything high fat should never be given long term. 

Try to keep your training sessions short and exciting. Yorkies learn best when you’re positive and upbeat.

If you start trying to boss your Yorkie around, they’ll quickly switch off and won’t want to work with you. 

Can I Train My Yorkshire Terrier To Be Smarter?

Yes, you can train your Yorkshire Terrier to be more intelligent! Regularly training them new things will help them to seem or appear smarter. 

The more you work with and train your Yorkie, the better your results will be. Although every dog is an individual, they’re all capable of learning new tricks if you teach them correctly. 

The more tricks and commands you teach your Yorkshire Terrier, the smarter they’ll be! 

Yorkshire Terrier sat on a bright orange background with a speech bubble that says 'Do you think I'm smart?'
Intelligent Yorkshire Terrier

How Do Yorkshire Terriers Show Their Intelligence?

Here’s how Yorkshire Terriers show how smart they are:

Yorkshire Terriers Recognise Human Emotions

Yorkshire Terriers are a very loyal and loving breed. This shows they have a high emotional intelligence level.

Interestingly, they’ll know if you’re feeling sad and will come to comfort you. They’ll also recognise if you’re feeling happy and will want to spend even more time with you! 

Yorkshire Terriers Understand Words

Yorkshire Terriers can understand lots of different words. In fact, even if you say a word in a conversation, they can pick it out.

For example, you might mention the word ‘walk’ or ‘treat’ and your Yorkshire Terrier may get excited! 

Yorkshire Terriers Can Solve Problems

If you give your Yorkshire Terrier an enrichment activity like a lickmat, snuffle mat or puzzle toy, they’re likely to figure it out fast!

This gives their clever brains something to keep them busy, which is great mental stimulation for them. 

Yorkshire Terriers Learn Things Quickly 

Because they’re clever, Yorkshire Terriers often enjoy learning new things. They can pick up new tricks in a short time and they’ll have fun in the process.

Training your Yorkshire Terrier new things keeps their brain busy and can strengthen the bond you share with them. 

Yorkshire Terriers Can Find Things Quickly

Originally bred to control vermin on ships, Yorkshire Terriers have got a great sense of smell. They can quickly sniff out a rat and figure out the best way to get hold of it quickly.

Even if they don’t need to use this particular skill anymore, they can still really enjoy mimicking this in other ways.

Hiding a toy or treat and asking them to find it, will be great fun for your Yorkshire Terrier. 

Yorkshire Terriers Are Great Watchdogs

Despite their small size, Yorkshire Terriers don’t miss much! They’re a very alert breed that will quickly let you know if there’s someone approaching your house.

They’ve got great hearing and a loud bark, so not much gets past them. 

Yorkshire Terriers Are Good At Dog Sports

Although they might not be the most traditional breed for dog sports, Yorkshire Terriers are actually very good at them!

Intelligent sports like agility, rally, obedience and hoopers are all great options for your Yorkshire Terrier to enjoy. 

Yorkshire Terriers Know The Time

Yorkshire Terriers are able to quickly recognise and understand their usual routine.

They know when to expect their meals, walks, playtime, and treats. And, they’ll be sure to let you know too! 

Yorkshire Terriers Are Adaptable

Yorkshire Terriers have high adaptive intelligence levels. This means they can adjust to their surroundings quickly to suit them better.

They’re known to behave more calmly around older people, and will be up for playing games around children. 

Yorkshire Terriers Make Their Own Decisions

It can be difficult to get your Yorkshire Terrier to do something if they decide they don’t want to!

They’ll be reluctant to go out to potty in the rain, so they may take some persuading and consistent training!

So there you have it! Yorkshire Terriers have above average intelligence and are the 27th most intelligent dog breed out of 138 breeds tested in the Stanley Coren study. So, not only are they cute but they’re also super-smart too!

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