When you picture a Yorkshire terrier, you might imagine a posh purse pooch. While Yorkies will tolerate being carried in a purse (anything to spend more time with their owners), they’re actually sprightly and playful little dogs. But, does that mean this little dog will play with your little ones? Essentially, are Yorkies good with kids?
Some dog breeds have a better reputation for being gentle with children than others, but any dog can be kid-friendly if they’re socialized with small kids from an early age. An individual dog’s temperament will also play a big role in their attitude toward children.
Many parents are drawn to small breed dogs for their small children. But there are pros and cons to socializing a small dog rather than a big dog with kids.
Here, we’ll look at the Yorkie’s reputation with kids — big and small — and what to expect when welcoming a Yorkie as your next family pet. Here’s what to expect from this breed of dog.
Are Yorkies Good With Kids?
So, are Yorkshire terriers good with kids? The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the authority on purebred dogs in the United States. They rank breed characteristics — from how much the dog sheds to how much exercise they need.
The AKC ranked the Yorkshire terrier as a five out of five when it comes to kid-friendliness. That’s the same ranking as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, beagles, poodles, and many of the best dog breeds for young children.
However, there’s one big “but” to consider: Dog breed is often a better predictor of a dog’s looks than its personality. The New York Times recently reported on an extensive scientific study, which found that breed accounted for only 9% of the variations in a dog’s behavior and had no effect on how the dogs reacted to things they found new and strange. Any dog that hasn’t been socialized with children will find them new and strange.
There are, however, a few hardwired personality traits based on what a breed was originally created to do. Yorkshire terriers were originally bred to hunt vermin, like rats and mice, so they tend to be bold and fearless — an asset when it comes to socializing a dog with children. Fearful dogs are more likely to act aggressively or to run and hide from children’s loud noises and erratic movement. A less fearful dog is more likely to stay and play.
Like many other terrier breeds, Yorkies can have a feisty temperament that comes out during playtime. This can make the breed a good match for playful young kids, as long as they don’t get too spirited, especially with sensitive children. You will need to teach your Yorkie puppy not to play nip from a young age.
Potential Problems With Yorkies and Kids
While Yorkies are often good family dogs for households with small children, there are a couple potential problems to look out for.
By working with a dog trainer, you can avoid these issues as your Yorkie puppy learns good manners and your young child starts understanding how to interact with dogs.
Here are the most common Yorkie puppy problems you might see and how to solve them:
Because of their playful nature and feisty temperament, Yorkies sometimes play too rough with their human friends. And although Yorkie teeth might be tiny, they’re still sharp.
Stop your Yorkie from nipping your children by teaching bite inhibition. Bite inhibition first teaches your dog that some bites hurt. Then, it builds up to teaching your dog not to put their teeth on human skin at all.
Solve this puppy problem: Whenever your puppy bites you hard, say “Ouch!” or make a loud yelping noise. Stop playing with your puppy. Withdraw your attention for 10-30 seconds. (You can stand with your arms crossed and your back facing away from your dog.) Then, go back to playing with your puppy. Repeat this process any time they bite you too hard.
Once your Yorkie stops biting hard, repeat the process anytime you receive a medium strength bite. Then, do it anytime your dog’s teeth touch your skin. Your dog will eventually learn not to nip at all.
Get the whole family involved in this training process. Your dog should learn that you aren’t the only person who dislikes being nipped.
Much like chihuahuas and Malteses, Yorkshire terriers are toy dogs. They’re extremely small, weighing around seven pounds. Because of their small size, Yorkies have more delicate bone structure than larger dogs and are more easily injured.
If you get a teacup Yorkie, which weighs just three pounds when full grown, it will be even more delicate than a toy Yorkie. (Teacup dogs also tend to have more health issues.)
This can make the breed a better choice for older kids who tend to be less rambunctious and more careful, which may reduce the chances of your child injuring their best friend. But, if you have considerate younger kids, the Yorkie can still be a good choice.
Solve this puppy problem: Teach your child not to roughhouse and to handle your Yorkie with care. If you have very rambunctious young kids who quickly forget to be careful, consider a bigger dog with a sturdier frame, like a beagle or corgi.
Small Dog Syndrome
Small dog syndrome occurs when a little dog develops bad habits because they’re spoiled. Common signs include nipping, whining, growling, begging, and not listening to commands.
It’s easier to spoil small dogs than big dogs because you can take them nearly anywhere, and when they get out of hand, it’s faster to pick them up than to offer proper dog training corrections. But, in the long run, proper training will lead to better behavior and make your dog less likely to nip at a child when they are annoyed or not getting their way.
Solve this puppy problem: Sign your puppy up for positivity-based training classes as early as possible. Teach them basic manners, including not jumping and responding to commands like “Come,” “Sit,” and “Stay.” Practice manners and obedience with your dog on a regular basis, and get your kids involved in your dog’s training.
By far the biggest problem for any dog who interacts with children is a lack of early socialization. Your dog should be exposed to as many different children as possible from the earliest age possible — not just children in your own family. That way, when your kids’ friends come over, you won’t have any issues.
Solve this puppy problem: Expose your Yorkie puppy to as many different kids as you can from an early age. Bring your Yorkie along for family trips to the playground, and invite other families over for playdates at your house. You can also ask your breeder if they socialize their puppies with children in the first eight weeks of their life, or you can work with a Yorkshire terrier rescue organization to find an adult Yorkie who has already proven to be good with children.
Saying Yes to a Yorkie
So, are Yorkies good with kids? This toy breed has a spunky personality that makes them a good playmate for most children. But because of their history hunting vermin, they also may play rough. Teach your puppy bite inhibition from a young age to avoid puppy nipping when they play with your kids.
Yorkies are also extremely small dogs, so they’re not the right choice for rambunctious kids. A little roughhousing could easily injure this toy dog. So, show your child how to treat their new family member with love and care.
And most importantly, provide plenty of dog training and socialization. This will help your pet avoid small dog syndrome and teach them to be well-mannered around all children, not just your own.
For more information on your favorite breeds, check out the Native Pet blog.