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Are Yorkshire Terriers Smart?

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Famous for being cute purse dogs with hair to be envied, do you ever wonder if there is more to the Yorkshire terrier than meets the eye? Read on to learn if these dainty dogs are secret geniuses!

closeup of Yorkie face

The Intelligence and Trainability of Yorkshire Terriers As A Breed

Originally bred to be ratters in mills, farms, and mines, these little dogs climbed the social ladder into the laps of Victorian ladies. While their adorable looks and silky coats certainly helped, the climb was not done without intelligence!

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Yorkshire terrier is a highly intelligent dog who is eager to please his or her owners.

While intelligence makes training more doable because smarter dogs tend to want to work with you, an eagerness to please is what really helps make a dog trainable from the perspective of what humans desire a dog to do. A dog can be smart and not want to work with you; but if a dog cares about working with you and pleasing you, training will not only be more successful, but also more enjoyable, both for you and your dog.

Luckily for owners of these little dogs, the Yorkie is the whole package.

Front view of a Yorkshire Terrier sitting with tongue out

Overview Of Intelligence Levels In Dogs

It is important to remember that intelligence in dogs comes in different forms and that different people value different types of dogs. As such, there cannot truly be a “top dog” in the intelligence department because every breed of dog was bred for a different job. That said, some breeds are more intelligent than others.

Comparison of Yorkshire Terriers to Other Breeds in Terms of Intelligence

Although they are intelligent little dogs, they generally are not considered to be one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs.

If you are searching for one of the higher-ranking breeds, browse this list. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), these are the most intelligent breeds of dogs:

  • Alaskan Klee Kai
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Appenzeller Sennenhund
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Kelpie
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Azawakh
  • Barbado da Terceira
  • Barbet
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Bloodhound
  • Border Collie
  • Briard
  • Chinook
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Drentsche Patrijshond
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Jindo
  • Kai Ken
  • Kishu Ken
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Papillon
  • Poodle Standard, Miniature, or Toy
  • Rottweiler
  • Russkaya Tsvetnaya Bolonka
  • Shetland Sheepdog

The Yorkie’s Trainability and Ability To Learn Commands and Tricks

Every Yorkshire terrier is an individual, which means they each will respond better to different training methods. Once you understand how your Yorkie learns, training will become successful for you.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) says that “effusive praise and treats for good behavior will work far better with the Yorkie than harsh corrections”. This means that the area to begin exploring training methods would be positive reinforcement methods.

Yorkshire terrier standing on human feet

Problem-solving and Adaptability in Yorkshire terriers

Yorkshire terriers have an aptitude for problem-solving and adaptability, qualities which not only make them good pets but also good therapy and service dogs.

The Yorkie has a strong ability to adapt to new situations when they have been well socialized and they have a strong pack leader to rely on. Of course, each individual dog will have different adaptation skills, but generally speaking, the Yorkie is highly adaptable.

The average Yorkie has good problem-solving abilities as well, due to their drive to please their owners and their intelligence. Of course, individual dogs will always have different strengths and weaknesses.

Is My Yorkie Smart?

If you want to test your Yorkie’s problem-solving ability, here is a simple test:

Take three lightweight plastic cups and show your Yorkie that you put a treat under one of the cups. Then let your Yorkie do another activity for a minute, such as follow you into another room and then come back.

Now observe; does your Yorkie go right back to the cups, or does he or she need to be redirected to them? If he or she returns without direction, that’s a big indication of their problem-solving abilities.

How long does it take him or her to find and retrieve the hidden treat? If your Yorkie finds the treat immediately, he or she is exceptionally intelligent. If it takes them a moment, that is also indicative of good problem-solving abilities.

If you believe your Yorkie has good problem-solving abilities and seems intelligent, you may want to consider a trainer evaluating him or her to be a therapy dog. Residents of nursing homes and patients in hospitals can be uplifted by a visit from a friendly dog; if you are willing to volunteer your time, you and your Yorkie could really make a difference.

A dog of this petite size is always a welcome guest because they are small enough to snuggle in a bed or chair with a patient; pet therapy is loved and valued by many!

beautiful Yorkshire terrier on wood table


Although individual dogs may vary in their intelligence, the Yorkie is generally considered intelligent. The Yorkie is considered to have good problem-solving abilities and to be highly adaptable.

When choosing a dog, considering the breed’s trainability and intelligence is crucial to determine if the breed is a good match for your lifestyle and preferences.

How smart is your Yorkie? Share in the comments!

Cathy signature with Yorkie drawing
Blond woman holding a Yorkie and Chorkie sitting outside

Cathy Bendzunas

Dog Blogger, Former Dog Groomer

I have adored Yorkies for well over 50 years. As a young adult, I began to show and breed them. Now, I just write about them and have several in my little pack of small dogs.

I have had dogs all my life and have trained as a dog groomer. I also have been a kennel worker, worked in a pet hotel through PetSmart, and still am a pet sitter.

Check out my bio for more information about me.