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Yorkshire Terriers are Highly Intelligent

The Yorkshire Terrier, or “Yorkie” for short, is the most popular toy dog breed due to its affectionate personality and lively attitude. While outstanding companion and lap dogs, you may be wondering if there’s more to these dogs than just being great lap warmers.

So, are Yorkies smart? Yorkshire Terriers are highly intelligent dogs. According to canine psychologist Stanley Coren, Yorkies are “above average” intelligent dogs. In fact, they’re ranked the 34th smartest dog breed out of 138 qualifying breeds. But their true intelligence comes from their ability to understand human emotions and communicate effectively.

Though Yorkies are some of the best when it comes to obedience training and learning, they are intelligent in other ways. The Yorkshire Terrier excels in all three components of dog intelligence. Let’s examine what actually makes Yorkies super-smart dogs

As mentioned, there’s no denying that the Yorkshire Terriers are overall a very intelligent breed as evident in the dog intelligence rankings. But how exactly did the “experts” come to this conclusion? In other words, how are we able to measure the intelligence of the Yorkie?

The smartest dog breeds list was developed by famed pHD and canine psychologist, Stanley Coren. In his research, he coined the term “obedience & working intelligence,” which measured how quickly a dog learns command. It also measures how well they retain their training.

Coren reached out to 199 North American obedience trial judges, who helped evaluate and rank dog breeds based on his criteria. This criteria measured obedience & working intelligence, which could be objectively ranked in a list of smartest dogs

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria

The criteria that Coren used for his research was met with a lot of criticism. And although it doesn’t tell the full story when measuring dog IQ, we think it’s a great starting point. Here’s what his criteria was based on:

  • The number of repetitions needed for a dog breed to learn a new command. Obviously, the fewer the repetitions needed, the smarter the dog breed.
  • The success rate of a dog breed obeying a known command on the first attempt. The higher the success rate, the more obedient and intelligent the dog – at least according to Coren.
  • Coren received a huge response from the trial judges – much larger than he had expected. However, not every dog breed qualified for his smartest dog breeds list.

    For example, only dog breeds that received at least 100 evaluations were included in his final list. This ruled out the rarer breeds where Coren couldn’t find enough dogs, and thus data. Fortunately, Yorkies were widely popular dogs and had more than 100 assessments.

    In addition, only dog breeds recognized by either the American or Canadian kennel club participated in the trials. So this eliminated breeds only recognized by international clubs, along with mixed dog breeds. The good news is that the Yorkie is recognized by both clubs

    How the Yorkies Performed

    Yorkshire Terriers performed better than average. As a matter of fact, they performed better than over 100 breeds in the trial, landing them in the 34th spot our of 138 breeds. Being in the top 40 isn’t easy. But what exactly does this rank mean for the Yorkie?

    This meant that Yorkies were able to learn a new command with just 15 to 25 repetitions. You can probably teach your Yorkshire a new command in a just a few hours. For the most basic commands, it could take a shorter amount of time!

    Not only are they quick learners, but also highly obedient dogs, as given by their obedience score. Yorkies were able to obey a known command on the first attempt with a 70% or better success rate! Few dogs are as obedient as the Yorkshire Terrier

    And if you’re curious, Yorkies are in the same intelligence class as Dalmatians, Samoyeds, Newfoundlands, Giant Schnauzers, Samoyed and Bearded Collies. Not bad company to be with.

    Other Reasons Why Yorkies Are Smart Dogs

    Yorkshire Terriers are regarded as some of the most intelligent dogs. But there’s so much more to dog IQ than just obedience and working intelligence. Even Stanley Coren will admit this.

    So, what else makes Yorkies smart dogs? The fact that they excel in both instinctive and adaptive intelligence – the two other dimensions of canine intelligence. In my opinion, these two other components of IQ are more important in identifying the true intelligence of dogs.

    So why not use these other two IQ dimensions instead? The problem with both instinctive and adaptive IQ is that they are a lot more difficult to measure – at least in an objective way. Even so, it’s important to understand these two if we’re talking about dog intelligence.

    The “Hunter’s Intelligence” in Yorkies

    Instinctive intelligence refers the the innate ability or skill that was bred into the dog. For example, what was the original intention for the dog breed? What were they bred for? In the past, all dogs were bred for a specific purpose or role that helped humans.

    For instance, Shelties are some of the best herding dogs in the world. The innate ability to round up sheep, guide them in formations and push them around, requires instinctive intelligence. They were not taught this, they just knew how to do this.

    On the other hand, Yorkies were originally bred to be be hunters. Yes you heard right – these little dogs were at one point in time, hunting dogs. To be specific, Yorkies were bred to be ratters (vermin hunters) in mines because they’re small enough to reach into small crevices.

    In addition, Yorkies actually participated in actual hunts by burrowing underground to chase after badgers and/or foxes. This is instincts. Even today, some Yorkies may have the tendency to chase down small rodents despite the breed being mainly lap dogs.

    But how is hunting a type of intelligence? Well, Yorkies (and other vermin hunters) need to have an sense of where the rats are going. In a head-on chase, it’ll be very difficult to catch the rat. However, the Yorkie is skilled in learning how to cut off the rat in its path.

    In other words, hunting is the instinctive intelligence of the Yorkshire Terrier. And because they’re exceptionally good at it, we can probably conclude they have incredibly high instinctive intelligence.

    The Yorkie’s Adaptive Intelligence

    Adaptive intelligence is the last dimension of dog intelligence, and refers to the ability of the dog to learn for itself. Does the dog learn from previous mistakes? Is the dog good at problem solving? All these questions pertain to the adaptive intelligence in dogs.

    All Yorkshire Terriers have roughly the same instinctive intelligence. However, adaptive intelligence can vary quite a bit among individual dogs. Just because your neighbor’s Yorkie has outstanding adaptive IQ does not guarantee that your Yorkie will have too.

    By: AuthorRichard Jeng