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Are Yorkies Smart? – Analyzing 4 Types Of Intellignce in Yorkies

Yes, Yorkshire Terriers are smart. They learn new tricks relatively quickly and can easily understand commands. This breed was initially used for hunting rats and a have well-developed instinctive intelligence.

Yorkies are a highly popular breed all over the world because they are tiny, fun to be around, and hypoallergenic. But how smart are they? Are they a lot smarter than other breeds? Can you increase their intelligence?

This article explores Yorkies’ intelligence levels by analyzing the following aspects:

  • Working and obedience intelligence
  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Instinctive intelligence
  • Adaptive intelligence

You will also find out how Yorkies’ intelligence is measured and if you can make your Yorkie smarter.

Are Yorkshire Terriers Smart? 

Yes, Yorkshire Terriers are smart. They score above average in obedience and working intelligence and have exceptional instinctive intelligence. Yorkies easily recognize their owners’ emotions but don’t always adapt well to changes in their routines.

Dogs’ intelligence is often compared to that of children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old[1]. But this comparison is not always accurate.

Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. It is the same with the dogs. 

A recent study[2] found a correlation between a dog’s purpose and the evolution of its brain over time. This trait is then passed on from parents to their offspring. As a result, it is hard to compare if some breeds are smarter than others without taking into account their purpose.

In an attempt to measure dogs’ intelligence, researchers observed various types of dog intelligence:

  • Instinctive intelligence
  • Adaptive intelligence
  • Working and obedience intelligence 
  • Emotional intelligence

This table illustrates how smart Yorkies are according to these four types of intelligence. 

Type of IntelligenceScore
Working and obedience intelligence4
Instinctive intelligence5
Adaptive intelligence3.5
Emotional intelligence4
Are Yorkshire Terriers Smart

How to Measure Yorkies’ Intelligence

Yorkies’ intelligence is measured by observing how they react when performing various activities. You can either observe how long it takes for them to resolve the situation or if they successfully manage to do so.

Here is a list of activities you can use to test how smart your Yorkshire is:

  • Puzzle solving
  • Identifying emotions
  • Obeying commands
  • Distinguishing between two or more food quantities

Professionals assess dogs’ cognition abilities by using various measurable elements (factors). Some of these elements offer information about dogs’ non-social cognition, while others are used for social cognition.[3]

Factors that offer information on Yorkies’ non-social cognition:

  • Quantitative understanding
  • Memory
  • Spatial cognition
  • Categorization
  • Object manipulation
  • Object learning
  • Object permanence
  • Discrimination learning

Factors that offer information on Yorkies’ social cognition:

  • Response to human cues
  • Social learning
  • Perspective-taking
  • Dog-human communication

The cognitive abilities structure of dogs is similar to that of humans[4]. This means that canine cognitive abilities are easily measured. You can apply various tests to determine if your Yorkshire Terrier is intelligent.

Yorkies are smart if they are able to perform some of the following activities: 

  • Solve puzzles quickly.
  • Easily escape when enclosed.
  • Respond to commands correctly without practice.
  • Know you are living beforehand, by interpreting your body language.
  • Recognise when you are sad and try to cheer you up.
  • Stay safe when exposed to threats.
How to Measure Yorkies’ Intelligence

Yorkshire Terrier Obedience and Working Intelligence

In terms of working intelligence and obedience, Yorkshire Terriers are placed 27th in a study conducted on 130 breeds[5]. The study analyzed how often dogs obey first commands and how quickly they understand new commands. Yorkshire Terriers need 15 to 25 repetitions to understand new commands. 70% of the time they obey the first command. 

Working intelligence and obedience are forms of social intelligence. In this type of intelligence, understanding ranking related to humans is essential. When dogs don’t perceive you as superior, they will obey you. 

Yorkshire Terriers’ obedience and working intelligence give information and how dogs can follow human cues.[6] 

Dogs who scored highest on this test are obedient. But these dogs also know how to get what they want. The fact that Yorkies have above-average intelligence but are not extremely smart in terms of obedience is sometimes a good thing.

Instinctive Yorkie Intelligence

Instinctive intelligence of dogs is highly correlated with their purpose. Yorkshire Terriers were initially bred for vermin control. This task is complex and few breeds can do it.

Professionals measure instinctive intelligence by observing the dogs’ ability to perform tasks they were bred for. While Yorkies are good at hunting rats, other breeds are good at performing other activities:

  • Fetching
  • Herding
  • Supplying companionship
  • Pointing 

It’s difficult to determine if Yorkshire Terriers are smarter in terms of instinctive intelligence than Border Collies because their purposes are different. 

The same applies to other breeds because there are many differences in their abilities.[7]

Instinctive Yorkie Intelligence

Adaptive Yorkshire Terrier Intelligence

Yorkshire Terriers sometimes display high levels of adaptive intelligence. They learn quickly how to benefit from their surroundings. Yorkies can also learn by themselves how to adapt to various circumstances.

It is complicated to attribute a level of adaptive intelligence to an entire breed. This type of intelligence varies among individuals and is correlated with various factors:

  • Training
  • Environment
  • Socialization during puppyhood

Yorkshire Terriers who are socialized during puppyhood have higher adaptive intelligence as adults. 

Yorkies’ Emotional Intelligence

Yorkies are not the most or least empathetic dogs. They display average to high emotional intelligence levels. This results from the fact that they were used for companionship for a long time and learned to identify human emotions.

Emotional intelligence is also a type of intelligence hard to assess for an entire breed. Individual experiences have a high impact on how easily Yorkshire Terriers can identify the emotions of their owners.

Yorkie Brain Size 

The estimated brain weight of a Yorkshire Terrier is 2 ounces[8]. It resembles the size of an apricot. 

The brain size of Yorkshire Terriers is influenced by genetics. Selective breeding causes  parents to pass on the brain-size genetic material. 

Recent research[9] shows that humans can alter the brains of dogs by exposing them to various situations. 

Dogs’ behavior is highly correlated with their brain size. The anatomy of the skulls also plays a key role.

The size of a dog’s brain does not predict its social intelligence levels[10]. This has been determined after analyzing 7000 dogs from 74 breeds. 

Yorkie Brain Size 

How Smart Are Yorkies Compared to Other Breeds?

Yorkshire Terriers have above-average obedience and working intelligence. They are less smart than Poodles but smarter than French Bulldogs.

This table illustrates how smart Yorkies are compared to the most Intelligent and less intelligent breeds.

Border Collie1
German Shepherd3
Golden Retriever4
Doberman Pinscher5
Yorkshire Terrier27
Chow Chow76
Afghan Hound79

Can I make My Yorkie Smarter?

Yes, you can make Yorkies smarter. There are two types of canine intelligence. One is hereditary and the other is acquired through experience. To increase your dog’s intelligence you need to expose them to numerous experiences (environments and activities).

50% of Yorkies’ communication skills are heritable, as well as 20% of their physical reasoning and memory[11]. This indicates that Yorkies’ intelligence is expandable.

Here is what you can do to increase Yorkshire Terriers’ intelligence:

  • Train and socialize them since early puppyhood.
  • Engage them in mentally challenging activities.
  • Expose them to numerous environments during puppyhood.
  • Teach them new tricks throughout their lifetime.


Yorkshire Terriers have above-average intelligence. They are agile and learn new tricks quickly. Their instinctive intelligence is well-developed and they can recognize human emotions pretty well. Yorkies easily understand what you expect from them but are sometimes self-willed.

You can make your Yorkie smarter by spending a lot of time with them and teaching them new tricks.

About Ioana Moldovan

Ioana is a Misfit Animals staff writer and psychology student interested in animal behavior. She likes to dive deep into the newest scientific studies to find out the latest discoveries in the field.

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