Are Yorkies the Dumbest Dogs? (Solved & Explained!)

Contrary to popular belief, Yorkshire Terriers are more intelligent than most other dog breeds. According to Stanley Coren, a neuropsychological researcher who specializes in canine behavior, Yorkshire Terriers rate number 34th out of 138 breeds observed and tested for intelligence.

The rest of this article will help dispel your misconceptions of Yorkies as “dumb dogs” and answer your questions about why this myth is so popular.

  • Why do people think Yorkies are dumb dogs when they score so highly on intelligence tests?
  • What biases do we have against the breed that causes us to see them as “dumb dogs?”
  • How smart are Yorkies compared to other toy dogs?

Do People Think Purse Dogs are Dumb?

The tiny dog breeds carried around as trendy accessories to famous people on magazine covers are usually regarded as unintelligent. It’s hard to see a dog with bows on its ears sitting in a Prada bag as smart.

Does Dog Size Give Us an Idea of Intelligence?

They might not score as high as miniature poodles or Papillons, but Yorkies are much more intelligent than pugs, Shih Tzus, French bulldogs, and Chihuahuas. Those breeds are rated as having either fair or the lowest level of dog intelligence.

Since so many toy breeds have such low scores, some people assume that the Yorkie would be among the dimmer breeds.

Can a Lack of Stimulation Explain the “Dumb Yorkie” Reputation?

Yorkies need lots of mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored and seeking out trouble. Dogs that are “disobedient” and “naughty” appear dumb because they don’t heed their owners’ requests to stop bad behavior, like excessive barking and chewing, that stems from boredom.

Spoiled Yorkies are Insecure

Many Yorkie owners choose that breed because it’s cute and tiny, without realizing that treating it like a spoiled baby will cause behavioral issues. When Yorkies are coddled, they seem dumb because they bark at (and are terrified of) everything.

Is Running After Prey Really Disobedience?

A Yorkie’s high prey drive means that they’re unlikely to stop running after a bird, butterfly, or anything else that catches their eye, even when their owners have trained them well.

Since obedience is one of the factors in calculating a dog’s intelligence, people think of dogs that can’t be allowed off-leash as dumb.

Why are Yorkies Destructive?

Many Yorkie owners think because their legs are short that they’ll be too tired to finish a walk, so they use dog strollers. As a high-energy dog breed, Yorkies need lots of exercise and will channel that unused energy into ripping apart upholstery or “digging” the carpet if they’re not given enough playtime and walks. 

A Yorkie that is destroying the house isn’t dumb, it needs to have its excess energy drained.

Why do Yorkies Take so Long To Housebreak?

Yorkshire Terriers are difficult to housebreak. That inability to potty train quickly and without occasional mistakes, makes some people think they’re dumb.

The Yorkie’s tiny bladder is the real reason why they have so many accidents, not an unwillingness to do what their owner wants.

What Do We Think of Underfoot Dogs?

When a highly social and small dog runs out to greet people and accidentally trips them because that person didn’t see the dog, the most common thing the person who has fallen on the ground yells is, “dumb mutt!”

A Yorkie isn’t dumb for running up and tripping you. You should be watching where you’re walking when there’s a small dog around since they’re so much harder to notice than a bigger dog.

What Makes a Yorkie Smarter than We Think They Are?

The intelligence test for dogs designed by Stanley Coren involved checking how many times the dog needed to have a new behavior or trick repeated before the dog learned it, as well as how often the dog obeyed a known command on the first try. Obedience and picking up a new skill quickly are his criteria for ranking the breed’s intelligence.

Yorkies Don’t Learn as fast as the Most Common Dog Breeds

Yorkies are smart little dogs who learn a new trick within 15-25 repetitions, putting them in the top 20%. However, these are the dog breeds that learn tricks within 5 repetitions or less:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Rottweiler 
  • Poodle
  • Doberman Pinscher

Comparing Yorkies to the most common family dog breeds makes people think they aren’t very bright.

How Obedient are Yorkies?

Once a command is known, the Yorkie has been shown to obey that command the first time it’s given with a 95% success rate. If obedience had been the only factor in Stanley Coren’s intelligence test, Yorkie’s would be in the same class as the 10 smartest dogs!

What About their Innate Hunting Ability?

We don’t think of the strong hunting instinct Yorkies are born with as a type of intelligence, but it is! Yorkshire terriers don’t have to be taught any aspect of finding, hunting down, or killing vermin, which is the task they were bred for.

With their tiny legs, Yorkies are no match for a rat’s running speed. To catch their prey, they anticipate the direction the rat will go and cut off the escape route, which isn’t something a dumb dog would do!

Adaptability and Problem Solving

Yorkies are great problem solvers. They would likely be given a higher ranking on Stanley Coren’s intelligence scale if that had been a factor.

Yorkies are known to:

  • Nudge at or bark at empty food and water bowls when they’re empty
  • Hide when they hear water running because they understand water means a bath is coming
  • Bring the leash unprompted to their owners when they want a walk.

What About that One Dumb Yorkie I Know?

Each Yorkie is an individual, and it’s possible that you know one that had trauma or experiences that made it less intelligent than most other Yorkshire terriers. Or, as with any purebred dog, inbreeding or irresponsible breeding could have resulted in a dimwitted Yorkie