According to the experts at Yorkshire Terrier Guide, Yorkies are far quicker learners than other dogs, displaying a better ability than most to pick up all sorts in a short space of time. This kind of adaptability makes them the perfect breed for training and one of the closest things you’ll find to a pooch that’s on the same level as your human train of thought.
In our own short space of time, we’re going to discover how Yorkies ended up as they are, how we can measure their intelligence, and what that means for any potential owners.
Table of Contents
- Looking for signs of intelligence
- Where do you start when it comes to smart?
- But why does history matter?
- What else did it teach them?
- How can we measure this intelligence today?
- Just how quick are they as learners?
- And how much can they learn?
- So they’re all a bunch of little geniuses then?
- What kind of owner is the best match for this level of intelligence?
- How smart are they if we take humans out of the equation?
- Would they have developed beyond this without humans?
- Is their intelligence restricted to interaction with humans?
- Doesn’t bigger mean better when it comes to brain size?
- Could they ever outsmart us?
Looking for signs of intelligence
When you want to judge how smart a Yorkie really is there’s a bulk of evidence to choose from. Indicators like the speed it takes to grasp commands, the high level of awareness about their surroundings, and the capacity to memorize sizable chunks of information have offered us several visible clues about their intelligence going back to their early origins.
Where do you start when it comes to smart?
For any real understanding of where Yorkies sit on the “smartness scale” you need to know a bit about where they came from. Back in the 19th century, Scottish weavers brought terriers along to the mills of Yorkshire and trained them to keep the place free of rats – and voila, the Yorkshire Terrier was born!
But why does history matter?
Origins matter because the behaviour and characteristics we see in dog breeds today stem from the conditions in which they were bred and evolved. To survive work among the dangerous machinery of Victorian England, Yorkies needed to adapt and become super aware of their surroundings, an indicator of intelligence that they still boast today.
What else did it teach them?
Yorkies weren’t just dumped in a factory and left to figure things out all by themselves. They had to be trained by their owners for the rat-catching roles, which meant learning ways of understanding and responding to human commands in environments that were more often than not very chaotic and noisy.
How can we measure this intelligence today?
Most experts consider Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs as the bible when it comes to measuring canine intelligence. Using criteria such as obedience, memory, and problem-solving capabilities, Coren’s research included testing the number of times different breeds needed to hear a command to learn it and the results suggested Yorkies were quicker than over 100 other breeds!
Just how quick are they as learners?
Coren found that, on average, Yorkies would learn a completely new command after 15 to 25 repetitions from their trainer and obey it over 70% of the time once it had been learned. What that means for owners is that you need no more than a couple of hours of work to freshen up your pet Yorkie’s box of tricks!
And how much can they learn?
The same research also tested different breed’s maximum capacity for learning. Again Yorkies did what they could to show off their skills and demonstrated the ability to learn up to 165 words or signals and count up to 4 or 5, putting them on roughly the same level as a 2-year-old child.
So they’re all a bunch of little geniuses then?
Not quite, it. It doesn’t really work like that. While these scores indicate a rough average across the breed some Yorkies are more intelligent than others, often as a result of the environment in which they’ve grown up, with owners likely to find that too much molly-coddlingmollycoddling will prevent the pooch from opportunities to learn intuitively.
What kind of owner is the best match for this level of intelligence?
In addition to the learned traits that we’ve looked at already, Yorkies boast biological features that include a good sense of hearing and an impressive set of lungs! Together with their sense of emotional attachment and protectiveness, the combination gives them an intelligence that serves particularly well for acting as watchdogs for elderly owners.
How smart are they if we take humans out of the equation?
You’ve seen how well Yorkies respond to stimuli from humans, but they also display a fair degree of intelligence in the animal-only world. The Smart Canine cites the way they cut off their victim’s path when chasing prey as just one example of their instinctive intelligence and part of their innate set of skills that they can claim independent of mankind’s influence.
Would they have developed beyond this without humans?
Naturally it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Yorkies are purely wild creatures, but they have shown proof of adaptive intelligence and the capacity to learn for themselves. The Subreddit of Yorkie owners is packed with examples where pets have clearly remembered past experiences and environments and behaved differently when faced with the same situation again.
Is their intelligence restricted to interaction with humans?
Of course Yorkies don’t live in a world independent of us humans so most situations they face are conditioned by the environment we’ve created ourselves. But you still get an idea of what might happen without us – Pet Net ID claims that when they realize there’s a prize to win they have the intelligence to trick other dogs for their own benefit!
Doesn’t bigger mean better when it comes to brain size?
Generally speaking, yes. There is a strong degree of correlation between the size of a dog’s brain and its intelligence. So it’s not completely fair to compare a Yorkie against larger dogs with a natural advantage, but the fact they score so well regardless of their size is just another indication of their intelligence as a breed.
Could they ever outsmart us?
Don’t be alarmed just yet – we’re not on the verge of a worldwide Yorkie takeover! While you’ve seen numerous examples of their intelligence, there are also some limits and Coren found around 30 smarter breeds like Poodles, Sheepdogs, and Dobermans that are closer to global domination than our much-loved Yorkies!