According to some recent research, a Yorkie can understand about 117 human words. But, it’s important to understand that they don’t comprehend them in the same way people do. It’s more of a phonetic and syllabic understanding. So, when you say, “stay” versus “hold,” they’re obeying/listening based on the recognition of sound.
Regardless, Yorkies are one of the smarter breeds that are alert and easy to train. They can learn things after only a handful of repetitions. There are other interesting tidbits too about their intelligence in relationship to how they understand words and human speech.
Table of Contents
- Where Does a Yorkshire Terrier Generally Rank in Intelligence?
- How Quickly Will a Yorkie Learn a New Word?
- How Quickly Will a Yorkie Learn a New Command?
- Can a Yorkie Learn More than 117 Human Words?
- Does Dialect, Accent or Gender of the Voice Matter?
- Which Human Words Can Yorkshire Terriers Understand?
- Will Yorkies Learn New Words Throughout Their Lives?
- Why Aren’t Yorkies Able to Have the Same Word Capacity as a Border Collie?
- Does Anything Inhibit a Yorkie’s Ability to Learn Words or Have a Large Library?
- How Do You Increase a Yorkshire Terrier’s Ability to Have a Large Word Capacity?
Where Does a Yorkshire Terrier Generally Rank in Intelligence?
Many studies over the last several decades show that Yorkies rank somewhere between 25th and 30th place in regards to intelligence. These were in comparison with 90 to 100 different breeds. To put things into perspective, Yorkies tied with Chesapeake Bay Retrievers but Border Collies outsmarted them all.
How Quickly Will a Yorkie Learn a New Word?
A Yorkshire Terrier can learn the concept of a new word in just four repetitions. But, their recall of the word will be minimal and they may even confuse it for another command they already know. That said, take note that individual Yorkies will have varying degrees of intelligence and memory recall.
How Quickly Will a Yorkie Learn a New Command?
Because the recall of a Yorkshire Terrier’s memory tends to be substandard, it takes them some time to recognize the command and obey it. However, they’ll learn a new command after hearing it anywhere between 15 to 25 times.
So, once they understand it and what you want from it, they’ll obey it after the first time it’s spoken about 70% of the time. While they aren’t the smartest with the largest vocabulary capacity, they’re still impressive considering they’re not the type of breed meant to be a working dog.
Can a Yorkie Learn More than 117 Human Words?
One study from 2012 studied a single Yorkshire Terrier that was 12 years old. Compared with the Border Collie that they also measured, which could recognize 200 words, they found that the Yorkie could handle 117. But this is a sample from a single dog, and a mature one at that.
So, it’s entirely possible for a Yorkie to learn as many as 200 words. But, their ability to increase their mental capacity will depend on how active they are, how many new concepts/experiences they encounter at a young age and the intelligence level of the individual Yorkie in question.
Does Dialect, Accent or Gender of the Voice Matter?
While researchers haven’t looked at Yorkies in particular, they did perform some tests with variations of voice. These include gender, dialect and accent. Most dogs didn’t exhibit any change in their understanding of a word or command once they were able to map it to memory.
In regards to dialect, researchers found that if the syllables were similar and/or that the word sounded the same, the dogs would obey in the same way. It’s not too farfetched to think that Yorkies would also be able to handle these audible variations.
Which Human Words Can Yorkshire Terriers Understand?
Yorkies will understand any word or combination of words that their owners teach them. It’s all about repetition and using words with variations in syllables, phonetics and tone so the dog can differentiate between each with ease.
Will Yorkies Learn New Words Throughout Their Lives?
Yes, Yorkshire Terriers will learn new words throughout their lives. But, this will take teaching the dog new commands each year to keep their minds nimble, active and viable. If you only teach a Yorkie a specific set of words within the first few years and nothing until they’re an elderly dog, it will be difficult to teach any new commands.
Why Aren’t Yorkies Able to Have the Same Word Capacity as a Border Collie?
A Yorkshire Terrier could very well have the same word capacity as a Border Collie, but this isn’t the general standard. According to the educated guesses of some researchers, they found that working dogs, like a Border Collie, tend to be smarter because of the jobs their genetics dictate.
Outdoor working dogs must be quick, learn fast and process information precisely in a split second. Decades and centuries of reproduction and genetics means this kind of propensity is inherent in the DNA.
Yorkies didn’t come into existence to be working dogs. But, they’re ability to serve guardianship and alert duties means they can process and recall information quicker than other dogs.
Does Anything Inhibit a Yorkie’s Ability to Learn Words or Have a Large Library?
There are some things and instances in which a Yorkie may not be able to learn words or retain a large library of words. A major factor would be the dog’s genetics and if a breeder brought the dog about irresponsibly. However, any amount of serious head trauma, physical abuse or stress can also be factors.
If there are a lot of distractions and the dog is experiencing sleepiness or hunger, the Yorkie will have a problem learning a new word or command. Also, Yorkies left alone all day will become mentally stagnant. It’s a sure way to prevent the dog from learning any commands or teaching it anything new.
How Do You Increase a Yorkshire Terrier’s Ability to Have a Large Word Capacity?
The best way to ensure a Yorkie will have the capacity to retain a large word library is to ensure consistent stimulation. This goes beyond learning words; it also means introducing the dog to new experiences, people, situations and other animals.
This is because these events keep the dog’s mind active and pliable, easily able to absorb new information. So, aside from teaching at least one new command every six months to a year, the Yorkie should have plenty of engaging and challenging activities to do. This includes introducing it to new things all the time.