Is the Yorkshire Terrier the smartest dog?

Did you know that Yorkshire Terriers, also lovingly called “Yorkies,” were initially bred as working dogs? Their purpose was to catch rats in mines and cotton mills during the 19th century. Yes, these small, adorable, and glamorous pets we often see today in the laps of celebrities or at dog shows indeed have rugged roots. Interestingly, it’s this working dog background that has contributed to their tenacious spirit, keen senses, and intelligence.

These miniature dynamos might just be one of the most intelligent dogs out there — something their devoted fans have been saying all along!

So, let’s explore why the Yorkie might be a contender for the smartest dog breed.

To understand dog intelligence, first, we must clarify how “intelligence” is interpreted regarding our canine companions. The late psychology professor Stanley Coren, author of “The Intelligence of Dogs”, explains that there are three aspects to dog intelligence: instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence.

Instinctive intelligence refers to the tasks that the dog was bred for such as herding, retrieving, tracking, or, in the Yorkie’s case, vermin hunting. Adaptive intelligence involves learning and problem-solving abilities. Working and obedience intelligence — also known as ‘trainability’ — relates to how well a dog can learn from humans.

Now, where does the little Yorkie stand in these categories?

Starting with instinctive intelligence, Yorkies have been historically efficient as ratters. These little dogs possess an intense prey drive, leading them to dig, chase, and capture. This level of instinctive intelligence makes up for their size and is also one part of what makes them so smart.

Regarding adaptive intelligence, Yorkies are quick learners. They excel in understanding novel commands and can troubleshoot problems independently, thanks to their hunting background where swift decision-making was a key to survival. One example of their smartness is that they are often adept at figuring out how to get to a piece of chicken left dangerously close to the edge of the kitchen counter!

As for working and obedience intelligence, Yorkies can be quite a handful, for sure. They aren’t ranked as highly as Poodles or Border Collies, who are obedience superstars. But, Yorkies aren’t stubborn or untrainable. Because they are so focused on their people, they strive to make their owners happy and are generally eager to learn. They tend to excel in agility and are stars when it comes to trick training.

In Dr. Coren’s rankings, Yorkies come in at 27 out of 79, scoring above average in working and obedience intelligence. But until we find a way to effectively measure dogs’ adaptive intelligence and instinctive intelligence, we may not get a complete view of how smart Yorkies — or any dog breed — truly are.

The Yorkshire Terriers’ small size also brings some specific advantages contributing to their brainpower.

For one thing, toy breeds like the Yorkie mature faster than larger breeds physically and cognitively – they reach their full cognitive development as early as eight months. This could be one reason why Yorkie puppies seem so precocious and are capable of learning tricks at a young age.

Moreover, the close relationship between Yorkies and their owners could contribute to their intelligence level. Because of their size, Yorkies are primarily indoor dogs who spend a great deal of time interacting with their human family. Some Yorkies seem incredibly attuned to human emotions, understand a wide range of words, and even demonstrate problem-solving skills. They are more like four-legged furry humans!

Though we cannot definitively say that Yorkies are the smartest breed since intelligence varies significantly not only by breed but also by individual dog. What we can say is that Yorkies are quite intelligent, and their owners can help bring out their smarts even more.

Training should start from puppyhood. Use positive reinforcement techniques and keep sessions short and fun. Consistent training not only helps your Yorkie become a well-behaved and obedient dog, but it also challenges their intelligence and keeps them mentally stimulated.

Stimulating toys can make a difference too. Look for the ones designed to challenge your furry friend. Puzzle toys that require them to figure out how to get a treat or toys that move unpredictably are all great choices.

Finally, socializing your Yorkie can help improve their emotional intelligence. Regular interactions with other pets and humans will help them learn appropriate behaviors, and understand cues better.

In conclusion, while we could argue all day about whether the Yorkie is the smartest dog or not, one thing is sure. They are intelligent, with their instincts, understanding and adaptability — and they might just surprise you with their smart antics. So, keep them challenged, engaged, and loved — for a happy and intelligent Yorkie. After all, intelligence in our pets is not just about tricks or commands, it’s about providing a loving and enriched environment where they can thrive and serve as our faithful companions.

Embrace the Yorkie wit and sass — and enjoy your intelligent, loving, and playful friend!