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We all love our Yorkies. They’re little bundles of fun and will be your best friend through thick and thin. It’s no wonder they’re always in high demand! But, have you ever wondered if Yorkies are among the smartest small dogs? Where would Yorkie intelligence fall on a list of the most intelligent dogs in general?

You might be interested to get this children’s book, NACHO THE LIONHEART: TINY TALES OF A TINY DOG,  where  a tiny Yorkshire terrier unexpectedly lands on a family’s lap one day and becomes a much-adored addition as he  shows his extraordinary Yorkie qualities even in the ordinary situations

Nacho the Lionheart Tiny Tales of a Tiny Dog

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It can be fun to analyze and test out how intelligent your dog is, but a lot goes into a pup’s intelligence. Today, we will dive into what canine intelligence means and how our Yorkshire Terriers stack up.

Yorkie in glasses

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Yorkie Intelligence – What Are The Facts?

When it comes to Yorkie intelligence, it’s important to know a few facts about the concept. Dogs in general have many behaviors you can look out for that might signify their intelligence level. 

Yorkie in bed with a Mac and glasses

There are many benchmark traits that scientists and vets attribute to innate canine intelligence. For example, Stanley Coren, author of “The Intelligence of Dogs,” believes that instinct, adaptability, and obedience are the three core signs. But that’s just one way of thinking about it. Different experts have different guides on how to judge how smart your dog is.

Processing Power

Science has found that dogs possess the ability to process human voices and sounds the same way we do! In fact, the part of the human brain that lights up when processing says is similar to that of the canine brain. This means that when humans cry or laugh, dogs might be able to tell the difference and act accordingly.


Dogs’ ability to process human sounds is linked to how well they can be trained. For example, a more intelligent dog might learn commands faster, as they recognize the command words and what they relate to. So, they are easy to train. Later on, we’ll get into how you can test and improve your dog’s IQ with certain training exercises.


Did you know that there was once a Border Collie named Rico that could remember over 200 human words? While they were mostly the names of toys and not necessarily commands to act on, it was revolutionary for assessing canine memory capacity. Nowadays, it’s common on social media sites to see videos of pets using communication pads, where they’ll paw at different buttons to form requests, i.e., a “walk” button or “treat” button.

The most intelligent dogs will have a solid combination of traits that signify high mental capacity. So, if you want to gauge the Yorkie intelligence quotient, you have lots of routes you could potentially take. 

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Different Categories of Aptitude

So, it’s clear that there are many different things that make up a dog’s IQ, so to speak. However, there are different categories of intelligence based on a deeper analysis.

Yorkie Terrier in glasses

To be specific, the intelligence of dogs could be considered highly relative if you’re judging it based on what certain breeds were originally intended to do. For example, sheepdogs were specifically bred to herd animals, and Yorkies were intended to be vermin-chasers. There are arguments that the intelligence of dogs can’t be measured universally, as each breed has a different area by that they should be ranked. 

This theory holds water – apart from basic intelligence tests that we’ll get into below, many breeds should have a separate category of aptitude, e.g., how well sheepdogs actually herd sheep. 

Either way, this article will focus more on how canine intelligence can be measured across the board. There will always be a baseline – humans can vary in their intelligence as a species despite individual differences, and so can our beloved dogs!

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Canine Intelligence – Where the Yorkies are standing? 

Intelligent Yorkie

Now you know that canine intelligence comes in many shapes and forms. While this makes it hard to quantify, you can still get a solid idea of how certain breeds stack up against others.

When it comes to Yorkie intelligence specifically, it can be said that they do rank somewhere on the overall spectrum. But where? Are they on the higher side or, the lower side?

Typically, small dogs aren’t necessarily hailed as the most intelligent subgroup of dogs. However, Yorkie intelligence has proven to be the exception here, ranking 27th compared to 90 breeds in a study of command learning speed. So, while they’re not quite in the top 20 most intelligent dogs category (at least in this study!), they did very well, learning commands 70% of the time after about 15 to 25 repetitions.

Yorkies are some of the most intelligent among small breeds, joined by Schnauzers, Papillons, and Pomeranians.

Again, intelligence will vary from dog to dog. This study did focus on one of the key areas of canine intelligence, so hopefully, you know a bit more about where Yorkies are on the overall spectrum.

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Factors That Slow Down the Learning Process

To stray from what constitutes a dog’s intelligence and how to measure it, we feel it’s also important to touch on what could potentially hinder the learning process. There are a few factors that could slow down your pet’s cerebral development. All in all, you and your dog could both benefit from knowing how to ensure the best learning environment.

The first factor would have to be your overall demeanor and training style. From puppy age, you want to make sure your dog knows that you’re the one in charge. This isn’t to say you should make yourself too intimidating, but rather employ a few training tactics to establish yourself as the alpha. Your dog will be more inclined to learn from you and obey commands faster.

Your pup will have to be able to go outside and experience new things to learn. If they’ve cooped up alone most of the time, there won’t be any new stimuli for them to interpret, memorize, or explore. Your Yorkie can develop its directionality, sense of smell, and memory by being let out often or taken on frequent walks. 

Dogs can be like humans. To stay sharp, they need to train their brains often!

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Bred to Work

Yorkie intelligence can be measured by the standard canine IQ criteria but also based on how it performs its originally intended job. Ever wondered why Yorkies were originally bred? In the early 19th century, the Yorkie’s job was to serve as a vermin-killer or rat-catcher in clothing mills.

Based on this alone, it’s no surprise that Yorkies are generally intelligent dogs because they were bred specifically to keep workspaces free of pests. For that, they needed to be especially trainable, be some of the most obedient dogs, and have a high work ethic.

Any pup that has these traits has good baseline intelligence, but the most important thing is its willingness to learn and put its knowledge to work.

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What Makes Yorkies Smart?

Yorkies are smart

So, now you should have almost a crystal-clear picture of why canine intelligence is assessed the way it is. Furthermore, you now know that your Yorkie could very well have a high dog IQ because of its roots and general rankings amongst other breeds. Yorkies are some of the smartest small dogs (or most intelligent dogs overall!), and you might want to see how your own beloved pet stacks up.

Since intelligence can vary greatly between each individual dog, the only way to accurately test that of your Yorkie is to conduct an assessment yourself. Later on, we’ll get into some concrete ways that you can test your dog’s intelligence at home.

Right now, we’re going to lay out a list of traits you can look for in the dog that might tell you a bit about their intelligence. The most intelligent dogs will have a good mix of traits and abilities detailed down below.

Yorkie Intelligence

What makes Yorkies unique is their excellent performance in two primary dimensions of canine intelligence. They excel in both instinctive intelligence and adaptive intelligence. However, you don’t see people measure their dog’s intelligence with these dimensions because they are a lot harder to measure in an objective way. Even then, it is vital to understand these two types of dog intelligence. 

Instinctive Intelligence

Instinctive intelligence refers to the dog’s innate ability. It’s a skill they are born with and bred into. For instance, what was a dog bred for? Or what was the owner’s original intention for breeding a particular dog? 

People used to breed dogs for a specific reason or role in the past. Different breeds were bred for different reasons. For example, shelties are notable for hunting the world over. Their innate ability to chase, round up sheep, and then guide them in different formations to force them to follow a particular path needs instinctive intelligence. Nobody taught Shelties to hunt sheep. They just know how to accomplish it with ease. 

However, Yorkies weren’t originally just pets. They were initially bred to be hunters. These cute little dogs were once hunting dogs. To get more specific, people used to breed Yorkie terriers to become vermin hunters (e.g., rats) in mines. Because they are a small dog breed, Yorkies were considered perfect for reaching into small crevices and neutralizing vermin. 

That’s not all. In those days, Yorkies used to be part of actual hunting parties and chase after foxes, rabbits, badgers, etc. All this is because of instincts. Yorkies are instinctive hunters. Even today, you may come across some Yorkies who like to chase down rodents and cut off their path despite being lapdogs. 

So, this ability demonstrates the instinctive intelligence of Yorkies. Because they are remarkably good at it, we can conclude that Yorkie terriers have high instinctive intelligence. 

Adaptive Intelligence

Adaptive intelligence is the ability of a dog to adapt to situations or learn for itself. Can it learn from the previous mistakes? How well does it learn from the mistakes? Is the dog good at solving a problem? The answers to all of these questions refer to the adaptive intelligence of a dog. 

An excellent example would be when your Yorkie needs to go to the bathroom. First, they go to the dog door, let themselves out of the door, pee outside, and then come back on their own. It means the dog has learned to adapt to the environment. 

In essence, all Yorkies share the same instinctive intelligence. However, their adaptive intelligence varies depending on different factors. These include training, environment, general health, etc. So, just because your neighbor’s Yorkie has an excellent IQ doesn’t guarantee that yours will be the same. 

Unfortunately, there’s no objective way to assess adaptive intelligence in Yorkies. You just have to rely on anecdotes and individual owner stories to prove your point. For instance, Yorkie owners often tell us about how their dog barks at his water and food bowl when he’s out of either. It means their Yorkies have learned to get what they want via verbal cues.

How to Check If Your Dog Is Smart

Since intelligence can vary greatly between individual dogs, the only way to accurately test that of your Yorkie is to conduct an assessment yourself. Later on, we’ll get into some concrete ways that you can test your dog’s intelligence at home.

Right now, we’re going to lay out a list of traits you can look for in the dog that might tell you a bit about their intelligence. The most intelligent dogs will have a good mix of traits and abilities detailed below.

See How Your Pet Reacts to Complicated Toys

When you’re at the pet store next, check out the toy section. Of course, you’ll find a lot of the usually stuffed toys, straightforward tug-of-war ropes, bones, and more. But, if you look a bit harder, you might find a different category of dog toys. Nowadays, they make lots of toys that can help stimulate your dog’s learning, such as puzzles, treat mazes, and more. 

Buy one or more of these toys at the store to start testing your dog’s IQ. Are they interested in the toys, and can they figure out the puzzles? This is a solid but fun way to see if your dog is smart.

How Fast Can You Train a Yorkie?

Another gauge of Yorkie’s intelligence is how fast it can learn new commands. As mentioned before, Yorkies ranked 27th out of 90 breeds regarding how quickly they could perform commands after hearing them a few times. Try teaching your adult Yorkie a new command to do this test at home. See how many repetitions it takes before your pup knows what to do. The fewer the tries, the better the results!

How Many Commands Can Your Pet Remember?

If you’re especially enthusiastic about training your Yorkie, you might notice that he or she is storing a big number of commands in their mental library. The more commands they remember right off the bat, the better the sign of overall canine intelligence. If you want to train your Yorkie’s memory, keep teaching them commands that you’ll practice often. That will cement them in their brains, and they’ll be exercising that memory every time you call on them to perform!

Is Your Dog Attuned to Human Emotions?

We mentioned that dogs have a similar capacity to ours for processing human sounds. Therefore, something that can signify a dog’s intelligence is how accurately it responds to human emotions. If you’re sad, does your Yorkie come to comfort you? If you’re upbeat and happy, does your pet match your energy? 

In case your answer is yes, it means your pet knows what the mood is (reading the room, per se). And they can attune their own emotions to yours. This is a sign of intelligence far and above a lot of the others on this list because it involved processing and accurate responses.

How Your Yorkie Gets What It Wants

Another sign of intelligence in pet dogs is their ability to get what they want from you. If they are hungry, do they communicate that to you? Do they know to run to their food or water bowl if that’s what they need? If your pet hangs out by the door when it needs to relieve itself or knows how to ask you for a treat, it could mean that your pet knows exactly what works and how to advocate for itself.

Can Your Pet Associate Actions With Objects?

For example, when you pick up that leash, your Yorkie might immediately start bouncing off the walls, excited for a walk. But you haven’t even put the harness on them yet! This is a major sign of Yorkie intelligence because they can associate just the sound of an object or its appearance with an emotion or action. This requires solid processing power and strong memory.

These are just a few signifiers, but they all require intense mental capacity. If your dog has these capabilities, you could have little smarty pants on your hands!

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How Smart Are Yorkies – IQ Test for A Smart Dog

An adorable Yorkshire Terrier wearing nerdy glasses and a business tie.

Now it’s time to explore how you can test your Yorkie’s intelligence right at home. There are many ways to assess your pup’s mental ability, but experts recommend a few tried-and-true methods. So, if you want to give your Yorkie a few IQ tests, you can use a couple of different methods.

The first method is a classic: putting a blanket over your dog’s head and seeing how long it takes for them to shuffle their way out. The less time it takes, the higher the chance your pet is intelligent enough to find its way out of unfamiliar situations.

Next, you can use treats to help estimate your dog’s intelligence. As any Yorkie owner knows, treats are the end-all, be-all motivator to learn tricks, obey commands, and be a happy pet overall! So, it’s no question that treats can go a long way in testing how smart they are.

There are technically two good ways to test your pet’s intelligence with treats: hiding them behind or under objects and hiding them within objects. 

You can hide treats behind or under the couch, side tables, or behind their food bowls. If your Yorkie knows of the treatment beforehand, hide it from them while in a different room. Chances are, they’ll be looking for it the second they’re let back in. The faster they find it, the better their sense of smell might be!

Hiding treats within objects is a bit more of a challenge because simply walking up to the treatment wouldn’t work – they’d have to paw it out. If you create a buried treat test, if they can get the treat out using their paws instead of muzzles, it’s a significant indicator of high intelligence.

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Is This Dog Intelligence Test An Accurate Measure?

Yorkie Reading Open Book

Some might say that this test is a great assessment for measuring Yorkie’s intelligence. We’d agree that it can give you a general idea of how smart your dog is. But, quantifying canine intelligence can be a complex process since dogs are so diverse in their capabilities.

For example, this dog IQ test won’t give you the full picture of your Yorkie’s relative intelligence. It will show you how well they respond to situations, commands, sense of smell, and memory. But, you might not get a specific intelligence quotient as it’s hard to compare them to other breeds.

Some dog breeds are known for a superior sense of smell, others for top-notch hearing, and others for hunting skills. There are so many categories by which you could assess the most intelligent dogs, but doing so could take months if you wanted to get that IQ number. 

Overall, canine intelligence won’t matter all that much apart from training. So, if you want to give your pet some fun trials and get a better idea of who they are, this dog IQ test will be a beneficial activity for you both.

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A Deeper Look At The Intelligence Challenges 

Now, we’re going to take a closer look at how these intelligence challenges can work.

Blanket Over The Head

The first intelligence challenge mentioned was the blanket over the head method. This method has been used for years to gauge the intelligence of many different animals. That’s right. It’s so popular because it can be used on other animals, too! That fact alone gives it credibility in the grand scheme of things, as finding your way out of the dark implies good spatial awareness and directional skills.

To make this test as accurate as possible, you’ll have a choice. You can make this test easy, medium, or hard to start. How do you do this? Well, you can use a more transparent blanket (thinner) to start if you want your pet to gain a preliminary understanding of the task at hand. If you think your pet is one of the smartest small dogs out there, you can choose a thicker, opaque blanket to see how well they do.

Typically, the most intelligent dogs in this area will find their way out from under an opaque blanket in under 30 seconds. If they take more than 120 seconds or don’t even try at all, your pup could be a little bit silly!

Treat Under A Blanket

Another point of testing is the treatment under a blanket method. Treats are such a big motivator to learn and search, so pick a treat your Yorkie loves and will do anything for!

Treat findings will primarily test Yorkie’s intelligence in terms of sense of smell or willingness to work. Both of these are solid indicators, so read on to see how you can calculate them in your pet.

This will be another area where time is very important. If your dog knows that there is a treat to find, they will hopefully put forth all their effort into finding it. Like with the previous test, the fewer seconds it takes to find the hidden treat, the more intelligent they might be.

The most intelligent dogs in the pack will typically find the treat in under 30 seconds, just like in the previous section. Over a minute is typically the limit, and at that point, you should start helping your pup out!

Hidden Cup Treat

One more testing point you could try out is the cup memory test. Don’t tell me you haven’t tried this before. Whereas for humans, street magicians might try to fool us by mixing up cups with a ball under one of them, for dogs, you can test them with treats once again!

This test is a mirror of the one you’ve seen before. You can start with two or three cups, showing your dog a treat underneath one of them. Typically, styrofoam would be the best choice since your dog will want to knock the cup over. 

Once your dog has seen you hide the treat, you can choose to mix them up however you want. We’d recommend mixing them up slowly for the first time so your Yorkie can follow along and learn the assignment.

After mixing the cups, you can let your pup try to find the cup with the treat under it. Chances are, if they remember, they’ll go right up to the correct one and try to move it around and extract the treat.

If your Yorkie can find the correct cup in under 30 seconds. After that, it’s still a great result if they can find it before one minute. If your pet doesn’t even try, you might want to change the incentive or mix a bit slower.

Pro tip: for this exercise, it’s best to use a treat that’s harder to smell so you can be sure you’re testing memory primarily!

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The Results From The Challenges

Yorkie and a book

Now, you should understand the three above methods and how they can signify Yorkie intelligence. After you’ve conducted these tests or similar ones, you can start the fun part – interpreting the results!

Analyze how your Yorkie performed on each test. If it helps, you can create a point system for each test, i.e., if your Yorkie scores under 30 seconds, give them 3 points. 2 points for between 30 and 60 seconds, 0 points for no trying, etc.

Based on the final score, you can interpret what your Yorkie’s IQ might be, at least within the scope of this test’s criteria.

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Understanding The Results

At this point, you have a number that gives you a window into your Yorkie’s overall intelligence. It’s important to understand what these results might mean.

If your Yorkie killed it on all the tests and scored highly, you have a pet that knows what’s up. This might mean that your training methods were especially effective. That, paired with their innate ability, probably equates to a high dog IQ. 

Otherwise, if your pet scored lower on the scale, this isn’t something to be upset about. Intelligence in dogs, just like in humans, comes in many different forms. Just because they didn’t score that great on these three tests doesn’t mean they aren’t smart. Sometimes, certain tests aren’t going to be their forte, and that’s okay!

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How to improve your Yorkie’s Score

Girl with Dog Yorkie

If you want to improve your Yorkie’s overall intelligence quotient (or at least their scores in these specific areas), you can do a few things. There are lots of ways to improve your pet’s intelligence!

Number one would be extra training, as it allows them to exercise their memory and association skills. The more activities and training you do, the harder your brain has to work to store commands and actions in a similar compartment.

Hand-in-hand with training is conditioning. This is what we mean when we say that grabbing the leash should make them giddy, or jiggling the treat bag should spark excitement. Over time, this will come naturally. The best way to facilitate it is to make sure your pet has a stable routine. This means feeding at consistent times, walking each day if possible, and routine trips outside to relieve themselves.

The best advice we can give you is that you should make training fun! Yorkie intelligence can be improved, especially if your pet is kept in good spirits. Dogs are much more likely to absorb information when they’re happy or excited.

If you think your dog’s IQ might be higher in other areas than just these few tests, check out different dog IQ tests online! Your pet could shine in any area. You might just not know it yet.

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Basic Yorkie Training

As basic training goes, it’s vital to get certain behaviors instated as soon as possible. These are habits like going outside to do business, knowing where to sleep in the house, not going on particular furniture, etc. 

It’s the best option to start when your Yorkie is a puppy. To avoid as many accidents as possible and chew up furniture, ensure you have a regimented plan to train them! A benefit of training early is that once you have these habits indoctrinated, you can start training their overall intelligence with other commands.

The earlier they start learning, the easier learning might come to them later in life. So, if you’re thinking of getting a new puppy, make sure you go into it prepared!

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Secondary Training

Once you’ve completed the basic training in your Yorkie, it’s time for even more fun. You can start teaching them more fun commands and tricks when that stage is over, like handshakes, rolling over, and more.

As long as your pet never stops learning, there are always more adventures together. The possibilities are endless!