Yorkshire terriers have more personality per ounce than most pint-size pets. They can be quite vocal and overly protective if they're improperly socialized, though, and sometimes bark at, harass or even attack cats. If your Yorkie is aggressive toward family felines, assess his health and training.
Yorkshire, Born and Bred
Your Yorkie may look like a cute lapdog, but he's truly a natural-born killer: Yorkshire terriers, working dogs in 19th century Yorkshire, England, were bred to kill vermin, especially rats and mice.
Your Yorkie retains a strong prey drive and can be quite territorial, picking fights with animals who dwarf their 4- to 7-pound bodies. They can learn to get along with cats and other dogs, but they need proper training and socialization. Left unchecked, they tend to bully other animals.
Small Dog Syndrome
Is your Yorkie yappy, snappy and overprotective? Is he perpetually chasing the cat out of the room? That's not "just how small dogs are." That's how you let him behave.
Many pet owners (No one's pointing fingers. Cough.) let their small dogs do things that few would allow their larger dogs to get away with. When you let your Yorkie jump on people and when you reward his whining with attention, he's demonstrating his dominance. This so-called "small dog syndrome" or "princess syndrome" has more to do with your behavior than your Yorkie's. A larger dog would act similarly if you indulged him.
Yorkies don't just play pack leader, they firmly believe they're in charge. Your Yorkie will keep harassing your cat no matter how many times you say "no" unless you assert that you're in charge.
One or Two Candles
Age plays a role in a Yorkie's behavior toward cats and other animals. Yorkies' aggressive behavior generally crop up between their first and second birthdays. Disharmony is often especially pronounced in households with more than one pet.
Make sure your training is consistent during your Yorkie's youth. Neutering or spaying your Yorkie helps temper these hormone-fueled impulses.
One proven way of fostering happy households with dogs and cats is to acquire both animals when they're young -- cats under 6 months old and dogs less than a year old. It helps if the cat has reign of the house first, too.
Discipline and Leadership
If you start consistently asserting your dominance, your misbehaving Yorkie may calm down and stop acting aggressively toward the cat. You may need the help of a dog trainer to get started. The trainer, or a book, can teach you, but diligent enforcement is your job.
If you're introducing the pets -- or reintroducing them following bad experiences -- confine the Yorkie to a room or two with baby gates and let the cat dictate the terms of the interaction.
Use simple, firm commands like "no" or "sit" if your Yorkie barks or lunges at the cat. Positive reinforcement like affection and treats work better than stern voices. Cats are more skittish and hold longer grudges than dogs, so don't discipline them, even if they lash out at your beloved pooch.
Be firm and consistent when training your Yorkie, but don't forget to be kind. Despite the old adage about feline and canine warfare, you can foster peace between cats and dogs.
- Animal Planet: Yorkshire Terrier Guide
- Yorkie Angel Patrol: Aggression and Fighting in Yorkshire Terriers
- American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Yorkshire Terrier
- Dog Breed Info Center: Small Dog Syndrome
- Dog Breed Info Center: The Human Dog
- VetStreet.com: How Do I Stop My Dogs From Chasing My Cat?
- PetMD: Aggressive Behavior in Dogs (and Cats): How to Handle This Tough Situation
- ScienceDaily: Dogs and Cats Can Live in Perfect Harmony in the Home, if Introduced the Right Way
- The Humane Society of the United States: Dog Aggression
- CanisMajor: Making Peace Between Dogs and Cats
- PetFinder.com: My Dog Chases My Cat. How Do I Stop Him?
- Pet University: Cats and Dogs
- Animal Planet: 10 Tips for Bringing Cats and Dogs Together
- Dog Breed Info Center: Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie)
- Dog Breed Info Center: Why You Need to Be 'Top Dog'