In the dog world "temperament" is defined as the physical, emotional and mental qualities determining a dog's whole nature. However, the temperament of the Yorkshire terrier, or Yorkie, is a contradiction: Small and fragile, the Yorkie is a feisty breed that is naturally protective of his owners.
The Yorkshire terrier hails from England in the early 19th century and is a combination of several different terrier types. Breeders desired a small dog that could pursue vermin and other small animals (which is why Yorkies are sometimes known as "ratters"). A toy dog, the Yorkie has the stamina and tenacity of a terrier mixed with the coloring and size of a Skye terrier, the Clydesdale or Paisley terrier.
Yorkies have personality in spades. A high-spirited and loving breed, the Yorkie is a perfect companion for people of all ages, including families. Yorkies often have a "big dog complex," acting as if they can match big dogs nose to nose. Though small, Yorkies are competitive, passionate, self-reliant and independent -- although the latter quality sometimes can make them stubborn. Your Yorkie may need proper obedience training and handling.
People often confuse "watch dog" from "guard dog." The difference is one of function. Guard dogs are typically larger in stature, such as pit bulls and Dobermans, and can physically protect their owners, through restraint or injury of potential assailants. Watch dogs, however, alert owners -- via barking -- to approaching strangers or potential danger; they do not attack or try to restrain would-be assailants or burglars. Yorkies, with their excellent hearing and bark, make wonderful watch dogs.
The only downside of the Yorkie's personality is his propensity to be assertive and occasionally over-protective. Yorkies often assert their presence and like to receive as much attention as possible, so they need consistent attention. Unfortunately, this assertiveness can cause them to be overly protective with their owners and and often aggressive with other people and dogs. A confident breed, Yorkies don't mind getting into spats with much larger dogs, and thus need training that stimulates their intellect.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.