Choosing the Perfect Yorkie for your Home, Family, and Lifestyle

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Yorkshire Terriers" by Dr. Joanna de Kler, DVM. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Dr. Joanna de Klerk, DVM

Purchasing vs. Rescuing a Yorkie

So, you’ve decided on a Yorkshire Terrier. Good choice. Now you need to decide where to acquire your new canine companion. Purchased from a breeder, or rescued from a shelter?

If you want a puppy, you will usually need to purchase your dog from a breeder. Rescues generally offer older dogs, although not always. For example, a rescue may have a Yorkshire Terrier puppy that the owner has handed in because of a change of circumstances, or the puppy has proved more of a handful than they were anticipating. The worst time of year for bringing a new puppy into the house is Christmas, but puppies are often given as presents. It can soon become clear that this cute fluffball is in fact very demanding, messing in the house, chewing up the children’s toys, yapping, and waking up in the middle of the night. These are transitory inconveniences, as any responsible prospective owner considering a puppy will anticipate, but all too often, as soon as Christmas is over, puppies will end up in rescue. The other occasion a shelter may have Yorkshire Terrier puppies is if a breeder has been shut down by animal welfare authorities and the dogs have been taken into rescue. So, if the idea of rescuing a dog in need appeals to you but you really want a puppy, it is worth looking online or phoning shelters to see if they have any Yorkie puppies looking for a good home.

Yorkshire terrier pup
Photo Courtesy – Stacey Bernier

One thing that will determine your decision to buy from a breeder is if you wish to show your dog at any level beyond fun local shows. In this case, you will need a puppy bred from Kennel Club registered parents. The Kennel Club in your country will have a list of approved breeders with puppies available, and if you have really done your homework, maybe attending dog shows, you may even recognize bloodlines that appeal to you. There is no denying you can expect to pay a premium for a Kennel Club registered Yorkshire Terrier puppy from champion bloodlines, but the pleasure of owning and showing an impressive example of the breed will certainly bring its own reward.

If you have any intention of breeding then you will need to select your bloodlines carefully, as the tight regulations put in place by the Kennel Clubs worldwide is to ensure the perpetuation of the best examples of the breed. These, in theory, should have fewer health problems. A dog that is excessively inbred, however, should be avoided as certain genetic conditions are more likely to be apparent in such dogs.

However, you may not particularly want a puppy. This may be because you would prefer a dog that has grown out of the puppy stage, and may come with some training already in place. Or you may just feel there are too many unwanted dogs and you want to make a difference to the life of one of them. Or perhaps you are already an experienced owner, ready to take on a dog with behavioral or social issues from bad past experiences. In these cases, you may be looking for a rescue dog.

For many people, the satisfaction of turning a dog’s life around by offering them a comfortable home and lots of love is what owning a dog is all about. Yorkies often find themselves in shelters because they have outlived their elderly owners. As we have already noted, Yorkshire Terriers are a long-lived breed, and are also popular with the older generation, so there may come a time in a Yorkie’s life where he suffers a bereavement and needs a new human companion. Fortunately, Yorkies are adaptable dogs, and as long as their needs are met and understood, they will soon bond with a new owner. You should be aware, though, that a dog in its senior years may have age-related health issues that will need budgeting for. However, elderly Yorkies can continue to appear sprightly into their later teens. Some shelters may continue to fund medication for older dogs with existing health needs, but in these cases, they may offer a dog for fostering rather than adoption, to keep tighter control over monitoring the dog’s health and welfare.

Researching the Establishment

When buying a puppy from a breeder, it is important they should be registered with the Kennel Club in your country. This is because the Kennel Club works to ensure the best examples of the breed are allowed to perpetuate their genetics, for the health and welfare of the next generation. Whether or not you intend to show your dog, Kennel Club papers guarantee you have bought a dog with the best chance of growing up in good health.

Yorkshire terrier gold
Photo Courtesy – Sydney Upton

The age of your puppy when the breeder releases him to you will usually be twelve weeks, by which time he will have started his vaccinations and been checked over by a veterinarian. The weight of a Yorkie puppy at twelve weeks is generally half his adult weight, so you will have a good measure of the size he is to grow to. Although the size of the parents may be an indication of this, in fact Yorkshire Terrier females can produce litters of considerable variation in size.

It is an extremely bad idea to buy a puppy from an unregulated breeder. In these instances, you may find yourself with a dog with genetic health issues, released too early from the mother, or that has not yet been vaccinated, in which case he may bring nasty diseases with him and not survive. You will also not have the necessary paperwork to show this dog, however impressive he may be.

High-quality show dogs that have been identified by the breeder at the puppy stage may be kept back until they are older before being released for sale, and in these cases, the breeder may only sell potential champions to experienced show dog owners who will fulfil the dog’s show potential, and breed from their dog to perpetuate the bloodline.

Buying from a pet store has been outlawed in many countries, such as the United Kingdom. In countries where you can still buy a puppy from a pet store, you should consider this carefully. In encouraging this practice, you will be supporting a system that separates puppies from the mother too early and displays them in an environment that is not conducive to their well-being.

The term “puppy mill” comes with its own connotations of irresponsible breeding, and mass production of puppies for financial gain above welfare considerations. Such places are unregulated with dogs kept in cramped crates in unsanitary conditions. It is not possible to condone purchasing from an establishment of this nature; however, purchasers from puppy mills will often be unaware of the actual breeding conditions. They will be shown their dog in a clean room or area, far removed from its actual living environment. They will pay top dollar for a so-called pedigree dog with dubious papers; the parents, if shown, may not be the actual parents, and the dog may later be found to be in poor health with genetic faults. It is a guarantee of heartbreak and an animal welfare issue, so the purchaser should be astute in recognizing a puppy mill masquerading as a private breeder.

Yorkshire terrier on lap
Photo Courtesy – Yesayi Kirakosyan

Rescue centers are the other alternative, but not all shelters are equal. The Kennel Club in your country will be able to recommend approved rescue organizations for the Yorkshire Terrier, although specialist breed shelters are in the minority, and most rescues take a variety of breeds, or specialize in small or large dogs. Some rescues may specialize in older dogs, or dogs with special needs. It is worth researching the shelters within your area carefully, as rogue rescues often pop up where the dogs may be kept in poor conditions or fostered out to unsuitable homes. These dogs clearly need rescuing from their misfortune in finding themselves in a poorly run so-called shelter, but they may bring a number of problems with them. The worst of these may be parvovirus if they have not been vaccinated. They may also have fleas, worms, skin conditions, matted fur, decayed teeth, or other unchecked veterinary conditions that will immediately drain your finances, and may lead to further health struggles. A responsible shelter, on the other hand, will attend to all veterinary needs, and advise on anything that needs to be followed up. The dog will be chipped and vaccinated, and will come with a guarantee that if circumstances change, the shelter will always take the dog back.

Rescuing a dog does not mean it will be free. Responsible shelters have invested financially in the dogs they take in. The rehoming fee goes some way toward covering veterinary care, neutering, vaccination, microchipping, and administration. It also ensures dogs are not taken for dubious purposes such as dog fighting. You can expect that any responsible shelter will carry out a home check to ensure your suitability for the dog you are interested in, and will try as far as possible to match you with the right dog. It is unfair for a rescue dog to experience further upheaval in its life by being placed in a new home that is not going to work out.

Inquire about Parents

If you are adopting a rescue dog, you are unlikely to know anything about the dog’s background. In fact, even if a rescue takes a dog with pedigree papers, it will not usually pass these on, to ensure the dog is taken for the right reasons and for anonymity regarding the previous owners. Therefore, you are taking some chances with the dog, but if he is reasonably healthy it is a calculated risk.

If you are buying a puppy, however, there are some important questions to ask. Firstly, you should ask the vendor if they bred the puppies themselves, and ask to meet the mother and father of the puppies. A refusal to this reasonable request should flag a potential issue. You should inquire as to the ages of the mother and father (the mother should be over one year old but not more than seven), and whether they have had any health issues. Check that the mother has had no more than three litters in her lifetime. Ask to see the pedigrees of the parents, and look for excessive inbreeding, where the same names appear on both the mother’s and father’s pedigrees, or on different branches of the individual pedigrees. Inbreeding may produce dogs with genetic problems.

Looking at the Puppy

Most breeders will release their puppies at twelve weeks, although a puppy may leave its mother at eight weeks after weaning. If the puppy is obviously not weaned you may question whether he is as old as the breeder claims. You should check that the puppy looks healthy, with clean eyes, ears, and bottom, and has not been recently bathed to disguise a problem. He should be bright and inquisitive. You will probably make an instinctive connection with an individual puppy in the litter, but don’t let your heart rule your head. Do make these basic checks, and take your new puppy to a vet for a full check-up as soon as you take him home. If the vet spots any problems, a responsible breeder should take the puppy back at this stage without question.

Behavioral and Health Considerations with a Rescue Dog

Some of the reasons a dog may find itself in rescue have already been discussed. He may have been seized along with others from an illegal puppy mill, he may have outlived his owner, his owner may have had a change of circumstances or not have had the foresight to anticipate the demands of dog ownership. Not all of these situations will have caused psychological damage to the dog, but even in the best cases, the dog will have experienced upheaval, and been removed from its human with whom he may have formed an attachment. Dogs are very loyal and can bond even with a person who mistreats them. If the dog has been severely mistreated, however, he may come with considerable psychological and behavioral issues. Any responsible rescue will not place such dogs with inexperienced owners. If, however, you do find you have rescued a dog that has more baggage than anticipated, you should contact the shelter for support. They may be able to offer their experience to help you address the dog’s problems, or put you in touch with an approved behaviorist.

Yorkshire terrier puppy
Photo Courtesy – Jodi Boerema

The rescue wants every adoption to work out. It is not helpful to the dog’s state of mind to return to rescue, or to go through many changes of ownership, and if you are committed to the dog and want to make it work, it is the rescue’s responsibility to support you. Ultimately, every responsible rescue will take back a dog if the rehoming does not work out. That is the guarantee they make to take care of the dog’s future, and why you never actually own a rescue dog, you adopt instead.

When a shelter takes a dog, they will have it checked over by a veterinarian, so any health issues will be identified and treated or notified to the adopter. Unneutered dogs will be castrated or spayed to prevent unwanted breeding and for the benefit of their future health. The dog may be treated for fleas, worms, and skin conditions, will be brought up to date with its vaccinations, and may have a dental procedure. So, your rescue dog comes with a full service. The rescue may even cover any existing health problem. It is always advisable to take out veterinary insurance as soon as you acquire the dog, and before it presents with any further health issues, as these would be exempted from cover if the policy is not taken out until after first presentation of any condition.

Whether buying a puppy or offering a rescue dog a home, careful selection will ensure the perfect partnership, and a friendship for life.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to Yorkshire Terriers" by Dr. Joanna de Klerk, DVM, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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