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Many people think of Yorkies as a regal and classy breed but Yorkies also have another more rambunctious and athletic side to them. These little dogs may need more exercise than your average toy breed. So…
How much exercise does a Yorkie need? Yorkies require one or two brisk walks each day for a combined total of around 30 minutes and at least one or two shorter sessions of more vigorous exercise per week for cardiovascular health, e.g. playing fetch or running free off of the leash.
Yorkies need steady and regular exercise, high-intensity surges, and last but not least, mental stimulation. I’ll be going over some more good exercises for Yorkies that will cover all three of these needs as well as some additional things to be wary of when keeping your Yorkie fit and well.
Yorkies Are Spunky and Agile but Don’t Overdo the Excercise
Before you go taking your Yorkie for a triathlon, just remember that these are still petite dogs after all so don’t push them to extreme measures.
I would not suggest you take your Yorkie alongside you for a long run or a bike ride for example.
I’ll cover some symptoms of an overexerted Yorkie later on in this article so that you know what to look out for when they’ve had enough.
For now, just know that while they’re spunky and agile, even on their best day, occasionally they may ask you to carry them home mid-walk.
With that said, Yorkies can run pretty fast in short bursts…
How fast can a Yorkie run?
An average Yorkie measuring 7 or 8 inches at the withers may run at a top speed of around 10 mph. However, in rare cases, purebred Yorkies can measure 12 inches or more at the withers and can run up to 20 mph. A Yorkie’s top speed is also dependent upon factors such as age and physical condition.
While this isn’t record-breaking in the realm of canines, it is exceptionally quick for an animal that is only a few inches tall!
Bear in mind that the average running speed for most human athletes is around 15 mph, so those little Yorkie legs can really move!
Meet Your Yorkie’s Exercise Requirements in These 7 Ways
The best forms of exercise for your Yorkie are ones that include physical exercise intertwined with mental stimulation.
Let’s cover how to achieve this versatility of stimulation, and give you everything you need to be an expert on how to keep this quirky breed as fit as a fiddle.
#1 One or Two Short Walks per Day (Plus Potty Breaks)
As mentioned earlier in this article, Yorkies require one or two walks per day that should last a total of approximately 30 minutes. (e.g. one 30 minutes long or one 10 minute and one 20 minute, etc.).
These walks should be at a fairly brisk pace but should also allow them to unwind and take their time, smelling the shrubs, taking in the sights, and doing all their business.
Keep them scampering fairly quickly but not so fast that they are constantly panting for breath.
Morning and night are not mandatory, however, dogs do like to have structure and thrive with a routine.
Whatever time you choose for your walks, being consistent will help your Yorkie mentally prepare themselves for exercise and may also help in reducing additional toilet breaks.
Bear in mind that Yorkies have small bladders and should go out more frequently for quick pee breaks, particularly when they are younger.
In total, depending upon age, your Yorkie may need to go for a pee between five and ten times per day so extra potty breaks will be necessary aside from their regular walks.
#2 Engage in Various Training Exercises
If you’re lucky enough to own an intelligent dog breed such as a Yorkie, they should generally respond very well to various training exercises.
Learning new things will get their neurons firing and is a great way to give them the mental stimulation that they need and to instill some great new behaviors at the same time.
Often, training exercises will help get their blood flowing too.
A great one to start with is training your Yorkie to heel properly. This will give them that perfect mix of both physical and mental stimulation as you go for walks together.
Yorkies aren’t the type to ‘walk-their-owner,’ like larger dogs tend to, but teaching them to heal will help them see you as the “alpha” which is useful for many reasons.
They will generally respond better to your commands if they see you as the “alpha.” This includes other training exercises you may take up in the future.
As with any canine training, you must be patient. Plenty of positive reinforcement and treats are key and make the learning process all the more pleasurable for your dog as well!
How to teach a Yorkie to heal
- With your Yorkie at your side in the heeling position, tighten the leash leaving just a little slack. Traditionally dogs should be on your left side when walking on a leash. Either side will do but staying consistent will help with training.
- Have them stationary at first, and once you begin to walk say, “Heel”. They shouldn’t wander further than a foot or two away from your side.
- If your Yorkie begins to lag behind or sniff something, continue forward confidently and intentionally to reassert your dominance.
- Be confident and firm
- If they resist, slow down a bit but remain persistent and focused
- Don’t yank on the leash suddenly
- If instead, your dog wants to jut out ahead of you and walk first, let it know that it will need to walk at your pace or never reach its desired destination. This is best achieved with the following actions:
- Steadily slow down
- Turn the opposite way
- Lead them in the other direction
- Give them a tone of approval and pride when they walk nicely beside you. Words of affirmation go a long way with dogs.
- Offer them a treat at the end of a successful walk to make it an enjoyable style of exercise for your pup.
#3 Play Frisbee or Fetch
Playing fetch is my Yorkie’s favorite type of exercise and it is an easy game that you can play while hanging out with friends or relaxing with a drink. You don’t need to do much for your Yorkie to enjoy some real exercise.
You can even take this to the next level and train your dog to use an automatic ball launcher (Amazon). These are a great hands-off approach to exercising your dog. It keeps them busy running after a ball with little intervention on your part.
Frisbee may require a bit more attention from you, but your Yorkie will appreciate it greatly! They love to run after a target and feel successful at what they were bred to do – hunt.
IMPORTANT NOTE –Use a Frisbee specifically designed for dogs as normal Frisbees are not hard-wearing enough and often break into sharp pieces that are dangerous for your dog to chew on.
Dog frisbees (Amazon) are usually made out of soft rubbers. While they often do not glide as far as traditional frisbees, they pose little threat to your Yorkie’s safety.
Also do not rip the frisbee out of your Yorkie’s mouth, or you could risk damaging their teeth or dislocating their fragile little jaws.
Instead, use a command such as “drop” or “release”. When they willingly release the frisbee (or ball), give them a proud voice of reinforcement. You could also use treats for training if your dog is new to this.
#4 Play Hunting Games
Yorkshire Terriers were initially bred to chase vermin, such as mice, rats, and other burrowing pests.
During the nineteenth century in England, where disease was rapidly spreading, the English needed a petite hunting dog to burrow through small spaces and act as pest control.
Due to this, Yorkies thrive on having a mission. They live for having a purpose and feeling adeptly skillful at their task.
You can keep them honed-in on their hunting instincts and naturally primed ways of behavior to help keep them at the fullest of health and happiness.
A couple of simple ways to indulge your Yorkie’s hunting instincts at home include:
- Use a flirt pole (Amazon), which is essentially a cat toy on a string but for dogs. It allows your pup to chase a small rat-shaped target without your hands being confused as the prey.
- Play tug-of-war. You can do this with any kind of canine rope toy. This works similarly to the flirt pole by keeping your hands slightly away from the target. It can also be good for your dog’s gums and get some of their feisty energy out.
You could even set up a rope course or tunnels in your backyard. Anything that gives them that hit of nostalgia in doing what they were literally born to do!
#5 Play Some Agility Games
Agility might as well be the Yorkie’s middle name, so offering them methods to utilize this core strength will make them satisfied.
Similarly to the tunnels in the last section, you can put together an obstacle course or purchase some dog obstacle course equipment (Amazon).
Have them jump through hula-hoops at one or two feet off the ground or circling through and around a course, looping back and forth while guiding them with a treat or flirt pole to lure them onwards.
You can also try to challenge them to stay still and patiently wait until you call them to ‘go’ from the other side of the obstacle course.
All of this will stimulate them mentally and physically which is a win-win.
#6 Play Games Around the Home
A great way to ensure you are meeting your Yorkie’s exercise and mental stimulation needs is to play games with them in between walks, around the home.
Yorkies rank fairly high among dog breeds with regard to intelligence and will truly thrive if they are offered an outlet for this intelligence.
Dogs like to feel skilled and competent the same way humans do, so allowing them to play to their strengths is always recommended, no matter what breed you own.
Cognitive enrichment and development can be implemented in a number of ways at home:
- Yorkies have a keen sense of smell and like to use their adorable little noses. You can do things like:
- Put a treat in one hand and make your dog guess which hand it’s in before giving them the treat
- Lay a breadcrumb trail of smaller treats that lead to a larger reward
- Play hide and seek
- Wrap up a ball or another toy tight inside a towel or dog blanket and then let your Yorkie try to sniff it out and unwrap it (this is one of my own Yorkie’s personal favorites.)
- Alternatively, you can purchase puzzle toys for small dogs that allow Yorkies to solve a problem. These include games such as pushing certain buttons to open secret compartments that contain treats.
All of these activities stimulate them mentally through smell and can be easily interwoven into other play activities.
#7 Use Self-Playing Dog Toys
Sometimes you don’t have time to play with your Yorkie and you may have to leave them to their own devices. For these instances, there are “self-playing” dog toys available.
Similarly to the puzzle toys mentioned in the last section, these will help keep Your four-legged friend busy and help to stave off separation anxiety that is fairly common among Yorkies.
One of my personal favorite “self-playing” dog toys is known as the KONG. The idea is that you loosely stuff the product with a variety of goodies such as dog treats or peanut butter (or both) and then leave your dog to figure out how to get the goodies out.
To make the challenge last a bit longer you can use a mixture of wet and dry fillers and freeze the pre-filled KONG prior to use. This method is ideal for those times when you have to leave your dog home alone for longer periods.
The classic small size is recommended for the average Yorkie and can be found here on Amazon. However, there are also different sizes and strengths of rubber depending on your dog’s age and chewing capabilities. Check out this guide from the KONG website for more info.
StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy
This is a slow feeder with a fun twist. While eating too quickly isn’t a typical trait for Yorkies, this will give them a good challenge and help keep them mentally stimulated at mealtimes. Ideal for keeping them busy with breakfast when you leave for work in the morning.
The basic premise is similar to the KONG in that you stuff the product with food and then your dog has to knock it around to try to get the food to release. However, this has enough space inside for a full meal and is adjustable for different sizes of kibble.
It’s quite durable when compared to other similar products, however, you should be aware that some owners with larger breeds reported that their dog was able to destroy the cap. Nevertheless, for smaller breeds such as Yorkies, you shouldn’t have any problems at all. Check the current price of the Bob-A-Lot here on Amazon.
Wickedbone Smart Bone
The Wickedbone Smart Toy (on Amazon) is an electronic interactive toy that rolls around by itself so your dog can chase after and play with it. It can be controlled manually via an app or left on auto-play mode. It also has an inbuilt mood reader which gives your dog a break if they’ve been playing too hard.
This product is probably best described with the following video…
The Benefits of Daily Exercise for Yorkies
Perks of daily exercise in Yorkies include:
- Proper muscle development
- A healthy heart
- An outlet for pent up energy that may otherwise lead to overactive behaviors around the home
- More restful sleep at night
- Improved socialization leading to more positive interactions with others
- Mental stimulation i.e. sounds, smells, and motion to prevent boredom
- A healthier digestive system
- Bonding time for both Yorkie and owner
Do You Have a Hyper-Active Yorkie?
Some Yorkies may act overly hyperactive even after you feel that their exercise needs have been met. These dogs may need additional forms of behavioral modification.
If this is the case for your Yorkie, please read my article 8 Strategies for Dealing with Hyper Yorkies
Safe Exercise Tips for Yorkies
Some safety tips when playing with Yorkies:
- Don’t yank their leash suddenly
- Consider using a harness as opposed to a collar for walks. Smaller breeds are susceptible to a collapsed trachea and the risk is increased when using a collar. Please read my article Collar or Harness – What’s Best for a Yorkie? for more info
- Do not rip toys suddenly out of their mouths
- If they look overheated or can’t catch their breath, stop playing, and allow them to rest. Yorkies do not do well with fast-paced surges of exercise for prolonged periods
Consequences of a Yorkie Not Getting Enough Exercise
Some warning signs that your Yorkie is not getting enough physical or mental exercise is that they:
- Boredom, lethargy, or generally depressed behavior
- Destructive behavior or incessant barking
- Barking more at strangers than usual
- Chewing on furniture, upholstery, clothing, or shoes
- Poor sleep schedule
- Hip or joint stiffness, muscle pain, or seeming ‘out-of-shape’
- Obesity and metabolism issues
- Digestive issues from poorly functioning bowels
- Bladder conditions
- Early or premature heart issues, muscle diseases, or cancers
Some of these side effects are emotional ones, however, even depression has been proven to harm our bodies’ overall health, and this applies to canines as well.
Daily exercise is crucial for keeping their bodies functioning properly and for them to have a full and healthy life.
Health Issues Affecting a Yorkie’s Ability to Exercise
You should be mindful that Yorkies are prone to some health issues that can affect their ability to exercise. These include:
- Hypoglycemia – Low blood sugar levels, lethargy, trembling, seizures
- Legg-Perthes Disease – Affects leg movement and limping on one leg
- Liver Shunt – Can lead to stunted growth and poor muscle development
- Luxating patella – Similar to a dislocated knee cap, affects leg movement
- Collapsed Trachea – Affects the ability to breathe
- Teeth Problems – Can affect the ability to grasp things with their mouth
If you suspect any of these issues, contact your veterinarian.
Symptoms of an Over-Exercised Yorkie
You need to be properly attuned to your dogs’ needs and when they’ve had enough playtime.
It is possible to “over-walk” or “over-exercise” a Yorkie as they love to play and don’t really know for themselves when their heart is being worked too hard.
You as the responsible human will need to calm them down when things start to get out of hand.
Indications that your Yorkie is overexerted include:
- Panting excessively or seeming unable to catch their breath
- Dry mouth or extreme thirst
- Red gums
- Excessive fidgeting
- Not being able to keep up or hold pace any longer
- Looking dizzy or unfocussed
- Limp walking or seeming faint
- Laying down often
- Vomiting, seizure, or other severe indications of dog dehydration
Some of these warning signs are quite obvious but others can be quite subtle. You’ll need to keep an eye on your Yorkie and know their limits.
Otherwise, you may risk heat stroke, exhaustion, or dehydration. Always bring water with you and seek medical care from a veterinary clinic immediately if something seems wrong.
How to Know if Your Yorkie Is Dehydrated
One of the first things to happen to an overexerted dog is that they become dehydrated, so knowing when they are dehydrated is a good skill for any dog owner to have.
One quick and easy test to see whether your Yorkie is becoming dehydrated is to test their skin’s elasticity. A lack of skin elasticity in dogs is an early sign of dehydration.
To test this, gently lift the skin on their neck about an inch from their body and then let it go. The skin should immediately return to its normal position if your dog is properly hydrated.
Another good hydration test is to check the blood flow in their gums. This can be done quite simply also.
Begin by checking the color of their gums. Next, gently press the gum with one finger for a moment so that the gum turns a lighter color in that area. Then release and watch for the color to return. For a well-hydrated dog, this should be almost immediate, however, for a dehydrated dog, this may take as long as 3 seconds.
As a Yorkie owner, I feel privileged to have one of the cutest, most intelligent, and loving pups in all the world.
My girl is at the ripe old age of 15 now and I truly believe that it is thanks (at least in part) to a life full of walks, playing fetch, and treasure trails around the house that she is still going so strong.
You owe it to your Yorkie and to yourself to keep them properly exercised. This is a mutually beneficial undertaking.
It will help to increase both the length of your Yorkies life and the amount of bonding time from day to day that the two of you will share and every second is to be cherished.
Treat them right and never forget that home is where the Yorkie is!