What do you think of when you hear the term “service dog?”
Probably a Labrador, a Golden Retriever, a German Shepherd, or some similar breed.
I doubt the image of a tiny Yorkie pops into your mind.
There is an obvious reason for that.
Service dogs sometimes need to perform tasks that require size and strength.
A Yorkshire terrier simply can not pull that off.
Does that mean that Yorkies can’t be service dogs at all?
Keep reading to learn if a Yorkie can be a service dog, and what characteristics it needs to have, in order to do so. We’ll also go into the kind of training it will need in order to become a service dog.
Can A Yorkie Be A Service Dog?
A Yorkie can definitely be a service dog. There are no restrictions on breeds for service dogs, as long as the breed works well for you.
A Yorkshire terrier may not be able to do larger tasks, like pull wheelchairs or provide balance to their owners, but it can help with smaller tasks around the home or even be used as a therapy dog.
Let’s take a look at some of the things Yorkies can do as service dogs and therapy dogs, before looking at the difference between the two. We’ll follow that up by examining what makes a good service dog and what you need to do to get your Yorkie to become one.
Great Service Dogs For Small Tasks
The yorkie is well equipped for helping with any smaller tasks around the home. These tasks can include things such as opening cupboards, grabbing the remote, or alerting their owners to the chime of the doorbell or their phone ringing. Here is a more extensive list.
- Fetching TV remote
- Pulling open cabinet doors with soft handles
- Retrieving light clothing
- Alerting owner to significant sounds, and if someone is at the door
- Fetching the newspaper from outside
If a Yorkie’s owner is blind, the pup may not be able to help as much with tasks out of the house, which is usually why golden retrievers or Labradors are first choices.
They are much larger and can perform tasks that smaller dogs cannot. For example, a Yorkie would struggle to guide its owner through public spaces or grab items from higher shelves in stores, due to their size.
Many Yorkies are trained to look after diabetic or epileptic owners. They are able to detect epileptic seizures or notice any changes in a diabetic’s glucose levels. Some Yorkies can even be trained to remind their owners to take their medication at certain times.
Great Therapy Dogs
Therapy dogs have become increasingly popular and Yorkies are well suited to this job. They can provide comfort to their owners without having to go through service dog training.
This is commonly referred to as them being a lap dog. Because of their tiny size, we are able to hold the entire dog easily, instead of just having its head rest on our lap.
A Yorkie is usually a great choice for more psychiatric issues, like autism or social anxiety disorders, too. Due to their small size, they are more than able to accompany their owner to nearly every place and keep them calm when out in social settings.
Yorkies are also much easier to take into public places. When it comes to public transport, a Yorkie will take up next to no room and can even sit on its owner’s lap.
You can also hold them when going into stores, which is important, since many shops do not allow dogs to walk inside. A trained service dog is allowed to enter, but a therapy dog is excluded like any other dog, if that is the store’s policy.
But a Yorkie emotional support dog is usually small enough that many places will go ahead and just allow you to enter with one, where they might not be so lenient if you have a much larger breed.
So, you have a Yorkie and you’re considering training it to become a service dog. But how exactly do you go about doing this?
Difference Between Service Dogs And Therapy Dogs
Service dogs and therapy dogs are not the same thing. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, and Air Carrier Access Act, service animals are not simply pets.
These are dogs that have been individually trained to perform tasks, provide physical assistance, and provide emotional support for humans.
Emotional support animals offer comfort to people suffering from some type of mental health issue. The big difference between them and service animals is that therapy animals do not undergo extensive training.
As a result, therapy dogs are basically just pets. This means if a store (or airline, etc.) does not want to allow your therapy dog onto its premises, that is their right. On the other hand, they are required by law to allow registered service dogs.
How To Train A Yorkie To Be A Service Dog
First, you have to make sure your Yorkie fits the characteristics to be a service dog.
All dogs have different personalities and you need to make sure your Yorkie fits the standard that’s needed. Otherwise it will become increasingly difficult to train and may not be able to perform all of the tasks you need it to perform.
The Right Temperament And Personality
You need to make sure your Yorkie is energetic, but quiet when in a public space. It can’t be distracted and want to go outside.
Your terrier needs to be intelligent and obedient. It needs to be able to understand basic dog commands. If your terrier knows all the basics like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’, then you’re off to a great start.
A service dog needs to be well-behaved overall in public situations. You can’t have your Yorkie wanting to run off, or trying to pull you on the leash.
The dog must be able to assist even during thunderstorms or around other kinds of noises. Successful service dogs will signal if they’re hurt or afraid but will not run away.
Lastly, service dogs need to be healthy and strong enough to perform tasks. These tasks would depend on what you specifically need them for.
Obviously, if it’s something that requires strength, like pulling a wheelchair, then a Yorkie won’t be able to handle it. But if you need your service dog to perform smaller tasks, like bringing objects to you, then your Yorkie could work
But not all Yorkies are able to do such tasks, so you need to make sure yours is. Here is a quick summary of the characteristics a good service dog should possess.
- Well-behaved in public places and different situations
- Healthy enough to carry out the required training tasks
- Intelligent and obedient
- Does not growl when strangers walk by or pet it, or when children pull its tails or hair
- Energetic but not hyper
- Stays calm in different situations
- Does not get distracted by his surroundings, and has a great focus on his task
- Comfortable around different people and other dogs
- Intelligent enough to follow cues and obedience training
- Has the right size, stamina, and strength to perform his responsibilities
If you have determined that your Yorkie meets all of these criteria, then congratulations! You’ve made it to the next step.
Now your Yorkie will have to learn obedience training and learn all of those special skills and tasks that will turn it into your service dog.
Yorkie Service Dog Training
Your Yorkie will first learn foundational skills, such as socialisation skills, house-breaking, and familiarisation with the outside world. These are basic skills that most pet dogs should possess, particularly if your dog is older.
However, if you want to turn your Yorkie into a service dog, then there’s no harm in a little refresher course.
Once your dog has mastered the basics, you may need to get a professional trainer for the rest of the training. Your Yorkie will need to learn to perform a range of tasks, to show that it is reliable, even around distractions like cats, loud noises and other dogs.
A professional can work on this by training your Yorkie’s eye contact and making sure that it stays focused on you at all times, no matter what distractions come its way.
After this, your Yorkie can be trained to perform all of the particular tasks that you need it to be able to carry out.
For example, if you want to train your pup to grab your phone, you need to work on ensuring it recognises your phone and not anyone else’s, and making sure it brings it straight to you.
The training should stay fun and be engaging for your dog. You should only focus on one task at a time. Trying to train your Yorkie to perform multiple tasks at once will likely confuse it. Shorter sessions are generally better too.
If you’ve hired a professional, they will be able to advise you on good session lengths for you and your dog. But generally, you should notice your dog’s attention begin to waver. That’s when you’ve hit the limit for training time.
Once your Yorkie is fully trained, it is worth noting that you do not need to register your pet as a service dog. The choice is completely yours.
Shops also are not required to ask to see any service dog certification. But they may ask you if your Yorkie is a service dog, or for what tasks it has been trained. Many stores will say they do not allow dogs, unless they are registered service dogs. This is actually not legal.
Yorkie Service Dog: Conclusion
Yorkies have some characteristics that can make them great service dogs. But it depends entirely on the tasks they will need to perform.
If those tasks require size or strength, the Yorkshire terrier will not be able to perform them. You will have to look at a larger breed. But if you need your service dog to perform only smaller tasks, the Yorkie is an excellent choice.
Of course, that assumes it has the right temperament. Many dogs, of all breeds, do not. Just like many humans could not be good firemen or doctors etc., many dogs simply do have what it takes to be good service dogs.
And there is nothing wrong with that. But if your little Yorkie does have the right stuff, get it trained and you will have an incredible little helper on your hands!