Max the Yorkie running on a trail

How Much Exercise Does a Yorkie Need?

Yorkies require a moderate amount of exercise, approximately two 20-minute walks per day and occasional short bursts of activity to keep them healthy and happy.

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Yorkshire Terriers are true lap dogs, and they have every intention of invading your personal space on a regular basis. But between this trait and their small stature, Yorkies are often mistaken as a breed of couch potatoes with low exercise requirements.

Actually, these tiny terriers are quite spritely and enjoy being active, although they may need encouragement to walk on a leash sometimes. Keep reading to learn about how much exercise Yorkies need. 

In this guide:

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How much exercise does a Yorkie need?

The average Yorkie needs a moderate amount of exercise—about two 20-minute walks a day with a play session in between—to stay happy and healthy.

A brisk, steady pace is best for these walks so that the dog is continually moving but not out of breath. Sometimes keeping a steady pace is difficult as dogs tend to enjoy taking many sniff breaks or sometimes refuse to walk altogether. (See some tips on how to get your dog to walk near the bottom of this page.)

Most dogs like routine, so if you take your walk at the same time each day, you may have a better chance of getting your pup to cooperate.

If you can’t go on two walks per day, try for one longer walk of at least 30 minutes. If you like taking long walks, it’s fine to bring your pup along. Most Yorkies can walk much longer than 30 minutes. But if you find your dog balking or lying down, take a break and give him a drink. If needed, you can always tuck your pup under your arm as you continue on your way.

Having one or two play sessions with intense bursts of activity is also good for these little furballs. They are naturally playful creatures and have a strong hunting instinct, so they won’t mind chasing a squeaky ball or playing with other small dogs at the dog park.

All dogs need daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. However, you may find that yours needs more or less than the average Yorkshire Terrier. That’s ok. If your dog has trouble settling down at night and instead does zoomies around your room, that’s a pretty good sign that he may need more exercise.

Benefits of Yorkie exercise

Exercise has many wonderful benefits for Yorkshire Terriers. The Yorkie dog breed is naturally curious, playful, and energetic. Moderate exercise satisfies all of these needs. But it can also keep your dog out of trouble.

All that pent-up energy your pup has gained from treats and napping on your lap has to go somewhere, and if they don’t have an outlet, they can turn to destructive behavior. The energy release provided by regular exercise will make for less barking, a calmer disposition, less destructive chewing, and a better night’s sleep for both you and your dog.

Exercise is good for their body, too. Not only does it provide a good dose of mental stimulation, but it also strengthens their cardiovascular health while keeping the muscles strong and limber. It boosts metabolism, aids digestion, and can ultimately help prolong your Yorkie’s lifespan.

Exercise also releases serotonin and endorphins, which help dogs feel calm, relaxed, and happy. This could be an important strategy for dealing with Yorkie separation anxiety.

Types of Yorkie exercise

There are three basic forms of exercise, each of which benefits your pup in different ways. Moderate exercise (daily walks) is good for your dog’s overall health. Intense bursts of activity (zoomies, tug-of-war) help tire your pup and strengthen their muscles. And mental exercise (solving puzzles) helps keep your pup from becoming bored or stir crazy.

The best way to get your pup interested in exercise is through play. With a Yorkie’s curious and spirited disposition, it usually does not take much to convince them to play.

We’ve compiled a number of fun Yorkie toys and games to get your Yorkie running or mentally engaged. A few examples are self-playing dog toys, such as an automatic ball launcher, puzzle toys, interactive toys, fetch, treasure hunt, tug-of-war, and hide and seek. Not only will your dog benefit physically and mentally from these activities, but you may as well since some of these games can keep your dog occupied when you have no time to play.

One of a Yorkshire Terriers’ favorite things to do is run. Due to their heritage as mousers on British mill floors, Yorkies love to chase. They’ll chase just about anything, including other willing dogs or family members. 

So, if you have a fenced-in yard or a local dog park, give running a try. A side benefit is that it gives you an opportunity to work on training commands and to reward obedience.

A great advantage of toy breeds like Yorkshire Terriers is that when the weather outside is frightful, they can still get a great round of exercise by chasing a toy around their playpen or playing tug-of-war in the living room. After all, when you weigh five pounds and your legs are a mere four inches long, a dash around the house can feel like a mile.

>> Read more: How Long Do Yorkies Sleep? Habits & Needs Explained

How much should a Yorkie puppy exercise?

Yorkie puppies need about the same amount of exercise or more as adults but in shorter amounts of time.

Puppies have a high energy level, but their rapid development causes them to tire easily. You’ll usually see them play in short bursts, which usually appear in the form of wild “zoomies,” playing fetch or chewing on toys. These bursts are usually followed by a nap.

Short walks are fine, but long walks may be too much for a puppy’s developing body. Each dog is different, but the more time you have with your puppy, the more you will understand how much daily exercise he or she needs to stay happy, healthy, and sleeping at night.

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Precautions to take when exercising your Yorkie

There are a few things you need to consider before taking your dog outdoors to walk or exercise.

Use a dog harness

The first thing we’d recommend is investing in a Yorkie harness. Yorkshire Terriers have small and fragile necks that are susceptible to a health issue called collapsed trachea. Walking your dog on a harness, rather than a collar, removes the pressure from their trachea and puts it on their trunk, which is much stronger.

Harnesses are also helpful in that they offer a variety of features, such as reflective material, dual function as a car harness, warmth for cold weather, no-pull training, and more.

Now, this doesn’t mean that your pup doesn’t need a collar; they do need one for easy identification in the unfortunate incident when they become lost. 

>> Read more: Yorkie Supplies: All the Stuff You’ll Need to Bring Your Puppy Home

Use reflective materials & lighting

It’s wise to invest in reflective materials for the dog’s harness, collar, leash, and for yourself if you plan to have your dog outside at night. It’s also a good idea to walk with a flashlight or another type of moving light to alert others of your presence. Drivers will appreciate being able to see you and your dog.

Maintain safety off-leash

Yorkshire Terriers love to exercise off-leash, but they don’t have the best impulse control if they see a small animal. Therefore, before taking your dog off her leash, be sure she is in a fenced-in location, is excellent with commands, or is in an area without the threat of danger.

Use caution when interacting with bigger dogs

Playing with other dogs is a great way for Yorkies to get exercise. Some Yorkies do fine with bigger dogs, while others don’t mix well with large dogs and feel threatened. Keep a watchful eye on your pup until you see how he or she does with other dogs.

Even if your dog does well with big dogs, you don’t know how other dogs will react to a little dog. One swift strike from a big dog, even if done playfully, could injure your pup, so take it slow at first.

Winter weather

Before heading outdoors with your dog on a cold winter day, take precautions to ensure your pup is warm enough and protected against the harsh elements.

Yorkies tend to get cold easily. If you need a coat, your dog probably does as well. Try a favorite cold-weather coat of ours—the Gooby Padded Dog Vest—which protects against the cold, rain, and snow. And it’s cute to boot!

In addition to the cold, the salt that is thrown on roads and sidewalks to melt ice can be irritating to dogs’ paws. Consider trying winter booties, such as the URBEST Dog Shoes made for small dogs. And if your dog refuses to sport the boots, wash their paws after your walk.

>> Read more: Yorkie Growth Chart: How Big Will My Yorkie Get

FAQs about Yorkie exercise needs

My Yorkie won’t walk on a leash. How do I take him on a walk?

Like many puppies, Yorkies tend to resist walking on a leash, but they can get better with time and training

With a treat in hand, have a family member walk ahead of you and the dog. Give your dog the command “walk” and have your family member show the treat and call the dog. When they make it to the other person, reward them with the treat. Repeat often.

If you’re interested in more in-depth guidance, check out Brandon McMillan’s MasterClass on dog training or the free workshop from K9 Training Institute.

Some dogs are resistant to harnesses and it just takes some getting used to before they feel comfortable walking with it. You could try putting the harness on during other times of the day until the dog gets used to it.

Some dogs are eager to get home when on walks. If this is your pup, use it to your advantage. So, if he’s in one of his “I’m not walking” moods, carry him until you are ready to turn around and head back toward home. You may find your dog walking briskly in anticipation of getting there. Some exercise is better than none, right?

Trails may offer a more interesting experience for your dog. They have been a game-changer for my Yorkie, who loves to sniff all the various scents along the trail. If this doesn’t work for your dog, find a safe place where you can unleash him for some exercise until he learns to be better on a leash. Check your local parks for fenced-in dog runs or soccer or baseball fields.

If you like to hike or walk for longer distances than your pup can handle (which is common for owners of senior dogs), you may want to invest in a pet carrier. That way you can let your dog walk some and ride the rest. Learn more in our guide to how to carry a dog.

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Do Yorkies need to be walked every day?

Yorkies don’t need to be walked every day, per se, but they do need both to get outside and to experience some type of exercise every day. They could get plenty of exercise by engaging in a combination of other activities, like playing at a dog park, doing zoomies around the house, or playing a round of fetch. It doesn’t matter the kind of exercise, just that they get enough of it.

Do make it a point to get your pup outside several times a day. She will be happiest when she is regularly able to experience all the various scents of the outdoors.

Do Yorkies get cold on walks?

Unlike some breeds, Yorkies have a single coat of hair and can easily get cold when the weather is cool. If you need a coat outside to stay warm, your dog most likely will need one as well.

My dog chokes when I walk him. What should I do?

If you are currently walking your dog with the leash attached to the collar, you should switch to walking the dog with a harness instead. Yorkies are susceptible to trachea collapse that can sound like choking or a honking goose. It seems to be aggravated by trauma to the neck. If you’re still unsure what is causing the choking, get your pup looked at by a veterinarian.

>> Read more: 6 Best Yorkie Harnesses: For Summer, Winter & Teacup Puppies

My Yorkie doesn’t want to get up and walk. What should I do?

If your dog would rather be a couch potato than walk, you may need to take him outside anyway. Often, just being outdoors will arouse an interest in exploring.

Other dogs don’t like to walk because they don’t like being on a leash or wearing a harness. Initially, it feels foreign to them. Start off small by taking your dog outside and attaching the harness and leash. Keep trying to walk the dog and offering small treats if they oblige. Eventually, this incentive will recondition them to walk cooperatively.

Also, schedule a regular time for walks. This routine will help your dog anticipate what’s coming, which should lead to more successful walks. 

If your dog never wants to get up and walk, you should reach out to your vet for advice.

Dog Trainer Brandon McMillan teaches his MasterClass

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