How to exercise a Yorkshire Terrier

How much exercise does a Yorkie need

The Yorkshire Terrier often referred to as the Yorkie is one of the most popular toy breeds in the world. Small in size, but big in personality, the Yorkie is feisty, loving and friendly, and intelligent and curious.

Although the Yorkie is a toy breed they were bred to be working dogs hunting vermin so they are high energy like the terrier they are. They can run extremely fast for their size at between 18 to 29 miles per hour (46 kilometers per hour). Overall, the Yorkie is a wonderful dog and a joy to have around. I must admit I have a little Yorkie girl called Asia so I may be a little bias.

The Yorkie was originally developed during the 19th century in Yorkshire, England to catch rats in the clothing mills. They were small enough to fit under and in and around the looms and didn’t damage the fabric as cats often did. They also have excellent balance and agility and don’t mind heights so they could be placed up in the rafters to catch rats. they were also popular with the miners at the time as they were small and light and could be carried down into the mines in the miner’s pocket or bag.

Type of exercise for Yorkshire Terriers

Because of their high energy and high intelligence, not providing adequate physical and mental stimulation often leads to behavior problems like nuisance barking and destructive behavior. They are a natural guard dog so this makes them prone to bark anyway.

Daily exercise will help your Yorkie release pent-up energy, maintain muscles, keep the heart healthy, keeps the metabolism working efficiently and offers the opportunity to become accustomed to people, other dogs and traffic and so on and improves sleep patterns. It also provides mental stimulation by way of sight, scent, sound, and movement going on around them.

There are three main types of exercise category that you should provide for your Yorkie are

  • 1. moderate exercise
  • 2 high-intensity short bursts
  • 3 mental stimulation

We will look at each of these three categories along with suggested activities and type of exercise you can incorporate into their exercise routine.

Yorkie Walking

Moderate exercise is walking at a brisk pace that is comfortable for them, but not so intense that they are panting. This can be walking on a lead or free exploring off the lead at the park and should be around 25 to 30 minutes. Ideally, two walks a day is best, one in the morning and one later in the day, but once a day is fine. Yorkies, and dogs in general like routine so it is best to walk around the same time each day

It is often a good idea to walk your Yorkie before being left at home to burn some energy and to settle them. If your Yorkie is a lead puller it is best to use a harness as the breed is prone to developing collapsed trachea.

High-intensity exercise

Being a ratting dog the Yorkie is very agile and can turn on a dime and accelerate and react rapidly. Games that use these skills are a great way to exercise your Yorkie.

What do Yorkies like to play with

One of the best ways to provide exercise and activity for your Yorkie is by providing them with a selection of toys. They can play with the toys by themselves or with you. For the best type of toys for Yorkies see here.

Flirt Pole

An excellent game for Yorkies is the Flirt Pole. A Flirt Pole is like a bigger version of a cat toy that has a stick and a rope, often a bungee type cord with a lure or toy attached to the end. Simply move the lure or toy around in a circle or in different directions along the ground. To your Yorkie, this is just like chasing down a rat.

View Flirt Poles on Amazon

Some people use a laser pointer to play a similar game. I personally don’t like these as your dog will never be able to catch the red dot so there is no victory or achievement for them. This can lead to obsessive behavior.


Playing Fetch with your Yorkshire Terrier is another fantastic way to burn pent-up energy. Yorkies are in general ball or toy crazy and can play this for hundreds of throws. A great alternative is to use an Automatic Ball Launcher so your dog can play Fetch by themselves. As the Yorkie is highly trainable they learn to use this quickly. For more information check out “Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs

Frisbee Toss

Most dogs can chase and catch a ball. But a Frisbee requires a little bit more skill, coordination, and timing. Yorkies are fantastic jumpers and look spectacular playing this. Roll the Frisbee on the ground towards your dog. They will instinctually want to grab it in his mouth. Once you’ve accomplished this, try tossing it at a very low level first to your dog. If you feel like your dog is ready to go to the next level, toss the disc a little higher and further. Great energy burner and you may be amazed at your dog’s agility and acrobatic skill.

Backyard agility

Set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon. You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.

Stair Sprints

A good energy burner if you have stairs in your home. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as they can. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury.

Tug of War

A firm favorite of all terriers. Make them crouch and pull back to use extra energy. Ensure that this is a controlled game and they release when you want them to.

Dog toys that move on their own

There are many dog toys available that shake, rattle, roll and move about on their own. These are ideal for a Yorkshire Terrier as it caters directly to their chase and natural prey instincts being ratting dogs. See “Dog toys that move on their own” to learn more.

Self Playing Dog Toys

There are a variety of dog toys that your dog can use to play by themselves. These are great for times when your dog is home alone, you don’t have the time or you are otherwise occupied. This way your dog can still get some physical activity and mental stimulation without your direct involvement. See “Self Playing Dog Toys” for some ideas.

Dog Sports

Consider involving your Yorkie in dog sports. You can participate as a serious competition or just enter for fun. Apart from the obvious sport of agility, there are many other dog sport some of which are ideal for terriers. This includes Terrier racing and Earth dog sports where competitors go through tunnels to locate rats. The Rats are safe inside cages so the dogs can’t get to them. For more ideas see “Dog sports you may not have heard of”.

There are countless more activities you can do with your Yorkshire Terrier to burn pent-up energy quickly.  You may also like “50 Boredom Busters and games for dogs

For more ideas for high-intensity exercise check out “How to tire a hyper high energy dog ” and “How to tire a dog quickly

Mental Stimulation

Terriers, in fact, all dogs need an outlet for their minds. If they are not provided the opportunity to challenge their minds they will come up with their own ways to achieve this. This usually manifests itself in bad behavior such as excessive barking, digging, escaping and other destructive behaviors. Read “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs” to learn about the 6 types or categories of mind stimulation a mental enrichment and some great ideas to provide this.

Some ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment include;

Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys are ideal for dogs like the Yorkshire Terrier to challenge their minds and test their problem-solving skills. Due to their high intelligence, try to find puzzle toys that are a bit more challenging as they tend to work these out quite quickly. Check out “Top  puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.

In addition to puzzle toys, Kongs for dogs are another great way to get your Yorkie to solve a problem and challenge the mind. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs“.

Scenting and nose games

Yorkies have a keen nose. Playing scenting and nose games helps to provide mental stimulation. Read “12 Scenting and nose games for dogs” for some ideas.

Chew Toys

Provide your Yorkshire Terrier with good strong chew toys. Chewing is a great way to occupy them. In addition, chewing releases endorphins and helps to relax a dog. Many dogs hold stress in the jaw.

Food enrichment

Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your Yorkie to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.

Enrich their environment

Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.

Over exercised dog symptoms

Yorkies can go hard and keep going, often not knowing when to stop. With any dog, it is possible to over-exercise them. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a dog that has overdone it. Read “Overexercised dog symptoms” to learn more.

Yorkshire Terrier puppy exercise

The exercise suggestions above relate to a healthy adult Yorkie. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. With puppies, their bones, muscle, and joints are still growing and developing.

Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. Any activity that is high impact on the joints should also be avoided.

The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys.

Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need.

As your Yorkshire Terrier puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash. Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.


The general rule of thumb for walking a puppy is around 5 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 15 minutes to 20 minutes is enough. Monitor your Yorkie puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired.

Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.

For more on exercise for your Yorkie puppy read “How to exercise your puppy

Exercise for a senior Yorkshire Terrier

As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.

Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.


In Summary

The Yorkie is an intelligent and high energy breed that needs adequate exercise and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and to avoid boredom leading to behavior issues. They should have moderate exercise by way of daily walks and twice a day if possible. In addition, you should incorporate high-intensity quick burst type play such as a flirt pole, fetch and tug of war. Finally, you should provide mental stimulation by way of puzzle toys. Check out “Top  Puzzle Toys for Dogs”

By catering to these three exercise types on a daily basis you when have a happy, balanced and well mannered little Yorkie.


  • Joseph Coleman

    A lifelong writer and proud dog dad. Joseph started this blog dedicated to helping other dog owners find accurate information on how to keep their pets at their healthiest through exercise and nutrition. His passion for all things canine shines through in his writing, and he believes that every dog deserves the best possible care. If you're a dog owner looking for reliable advice on how to keep your pup healthy and happy, be sure to check out Joseph's work.