Learn the essentials of how to groom a Yorkie at home. Grooming at home saves money and is surprisingly easy with practice. Best of all, grooming strengthens your bond with your pet.
Daily Basic Grooming
Check eyes daily for stray hair and discharge. Use a wet cotton ball to clean the corners of the eyes if necessary. Use a flea comb with closely spaced teeth to separate the individual hairs and remove gunk. Dab with a dry cotton ball to remove excess moisture that can promote yeast growth and tear stains.
Hair Brushing and Detangling
Yorkies require daily hair brushing and combing whether they have a short or full coat. Daily detangling prevents mats that damage hair and possibly harm skin. Brush and comb hair in sections being careful not to tug skin. See our article How to Comb Knots out of Dog Hair for more tips.
Re-do topknots daily to prevent tangling and damage. Comb from the outside corners of the eyes upward, gathering the hair. Wrap the band or scrunchie around the hair slightly away from the scalp. Pull the hair in the center of the little ponytail while pushing downward on the hairband toward the scalp. This will create the poof or bulb of the base of the topknot. Avoid pulling the hair too tight against the scalp to prevent injury to the skin.
A proper topknot as seen in the dog show ring is more complex. The hair is backcombed and two ponytails are placed, one closer to the eyes and one behind it. The two ponytails are brought together with a bow. Styling a perfect show topknot is hard on the hair and not recommended for daily wear.
Ideally, teeth should be brushed daily. Your dog may resist at first and you may not accomplish much, but daily practice will make the process easier and more effective over time. Use a flavored enzyme toothpaste formulated for dogs. Never use human toothpaste because it is not safe to ingest. We rotate between toothpaste and organic coconut oil. The dogs love the taste of both and are more willing to submit to brushing with the yummy flavor. The coconut oil fights bacteria that leads to the formation of calculus and tartar. It promotes healthy gums along with the brushing.
Use any kind of toothbrush. Inexpensive baby toothbrushes are perfect for small mouths and can be replaced frequently, which is helpful if your dog likes to chew the brush.
Bathing a Yorkie
Yorkies are typically bathed once a week. Partial body washes may be required in between full baths. Use a sink or bathtub with a rubber anti-slip mat to give your dog a stable footing. We use a shallow sink and do not submerge the dogs in water. It is more of a Yorkie shower using the hand held sprayer.
We use a measuring cup to pour water over the dog’s head. This is gentler than the pressurized water from the sprayer and less likely to cause water to go in the ears. Safer for the eyes as well.
Shampoo and Condition
Rinse out shampoo thoroughly for best results and to prevent itchy, flaky skin. Follow with conditioner to close the cuticle of the hair shaft for a smoother and shinier look. Puppies require only light conditioner, whereas an adult with a full coat may require a generous amount.
During the winter, we like to add a little organic coconut oil to our conditioner. This helps combat dryness caused by furnace heat and low humidity.
After the final rinse, wrap your Yorkie in a warm towel for a couple of minutes to dry. Some dogs like to zoom, run around and rub, after a bath. Air drying works if your dog likes to keep moving. Avoid allowing a wet dog to go to bed and lie down, trapping moisture in a wet coat. This can cause skin problems.
Use a hair dryer on low heat to dry your Yorkie. Keep the air stream moving constantly rather than concentrating in one spot. Hold the hair dryer a safe distance from your dog and do not direct the air stream at the eyes.
Use your fingers to comb through the hair while you dry your dog. Avoid using brushes and combs on soaking wet hair which can pull and cause damage.
After a bath, use an ear cleaner with a drying agent to prevent problems caused by moisture in the ear. Apply the liquid as directed (we do not use too much), and use a cotton ball to remove dirt and cleaner. Be careful not to get the cleaner in the eyes.
We use a flea comb daily on the hair around the ear canal to prevent dirt and wax buildup. Combing also helps to remove loose hair painlessly. Removing all of the hair from the ear canal is not necessary, but do not allow the hair to become too thick. Use fingers to pluck excess hair.
Clip nails after a bath when the nails are softer and easier to cut. You can do this while your Yorkie is wrapped in a towel to reduce squirming. Trim a little off at a time, avoiding the cuticle. Nails should be short enough that they are not curling under. If you hit a cuticle, use styptic powder to stop the bleeding.
The standard for grooming Yorkie ears is to shave one-third to two-thirds of the ear from the top point. Use an electric beard and mustache trimmer flat against the ear flap, front and back. Removing this hair often helps the ears stand erect. Refrain from using scissors for closer cuts. The risk of cutting the thin ear flap is high and ears do not heal well. The flesh often dies and has to be removed.
For pet Yorkies, ear hair trimming can take many stylistic approaches. It is a matter of personal taste.
Decide if you want to grow the mustache and hair on the snout in the traditional style or trim at the inner corners of the eyes. Trimming the corners requires regular maintenance to prevent hair from growing and sticking into the eyes. It is possible to have a topknot and trimmed eye corners on the snout. Use rounded or ball tipped scissors to safely cut close to the eyes. Point the scissors toward the center for the nose.
The beard is another area that leaves room for personal taste. It can be allowed to grow full length or kept very short. Some people prefer a rounded beard, some prefer a pointed beard, and others prefer a square cut. Use scissors to follow the jawline from the bottom of the ears to the center of the mouth to create the look you want.
With your Yorkie standing, comb the leg hair down straight. Cut the ends of the hair floor length following the outline of the paw. The hair should be short enough that it does not wrap underneath the paw. Use a beard and mustache trimmer to shave hair between the paw pads on the underside of the paw. Shaving this hair prevents the paw pads from spreading and helps keep debris from being trapped in the paw. It also prevents slipping and sliding on hard floors.
Sanitary Trim and Belly
Shave all or part of the belly to help keep your Yorkie clean. Some people also prefer to shave the inside of the legs and chest. For full coated male dogs, a small amount of short hair left on the penis helps direct urine downward, away from the belly and chest. This is referred to as a pee string. Lastly, shave hair around the anus and rear end carefully.
Skirt and Legs
If you prefer to let your Yorkie grow a full coat, simply use scissors to snip the tips of the hair monthly. This helps prevent split ends and thereby keeps hair strong and promotes healthy growth. Cut the skirt to floor length when necessary.
If you prefer shorter hair, there are many styles to choose. A puppy cut with a short body and rounded face style is a classic. You can also leave the leg hair long and shave only the saddle or torso. Using a clipper with different size blades and comb attachments, experiment to come up with the style that suits your Yorkie best.
Yorkie Coat Types and Grooming
The standard or ideal Yorkie coat type is silky. Some dog enthusiasts say that the perfect Yorkie coat is one of the most difficult to achieve in dog breeding. Not all Yorkies conform to standard. Some are born with cotton coats, also called soft coats. There are also modified coats, a blend of silk and cotton.
In addition, not all Yorkies have the genetics to grow a floor-length full coat. Show Yorkies have the genes, but they also have their hair in protective wraps between exhibitions. Their hair is not subjected to the same wear and tear of the average pet Yorkie.
How can you tell what kind of coat your Yorkie has? A silk coat feels like smooth silk needlepoint thread. The hair is cool to the touch, has a natural gleaming shine, and tends to drapes straight. Cotton coats are more prone to tangling and matting. They do not reflect light well and appear matte rather than shiny. The hair is closer to a cotton needlepoint thread and feels warmer to the touch. Modified coats are a mixture of the two types.
How will this affect your grooming? Cotton coats are much more difficult to maintain as a long, full coat. They usually require a lot of time devoted to detangling. A shorter haircut makes grooming a cotton coated Yorkie much easier and more comfortable for the dog. Coat type will also determine which shampoo, conditioners, brushing sprays and dressings work best for your dog.
The best Yorkie shampoo and conditioner is unique to each dog. Climate and water quality also determine which products work best on your dog’s coat. The only way to find the perfect products is through trial and error.
Products and Tools
The essential products and tools to groom your Yorkie at home, along with a few of our favorite brands:
- Brushes and combs: Madan, Chris Christensen, 1 All Systems
- Shampoo and conditioner: Vellus, Bio-Groom, Isle of Dogs, 1 All Systems, Pet Silk
- Brushing spray
- Toothbrush and toothpaste: C.E.T. Toothpaste
- Nail clipper and styptic powder
- Ear cleaner with a drying agent
- Cotton balls
- Hairbands, scrunchies, and bows for topknot
- Beard and mustache trimmers: Andis, Wahl
- Clippers with blade and comb attachments: Andis
Safety and Comfort
Always gather everything you will need for grooming before you put your dog on a counter, table, or wherever you groom. Never leave your dog unattended. Keep a hand on your Yorkie at all times and use your body to block your dog from falling or jumping.
Work with adequate lighting and always take your time. Be relaxed and confident to put your dog at ease. Use massage and soothing talk to relax your dog. Reward your dog with praise throughout the process, and give treats when appropriate.
For trimming, you can always go back and trim some more. If you make a mistake or decide you do not like something, it is only hair and will grow back.