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Yorkshire Terriers may be small, but they can make a big mess. If you’ve just brought a member of this tiny and adventurous breed into your home, you may want to begin crate training immediately to keep your pup safe, keep them out of trouble, and to prevent finding little accidents around your home.
We’ll show you how to crate train a Yorkie puppy in this guide.
In this guide:
- Yorkie crates & cages
- What is the purpose of crate training?
- How to crate train a Yorkie puppy
- Frequently asked questions about Yorkie crate training
- Common misconceptions about crate training
Yorkie crates & cages
What is the purpose of crate training a Yorkie?
Crate training can serve multiple purposes. For some dog owners, it’s a way to keep their teething puppy from chewing on shoes, furniture, and wires when unsupervised. It’s dangerous both for your property and your pup to leave the house for an hour with an unsupervised, untrained, and uncontained dog at home.
For others, a dog crate gives their puppy a safe and comfortable place to calm down or sleep when the household is busy. If you have other pets, young children, or frequent houseguests, a crate is a refuge for a young pup.
Additional reasons for crate training include:
- Travel prep: Whether traveling by air or by road, you’ll need to crate your pup to keep them safe and contained. Getting them comfortable with the crate now means they’ll be less anxious in transit.
- Kennel & vet prep: If you decide to travel but can’t bring your furry friend, you may end up leaving them at a local kennel, which means they’ll have plenty of crate time. Your pup could also be crated if they need to stay at the vet’s office for some extended period of time. In either case, training them now means they’ll be more comfortable later.
- Calming an excitable pet: Whether your dog is just easily wound up or you need to get them under control before company comes over, training them to lay in their crate is a great way to calm them down.
However, most people use the crate as an aid for potty training.
One of the many tasks new dog owners face is housebreaking their puppy. Instinctually, dogs do their best not to eliminate in their den or sleeping area. So, by crate training your Yorkie, you can more easily time and manage their bathroom breaks.
We’ll break down the process below. But for more info specifically about the house training process and what supplies you’ll need, check out our guide to potty training Yorkies. We also recommend checking out Brandon McMillan’s MasterClass on Dog Training, which walks you step-by-step through crate training your dog and teaching them all of the fundamental commands. If you want to dive even deeper into the methods of behavioral training used by service dog trainers, check out K9 Training Institute’s course. It includes a module on potty training.
How to crate train a Yorkie puppy
Step 1: Set up your Yorkie’s crate
You might be tempted to get your dog a spacious crate with room for play and lots of toys. That’s not how crate training works.
Your Yorkie’s crate should leave just enough room for them to stand up and turn around in, but no more. This means they’ll be comfortable and safe, but they won’t have room to divide their crate into a sleeping area and a potty area, which would be counterproductive to our goal.
You may be wondering how you could find a crate small enough for a tiny Yorkshire Terrier puppy. Fortunately, many dog crates have movable dividers so you can make the space smaller for young dogs and increase the size as they grow.
Make sure to place the crate in an area of the home where there is plenty of action. You don’t want your pup to feel any more isolated than they already will be. In the early days of training, it’s best if your pup will have a clear line of sight to you while in the crate. However, dog trainer Brandon McMillan also instructs that the crate should be close to the door, so you can get your pup leashed and out to the yard as quickly as possible after opening the crate. If you’re not quick, accidents will happen.
You’ll want to add a comfy, washable dog bed, blanket, and one or two toys, such as a companion toy or a chew toy, to keep your dog entertained. You’ll also want to have some treats on hand, but keep them separate until your pup is inside. If your crate doesn’t include a removable tray, you’ll also want to line the bottom with a puppy pad.
Once you have everything set up, you can continue with the steps below.
Step 2: Determine your pup’s potty schedule
Crate training is all about timing and keeping a consistent schedule. Before beginning, you’ll need to have a good idea of how long your dog can hold their bladder, so you can be proactive about taking them outside before they have an accident.
The general rule is that puppies can hold it for about 1 hour per month of age, up to a maximum of 8 hours. So if you just brought home a 2-month old puppy, they’ll need to be taken out at least once every two hours. However, you’ll need to adjust this schedule based on your experience with your dog, and be ready for lots of unpredictable accidents at the beginning.
Once you know roughly how long your pup can go between potty breaks, you can break down that period into playtime and nap time before taking them out again.
Step 3: Take your pup to the bathroom
The training cycle starts with your pup’s next bathroom break. You’ll want to make sure they have a relatively empty bladder when you put them inside.
Step 4: Tire out your puppy
A tired pup is a content pup, and you’ll want to make your Yorkie as content as possible during their time in the crate. After taking a bathroom break, help your dog expend energy by going for a walk, playing a game of fetch or tug-of-war, or a bit of roughhousing.
You can also allow your pup to explore the house a little, since now is the time they’re least likely to have an accident. But keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t get into anything they’re not supposed to be chewing on.
Playtime can last as long as your pup has energy and as long as you can supervise them (a larger puppy playpen or dog gate can make supervision easier). But puppies need frequent rest to keep up with their rapid growth, so as soon as you see your little friend start settling down for a nap, move them to the crate.
>> Read more: How Long Do Yorkies Sleep? Habits & Needs Explained
Step 5: Put your Yorkie in the crate
The first time you introduce your Yorkie to the crate you’ll want to give them plenty of time to sniff around and investigate. If at all possible, get them to enter voluntarily, and praise them for doing so.
Over time, you’ll want to train your Yorkie by giving a short command word, such as “crate,” followed by a low-calorie training treat when they enter. Low-cal treats are important since Yorkie puppies have such a low daily caloric intake, and you’ll probably be doling out plenty of treats during this learning phase.
Sit next to the crate with the door open so your dog can exit at will. During your first few attempts, it may be difficult to get them to stay put, but if their bed is comfy, they’ll want to lie down eventually.
Once the dog gets comfortable with lying in the crate, close the door and remain seated outside, so they don’t feel isolated. Your pup may whine, but don’t let them out immediately. They need to understand that crate time isn’t optional, and whining should only be a signal that they need to relieve themself.
It may take several weeks to get to this point, but, eventually, you’ll want to shut the door and move a few feet away, then to another room. The goal is to get to the point that you can leave the home for a short period of time, such as to run a quick errand, and gradually increase that amount of time to a few hours. Just remember never to leave your dog in the crate past their next scheduled bathroom break.
As we mentioned above, tiring out your pup and giving them a chew toy will do wonders for crate time. But if you’re fortunate enough to still have access to the pup’s mother, putting a lock of her hair in the crate may help to comfort young puppies during crate time.
Step 6: Praise your pup for braving the crate and take them outside
When it’s time to let your pup out of the crate, either because they’re showing signs that they need to potty, or just because they’ve woken up from a nap and are ready to play, you should reward them for doing a good job.
Giving your dog a treat both before and after crate time helps solidify in their minds that the crate isn’t a scary or bad thing. In fact, many dogs grow to like their crate and treat it as a safe place to nap or gnaw on chew toys.
After praising the pup, take them straight outside to their potty spot or to their designated pee pad. At this point, the clock starts ticking and your next crate cycle session begins.
Frequently asked questions about Yorkie crate training
Should I use a crate or playpen for a Yorkie?
When crate training, you’ll want a crate or cage small enough that your dog won’t want to eliminate. This means they should have just enough room to stand up and turn around, and not enough to pee in one corner and sleep in the other. This rules out most playpens, which tend to be much larger.
However, having a larger playpen or dog gate on hand can make supervising your pup during non-crate times much easier—especially if you need to keep them separate from other pets or away from certain rooms or furniture.
>> Read more: The Best Yorkie Playpen for your Puppy
What size crate do I need?
For Yorkshire Terrier puppies, we recommend an 18” x 12” x 14” dog crate. However, if you plan to continue using the crate even after your dog is fully trained, we suggest opting for one of the larger options offered. Each size includes a movable divider, so you can make the space smaller during the training phase and expand it as your dog grows.
>> Read more: Yorkie Growth Chart: How Big Will My Yorkie Get?
My Yorkie is crying. What do I do?
Unless you’re completely heartless, you’ll have a hard time ignoring your puppy’s whimpers. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what you need to do—as long as you’re certain your Yorkie’s cries aren’t a sign of something important.
If they’ve recently gone to the bathroom and you just put them in the crate, don’t let them out just because they whimper. That will send them the wrong message.
Instead, talk to them and consider sitting by the crate and letting them lick your fingers. Over time, stop addressing the cries so your dog learns to accept crate time and entertain themself.
However, if your dog has been in their crate for a while and it’s possible they may need to relieve themself again, you should certainly address their crying.
>> Take the MasterClass: Brandon McMillan teaches Dog Training
Common misconceptions about crate training
Crate training is not cruel
Probably the most common misconception about crate training is that it’s unduly cruel or harsh. This is not true—if you do it right. In fact, it can even help your dog experience less anxiety later in life if you ever need to leave them at a kennel or veterinarian’s office.
Leaving your dog isolated in a small cage for hours on end with no physical or mental relief can indeed be cruel. But if you time your crate sessions so that they don’t go on too long, your dog doesn’t need to relieve themself, and they don’t get bored, crate time is perfectly fine. Again, one of the best things you can do is tire out your pup so they simply lay down and take a nap.
Dogs do not hate their crates
At least they don’t have to. If you go about crate training the right way, and if your Yorkie isn’t especially prone to separation anxiety related to crates (as may be the issue with some rescue pups), then your pup may actually grow to love crate time.
Dogs like having dens, so if you make their crate comfy and inviting, it may be their favorite place to nap. And if you have a busy home with other pets or children running around, your Yorkie’s crate may actually be a place of refuge away from the chaos.