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The Yorkshire Terrier is an adorable, fearless, miniature dog breed with a big personality. They are full of energy, spunk, and curiosity, making them a lot of fun to have in the home.
Yorkies are ready to take on a challenge at any moment, be it a game of tug-of-war or a big dog at the park. These attributes mean you’ll need to train your Yorkie early to develop them into a well-behaved member of the family. We’ll walk through how to train a Yorkie puppy in this guide.
In this guide:
- Are Yorkies easy to train?
- The 4 fundamentals of Yorkie puppy training
- How to train a Yorkie puppy
- When should we start potty training?
Are Yorkies easy to train?
Yorkies are not the easiest breed to train. It’s not because they aren’t smart; they are quite an intelligent breed. But they tend to be confident, curious, and a bit stubborn—all of which can make training more difficult.
Don’t worry, though; it’s not impossible to train a Yorkie. In fact, the opposite is true. Yorkies aim to please and will take to training well if you’re consistent and thorough in your lessons. It will just take time, patience, and knowledge of which steps to follow to train them correctly.
The 4 fundamentals of Yorkie puppy training
Training your Yorkshire Terrier early on in life is best. Forming an early impression of how your dog ought to behave will ward off negative habits you don’t want, and it will also instill trainability for additional skills from the very beginning.
Many training sessions may be needed to help your dog grasp a particular behavior. Just like most learning, repetition is key. Keep sessions short and repeat often.
Positive reinforcement is the best method for training a Yorkie puppy. This breed can be stubborn and likes to be in charge, so if you can instruct them while staying on their good side, it’s a win-win.
Typically, positive reinforcement is accomplished with praise and treats. When you take into consideration how often you’ll be repeating the command and reward, you’ll quickly figure out that your puppy will be getting lots of treats.
Therefore, it’s important to give your Yorkie small, low-calorie treats like sweet potato or apple bites, rather than treats that have extras, like sugar or preservatives.
Negative reinforcement, like a time out, is less effective than positive reinforcement. But in some instances, negative reinforcement may be needed to discourage bad behavior, such as barking or biting. Yelling or hitting your dog will not instill the trust relationship you want to build with your pup, so avoid these behaviors.
Consistency is critical in puppy training. Pick one training method and stick to it. For example, use the same hand motion or basic command every time you train your puppy to do a particular action.
Also, once you decide to work on a trick or behavior, stick to it. Don’t allow a certain behavior sometimes and other times discourage it. Without consistency, you’ll give mixed messages and leave your puppy confused.
How to train a Yorkie puppy
Training a Yorkie puppy is a lot of work, but it is so worth it for a lifelong relationship with a well-behaved pup. We know you may feel overwhelmed, but don’t worry. The steps below really are simple; you just need to pair them with the fundamentals explained above to successfully train your pup. If you’d like more hands-on instruction, we strongly recommend Brandon McMillan’s MasterClass on dog training. It’s super practical and easy to follow, plus it comes with all of the other awesome content on MasterClass. Or, if you’d like to go more in-depth on the methods service dog trainers use to get their animals to behave so well, check out our K9 Training Institute review. They offer a free workshop, so you can get a preview of their methods and potential outcomes before diving in.
Choose your command word
Be consistent when giving commands. Whether you are using hand signals or words, use the same cue repeatedly and don’t change it. Commands should be short and clear, like “Sit,” rather than “Fido, would you please sit.”
Yorkie puppies have very short attention spans. Removing toys, food, children, or other pets from the room will help your puppy focus on you and the command you are giving. If you have reward treats in the room, keep them close to you or hidden so your Yorkie’s focus is on you and not the treats.
Connect the dots
In the early stages of training, you may need to physically make your dog do the desired behavior, such as sitting or lying.
Using the clicker training method may help connect the dots. A training clicker provides an auditory click you can use to pinpoint the exact moment your dog obeys your command. A treat is awarded immediately afterward so your dog associates the noise (and the simultaneous behavior) with positive reinforcement. This helps your puppy understand what exactly they’re being rewarded for when they only remain still for a moment or two.
Training a Yorkie to sit
A good first step for most puppies is the classic command, “sit.” To train your Yorkshire Terrier to sit, grab his favorite tasty treat and let him sniff it without giving it to him. Once he knows you have it, give the command, “sit.” Move the treat over his head so that he naturally tilts his head back, making it more likely that he’ll sit on his own.
As your dog looks up at the treat, gently push his lower back to the sitting position. Once his bottom hits the floor, give him the treat and lots of praise. Repeat.
If you are using the clicker method, you’ll want to click as soon as his bottom sits on the floor.
Training a Yorkie to lie down
Once your dog has a handle on sitting and understands the connection between the clicker and the treat (if using), move onto the “lie down” command. Begin by getting your pup to sit.
After rewarding her for sitting, hold another treat below her nose and draw it down in front of her and move it slowly across the floor away from her. Say the command “down”. If she walks forward, remind her to sit until she lies down naturally. You may have to help her into this position initially.
As soon as her belly touches the floor, say the verbal command, click your clicker, and reward her. Repeat.
Training a Yorkie to stay
Begin by having your Yorkie sit. Give the command “stay” and/or your chosen hand signal, such as an open palm held perpendicular to the floor. While facing your dog, walk backward, keeping your eyes on her and repeat the command. After walking only a few feet, stop and give the command “come” or something similar. Reward with a treat and praise once she complies. Repeat until your pup has this down.
You’ll want to teach this skill by progressively moving further away from your pet and eventually leaving the room. This may require patience to get to the point where you can leave a room and return with her in the same spot. Once you have that down, try training your pup to stay even when there’s food left in front of her.
>> Take the MasterClass: Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training
Tricks to teach your Yorkie
- Lay down
- Play dead
- Roll over
- Up, to help you pick up your dog
>> Read more: Yorkie Games: What Do Yorkies Like to Do for Fun?
How to train a Yorkshire Terrier not to repeat bad behavior
We’ve gone over tricks and behaviors you may want to teach your Yorkie, all of which use positive reinforcement. But, there are also behaviors Yorkies exhibit that you will want to stop, such as biting, barking, or chewing on furniture.
There are ways to use positive reinforcement to stop a behavior, but often, using negative reinforcement is the most successful way to help your Yorkie to associate the behavior with something they are not supposed to do.
Some methods of negative reinforcement are: giving time outs, spraying with a water bottle, no-shock Yorkie bark collars, or saying “no” in a stern voice. The idea is, as soon as the bad behavior is exhibited, negative reinforcement is used so the dog makes the association.
When our Yorkie puppy, Max, would bite too hard, we’d immediately make a sharp, short hissing sound—“Ssts”—as a warning that he needed to stop. I feel that’s a lot less obnoxious than a loud clap or something similar. We found this simple trick very successful, and now we use it to warn him if he’s somewhere he shouldn’t be or digging a hole in the flower bed.
Our Yorkie requires extra measures (i.e. spraying him with a water bottle ) when it comes to barking, however. You can learn more in our guide on how to stop a Yorkie from barking.
Once the bad behavior has ceased, reward your puppy with praise and a treat. Adding positive reinforcement will help make learning stick.
Never shout at or hit your dog for bad behavior. Staying calm and utilizing the methods above will be more successful in training your Yorkie.
When should we start potty training?
You’ll want to begin potty training your Yorkshire Terrier as soon as you can. Often, breeders will have already begun puppy pad training before your dog came home, giving you a head start on the process.
You can choose to continue pad training only or do a combination of both pad training and outdoor training as soon as you adopt your dog. If you live in a place where you can do outdoor training from the start, that would be the best option.
When it comes to housebreaking, you will need to follow the same basic principles used for training other behaviors: consistency, repetition, positive reinforcement, and lots of patience. There are a few other things to consider as well, such as your designated potty spot, the common times your puppy will need to go, and whether you want to crate train your Yorkie puppy.
All of these principles and steps for success are covered in our guide to potty training Yorkie puppies.
Training Yorkies may not be the easiest task, but getting an early start and maintaining a high level of consistency will make the job a bit easier. And don’t forget that you can always try something new if what you are doing isn’t working.