Yorkies have a reputation for being small, charming lap dogs. They look sweet in women’s handbags, and they cuddle expertly.
But Yorkies also have a reputation for being notoriously hard to train. And dog training is daunting enough when the dog cooperates.
So, why are Yorkies hard to train, and what can you do about it?
History of the Yorkshire Terrier
To properly unpack why the Yorkie got its reputation for stubbornness, it helps to understand where they come from.
Despite their diminutive size, Yorkies, like many other dogs, began as working dogs. The popular theory is that the Yorkie originated in Scotland, where locals cross-bred the Skye Terrier with the Paisley Terrier.
It was a working-class dog for working-class folk. And in the great tradition of terriers, the Yorkshire Terrier was a ratter.
That may seem incredible to anyone familiar with the modern Yorkie. They give off the distinct impression rats could eat them. But part of the reason Yorkies are named after Yorkshire and not Clyde or Fife is that their popularity was so tremendous that the breed began migrating south to work in non-Scottish factories.
With time they became ubiquitous to Yorkshire.
Ratters are Stubborn
But what does the Yorkie’s inauspicious beginning in the wilds of Scotland have to Yorkies being hard to train?
It’s more than you’d expect. Ratters are stubborn by nature. Their job is to hunt down their prey and shake it until it dies.
In an interesting variation that explains the ‘yappy’ Yorkie bark, they might bark until you find the Yorkie and kill the animal yourself.
The result is a dog with high intelligence and opinions that stand approximately six feet taller than your Yorkie. It’s a dire combination when you want to train any breed of this ilk because they always believe they know better than you do.
So yes, Yorkies can be hard to train. However, it’s not impossible.
A Yorkie Training Guide
If Yorkies are hard to train, it can be difficult to know where to start. That said, there are a few basic commands all dogs need to learn, irrespective of breed or temperament. And these rudimentary commands make an excellent place for owners beginning dog training.
Teaching Your Yorkie Basic Obedience
Basic obedience training is crucial if you want a biddable Yorkie. It includes working on things like:
- Leash training
It also includes commands like:
- Lie Down
- Leave it
‘Leave it’ is particularly crucial to Yorkie owners because of Yorkies’ ratter ancestry. It helps you ensure they don’t continue playing with a destroyed toy or kill an unsuspecting rodent.
As Yorkies are hard to train, you must be consistent about commands and their application. That means choosing command words and using them whenever appropriate, even when you feel like a broken record.
Consistency also means choosing a command word and sticking with it. In multi-person households, you must agree on those words and use them without variation. Synonyms make for excellent writing but extremely confused canines.
You also need to understand that because Yorkies are hard to train, you won’t have instant success. It takes considerable time, patience, and commitment to train Yorkies to respond to basic commands. But when they do, you will have not only a better-behaved dog but an enhanced relationship with your Yorkie.
Potty Training Your Yorkie
Perhaps the trickiest part of training a Yorkie is housetraining them.
As discussed, a large part of the difficulty comes from Yorkies being small, stubborn dogs. They know where they want to do their toileting and when. And when you consider housetraining a Yorkie from the dog’s perspective, you start to see why Yorkies are hard to train.
They are small, short-legged dogs. Inclement winters put them in the middle of the snow, rain, and other cold conditions. It’s no wonder they are reluctant to pee outside.
There are three tried and tested ways of housetraining Yorkies, including:
- Crate training
- Paper training
- Pee pads
All have their advantages and disadvantages. Again, what is most important is that you be consistent.
The other thing that helps with housetraining Yorkies is learning their body language. All animals are experts at nonverbal communication, and Yorkies are no exception.
One of the reasons why Yorkies are hard to train is that owners don’t know what to look for when their Yorkie wants to go outside.
Interestingly, while Yorkies bark on almost every other occasion, they rarely bark when they want to go out to pee. Instead, they sit silently by the door.
Also, watch for:
If you notice these signs, your Yorkie needs a toilet break. Take them outside immediately, and praise them when they eliminate outdoors.
Since Yorkies are stubborn, positive reinforcement is one of the most effective things you can do to housetrain your Yorkie.
Other Training Considerations
Yorkies’ reputation as untrainable isn’t necessarily unearned. But one unequivocally true thing is that many owners struggle to housetrain Yorkies.
Partly that’s because the Yorkie is a small dog with a proportionately small bladder. But there’s more to it than that.
Canine Separation Anxiety
But there are other factors at play here. One reason why Yorkie may seem hard to train is that they are prone to separation anxiety. For some dogs, that manifests by inappropriately eliminating.
You may have housetrained your Yorkie, and their emotions get the better of them when you are out of the house.
There are several ways to combat this. One of the most effective is environmental enrichment. Environmental enrichment can be as simple as hiding treats behind the sofa while your Yorkie ferrets them out.
Alternatively, it might involve hiring a dog walker.
All environmental enrichment strategies share a focus on stimulation and emotional redirection. They give your Yorkie a productive outlet for their anxiety, reducing the chances of inappropriate urination when you aren’t around.
Another option is using synthetic pheromones to calm your anxious dog.
Another reason your Yorkie may seem hard to train is that they pee inappropriately when overexcited. This behavior is a common problem with many small dogs.
The good news is that many dogs age out of excitable peeing, even high-strung Yorkies.
The bad news is that there’s not much you can do about it until your Yorkie calms down.
One of the most effective things you can do with an excitable Yorkie is disengaged. Whether they are leaping, barking, or trying to get your attention, do not engage until they stop. When they are calmer, pet them.
That reduces the chances of triggering accidental urination. It also helps train your Yorkie by demonstrating how you want them to greet you.
Why are Yorkies hard to train? It goes back to their ratter ancestry. You need to be tenacious when your job is to kill rats by shaking them.
But that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Yorkies are small dogs and react badly to cold or wet weather because their bellies are low to the ground. Protective fleeces and outer gear can help manage this, but it won’t make your Yorkie less stubborn.
That’s why it’s crucial to learn their body language, even as you train them.
Another factor that makes Yorkies hard to train is their high energy level. They get excited, and that can result in accidents, even among housetrained dogs.
Ensuring you know what overstimulates your dog and taking precautions to discourage those behaviors will soon lead to a healthy, happy, and well-trained Yorkie.
And remember, it’s not that Yorkies can’t get trained. It just takes significant dedication, time, and patience.