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House Training

 House Training a Yorkie

Overview

This breed is actually more easy to house train than some other types of breeds. In general, the Yorkie aims to please. 

However, in order to have quick success, you'll need to be prepared. This involves having the right things in place in order for housebreaking to work. 

In addition, you'll want to have a clear understanding of all of the guidelines. If you are not following the rules, neither can your Yorkshire Terrier. 

This section will show you exactly how to house train a Yorkie with step-by-step tips and advice. 

Overview of What Will be Needed

Before we dive into all of the details, it may help you to have a general understanding of what will need to be in place and be done for housebreaking to work. Then, we'll get into specifics. 

1. Realistic expectations. Yorkie puppies do not have full control over bladder and bowel muscles. These will develop as the pup grows. So, needs can only be held for so long. In general, a 2-month old can go about 2 hours, a 3-month old for 3 hours, and so on.  

This does not mean that your 3-month old puppy will pee and then not pee again for another 3 hours. It just means that this is the maximum time that should lapse between taking the pup out. 
Yorkie sniffing at ground to pee
2. A supervision method. If your Yorkie is let outside alone, there will be zero opportunities to learn. And if you are not keeping a very close eye on your Yorkie while inside, there will be pee and poo just about everywhere. 
3. Exact adherence to housebreaking rules. Every element that is listed is here for a reason. If you halfheartedly follow these, if just some of the household members do the steps, or if some steps are done but not others, success will be limited. 

4. Proper reaction to accidents. If you follow all of these steps to potty train your Yorkie, there will be very few accidents. However, some will occur, and it'll be important that you react the right way. 

Indoor Vs Outdoor House Training

For the best and fastest results, we highly recommend housebreaking a Yorkie to eliminate outdoors. It is canine instinct to sniff around outside and choose 'just the right spot'. And, going to the bathroom outside is much easier for a dog than trying to hit the mark on pee pads set up indoors. 

This said, if you do choose the indoor method of setting up pee pads, do follow all of the same advice here. The main difference will be that the 'designated area' will be the pee pads instead of a bathroom area outside. 

Step #1 Choose the Bathroom Area

One area should be chosen as the designated bathroom area. Here are some important elements about this:
  • A huge part of housebreaking a Yorkie is that the pup will be brought to this area by you. This means that you will not just open the door and let your Yorkie outside. Not only is this very dangerous, but it brings the learning opportunities down to zero. 
  • The area should be easily accessible in all seasons and in all weather. What seems to work well in the summer may be hard to reach in the winter. We will also cover some things you can do to make heading outside more tolerable. 
  • This should be at least 10 feet away from any family areas, such as the barbecue, outdoor eating spot, etc. 

Step #2 Have Supervision & Containment Methods in Place

During the housebreaking phase, your Yorkie should always be supervised or kept in one spot. Not doing this is the downfall of many housebreaking attempts. An owner sees that their Yorkie is rather close by, they turn to tidy up the room... or prepare lunch, and the puppy pees right in the middle of the living room. 

Or, the puppy is playing with his toys, so the owner looks through the mail and makes a call, and the puppy leaves a poo behind the sofa.

So, unless you have your eyes directly on your Yorkie with no distractions, one of two things must be happening:

1) Tethered supervision. If you cannot give your Yorkie your undivided attention but can keep him by your side as you are doing other things, keep your Yorkie tethered to you via a harness and a short 6-foot leash. Note that the harness is vital; do not use a collar as this can cause neck injury. In addition, the leash should be short; 6 feet (9 at the most) and lightweight (those made of climbing rope are incredibly durable but light, and work well). 

Any time that your Yorkie makes a motion to pee or poo, you will immediately pick him up and bring him to the designated area. And you will carry him if you must (a great benefit of having such a tiny toy breed). 
2) Playpen. For any times that you cannot keep your Yorkie right by your side or for any times that you are not home, you'll need to keep your Yorkie in one specific spot.  

It is not recommended to use a crate. Crates are terribly confining, and can cause both physical and emotional stress. Since a dog will pee or poo regardless of the size of his area when he simply cannot hold his needs any longer, there is no benefit to keeping a dog in such a small cage.

It is also not recommend to use a gate to give a Yorkie an entire room. This not only is potentially dangerous unless the room is fully puppy-proofed, but it also opens up a huge problem with destructive chewing (many pups being housebroken are also in the teething phase). And, the pup will end up peeing and pooing all over the room. 

What is recommended is a properly sized indoor canine playpen (also referred to as exercise pens). 
These offer just the right amount of space, and are often used to help cure separation anxiety (it offers a secure feeling of a 'den', while ensuring that all of a Yorkie's necessities are right there with him). 
Let's take a pause to show our recommended supervision and containment items. Below you will see a harness that comes in extra-extra small, a 6-foot leash made of climbing rope which makes it very lightweight, and two great playpen options. If you do not see the images, try a refresh, and on mobile, you may need to turn the screen horizontal to see all 4. 
How to set up the playpen:  Choose a spot in a room that is used by the family; dogs do not like to feel isolated. If you'll be putting this over carpeting, you may want to obtain a small piece of linoleum from your local home supply store to serve as the base.

Within the pen will be a quality bed, a few helpful toys for teething or engagement, food (if you'll be gone), water, and a spot for pee-pads. Dogs very rarely soil their own belongings, so any housebreaking accidents will most likely end up on the pads.

Note, that if your Yorkie tends to move the pee pads or chews at them, using a canine litter box (minus the sand, because that rarely works) to hold the pads can work well to keep them in place. 
Below are some recommended items you may want to have inside the playpen. If you do not see the images, try a refresh, and on mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4. 

Step #3 Be Prepared to Give Praise & Reward

A huge part of house training is praise and reward. This combination is how dogs learn best, and what will motivate them to keep working at something.
Yorkie outside with harness on deck
Emmy, photo courtesy of Terry DeMeyer
Once a dog carries out a particular action enough times, it becomes automatic; at that time, reward will not be a 'must'; however, it does help to reinforce good behavior. 
The praise. Choose a certain word or phrase that you will always use. This should be something that you do not mind calling out in public. Just saying 'bathroom' is perfectly fine; though, 'pitty-potty' or another like term will work as well. 

You will say this each time you bring your Yorkie to the designated bathroom area (Let's go pitty-potty) and immediately after your dog has done the deed (Good pitty potty, good dog!). 

The reward. Special treats should be at the ready, in a zipped sandwich bag, and placed near the exit door that leads to the bathroom area. You'll want to be able to grab and pocket these as you are taking your Yorkie out. 

As you offer praise, palm a treat and allow your Yorkie to mouth it. 

The type of treat that you choose as reward for housebreaking plays a big role. 
Here are 3 tips to keep in mind: 
  • This should not be a snack that would be given out regardless. it should be reserved only for housebreaking successes. 
  • It should be be highly tasty, giving a quick burst of flavor that offers immediate signal of a job well done. 
  • It should be small (the idea is to offer instantaneous satisfaction and not something that a dog needs to sit down to chew on).
Since you'll also want to take care that the treats are high-quality (no chemical additives, no by-products, no artificial coloring, and made in the US), one great option is one of the flavors of Fruitables; these come in many flavors, so if your Yorkie is already being given these, try a new flavor like Crispy Bacon and Apple or Mango Blueberry.

And Zuke's, Wellness (the maker of our top recommended kibble), and Old Mother Hubbard make some fantastic training treats as well, that are 100% wholesome and sized correctly as well. 
Below are our recommended treats to reward for housebreaking. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. And on mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4. 

Step #4 The Actual House Training Rules

Now that you have prepared and have things in place to allow your efforts to be successful, it is time to implement the training. Here are 8 rules to follow:

1. Take your Yorkie to the same designated area every single time. Stand in the center of that area, and allow your Yorkie to choose the exact spot within the diameter. 

2. Do not hesitate with praise and reward as soon as your Yorkie urinates or has a bowel movement. Say, 'Good, pee-poo!' (or your chosen phrase) with lots of enthusiasm (as if your pup just did the most magnificent thing in the world), while handing over the special training reward treat. 

3. Bring your Yorkie there before each walk. Allowing a dog to pee or poo while out for his daily walks is a missed opportunity for teaching housebreaking. 

4. Be patient. Dogs can take anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes to relax bowel muscles. Bring a chair if you must, but do give your Yorkie enough time. 

5. Bring your Yorkie outside often enough. This should be:
  • Right after your pup wakes up
  • About 20 minutes after each meal
  • Right after you arrive back home, if you've been out
  • Every so-many hours depending on age (3 hours for a 3-month-old, 4 hours for a 4-month old, etc.)
  • Right before bed
6. Bring your Yorkie out any time that he/she makes a motion to pee or poo. Your Yorkie should right in your sights, be tethered to you, or in his playpen. As soon as you see a leg lift or a squat, give a loud hand clap to interrupt and bring your pup right out, even if you must carry him. 
two month old Yorkie pup
Gio, at 2 months old,
photo courteys of Anette
7. Time meals. Most Yorkshire Terriers do well with 3 meals per day, 2 to 3 snacks, and with the last meal or snack about 2 hours before bedtime.

But, if your Yorkie is waking up and having a bowel movement super early, you may want to try adjusting dinnertime. This may lead to a bowel movement later in the evening before bed, as opposed to 4 or 5 AM. 

8. React appropriately at night. Most young puppies will bark intermittently throughout the night and it will be important to try and ascertain if the barking at night is for attention or because there is a bathroom need. 

Most very young puppies do not yet know to alert you to needs, so the majority of vocalization will be to gain your attention. 

Since you do not want to your puppy to learn that he's allowed to wake you up 100 times, unless you highly suspect that he needs to poo or pee, barking should be ignored and the pup will learn to self-sooth.

If you do bring him out, you will want to strongly convey that this is a serious time and not one for play. Keep lights low and do not speak at all unless it is to offer praise for urinating or eliminating in the designated area.

Step #5 Reacting to Accidents

If you are home and always have your Yorkie directly within your line of sight, tethered to you, or in his playpen, there should be essentially no times of accidents. 

And, if when you are not home you have your Yorkie in a playpen, since this is a defined space, pee and poo will be kept to one small area, and hopefully on the pee pads.

This said, if your Yorkie does pee and poo in the house, you'll want to react the right way and clean it in the right way. 

Reacting: 

If you see your Yorkie starting to pee or poo, interrupt him via a loud hand clap and a firm 'No.' Immediately bring him out, and if you feel that there is no time to walk him out, carry him (grabbing the leash and treats on the way out the door). 

If you come across a puddle of pee or a little pile of poo but did not witness it happening, reassess what lead to this in the first place. Were you following the supervision and confinement methods? 

Also, do not bother reprimanding; it will do little good and being scolded or yelled at may only serve to make your Yorkie afraid of you. 

Cleaning: 

Both urine and feces leave strong, lingering scents. The enzymes in this waste matter are not washed away with soap and water. So, while you may not smell anything at all, and the spot may look clean once you've taken care of it, it may still be sending out an almost impossible-to-ignore message to your Yorkie that says 'This is the bathroom area'. 
For this reason, thoroughly clean any accidents with a quality enzyme cleanser. A good one to try is Rocco & Roxie's Professional Strength Stain & Odor Eliminator; this works on all flooring surfaces including carpeting, tile, and hardwood. 

Common House Training Problems Solved

My Yorkie pees right after I bring him back inside.

In most cases, this is a matter of the pup not being outside long enough. Unless a Yorkie urgently needs to go, it can take upward of 15 minutes for the pup to relax bladder and bowel muscles and focus on eliminating. 

It's a common occurrence for owners to rush back inside too early, particularly if the weather is unpleasant. So, if it is cold, be sure that you're dressed warm enough, and have a warm coat or vest for your Yorkie.  
If it is raining, why not try a pet umbrella? These work very well for tiny toy breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier (not such a great idea for larger dogs). One like the LESYPET Pet Umbrella With Leash will keep a Yorkie quite dry. 
Another trick to try is to hold your Yorkie on your lap after coming back inside. Very few dogs will pee on their owner. Wait 10 minutes, and head out again. 
Yorkie with red sweater
Zoey, 
photo courtesy of Karen Bryant
My Yorkie does everything outside other than pee. 

If your Yorkie eats grass, noses pebbles, chases butterflies, barks at the dog next door, lies down to take a nap, or otherwise does everything other than going to the bathroom, there are two things to take note of:

1 - Each time that you bring your Yorkie out, the goal is to offer the opportunity to pee or poo, not to insist that it happen. So, if a few of the trips are uneventful, that is fine.

2 - If your Yorkie is eating grass or pebbles, or doing other unacceptable things, as long as you have your dog on a harness (not a collar), you can safely redirect him. Remember, you are in charge. 
My Yorkie is out of control, and pees and poops everywhere in the house, even on my bed.

Until a dog is 100% fully house trained, he should not have full reign in the house. And sleeping up on an owner's bed should not be allowed. See Step #2 in regard to setting things up for success by choosing supervision and confinement methods. 

A Word About Marking

This is not actually a matter of house training; marking is a behavioral issue. Some tips to know if this is a marking issue include:
  • The dog is not fixed. Marking is much more common with un-neutered males and un-spayed females.
  • The dog only urinates inside; bowel movements are done outside. 
  • The dog does not release their full bladder; typically urine is sprayed. 
See Also:

Spaying and Neutering a Yorkie - The age this is done, what is involved, expected recovery time, pro and cons. 
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