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How to Train a Yorkshire Terrier to Sit

Updated on February 10, 2013
alexadry profile image

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Training a restless yorkie to sit takes some patience, but it can be fun!
Training a restless yorkie to sit takes some patience, but it can be fun! | Source

Wondering how to train your yorkie to sit? You may think: "but wait, a yorkie is a dog, so you can train a yorkie to sit just as you train any yorkie to sit, right?" Well, it makes sense, but yorkies as other breeds have some breed specific traits that make them quite unique. As much as this sounds silly, I do train each dog breed differently.

Indeed, I am known in my area for 'customizing' my training classes to specific breeds. Seriously, I have like different protocols and guidelines for each breed! Yorkies for instance, have many terrier traits, short attention spans, they are small size and are balls of kinetic energy.

I train a Yorkie much differently than say a great dane or a greyhound -which needs a specific training protocol on its own!-. While of course each dog regardless of breed has its own unique and distinct personality, and it would be wrong to generalize, there are some trends you see time after time that help make the process smoother and knowing the breed you will be dealing with will really make a difference on the choice of rewards/methods/tools. Knowing the breed also helps set the right expectations in clients and I never start a class without being prepared in advance so I know what tools, toys, treats, methods I should employ and what issues I may encounter with a specific breed.

I don't think this is just me; why are so many books on 'how to train your Rottweiler' or "how to train your pit bull" being published and being purchased by dog owners? I have several of these books and none are the same; they are all different. Honestly, I would never use a book on how to train a pit bull and then use the tips on a Chihuahua! and that is because the book will offer different breed-specific approaches. The same I think applies to grooming; each breed has different coat types, textures and predispositions for skin problems. I can't see a cookie-cutter method for each dog! So how to train a yorkie to sit? Follow these easy-step-by step instructions!

How to Train a Yorkie to Sit

You know you own a Yorkie when you ask her to sit and must bend down to figure out if her little tushie is on the floor. Humor aside, this may be the most challenging part of training your yorkie to sit; the praise and treats will do the rest.

Step 1:

Find what treats really motivate your Yorkie. While yorkies are generally bright and eager to learn, they are always terriers at heart. You will need high-value treats to grab the attention of these spunky, feisty dogs boasting short attention spans.


What mostly motivates your Yorkie so her efforts are paid off? Does she drool at the smell of freeze-dried liver or does she beg for meat, string cheese or peanut butter? It is up to you to find out what is at the very top of your Yorkie's hierarchy of rewards so you can reward her for a well-done job.

Step 2:

Find a quiet area in your home free of distractions and skip the backyard; Yorkies are lively, inquisitive creatures and their excitable chasing instincts may be triggered by the occasional squirrel hunting for nuts.

Start by holding a small treat between your index finger and your thumb and let it protrude a bit. Get your Yorkie's attention. Bring the treat towards your Yorkie's nose and then lift it slowly towards her head. Her nose will likely follow the treat as a magnet. This training method is known as "luring" because the treat "lures" your Yorkie just as a lure attached to the end of a fishing line attracts fish.

Step 3:

Keep an eye on your Yorkie's rear. As her nose points upward, her tushie should automatically hit the floor. The moment this happens, make sure you praise and reward her immediately with the treat. Time is of the essence here.With this swift, energetic breed, being just a second late may make the difference between sitting nicely and hearing the pitter patter of paws on the floor as she walks away. If you praise and reward at the wrong time, you will have taught her how to effectively get up from a sit; not very helpful indeed.

Step 4:

Introduce the verbal command. As your Yorkie starts understanding the exercise, get her attention, say the word "sit" and then repeat the nose-to-head hand motion with the treat. As soon as her rump touches the floor, praise and reward. Repeat a couple of times keeping the rate of reinforcement high. The ratio should be one treat for each successful sit.

Step 5:

Fade the hand motion more and more. After you say "sit" just slightly move your hand upward. As a smart Yorkie, she should start anticipating you to a point where just hearing the word sit will make her sit with no more need to rely on your hand motion. At this point, you can also start making her guess by giving her treats randomly every now and then. This will increase the sitting behavior as she will never know when to expect a treat will be coming; in the same way you may enjoy the thrill of scratching off those lottery tickets in anticipation of a great prize.

Step 6:

Fade the hand motion more and more. After you say "sit" just slightly move your hand upward. As a smart Yorkie, she should start anticipating you to a point where just hearing the word sit will make her sit with no more need to rely on your hand motion. At this point, you can also start making her guess by giving her treats randomly every now and then. This will increase the sitting behavior as she will never know when to expect a treat will be coming; in the same way you may enjoy the thrill of scratching off those lottery tickets in anticipation of a great prize.



Yorkie Training Tips for Success

  • Keep training session brief and upbeat.
  • Always end your training sessions on a positive note.
  • When you start giving treats intermittently, always remember to praise lavishly.
  • Because many Yorkies love squeaky toys, you can also use them to reward her.
  • Train sit in different areas of your home and then gradually add distractions.
  • As you add distractions, you may need to temporarily revert to giving treats more often.
  • As you add duration, train your Yorkie a release command that tells her the exercise is over and she can now break the sit.
  • For convenience, invest in a treat bag that goes around your waist or clips to your belt or pocket.

Yorkie Training Warnings

  • Pick treats carefully for your Yorkie; this breed is prone to digestive issues.
  • Try your best not to get frustrated or your Yorkie will pick up your negative emotions.
  • Avoid keeping the treat too high with this small breed or you will encourage jumping.
  • Do not stop giving treats too early into training or your Yorkie may get frustrated and give up trying.
  • Avoid pushing your Yorkie's rump down to make her sit down; this breed is particularly fragile

Alexadry © All rights reserved, do not copy.

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