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Training your Yorkie to sit, stay, and lay

Yorkshire Terriers, also known as Yorkies, are tiny, cute dogs with big personalities. These tiny dogs are fierce and fiercely loyal, fearless, intelligent and, despite their size, are great watchdogs. Like many small breeds, Yorkies are full of energy and personality and that may make them a bit more challenging to teach to sit, stay and lay down – simply because they want to be on the move!

Even if you train your Yorkie with basic obedience commands you’ll find he is eager to learn and to please and picks up commands quickly. This is a working dog who is strong-willed and has a big-dog temperament in her small body.

The foundation for training your Yorkie begins with the following:

1. Consistency in training and the commands you use.

2. Repetition in short training sessions.

3. Positive reinforcement for a job well done!

Note: One of the main differences in training a Yorkie as compared to training, say a Great Dane, is perspective. You will want to get down to the Yorkie’s level or you will want to elevate your Yorkie so you’re almost eye level with him. (Don’t sit on the ground, though, when you train your Yorkie because he will associate your sitting on the ground with the command.)

Training Your Yorkie To Sit

To train your Yorkie to sit, take her into a quiet area where there are few distractions. Hold a small easy-to-chew, high reward treat that your Yorkie loves. Let her know you have the treat. Let her sniff it before you say, “sit.” When you say the word, move the treat over her muzzle and over the top of her head. She will look up at the treat and will naturally sit to keep her balance. Once her bottom hits the floor, give her a treat and enthusiastically say, “Good sit!” When you’re training positively reinforce the command word and the action you’re training.

Repeat the steps above with the treat and with saying “sit” and with rewarding her for a job well done. Once she has mastered “sit,” you can move to an area with distractions.

Teaching Your Yorkie To Lay

After success with the “sit” command, move onto the “lay” command. (You will want to get him into the “sit” position before laying down.)

Once he’s sitting, hold his favorite treat at nose level then move the treat down toward the floor. To more easily train “lay” move the treat in an “l-shape” motion moving the treat across the floor and away from him. When you do this, his head will move down toward the floor and his legs will slide forward. Once his front legs are moving forward, say “down” or “lay” as soon as his belly touches the floor. Practice this until he lays down without your having to move your arm in the “l-shape” motion.

Praise him and give him a high reward treat for completing the “down.” Again, you may want to use a hand motion along with the verbal command. The hand motion for “down” could be you holding your hand, palm down, and reaching toward the floor while you say “down.”

Teaching Your Yorkie To Stay

You can practice “stay” in either the “sit” or the “lay” position. Some Yorkies may find it easier to contain their excitement from the “sit.”

To train this command, put your Yorkie in the “sit” or “lay” then use the command, “stay” or a hand motion to train this command. Many people will hold their hand up, palm flat (as if stopping traffic) when they say “stay.”

When teaching “stay” you will want him to remain seated or lying down while you walk away from him or walk around him. Walk only a few feet away, saying “stay” or using the hand motion. As soon as he moves out of the “sit” or “lay” and comes toward you, stop and get him back into the “sit” and try again.

Patience will be needed to work up the “stay” to the point where you can leave the room and your Yorkie will remain where you left him until you return and give the “release” command. The “release” command could be, “come” or “here” or you could use a hand signal or snap your fingers. Whatever command or word or hand signal you use when training your Yorkie, you and everyone else involved in his training needs to be consistent.

Yorkie Training Wrap-Up

Once your Yorkie has mastered “sit,” “lay” and “stay” indoors, move the training sessions out-of-doors. Don’t be upset if she seems to have “forgotten” the lessons she’d mastered so well indoors; distractions and new sights and smells will be luring her toward them and away from her training. Spend time working with your Yorkie in various situations with myriad distractions to assure he is fully trained to listen to and obey your commands regardless of the situation.

Make sure training is fun and the sessions are short. Be enthusiastic every time he does anything correctly: hug him and talk in a high-pitched baby voice to express your happiness with their performance! Use high-quality treats he doesn’t receive often—such as bites of cooked chicken or bites of hot dogs.

Pet parents of tiny dogs sometimes feel as though basic obedience training isn’t necessary because they’re so small, but basic obedience is for the safety of your dog. Also, when you train your Yorkie, it is a great time to bond and to celebrate his wins!

Editor’s Note: Looking to keep your Yorkie trim without having to visit a professional groomer each week? Here are a few grooming tips for those of you who want to groom your Yorkie at home.


Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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