I’ve had my Yorkie, Catherine, for almost 8 years. She’s a joy to me and I can’t imagine my life without her. When the opportunity came up to add another Yorkie to my family, I couldn’t resist. What could be better than having second Catherine? Note to self – all dogs are not created equally.
In June of last year, we adopted a new puppy, Edward. He’s adorable, but, man, I’d forgotten what it’s like to have a puppy. Edward is a big guy, around 10 pounds, and he’s one giant ball of energy. He’s fun to play with outside, but inside the house is another matter. The two main things I hadn’t considered before bringing Edward home: puppies chew things; puppies poop. Both of these things come with the territory, but I hadn’t really considered what a huge issue they would come to be.
First, Catherine is puppy pad trained. This came out of necessity – she’s an escape artist at a level that rivals Houdini himself. Catherine just wants to run, far, far away. When we lived on a farm, more than once I had to chase her through fields and into a pond (literally, after 15 minutes of calling to her, I had to jump into the pond to get her stinky butt when it was obvious she wasn’t coming out and it looked like she had tired herself out and was having trouble keeping her head above water… not my finest moment). In our house in the city, she can find any space in the fence big enough to force herself through. After the hundredth time walking the perimeter of the back yard fence and fixing every possible hole and the second time searching the neighborhood for her, I decided that she could only go outside on a leash. Alas, I don’t always have time to take her out for a nice walk, hence the puppy pads. It had been going really well until we brought Edward home.
Trying to puppy pad train Edward was a complete disaster. It was like he just didn’t understand the concept. No amount of watching him like a hawk or picking him up and putting him on the pad was working. Add to that, he would literally destroy anything the found on the floor, and my patience came to it’s end. The final straw was when he destroyed my Amiigo fitness tracker (it’s like a FitBit). That thing cost me $120 and I waited 2 years for it. I cried. Then I decided, enough was enough. I was going to train this dog whatever it took. No more half-hearted attempts, no more throwing away the things he destroyed.
I had attempted crate training Edward when we first brought him home, but it just didn’t work. I know I had done some things wrong the first time around, so I decided to try again, but to make changes and do it the right way this time. Let me tell you the things I did wrong the first time that I’ve gotten right the second time.
Size of the Crate
The crate needs to be comfortable for your puppy but not big enough for them to poop in one end and then sleep in the other. They should be able to stand up, turn around, have their food and water and some bedding, but not room for much else. I’ve been blogging about Yorkies for years and this is one that I know… so why didn’t I do it right the first time? Laziness, I guess. I just used Catherine’s crate for Edward. The crate was way too big for a puppy. If I were smart, I would have bought a smaller crate to start with. Lucky for me, the second time around, Edward has grown and the crate I have is just the right size.
Another thing I knew but was too lazy to do properly is be consistent. When you embark on a crate training adventure, you have to make sure you aren’t confusing your dog. He learns what to expect from you. You set the rules. If you show him that there aren’t any rules, then he has no idea you expect anything from him. The first time around, I just put Edward in the crate and expected him not to make a mess in there. I took him out every now and then and cleaned the cage, but I wasn’t really consistent. This time, I had that dog on a schedule. The first day we took him out every 20 minutes. Overnight, I took him out every 3 hours. I slowly increased the time in between potty trips. There were a few accidents at first, but now the accidents are rare, and they only happen when I let too much time pass before taking him outside. Now he goes outside about once an hour during the day and just once overnight, around 4 am. He will start to whine a little, which wakes me up, and I know he needs to go outside. I’m hoping that, as he gets bigger, that trip in the early morning won’t be necessary any more.
Behaviors that are rewarded are more likely to be repeated. Positive reinforcement is a must when it comes to training your puppy. The first time I tried crate training, I was inconsistent with the praise and more than once I got mad and raised my voice with Edward. I’m sure the poor little guy was just completely confused as to what I wanted. This time around, I made it a point to reward him consistently for doing what I wanted him to do. For Edward, a quick belly rub and a “good boy” are all he needs to be insanely happy. Sometimes I give him treats as a reward. Basically, as soon as he goes potty, he gets a “good boy” and perhaps a treat. Edward’s new favorite treats are always in the fridge, ready to be used for a job well done.
Time outside the crate
Your puppy can’t live only inside the crate. At first it may seem that way, but that’s part of training. Over time, as Edward has gotten adjusted to crate time and potty time, we’ve slowly started letting him out more. During his time in the house when not in the crate, we watch him with eagle eyes. Any indication that he may hike a leg, and he goes straight outside. He is not yet allowed to roam freely in the house. I messed this part up last time – when he was out of the crate, I just let him do whatever he wanted and later I’d find the little messes he’d left for me. We aren’t doing that this time. There are also times when I need to be away for more than the standard hour I usually have Edward crated. For these times, I have a little “run” set up for Edward in the hallway with all the bedroom doors closed and a baby gate closing the entry way. I put him in there with his food and toys, bed, and a Doggie Lawn. I decided on the Doggie Lawn as opposed to the puppy pad for Edward to keep his potty experiences as consistent as possible.
Comforts in the crate
In his crate, Edward gets food and water, toys, bedding, and a puppy pad, just in case. It’s important to make sure that your puppy has some entertainment in the crate. Something to chew is especially important for a puppy. I have various Nylabones in the crate for Edward, along with some squeaky toys to give him a little variety. Because of the crate, Edward no longer has the opportunity to destroy precious toys and treasured electronics.
With a few little tweaks to my crate training technique (or lack thereof), I have been able to make a lot of headway with Edward and I think he’s almost fully trained. If you are having issues training your Yorkie, consider what you could tweak to make the process move along smoother.