Potty Training Yorkie Puppies-Crate or Pad?

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Toy Breeds can be Difficult to Potty Train

Potty Training puppies can be difficult.  Yorkies can be even more difficult as they are quick, small, and smart.  Puppies can have an “accident” inside if left unattended.  There are two trains of thought for potty training, outside training, and (potty) pad training.  Training your puppy to go to the bathroom outside is the optimal way to train them from a proper behavioral standpoint.  Pad training may seem “easiest”, and for those living in places without quick access to a yard, ideal.  I will point out the benefits and drawbacks for both methods.

Puppies exhibit few signs to indicate they have to go.  Also, we as owners tend to pick up our tiny “babies” and carry them out, which doesn’t teach them how to signal at the door.  Walking them out and creating a pattern or ritual for when they are taken out will help reinforce going outside instead of in the house.  Some people use bells or training treats a special word “outside” or “potty” to aid in establishing a routine.  Training treats (many different kinds will work) are great tool as there is a clear reward for good habits.  Just remember “no go, no treat”.

Yelling and Hitting

Yelling or getting upset a puppy for messing in the house (Never hit a puppy or any age dog!) only teaches them to be sneaky and hide when they go so you don’t catch them.  If you do find a mess somewhere, pet stain/odor removers (This is the one that works best for me) are great for cleaning the area, carpets included so there is no scent for next time.

Outside Training

So, what is the “best” way to train them?  I am a firm believer in crate training.  This is especially important for people who are not home all day.   A small crate, one without a lot of extra room is best.  I have several sizes of iCrate which are a great inexpensive crate.  Some even come with dividers to allow you to have a bigger crate and section it for initial training.  They have slide out pans for easy cleaning (your pet stain/odor cleaner works great for this), and some come with a side door for ease of access.  Crate training involves taking the puppy out of the crate and immediately walking them to the door to go potty outside.  If they cannot walk there without distraction, this is a good opportunity to start getting them use to a leash.  I will post more on leash training in another article, but please always use a harness for your puppy or dog.  Collars are find for identification, but pulling agains the throat of a dog is harmful to the animal.  This is especially true for Yorkies who are known for tracheal issues when older.  Outside they go, using your keyword, ringing bells on the way out, or whatever ritual you choose.  I carry treats in my pocket so they get rewarded with them right after “potty outside”.   If they don’t go potty, they go back in the crate.  I take the puppy back outside after a couple minutes.  Repeat the process until they have gone.  Only let them stay out and play once they have gone to the bathroom.  This will establish a pattern and they will catch on to the fact that they have to potty before play.  Yes, this is time consuming and repetitious, but it will eventually pay off.

A puppy should not be allowed to run around the house unless they have done their business.  Even after they have gone, always watch them closely when you are playing with them.  Puppies have to go potty quite often, especially after active play time.  You should watch for signs that they have to go to the bathroom.  They may circle, sniff, or some other behavior, but if you watch closely, you will learn what their signal is.  Please do not expect overnight results.  This process takes time.  How much time depends on the particular puppy.  Larger breeds tend to catch on quicker, but toy breeds are smart and they will learn.  It can take anywhere from a couple weeks to several months, and up to a year or more in some cases.

Is Crating a Dog Cruel?

No, it is not cruel to keep your dog in a crate when they are not being interacted with.  Puppies are mischievous and can get hurt as well as make messes when left to run around without supervision.  A small dog can’t tell the difference between a room in a house with a gate and a crate.  In fact, their crate can become their safe spot with blankets and a warm snuggle spot.  Once they get a little older and earn more time out of the crate, you can get a pen or gate to give them more space.  You will find that it is easier to get things done if you are not constantly looking for a mischievous puppy.   Remember, puppies are also teething, and they will chew everything and anything.  Shoes, corners, furniture, and electrical cords are no exception.  If you don’t want to put them in their crate, you can always tether them (to you or a chair) with a training lead or longer length rope.  Paracord is perfect for this application.  I prefer a bright color so it is easily seen.  This will keep the puppy close and in sight.  We will talk more about tethering with paracord in our next article on training.  You must still watch them as they love to teeth on anything find.  Mine loved wall and furniture corners.  Please don’t let a puppy run loose without supervision!

6 week old puppies-crate training

Crate Training

Crate training will keep messes to a minimum, and dogs do not like to defecate where they sleep.  They will catch on quickly and not go in their personal space.  A soft blanket and a toy will keep them comfortable and happy.  Please remember that a puppy bladder is very small.  A general rule to follow is that they can usually hold their bladders an average of 1 hour +1 for every month old they are.  In other words, a 3-month old (12 week) puppy can hold its bladder for 4 hours.  There are exceptions to this and every rule.  Please do not get angry at a puppy that messes in the crate if they can’t hold it long enough.  You may need to take them out at shorter intervals.


If your dog was not initially messing in its crate but now it is, perhaps they are just in there too long.  There may be some other reason, but this is the easiest place to start when correcting or identifying this type of behavior.  Potty breaks apply to nighttime too.  Puppies should be taken out 1-2 times during the night for several months until they are old enough to “hold it”.  I suggest you remove water and food (if you are free feeding*) an hour before bedtime and then take them out.  The smaller the breed, the shorter the time interval for going out at night, and the longer it can take to have a dry crate overnight.  Remember, dogs do not like to mess where they live so they will try their best not too.  Help them by being consistent and diligent in taking them outside.  Puppies usually have to urinate 10-12 times a day and may need to defecate 3-4 times a day.  Keep this in mind when trying to potty train them.

*Free feeding is leaving food down at all times.  This is not generally ideal for puppies from a potty training point of view.   All dogs have to go to the bathroom after they eat, so leaving food around promotes accidents especially in non-potty trained puppies.  Scheduled feedings is a great potty training aid as you know they will have to go a few minutes after eating and you can use this to see what their “I have to go” indicators are as well as reinforce your training words or tools.  Most dogs and puppies eat on a schedule.  We will discuss this in our training/behavior article.

Puppy Pads

Puppy pads are often seen as an attractive way to train dogs, especially when you live in an apartment or can’t walk them all the time. Unless you are consistent with the walking to the pad ritual, they do not distinguish between the pad and anywhere else in the house.  You should walk them to the pad location, always using  your specific word or phrase to indicate potty.  Praise them when they go. Rewards are great to use too!  Puppy pee spots are small, and puppies will often go under (Yorkie trick) or behind furniture so you don’t see them or their mess. Piddle spots are small and dry quickly, so you may miss them.

Keep the pad in a designated easy to reach area. Create and adhere to a routine to help you succeed with pads.  I also recommend you leave slightly soiled (once or twice only) pads before changing to a new one so the scent acts as a marker.  No need to leave #2!  If you don’t want to look at a dirty pad, then try and find a place in a corner or quiet spot of the house.  Dogs like privacy too : ).  Puppy pads can get expensive as they are not a one time purchase.  You may want to set up a standing order to help reduce costs.

Crate Accidents

Crate training is still ideal whether or not you train your dog to go outside or use puppy pads. There are a couple steps you can take to help you train your dog if they are messing in their crate or don’t seem to “get” going outside.  Belly bands for males, or diapers for females are great for containing urine.  This will keep them from messing in the house, and hopefully they won’t want to mess on themselves either.   These bands or diapers can be a huge stress relief during puppy training.  I prefer the washable ones as they are reusable and can be used when the female is in heat.  If you have unfixed male and female dogs, they both need to be covered at this time.   If not you will be the proud “parent” of an adorable litter of puppies in about 60-63 days after you notice your dog is in heat.  In other words, it will already be too late!  I will post another article on heat and breeding soon.

Take them Outside

Initially you should be taking your puppy out as often as possible and remember not to leave them longer than their little bladders can hold.  I personally use training treats and code words in my dogs “go outside” ritual. Always take your dog outside when they have been in the crate.  Never let them run and play before they go outside and do their business.  If they do not go potty, back into the crate they go until they do, or they will mess in the house! Staying vigilant.  Put the puppy in the crate when you cannot give them your undivided attention, or they don’t go after you have taken them out.  This will help reinforce the pattern of going to the bathroom where and when they should.  If you have other dogs who are potty trained, they will also help as they “show” the new pup how its done.  Crating the pup while the others are out is also not mean.  The puppy earns the privileges the other dogs have.  This helps remind them they aren’t the alpha, but part of the pack.

Puppy with her mother showing her the ropes

Worth the Effort

Housebreaking a small dog is not an easy task.  As I mentioned earlier, potty training Yorkie puppies is difficult. Patience, repetition, and 100% dedication on your part is necessary for success.  Having a well-trained, loving member of your household is definitely worth the investment.

What’s Next?

Please come back to read my next articles on leash training, tricks and coming when called, how to stop your dog from yapping, jumping, or obeying commands, letting them know who is alpha, and how to handle females in heat.


Please contact me if you have questions or need more detailed information!

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