Yorkshire terriers are friendly, affectionate, cute, and cuddly. However, they can be quite hyperactive, especially when they are younger. Sometimes it would be nice if they could just chill out a bit, at least for long enough to get a few snuggles in! So what can you do?
How do you get your Yorkie to calm down? The best way to deal with a hyperactive Yorkie is to channel their energy into games and exercise along with rewarding them for being calm. Yorkies also tend to act hyper when they are craving attention so give them plenty of affection throughout the day.
Terriers have typically high energy levels. When this is coupled with a Yorkies’ need for attention, it’s not surprising that you end up with a relentless ball of fur and energy that seemingly never rests! So here are eight strategies to assist you with that!
Here are 8 Strategies for Dealing with Hyper Yorkies
Like with any dog, Yorkies benefit hugely from exercise. They should have at least 30 minutes a day. However, they do better when that is broken up into two brisk walks.
On the positive side, Yorkies do not need as much exercise as most other dogs. Nevertheless, this is one of the most important steps in a training program for hyper behaviors.
Most Yorkies are calmer and will respond better to training following affection and exercise.
Since their attention needs can also drive their hyperactivity and other behaviors, having a walk for exercise helps to meet both needs and leads to a happier, calmer dog.
Do not expect to be able to just let them loose in the back yard for a run-around. A Yorkie needs more exercise than they are likely to get on their own.
#2 Playing Games
While playing games with your Yorkie can definitely help with the exercise aspect also, the general aim here is to keep your Yorkie mentally stimulated and to give them some much-needed attention at the same time.
Yorkies are very intelligent, particularly for such a small breed and they thrive when a challenge is presented to them. They were originally bred as working dogs for catching rats around the factories and docks of the UK.
This probably has something to do with the fact that many Yorkies enjoy playing fetch, catch, and chasing after things along with other dog games. I know when my Yorkie was a bit younger (she’s 15 now) she could have easily played fetch until the cows came home!
The good thing about Yorkies being so small is that you can usually get away with playing games indoors with them, without worrying about them knocking over your furniture and wrecking your house.
An increase in mental stimulation can decrease hyperactive behaviors outside of playtime.
#3 Behavioral Modification
Behavior modification is a training system based on rewards and consequences.
The idea is to choose a behavior to either increase or decrease. When the puppy or dog engages in selected behaviors (staying calm) a reward is given to increase the likelihood that the dog will engage in that behavior again. Alternatively, a consequence is given to try to decrease the behavior (chewing on shoes).
Behavioral modification works best when:
- The behavior is specific
- Rewards are given to increase a behavior
- Simultaneously, consequences are given to prevent negative behavior
- Rewards and consequences are consistent
Behavior modification will not eliminate all hyperactive behavior as it is part of a Yorkie’s temperament, but it can lead to them calming down more frequently and for longer periods.
Behavior modification will also not work if a Yorkie does not have adequate exercise. A dog with pent up energy will override even the best training.
Rewarding the Positive
When rewarding a certain desired behavior, the behavior must first be clearly defined. Decide what “calm” behavior looks like to you.
Rewards can be things such as praise and affection, treats, or the use of a training clicker (more information on clicker training later).
A command word, such as settle, calm or quiet, should be given consistently as soon as the desired behavior is displayed. This should immediately be followed up by the reward.
This way your Yorkie should learn to associate the command with the desired behavior and the reward. This may take a while so be patient!
If your dog never behaves as calmly as desired, rewards will have to be given for similar behavior. Keep pushing your dog to adapt it’s behavior incrementally over time in order to receive the same rewards.
Consequences for the Negative
Many dog owners accidentally reward hyperactive behaviors by giving the dog attention or by becoming overly excited themselves. It is important when dealing with a hyperactive dog to remain as calm as possible when dealing with it.
Undesired behavior in dogs often comes from a place of anxiety. Punishing them by yelling, chasing, or being loud can actually have the opposite effect. This can make them more anxious which can exacerbate the undesired behavior. Alternatively, they may even find it fun and think of it as playtime.
Just ignoring undesired behavior as much as possible is one of the best responses. Yorkies thrive on attention. If they are not given attention when they are being out of control but are when they’re calm, it can greatly impact their behavior. This will take time and patience, but they should get the idea eventually.
Clicker training is a type of positive reinforcement that uses a clicker device (view on Amazon) to make a clicking noise while your dog is behaving as desired.
For example, a clicker should be used for a hyperactive dog the moment it calms down. The click is then followed immediately with a treat. The dog learns that the clicking noise is a form of reinforcement. Eventually a clicker can be used to tell the dog that it is behaving properly without having to follow up with a treat.
Timing is critical when trying to reinforce certain behaviors. Using a clicker enables owners to let their dogs know clearly and precisely when they are behaving correctly. Although, any other distinct audible cue can work too.
#4 Crate Training
Whether it’s down to their affectionate nature or just their territorial tendencies, many Yorkies become more hyper when visitors come to their homes.
They often just want to get the visitor’s attention and maybe some cuddles but competing with your dog for attention can become annoying at times. They may also jump and bark at visitors which can be intimidating for some or just downright pesky.
Sometimes crates can get a bad rap as people may think of them as prison cells where you send your dog for bad behavior. However, crates can actually be very calming for dogs, and can help with anxiety but only if the dog has been properly trained to use one.
Many dogs are crate trained for nights or during the day when they are left alone. They can learn to see their crate as the “safe haven” where they sleep. It is critical that the dog sees its crate as a positive place to be. Locking them in a cage as punishment can have a hugely negative effect.
Once your Yorkie is properly crate trained, putting them in there when visitors come to the house is a great way to prevent hyperactivity. Once your Yorkie has calmed down inside their crate, they can then be let out and allowed to greet the visitor.
#5 Meeting Attention or Affection Needs
Yorkies are very affectionate dogs who desire high levels of attention. Many of their hyperactive behaviors can often be put down to attention-seeking. When they do not get attention or are left alone for hours on end, they will want even more attention.
This can easily lead to the owner accidentally reinforcing the wrong behaviors, as often, negative attention is better than no attention at all.
Hiring a dog walker, putting the dog into doggy daycare, or taking lunch breaks at home are all tactics that help to ensure your Yorkie is not home alone for long periods of time.
Make sure to set aside some time each day, not only to exercise them but to interact and play with them. After some strenuous exercise and play, Yorkies will often want to cuddle and soak up some affection.
Frequent interaction with their owners helps meet their needs. A Yorkie that has it’s affection needs met is more likely to be calmer as they will not be so frantically fighting for your attention the rest of the time.
#6 Socializing with Other Dogs
Playing with other dogs helps a Yorkie on several levels. Getting out to a dog park or interacting with other dogs can give an active Yorkie a way to release energy and get some exercise. This can engage them both physically and mentally.
Engaging with other dogs is a good way for Yorkies to receive another form of attention. Many people get more than one dog so they can keep each other busy, particularly when the owner is not around.
Ensure your Yorkie is ready to interact with other dogs first. Many Yorkies do not get along well with other dogs, particularly Yorkies that have not been properly socialized from a young age.
Make sure that socialization is done in controlled situations. Don’t leave two dogs alone to play together the first time they meet, no matter how friendly they can seem. Even the friendliest dog can decide to exert dominance and result in an injury to one of the dogs.
#7 Impulse Control
Many of the typical “tricks” that are taught to dogs are impulse control measures. Sitting, staying, even waiting for a command to eat all teach a dog to wait and control his or her impulses.
Practicing these tricks with a hyperactive Yorkie can take more time and patience, but it can be one of the most helpful ways to increase the “calm time” for your dog.
Not only do these skills teach the dog impulse control, but they also can be used to engage a dog mentally when it is being hyperactive and calm them down. Asking a hyperactive dog to sit and stay can help them gain control over their behavior while earning treats. It’s a win-win.
Do not set up expectations that are higher than your dog can meet. This will frustrate both your Yorkie and yourself. When teaching them to stay, for example, it is important to praise or reward the dog after just a few seconds of staying, especially a Yorkie that is hyperactive. Over time, once the basic skill is learned, the time can be increased.
#8 Obedience Training
Sometimes, hyperactive dogs just lack discipline and aren’t that great at listening to commands. A dog that does not obey its owner will have problems with any of the above strategies.
In this case, your Yorkie may need obedience training prior to any other attempts to handle the hyperactive behaviors. Learning to follow the owner’s basic commands will help a hyperactive dog a great deal.
Obedience training teaches dogs that their owner is the dominant one and they should comply with directions, including those that are geared towards having them act calmer.
Reasons A Yorkie Doesn’t Listen
Most Yorkies can be stubborn and willful at times. A lot of the time, their lack of obedience comes down to two possibilities.
- Your Yorkie does not recognize you as the boss. Being their owner is not enough. Yorkies can be defiant and unresponsive because they do not see their owner as being in charge. Their owners have to show them why they should be in charge.
- Yorkies need to learn commands. Canines can learn up to 200 words, but unless they are taught, they just hear noises coming from their owner’s mouths with no understanding of what those noises mean. They need to learn what noises are commands and what those commands mean for their behavior.
Establish Yourself As the Boss
A Yorkie needs to see that their human is the “Alpha” of the pack. If they are going to respect their owners and follow commands, they must respect their owners.
Dogs will generally ignore anyone that they do not see as the leader of their “pack”. This can be observed where a dog will follow commands from one family member, but not another.
The following rules can help develop dominance. They focus on setting up the owner, as the leader of the pack and the one in charge of food, the home, and leadership.
- Feeding Rules – Establish dominance by showing your Yorkie who controls and supplies the food. This procedure can be used by every person in the household to help the Yorkie learn to listen to each member.
- Prepare the food bowl and place near the dog’s eating area, but out of reach of the dog.
- Call the dog and show them the food if needed so they know it is feeding time.
- The Yorkie must sit before any food is given. This needs to be a full sit, with the dog’s bottom on the floor. A super hyper dog will have trouble doing this, but it is important to be consistent to help the Yorkie learn they must listen.
- Sitting and eating either before or at the same time as your Yorkie can also reinforce that you, the owner controls the food and is in charge.
- Gatekeeper Rule – Dogs see the house as the home or the “den”. Yorkies without a “pack leader” will typically believe they are in charge of who comes or goes, establishing themselves as dominant and not needing to listen to others. For this reason, it’s important to have a steadfast rule that all humans enter and leave the home first, followed by dogs.
- When exiting the house, within a few feet of the door, tell your Yorkie to sit.
- Place a harness on your Yorkie and connect the leash
- If at any time they try to rise, tell them “No” firmly and tell them to sit again and stay.
- Make sure any humans cross the threshold first, before giving your Yorkie permission to follow.
- Repeat to go back inside. By always doing this, the owner establishes that they are in control of the den.
- Teach Commands – It is important that a Yorkie learns the commands it is expected to follow. Sit, Stay, Calm down – Don’t expect your dog to do as it’s told if it doesn’t know what it’s being told. Your Yorkie may even be having a hard time because they have paired the wrong behavior to a specific command word.
- All dogs should be taught the five basics: Sit, Stay, Come, Down, and Heel
- Using a treat/reward often works best to teach these commands.
- Once trained, even without the treat, the dog will still perform the command out of habit, reinforcing the idea they need to listen to their owner.
- Various books, training videos, and courses are available if teaching these commands does not work.
These activities can help any owner establish they are in control. This is especially important with Yorkies who can be disobedient or “willful”.
Establishing a hierarchy will encourage your Yorkie to respond to commands used to assist the dog in calming down. It may also help with correcting hyperactive behaviors, such as jumping on people.
Key Points for Success
It is important to keep things going. The steps above are not a one-time thing. It is important to do them routinely and constantly to establish dominance.
Everything should be done with love. Being dominant does not mean being mean or unkind. The leader of the pack can still be loving, kind, and affectionate.
The tone of voice plays a major role. Commands given with confidence are more likely to be followed. A calm soothing voice is more likely to help the Yorkie calm down.
Commands given in frustration and anger can result in the dog feeling afraid and just cause an increase in anxiety rather than following the command. This is especially true when visitors are in the home and the dog may feel even more vulnerable.
What Age do Yorkies Calm Down?
As is true with almost any mammal (humans included), many dog breeds are much more active when they are younger, but as they age, they tend to mellow out.
So, when do Yorkies start to calm down? Each dog is different, however, Yorkies tend to mature at around the age of 2 or 3 and will usually begin to calm down somewhat around this time.
However, as owners, we should not rely on Yorkies “growing out of” hyper behaviors when they leave the puppy stage. Yorkies are high energy dogs. This is part of their personality and many younger Yorkies are just as hyper as puppies.
As Yorkies become senior dogs at around the age of 8, they may calm down some more. Even if they were still hyper, they get worn out faster. This also means that exercise will be more effective in controlling and eliminating hyperactive behaviors.
Yorkies are very affectionate dogs who can make great pets. They are known as cute, cuddly lap dogs. However, they can be very active and hyper.
A Yorkie needs plenty of exercise to burn off excess energy if it is going mellow out around the home. Yorkies also need to have their attention and affection needs met through interactions with humans, other dogs, and other pets.
Make sure to devote them as much time as you can possibly can and with training, perseverance, and a little patience, eventually you should be rewarded with a calm and collective companion that listens to your every command.