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How to Stop a Yorkie from Biting

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It is not uncommon for small dogs to be associated with biting – but why are small dogs more prone to biting than larger breeds? Well, we have a secret for you – they’re not.

How do you stop a Yorkie from biting? Biting is a learned behavior, which is often the result of a lack of training.

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Biting can largely be associated with “Small Dog Syndrome,” a common set of negative behavioral traits resulting from a lack of training. Getting to the root of the issue and establishing dominance with your Yorkie at a young age is important in ensuring that they do not develop unwanted habits such as biting.

In this article, we take a look at how to take the proper steps to adjust your Yorkie’s poor behavior, as well as some common reasons why a dog may bite in the first place.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Before you write your Yorkie off as simply being a “bad dog,” there could be various reasons why your Yorkie is biting in the first place – and not to play the blame game, but poor training may be a large reason for this. However, your Yorkie may also have developed traits outside of your control and may be particularly territorial around meal time events.

Yorkies are a territorial breed in general, which is a well-ingrained, inherited trait. Extra steps may need to be taken to ensure that they don’t feel the need to bite or growl if another dog or human is too close to their food, toys, or dog bed. This may include commanding your Yorkie to wait elsewhere while you’re laying out their food until you give them the okay to approach it.

It’s also important to make sure that you do not let children, other family members, or guests bother your pup while they’re eating their food, as it is not necessary to challenge your Yorkie when you are trying to get this behavior under control.

Rule Out Health Issues

Of course, getting to the root of the problem largely means ruling out health issues. While you may assume your Yorkie is simply misbehaving, they may be dealing with a medical issue that is causing them to act out in this aggressive manner. And while some issues may be obvious to the naked eye, several others won’t be as noticeable.

A health issue may also be a likely culprit if your Yorkie was a seemingly non-aggressive dog and then began displaying this negative behavior out of the blue. In this case, a dog may be biting in the form of a defense mechanism. Dogs feel vulnerable and helpless when they’re not feeling well, with no real way to communicate that to you as their owner.

If you witness this kind of out of character behavior, it is important to bring your Yorkie for a full and complete medical checkup with an experienced veterinarian.

Yorkie outside sniffing a person's hand

What Can I Do to Prevent My Yorkie from Biting?

If you’ve ruled out a medical issue, there are certain steps you can take to stop your Yorkie from biting. As mentioned, biting and other aggressive behavior is often a learned trait, which usually means that it can essentially be “unlearned” – as long as you know how. Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to prevent your Yorkie from biting.

Socialize Your Yorkie

Under-socializing from a young age is a leading cause of aggression and fearfulness in dogs. It is not uncommon for undersocialized dogs to see other dogs or even people as a threat, so taking your Yorkie to a dog park on a regular basis can be a valuable step in the right direction. If a Yorkie understands other dogs and humans are friends and not threats, they will feel no need to lunge in fear.

Play with Your Yorkie the Right Way

Aggressive playing is generally not a good idea with any dog breed and can give your dog the wrong idea about what’s acceptable and what’s not from a young age. Many dog owners will allow their small dogs to bite them in play, as their tiny teeth often don’t hurt as much as a larger dog’s bite.

However, this type of play most definitely sends the wrong message, and a dog should not bite or growl when playing a game. This is why it’s important to remove your hand from playtime and use appropriate toys that don’t create aggression. While Tug-Of-War shouldn’t necessarily be an aggressive game, it can bring out aggression in dogs that are already prone to it.

Invest In Toys that Satisfy Their Need to Chomp

If your pup generally nips and bites for fun or in an attempt to get you to play, it’s important to have high quality chew toys and bones on hand that satisfies their need to chomp. As soon as your Yorkie goes to chew on your hand, quickly swap it out with a toy that they can sink their teeth into. With enough persistence, they will get the message that hands are not for chewing but chew toys and treats are.

Hand Train Your Dog

While this method may not work well if you’ve adopted your Yorkie at a more advanced age, this is an incredibly valuable training method for puppies, especially if they are a breed that is known for being territorial as an adult. You can hand train your dog by feeding them out of your hand from the very first meal that they have in your home.

This should eliminate any territorial behaviors around their food and helps them to understand that hands are helpful and that they’re not for biting. This is exceptionally important if you have children, with some parents opting to have their children hand train their pups as well.

A Tip I Learned from a Dog Trainer

Years ago, my family adopted a young mixed breed puppy named Buddy. He was half German shepherd and half American bulldog. So we knew he was going to grow up to be a big boy. And he did. He topped out at over 80 pounds.

I was working in a pet hotel at PetSmart and one day I asked one of the dog trainers there what I could do about my puppy who seemed very aggressive for a dog so young. He growled and would nip if he didn’t get his way.

It was actually kind of cute coming from this tiny little puppy. But I knew it wouldn’t be so cute when he was an adult. We needed to deal with it now before it became a real problem.

The trainer told me to do the following:

  • Tell him “No” in a strong voice (but don’t yell) and give him a time out by walking away from him or putting him in a crate or playpen for a few minutes. If the puppy is biting because he wants to play or is teething, give him a chew toy before you walk away.
  • Now if the puppy is truly aggressive and not just teething or playing, you may need add this step. Hold your dog up securely with both hands if needed, over your head for about 10 seconds. When he is calm, put him back on the floor.
  • If the previous step doesn’t work (and give it a few days), you can also gently turn him over on his back, and just hold him down in this position until he calms down. Have a firm enough hold to keep him there but not hard enough to hurt him. When he calms down, let him go.

The second step of holding Buddy down is what worked for him. He grew up to be an awesome dog and was never once aggressive to anyone.

The last 2 steps work for a small dog (such as a Yorkie) or for a puppy but will be more difficult to do with a larger dog.

What To Do When Nothing Seems To Be Working

If the above methods are not working for you and you feel that your Yorkie’s biting behavior is coming from a place of true aggression, it may be necessary to consult a pro dog trainer. Sometimes this is the absolute best option and saves you from taking your frustration out on yourself, your family, and your dog.

Dog trainers exist because dog owners need their help – and there’s absolutely no shame in that! Odds are, they’ve already dealt with the exact same situation before and are not going to judge you. They’ll know just how to help!

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Cathy Bendzunas with yorkie and yorkie mix

Cathy Bendzunas

Dog Blogger

I have always loved Yorkies and got my first on when I was 19. I bred and showed them back in the 80’s. Though I love other breeds too, Yorkshire Terriers will always be my first love. I have lived and worked with dogs all my life.

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