Not all dogs like to fetch. Some absolutely refuse; others chase, only to run off with the tossed object; and some breeds -- think retrievers -- are automatic fetch-hounds. The best way to know if your Yorkie will fetch a tossed object is to simply give it a try.
Once used as hunting dogs to chase rats and small animals, Yorkies are naturally athletic. Terriers were bred to be diggers, not retrievers. These small dogs have extra-large personalities and can be assertive, stubborn and dominant. It takes an owner's discipline and regular exercise, like playing fetch, to curb a Yorkie's potential bad behavior. Fortunately, Yorkies are very obedient, quite intelligent and extremely energetic dogs -- if they will play fetch, they'll play like there's no tomorrow.
Where to Train
Before training your Yorkie to fetch, make sure he can follow commands like "sit," "come" and "stay." Once he has those commands mastered, start fetch training in in the house, where it is safer and less distracting than outside. Just make sure the area is large enough and the floor surface is not slippery. Before moving outside, be sure your dog is well-versed in the basic commands, or work in a fenced-in area.
Step 1 - Toss
Yorkies can associate words with items and actions, so make sure you give each toy a name, and teach those names to your dog. Choose a safe object that cannot splinter or is not so small that your dog can choke on it. Toss the object while saying "Fetch" plus the name of the object, such as "Ball." Simply saying "Fetch," or simply throwing the ball without saying anything, will send a confusing message.
Step 2 - Retrieve
Let your Yorkie run over and pick up the object. If he picks it up, give him praise and say "Come," encouraging him to return. If he doesn't go to the item, simply start over, giving the appropriate commands. When he returns with the item, give the Sit command, and if he doesn't naturally drop the object, crouch down and offer a treat in exchange. Praise lavishly, and repeat several times.
Yorkies have short attention spans, so keep training sessions to no more than 10 or 15 minutes, three times a day. Since Yorkies are tenacious, they can develop a fetching obsessions. Simply say "no" and put the object away -- and don't give in. Exchange objects frequently so your dog doesn't get possessive over one particular toy.
A game of fetch can keep your pooch happy and exercised; but overdoing it can be dangerous, especially as Yorkies are prone to knee problems. A hot day can cause heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Always provide plenty of water and rest. If your dog's tongue hangs, or if he pants excessively, gets confused or shakes, cool him down and get him to an emergency clinic or veterinarian immediately.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.