All dogs love to bark but some seem to have more of an affinity for it than others. While barking is 100% normal for a dog to do, it does need to be limited to the proper times or it can lose its effectiveness. It might even drive you crazy in the process! Barking is the primary way for a dog to communicate and being such, can lead to excessive barking if indulged or ignored equally. In this article we will explore why your Chihuahua barking may be too much and how to correct it. Here we go!
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Why Chihuahuas Bark
Trying to determine why your chihuahua is barking can be a bit of a guessing game since we don’t speak dog but, we can narrow down and figure out some of the key causes here.
- They are stressed out
- They feel ignored
- They feel they may be in danger
- They are cautioning you of perceived danger
- Your dog could be stuck in a position that they don’t like (IE. My dog got his head caught in a metal fence once)
- They want you too pay attention to them
- They are hungry or thirsty
- They don’t want to be alone/feel abandoned
- They see another person or animal and want to alert you to it’s presence
Is Chihuahua Barking Really That Bad?
It depends on why your pup is barking. We have to remember that this is really the only form of communication that dogs have and that goes double for a chihuahua. These small dogs appear to have descended from the Techichi which were a small companion animal that originated in the Southern and Western areas of ancient Mexico. Their primary jobs at the time were for companionship and alerting their owners of possible dangers around them. This seems to have stuck with them over the years and turned them into the chatty little yippers we know today.
In short, chihuahua barking can be great if they are alerting you to a real issue but training them to only bark at these times and not “cry wolf” all day can be a challenging task. But what if you can’t determine the triggers or your dog seems to only bark when they are alone? Keep reading to find out…
What if My Chihuahua Barks at Nothing?
Firstly, we have to keep in mind that dogs can see, hear and smell better than we can. We also have to understand that certain sounds (IE. fireworks or train whistles, even in the distance) can be easily identified by humans but dogs have no reference point. Odds are, that your furry little friend is barking at something and the key to dealing with that behavior could lie in several different areas.
Dogs can also be full of contradictions just like their human counterparts. I had a dog who used to bark each day right after waking up and stretching. Was that her way of telling my family that she was up and ready for the day or was it just a habit she developed in her mind? I still wonder about it from time to time.
Managing Excessive Barking
So how do we correct excessive barking for our chihuahua?
Every dog can be a bit different when it comes to removing or limiting things that initiate the barking response. I currently live in an apartment with a balcony. When my chihuahua was a puppy, he used to come out on the balcony with me and bark at all of the people passing by our building. Initially, I removed the option of going out on the porch while slowly exposing the dog to more pedestrian traffic over time. This combined with some basic dog training has effectively eliminated that behavior. Now we both sit on the balcony several times a week in peace and quiet!
The key is to identify your dog’s triggers and eliminate them in favor of a slow reintroduction over time. Ideally several months. Once these are identified and limited to the best of your ability, you will notice some immediate changes for the better. Particularly in the barking area
How To Correct The Barking Behavior
So we have learned about why your chihuahua is barking and what we can do to limit the triggers but how do we train better barking behavior?
The Tether Method
This method is something I’ve used on all my dogs since I was a teenager. The younger you can start training them, the better but it works for dogs of all ages. The key here is consistency! First, go to a pet store and get a traditional leash (left pic). The objective with this method is to keep the dog with you at all times. This way if a corrective action needs to be taken, or a positive action needs to be reinforced, you are right there to do so. Dogs have very small short term memories so the window you have to positively enforce good behavior or discourage bad behavior is very small. Having the dog with you and in sight at all times allows you to actively monitor and respond accordingly.
Establish Yourself As The Alpha
One thing that can help with chihuahua barking is making sure your pet knows who’s in charge. I do this mainly by using the method above and train them over time to understand that I’m their protector and the one they should follow. Other little tricks like eating first and then serving them their food after you are finished help to reinforce this process. Historically, dogs are pack animals and pack animals have a leader who would eat first then allow the others in the pack to partake after. This is hard wired in dogs and following these instinct guidelines will help them adjust to the process in a more effective way.
Other Ways to Train a Chihuahua to Stop Barking
Maybe you don’t have the time to use the tether method listed above or perhaps your chihuahua is already reasonably well trained. In that case, only some slight corrective intervention may be needed in order to address the barking issues.
One of the first things I like to do when I’m training a new dog is to tire them out a bit. A 30 minute walk around the neighborhood or through the forest can do wonders for your pet. Not only will it exhaust some of their energy, this will actually make them a bit less hyper-active and easier to train. Playing fetch or some other light activity is highly encouraged as well. Mix it up! The diversity helps keep your dog’s life interesting and their spirits high.
Set A Command Word
The idea here is to establish a word used when your dog barks to alert them of the particular behavior and associate the corrective action you would like with the word. For example, I use the word “quiet”, to calm my dog when they start barking. I do not yell. The objective is for the dog to hear the calm in your voice. They know by instinct that if you are calm, they can be calm too. Yelling is counter productive as they can’t understand you and take your heightened volume and excitement as a positive reinforcement to continue doing the activity you want them to stop IE. barking.
Teach them to Speak
Teaching your dog to bark might sound like a step in the wrong direction but it can do a few positive things. First, It reinforces the use of different command words so that your pup can begin to understand and differentiate between the different words. Second, it allows them to associate different sounds and emotions from your voice to the actions they are praised or disciplined for taking. An easy way to do this is by getting a friend to help you. Go to a park or an area with a good amount of space and have your friend slowly approach you and your dog. Once your friend is within about 10 feet, give your dog the speak command (use any word you want). Add a little excitement and volume to your voice when you say it and the dog will eventually pick up on the meaning. When your chihuahua barks, immediately shower it with positive praise and use treats to build on that foundation.
Congrats! You are on your way to fixing your chihuahua’s barking problem.
How to Stop A Chihuahua From Barking at Strangers
Using the command words as listed in the topic above can be a great start to controlling your chihuahua’s barking pattern. One of the toughest problems I’ve had with my own chichi is barking at strangers. As I’ve stated before, every dog is different but chihuahuas in general are a bit more hyperactive than the rest when it comes to protection and alert patterns. In general, I have noticed that my dog tends to bark at strangers when he either doesn’t see them approaching from afar or if they are moving too fast. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to correct this is by picking my dog up and holding him tight. The effect here is sort of like a human thunder vest ;p. The addition of a little pressure and my presence tends to get him through if the command word is not enough. As mentioned above, When we are out on the balcony my dog rarely ever barks at strangers walking by. Sometimes, people might run by fast or in a group and that could startle him. If this happens I generally just remove him from the area and let him calm down for a minute or two. Taking your pet away from the stimulus can be a great way to eliminate negative behavior as well. Essentially you are saying “if you can’t handle this, you can’t be out here right now”. Furthermore, rewarding them by reintroducing them to the area after a cool off period is a good way to positively reinforce the cessation of a negative behavior.
Chihuahua Barking Summed Up
We’ve gone through a lot in the past few paragraphs. Firstly, I want to thank you for sticking with me on this exploratory journey into why our chihuahuas bark and some quick fixes we can put into place to deter that behavior. Pets can be a wonderful thing if they are trained and agree with your lifestyle. I personally couldn’t picture life without my furry little friends. Just keep in mind that training a dog can take time and patience but once the positive behaviors and commands are learned, you have years of peace and serenity to look forward to with your faithful companion!
Reacting in a negative way or yelling at an animal is never the most productive way to get them to listen to you. Concentrated efforts in training and plenty of exercise both mentally (command words and tasks) and physically are a great combination. This will keep your chihuahua barking down to a minimum and allow you to further build upon training efforts to improve your dogs behavior and demeanor.
Keep in mind that the tether method I discussed above works great for barking but can also be used to train you dog in various different behaviors (sit, stay, speak, etc.) I personally find that in as little as a few days you will begin to see marked improvement. Within a few months your chihuahua will be a on their way to becoming the perfect dog to fit with your lifestyle and fully integrate into your day to day life. It can be easy to get discouraged if this is your first dog but stay positive and persist. The training will payoff and you’ll feel amazing too knowing that you have the power to train your pet and any other dog you may get in the future.
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