THE YAPPING CHIHUAHUA: HELPING THE EXCESSIVE BARKER
Small breed dogs, especially Chihuahuas, are well known for their habitsof barking more than their larger brethren.
Barking at sounds, people, other dogs, the doorbell, and even when left home alone can become embarrassing, annoying, and uncomfortable for the humans in the household.
Neighbors may become upset when your Chihuahua barks throughout the day, and guests can feel startled as your Chihuahua rushes at them in a mad, barking fit.
You can help your little dog resolve his barking problems, but first, you must understand the reasons why he barks. Reactive barking is one possibility as your Chihuahua barks at things he fears. Barking can even be a release behavior for a bored or anxious dog when left home alone. Resource guarding is another cause of unnecessary barking. You can help your Chihuahua through them all!
THE CAUSE OF BARKING
Dogs don’t bark to talk the way humans do. Each bark does not translate into a word like noises from human vocal cords. Instead, you have to read his behavior, including body language, during the event of barking. This way, you can learn if he is fearful, such as exhibiting fear aggressive body posture or if something else is going on. He may be barking out of excitement or boredom, too. To get the full picture, you also need to read the context in which he is barking.
The context is his environment and what is going on around him. If your Chihuahua barks when someone knocks on the door, then he could be barking at a scary noise or the anticipation of guests. If it is the noise, then he has a reactive behavior that can be corrected with counter conditioning.
If he is barking out of excitement to greet guests, then he can be trained to remain calm and relax in a designated place until allowed to greet everyone. Even barking that seems aggressive is usually coming from fear, and counter-conditioning can really help your Chihuahua feel more comfortable and confident during his trigger.
If you cannot pinpoint your Chihuahua’s trigger, then don’t try and train him out of barking on your own. Get help from a professional trainer to take out the guesswork on your part and help solve your dog’s behavioral problem.
Sometimes a trigger may be difficult to pinpoint if your dog seems to bark at everything. He may have many triggers that steam from improper or no socialization as a young puppy.
Socialization can be a very tricky thing to get the hang of for new owners and owners that have not learned the right way to do it to benefit their pet. Socialization means more than just meeting people and dogs. In fact, if you attempt to let strangers pat your dog’s head and other dogs sniff his rear when he does not want it, you can cause your dog to become a problem barker quickly!
Socialization is not the one and only reason that dogs bark reactively, but it is a high probability when we’re talking about adult Chihuahuas.
If your chihuahua is bored, then the barking could also be known as “boredom barking.” These are often higher pitched barks that happen in intervals. Chihuahuas are considered pack animals and are quite social, so when they get bored and don’t have any stimulation, they can begin to develop behavioral problems – like barking.
To curb this behavior, ensure that your dog has both mental and physical stimulation throughout the day. You can teach them new tricks, take them for a walk, or play tug of war, for example. You should also try not to leave them alone for more than six consecutive hours per day, even less if it is a Chihuahua puppy.
When your Chihuahua barks out of fear, it is because they feel that there is some kind of threat in their presence. Along with the barking, they may also show a few signs of aggression as well. Their survival instincts begin to kick in and their barks become high pitched in much shorter intervals.
He may also pull his ears back when threatened, keep the tail low, and his fur may stand up from fear. All of these signs of fear can ultimately lead to someone getting bitten or attacked as the Chihuahua will do what it knows naturally when threats are perceived. The threat could be a larger dog, a stranger, a neighbor, or even a small noise. All of this can cause incessant barking.
Wants and Needs
If your pup is hungry, thirsty, or needs to go outside, they may bark to alert their dog owner. Many times, they will go to the door where you usually let them out and bark to let you know it is time to go outside. They may also bark simply for your attention. These barks are usually a lot shorter and a lot softer than other barks. Once you are able to meet the wants and needs of the Chihuahua, the barking will most likely cease.
Protective or Dominant
If there is another dog around, your Chihuahua may get defensive and want to protect its territory. They will bark and exhibit other behaviors to show other animals that this is their domain. They may bark when it comes to their home, their crate, bed, toys, and food. These barks are typically loud and aggressive and can result in someone or another animal getting bit or attacked.
Your Chihuahua expressing this kind of dominant behavior and barking problem in the home can lead to other bad behavior if it is not addressed.
This is a common behavioral problem for many dog breeds. Chihuahuas want to be with their dog owner, so when you go and leave them alone, they begin to feel separation anxiety. This kind of anxiety can cause them to become seriously stressed. They may bark when you leave and act out when he finds out he has to stay at home without you.
If you have an older dog, then they may experience some cognitive dysfunctions that cause the barking. Dementia is an example. This disorder can cause excessive barking and can cause your pup to start barking for really no reason at all. When you have an older dog that barks for this reason, there really isn’t any kind of training that can help the behavior. Instead, call them by name, comfort them, and keep them as calm as possible.
How Bad is the Barking?
While barking alone isn’t necessarily always a bad thing, you need to determine how bad it is. All dogs bark to communicate along with other physical cues like eye gazing, showing their teeth, and growling. Some of the more acceptable reasons for barking include when your pup wants food or water, needs to go outside, or they sense an intruder.
However, inappropriate barking is also a thing and occurs if your pup barks incessantly at pedestrians, passing cars, guests, postal workers, delivery drivers, neighbors, other animals, and objects like your vacuum or broom while you are cleaning.
All of this inappropriate barking can also cause problems in your every day life like cause sleep disturbances, upset the neighbors, and cause more stress in the household.
END PROBLEM BARKING
You can stop your dog’s needless barking using positive reinforcement during brief training sessions.
Always start any new training session in a quiet and familiar place, if possible. For example, if your Chihuahua’s barking is directed at a door knock, then start sitting some distance away from your door in a distraction-free time of day.
Knock once on the wall or your floor, and immediately give your dog a bite of a high-value treat, like real meat or cheese. Provide the reward before they get the chance to start barking. This is one reason for doing only one knock instead of repeated knocks in the beginning.
Do this for about 5 minutes. You want your dog to begin to expect a treat after every knock they hear. The knock should be a precursor to receiving a reward. Counter conditioning such as this is a method of changing your dog’s emotion about his trigger.
If knocking scares him, then starting in short, calm training sessions with high-value treats will help him to begin feeling positive about his trigger. However, his behavior will not change overnight. In fact, it can take weeks to months before he is totally comfortable.
Keep in mind that his reactive barking has become a self-reinforcing behavior. He does it because he is unsure about what is happening when he hears the knock.
Continuing to build your dog’s confidence during knocking, in your following sessions begging to knock a little louder and maybe 2 to 4 knocks at a time. Build these criteria slowly and at your dog’s pace, not your own! If he begins to bark during your sessions, you know that you have moved too fast.
In time you will be able to knock on your door like a guest would and reward your dog for not barking! In the meantime, keep your dog in a quiet and safe room away from the noise when you are expecting company.
If it is a doorbell instead of a knock that sets off your dog’s yapping, try to obtain a recording of sort of the sound that you can play on your phone, tablet, or CD player with full control. Start with the sound very low and gradually make it louder until you can ring the doorbell for real!
Eliminating reactive barking at other dogs and strangers requires you and your dog to take a walk or go someplace you normally would in which he would bark. However, be sure to have the highest value treat available on hand. Let him know you have it!
Stay at a safe distance from his trigger but allow him to see it. Every time he sees it, give him the treat. Hopefully, he will be rewarded before the barking starts, but even if he does throw off a round of barks and growls, try to treat him anyway. Remember, the trigger should always be a precursor to a reward!
I like this video on how to stop barking:
and this one too:
GIVE IT TIME
Changing a dog’s behavior from problem barking to being a calm and happy dog takes time, commitment, and consistency from you. Give yourself and your dog, a break from the nerve-wracking barking, start training him today!