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Barking

Chihuahua Barking

The Chihuahua has somewhat of a reputation for barking too much; however any dog can be trained to control his vocalization.   

Keep in mind that there is always a reason for barking. The key will be to discern valid barking from non-valid and deal with each in the appropriate way.

Many dogs bark simply to tell their owners something. This can range from needing to go outside for bathroom needs to letting you know they are hungry to warning you of a possible threat. Sometimes, a Chihuahua may bark just to say, "Hi, I'm so happy to see you!". 

However, you may find yourself with a Chihuahua that barks too much or barks at inappropriate times, such as very early in the morning or late at night. 
A Chihuahua is a very smart dog breed and therefore, it is possible to train your dog to bark if he has a valid concern and to calm down at all other times.

The Most Important Thing to Remember
 
When it comes to the Chihuahua, you will want to choose your battles. While some Chi are shy and reserved, many are hyper and vocal. For the active barker, you will find yourself frustrated and training in vain if you try and stop all vocalization. Look for triggers, decide which times the barking is truly bothersome and then work on resolving it with the following methods, which will vary depending on the cause.

Why All the Barking ?

Protection Mode:

A Chihuahua may bark due to a perceived threat to himself or to his family. Some know their size - any loud noise or sudden arrival of an element may startle the dog and set him off. Common noises that can cause a Chi to bark are back-firing cars and lightening. Others have little dog syndrome, behaving as 50 lb. watch dogs and will bark to protect family members against any danger, real or perceived.

When it comes to strangers, passing cars and other elements that a dog will come across on a regular basis, socialization training will work best. The basis of this type of training is to allow the dog to become accustomed to the element - gradually and incrementally - over a period of time.

Any time that a Chihuahua remains calm, praise and reward is given. Any time that barking occurs, the dog is 100% ignored. Over time, a dog will learn that not reacting to triggers earns him attention and treats. And that barking is done in vain with zero results.

When a Chihuahua barks incessantly at a household family member, this requires a different approach. The method is 2-fold.

1) Humans must never assume that a Chihuahua 'knows' that the humans are the leaders of the house. With many Chi, this needs to be taught. When a dog thinks his owners are on the same level (or in some cases even lower in the hierarchy) he will bark as if he is in charge.

This can be corrected by:
  • Always having the Chihuahua follow the 'Sit' command before eating any meal or snack (food is the #1 method of instilling hierarchy)
  • Having humans enter and exit the house first, followed by the Chi and any other animals (the order of who enters and exits the 'den' is the #2 method of teaching a dog who is the leader of the home)
2) If a Chihuahua does have a clear understanding of the Alpha/Beta relationship, barking is often a matter of wanting attention. The key is to learn when it is valid and when it is not. Needing to go to the bathroom and being in need of water and/or food are the 2 most valid reasons for barking.

If basic needs are met and the dog is comfortable, barking is often due to boredom, which triggers attention seeking behavior. (much more ahead). 
Self Protection:

Another reason why there may be a lot of vocalization is due to self protection. A Chihuahua may feel that his belongings are in danger. 

A Chihuahua may protect his toys and food bowls; believing that someone larger may take them away. It will be your job to make your dog feels safe and secure that no one is going to take food and toys. Place the dog dish in a quiet corner and do not bother him while he eats. 

Do not allow people to rush around the dog or make commotions while he is eating. If a dog sees or hears loud chaos during meal time, he may feel he is in a rush.

Each meal should be a quiet, peaceful, uninterrupted event.
Funny Chihuahua dog relaxing in the grass
Boredom:

If a dog gets bored, the most common behavior will be to sleep or become vocal. Chihuahuas may bark incessantly if they are not socialized at a young age to play with children and other dogs and if they are not supplied with a variety of interesting dog toys to encourage independent play.

Giving your Chi lots of different toys may be seen as spoiling to some...However, another way to look at it is that you will be supplying him or her with the tools that they need to be successful in keeping busy. Interactive dog toys offer mental stimulation which is all a part of learning and exploring.

Many dogs will stay quiet when alone or when owners are busy if the following is done:

1) Offer exercise at least once per day - but twice is best. This gives the Chihuahua a good release of pent-up energy. It also allows the puppy or dog to put his senses to work... smelling, exploring and seeing the world. With a good 20 or 30 minute walk, 2 times a day, a dog will generally be less apt to make a big fuss when things are quiet in the house.

2) Keep at least 2 different buckets of toys so that you can rotate them out. This way, toys and chews appear 'new' on a regular basis.
3) Set aside scheduled times for not only walks, but also for grooming, feeding, interactive play and command training. Canines have remarkable inner time clocks and learn to expect certain activities. A dog is much more prone to quietly keeping himself preoccupied if he knows that interaction will occur at other times.

For example:
  • A walk after breakfast
  • A walk before dinner
  • Command training in the afternoon on weekends
  • Grooming every evening when the family is relaxing in the living room (teeth brushed, coat groomed)
  • Each meal is given at a set time
Excitement:

You may find your Chihuahua goes a bit crazy when you come home. Dogs can become overly excited when owners arrive home and this can lead to intense barking and even accidental urination. This can be an issue even for those that are fully house trained; It is most common with puppies. As they mature and learn to handle fast changing environments and develop stronger bladder control, the problem will usually disappear.

When You Come Home:

Sometimes, barking is worst right as you get ready to enter through the door. In some cases, an owner begins to wonder if they have a crazy Chihuahua because the behavior is just so hyper and out of control.

The best way to fix this is to stop him or her from becoming overly excited; This can be done by exposing your dog to the event that excites him, over and over until it no longer excites him.

When you get home, it will be difficult, but ignore him for several minutes. Don't even look at him. Then leave again for a few minutes, return and ignore, leave, return and ignore. 

After a while, you will see that they are not only unexcited, but are actually getting bored with the whole thing. When your dog has calmed down and is no longer excited when you come in, then very quietly and softly say hello. If any signs of excitement appear, leave right away and repeat the coming-and-going routine.
Night Time Barking:

Your Chihuahua, as with any dog, must learn that barking simply for the sake of gaining your attention will not bring the desired outcome.

When bathroom needs are met, a dog has plenty of water, lights are dimmed and comfort is provided, barking must be ignored. If not, it will set up a pattern of behavior that is difficult to reverse.

It may be exceedingly difficult to do so in the beginning, however in the long run it will produce a better relationship and bond between you and your Chihuahua, as he learns the limits of what is acceptable and most importantly, learns to self soothe.

Note: If you do suspect barking at night is due to a bathroom need, bringing a puppy to his designated area should be done with lights dim and no talking or playing.

After ignoring his attention-getting behavior for a week or two, he will learn to do what you do: he will sleep when you do. Ignoring dogs we love is not always easy, but if done for training methods, it is temporary and will lead to a long, happy life together with a dog that behaves.
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